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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back to the Motherland: Going Back to My Roots, Part I

Leaving Hong Kong would be more difficult than I ever imagined. After crossing the bridge from Hong Kong to China, I knew immediately that I would have to be prepared for something completely out of my comfort zone. There was a drastic difference between the modern city of Hong Kong and the developing country of China. My parents did not tell me much about the home town I would be visiting, and I was not prepared.

The bus ride from Hong Kong to my parent's city of Enping, China took about six long hours. The seating was comfortable, and I had a decent view sitting at the window. I was weary of the bathroom situation, and I tried to drink as little as possible. The bus was completely full. My parents told me that most of the people on the bus with us are from Venezuela. I didn't fully understand why until a few days later.

Upon arrival, I was shocked. The environment was completely foreign to me. My mom scared me even more by saying that I should stay close to them and make sure that my purse was out of sight. Since it was fairly late at night, it was even more dangerous to venture out on the road just to catch a taxi. We would be staying at my grand uncle's house, and it was very difficult for me to adjust at first. My room was small. My bed was hard. I had a desk, and this was where I sat most of the time. The window was the entry way for the mosquitoes to come in. It would take time for me to get situated.

The first full day in Enping was spend in my mother's village. My parents go back to China every year for the Ching Ming Festival where they visit their ancestors graves to pay respect. My dad is posing in front of my mom's house. Since my mom is an only child and a woman, it was really difficult to get ownership of the house. Instead of full ownership, she shares it with her cousin.

My mom's village is a farming community. This is my grandfather's village.

It was a dark and dreary day. The clouds were heavy. The sun was in hiding. The village was relatively quiet.

There was a basketball net set up. I would later learn that basketball is everywhere in China. Kids look up to basketball stars like Yao Ming, and everyone inspires to be just like him.

In my three weeks in China I would become quite familiar with geese. Many people raise them in Enping. They are roasted and eaten just like duck. The texture is different. It's a bit chewy and leaner. I prefer duck.

Food is prepared as offerings to the ancestors. We have a whole roasted pig, geese, chicken, rice, and alcohol. The food is freshly prepared and brought to each grave as we pay our respects. The men do all the work carrying the offerings and clearing the graves. My parents do not participate in either activity. I found it kind of odd. We pray and bow our heads down three times.

The graves are spread across the village. Sometimes they have plaques. Other times they do not. We used cars, motorcycles, and bikes to get to each grave, traveling down very narrow, muddy pathways. It was scary.

My mom spent most of her life living in Guangzhou, the capital of the province of Guangdong, and Hong Kong. Most of her life has been spent living in more prosperous cities. I wonder how connected or maybe disconnected she feels when she visits home. Life certainly is different.

The kids did not like me. They immediately knew I was foreign. I took their pictures anyways. They climbed the trees to get berries. My dad advised for me not to eat them. Their mother showed no signs of worry or concern for her sons climbing the skinny tree. I guess that's just normal.

My parents hate pets, dogs especially. It's odd because we owned a few dogs when I was young. Of course they were given to us by family friends, and we couldn't say no to taking care of them. In China dogs are pets, companions. For the most part they are very well behaved and follow their owners. They eat just as well as humans do. Leashes are not necessary either. Sometimes they'll wander around, and they always come back home.

Bikes and motorcycles are the preferred modes of transportation. I think both are pretty dangerous when cars are present. In the city of Enping, there is no real traffic regulation. Everyone goes as they please without the safety of traffic lights. It's much more calm in the small villages. People do try their best to fit as many people as humanly possible on their motorcycles and cars. Can you imagine a mother with her four kids on the motorcycle above? Well it did happen, and they all survived.

more geese, a lot more geese

the motorcycle fully intact after the dangerous ride

the women and kids keep cool under the shade of their umbrellas

This was my first full day in China, and I was quickly immersed into the lifestyle and culture. I learned a lot. I observed even more. This would just be part one of the visits to my parent's villages.

Side Note: I later got bitten by dozens of bugs, and that was not so pleasant. Just imagine 25 bites on each of my legs from the knee down to my ankles. The weird part was that the itch did not come until a few days later.

Previously:
Back to the Motherland: Leaving on a Jet Plane
Back to the Motherland: Arriving in Hong Kong
Back to the Motherland: Adventures in Hong Kong

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