Last night I hosted my long lost relatives to a sumptuous dinner.
14 of them turned up and I was meeting most of them for the first time. My two cousins, their wives, children, in-laws and grandkids. It was a joyous occasion. We ate well and had some beverages, although the vinegar wine was quite something else.
We exchanged many stories as we dug deeper into the history of our respective families. They recounted stories of the 3 brothers' visit in '89. I also conveyed my family's love and best wishes as requested.
Towards the end of the dinner, I snuck away to pay the bill, only to find out that my niece had already settled. I felt embarrassed and insisted that I picked up the bill, to which my niece just shrugged and told me to not worry about it.
She told me, "Look, don't worry about it. Let us buy dinner to welcome you especially since you cycled all the way here. While it is true that life was tough in the old days, times have changed and we are doing much better now. It is no longer like the old days when returning family were 'obliged' to give us a treat. Not anymore."
I felt even worse after that. Yet at the same time I was glad that things are much better for those who were 'left behind', so to speak. It must have given her a great deal of pride for my niece to say that to me.
We tend to forget that China has moved up at a phenomenal pace. In many ways I was glad that the stereotype of the Chinese relatives' expectations had been defied. I suppose things have come full circle. Nevertheless I would still have liked to have bought that dinner, in representing my family, even if it was merely symbolic. Another day perhaps?
Before we parted ways, I presented my cousins with my beloved Kedah flag. I had cycled so far and so long in the hope of finding someone at the village to hand the flag to. And I found them.
We embraced as we bid each other farewell. We hugged tightly, perhaps quietly knowing that we may never see each other again. It was an awkward goodbye, and I think we all struggled to have the last word.
But at least I know the cycle was not in vain. At least I know that in this part of the world at which I arrived the hard way befitting the hardship my ancestors endured, I found my family. And for that, to borrow a term from a friend, this journey has been a fairytale.
#ancestralhome #Taishan #cycletochina #webecommunity