I lived a simple childhood growing up in Hong Kong. My parents were atypical from the Chinese culture: They did not enroll me in music courses, ballet or piano lessons. They were not especially demanding of my school performance, either, although I always attained good grades.
We enjoyed a comfortable, middle-class life but did not have lavish possessions. I remember reading a lot, and I recall playing house with my younger brother and sister. We’d cut up newspaper to use as paper money while we pretended to barter for goods.
Mostly, though, I remember sitting by the window in the high-rise where we lived as I looked onto the street and people watched.
Sundays, though, brought a sense of excitement for our family. We went to the movies on Sundays. Many of the movies we saw featured scenes of Spanish life. I enjoyed countless bullfighting movies, but my absolute favorites were the movies with flamenco dancers.
Oh, how I loved flamenco dancers.
I especially liked the guy’s role in those flamenco movies. The male dancer usually was a long, lean and handsome man of about 20 years old. He’d wear a white shirt, a short black jacket and tight pants. Such clean lines appealed to my eye. He would hold castanets in his hands – those tiny percussion instruments that make the clicking and clacking noises you probably think of when you visualize flamenco dancing.
In contrast with the men, the women in those movies wore huge skirts with lots of color.
The dancers’ movements, their outfits, the sounds, all of it enchanted me. If someone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a flamenco dancer. Never mind that I did not know the Spanish language and lacked the necessary dance skills. As a kid, I never remember wanting to be anything else. The idea of being a flamenco dancer felt like a dream.
Of course, I never became a flamenco dancer, but last fall, I got to see what my dream looked like in person.