Go with a smile!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fortune Cookies

Americans may not be aware of this, but the fortune cookie is a Chinese American thing, not a Chinese thing. It’s a cute idea to attract more people to eat at their Chinese takeouts, but no more than that. Also the other thing is that people think that America is a white man’s country. Mostly true, but California has a long history of Chinese people. California only belonged to the USA after the war with Mexico, and the USA took over Mexico. Then that place quickly started getting populated with immigrants from other parts of the US, as well as Chinese people. The Chinese people helped to build the first railway line from California to the mainland: and not just any part of the line: the most difficult and dangerous section, going through a few mountain ranges, and involving a lot of explosives. So California is as essential a part of the story of the overseas Chinese as Hong Kong or Singapore.

But I digress. I had never paid much attention to fortune cookies before, but I went to eat dinner once in in a Chinese place and I got a fortune cookie. At that time I was struggling with a take home exam in my Maths class. My fortune cookie read “you have good problem solving skills”. Now I did not solve all the problems in that class to my satisfaction, but I got an A in the end, so I have to believe I was good enough. A second time, I got a fortune cookie that said, “you will receive unexpected support”. Later that week, a friend (honest face, if you remember him) and my cousin contacted me out of the blue for a chit chat. I thought that was interesting.

Later on, I was trying to decide whether or not to approach a professor to do research with. The fortune cooking I got around that time was “adventure awaits you”. I took that to be a bad sign because I was deciding between travel and doing research. In the end, it turned out that the professor wasn’t going to be around in summer.

After that, I got a fortune cookie saying “you will have an unexpected romantic encounter”. I was in a class, and there was this girl I found attractive. And it was possible that we could have partnered each other for that course. But for various reasons I never got around to asking her: either I was too jaded to care, or I hadn’t gotten my part started and I didn’t want to just jump on her bandwagon. In the end, I had to carry a very heavy load myself, and I suspect the same was true for her.

My last fortune cookie, that I got yesterday was “you will make some friends”, or “you should make some friends”. I forgot, but the truly interesting thing about fortune cookies is that they keep you guessing which is which. And it really doesn’t matter. That is tricky: what am I going to do about that?


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