All Warfare is Based on Deception
When my parents set out to adopt a child, China seemed like the natural place to turn. One-child limitations imposed on some members of the population led families to leave their infant daughters on the streets to be found to try again for a male child. After a bit of research online, they found documents for a girl named Guao Sho-Li. My parents remember more bureaucracy than I do during the ten-day trip to China a year later, but they never regretted a minute of it. I would like to think we found her a good life, and that the name Victoria suits her better, but I also know that she was not the only one whose life was touched by the trip.
Two days before I met my sister for the first time, we went for a walk in a local park. It had many of the staples of an American park, but it was substantially more scenic. Old men still played chess and other board games, children still ran, fountains flowed, and rows of bushes were cut in labyrinthine patterns. That, I remember distinctly twelve years later because I wanted to walk through them like a maze, but my mother told me not to.
Luckily and, in hindsight, oddly, I was allowed left to my own devices for short while. By the time I was let alone, I had forgotten all about the maze-bushes, but shortly, I crossed paths with something much more powerful and even more impressive: a dragon.
As an eight year-old, I called it golden. In hindsight, it was probably just a cheaper metal with a gold tint, or a stone statue given life by an excellent painter. Unlike the stocky, winged dragon of European folklore, the Chinese dragon’s body flowed like a serpent’s in the air, bending and winding like a river. The eyes were the same as those of most statues- a blank, godlike stare not marred by pupils. Stepping up to its pedestal, I stood beside it proudly. Something about the piece just resonated with me. I could not place the feeling until it set in when an old man began to speak to me in stern Chinese.
Typically, I was a good kid. I did what I was told, and ten years after this trip to China panned out, I was recognized as ‘the easy one’ by my parents. Still, beside that dragon, I may as well have been one myself. Without speaking a word of Chinese, I knew exactly what he was telling me. It hardly took a genius to figure out that he wanted me to get off the statue, but at eight years of age, I decided not to listen. If I would ever get a chance to play Dumb-American-Kid in my life, now was the time… and if I played dumb as I channeled the heart of the dragon, I would play dumb to win.
So, I shrugged. I held a hand over my ear as if to tell him to repeat himself. Looking back, I was definitely overacting, but I was still young enough to think I was slick. Either way, I was beyond eye-level from him where I stood, cutting down on the intimidation factor that an adult’s height might have had. He dressed casually – a pair of simple pants, and a jacket over a plain white shirt. It may not have clicked then, but I may have subconsciously assumed that he had little authority, cutting the intimidation down to something even smaller. He spoke once more in Chinese, and for lack of desire to understand, I explained: “I don’t speak Chinese.”
He seemed to give up. There was no heavy sigh or palm on his face, but he said no more, and walked off without another comment.
Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War, put it best: “All warfare is basedon deception.” I would like to think I did the ancient strategist proud. I was fortunate that the consequences ended with my mother telling me that I should have listened when I bragged about the incident to her. I regret telling her anything, because the day after that, when I wanted to suggest taking my new sister to see the dragon, I was met with a dirty look and a hasty objection.
I would like to imagine that, if I ever find myself in Guangzhou again, I would find strength in the dragon once more. If that were to happen, though, there would probably be no touching or climbing. I can’t afford to end up in a Chinese prison.
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