It's been almost three weeks since I got back to the U.S., and I am finally feeling "normal" again. I am no longer in a daze and am able to concentrate. That only took oh... forever.
I still think about the events in Pingdu and Qingdao a LOT. Not a day goes by that I don't, and I can't stop talking about it with everyone I meet! I think my friends think that I've lost my mind. Me too!
But come on. That Mom was born in China, grew up in Taiwan, moved to the U.S. in her 20's in hopes of a better life... and that I was born and raised in the U.S., moved to Taiwan also in my 20's in pursuit of an international career, and then went to China to visit my grandparents' villages - talking about coming full circle on so many levels.
But to see the actual house where my ancestors lived and where Mom was born, and to find relatives when we least expected it... those were some extraordinary moments.
It forever changed the way I think about my own life, the way I think about history and about China, Taiwan, and U.S. relations, and what it means to be Chinese American.
For my own sanity, top 10 reasons why I can't get it out of my head:
- There's the whole family connection
- Incredibly fond memories
- Unanswered questions about Wypoh and Wygoon's lives there
- Wanting to know more about our relatives - like who in the family escaped the war, who stayed, what happened to them, where are they now, i.e. what are their stories
- Wanting to spend time with 老老爺 and Gupoh, although probably not at the same time. He thinks she talks too much, but she is a self-proclaimed chatterbox so it's okay!
- The interest in immersing myself with the locals
- All the years of wondering what it would be like to live in Qingdao has a lot to do with it, I'm sure. Now it's even more compelling.
- Qingdao is a great city, as in, who wouldn't want to live there?
- It's a short flight from Taiwan and Hong Kong. That opens up a lot of possibilities vs. being out yonder.
- The Shandongnese dialect... ah yes... the dialect!
Mom speaks it all the time with her siblings and parents, but I never gave it much thought - not until we landed in Qingdao where I was totally thrown off guard. I was like,
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE... ?!
I do believe that what I am describing is a second generation, Chinese American interpretation of "近鄉情怯".
If my aunts and uncles read this I'm sure they will have a good laugh! "What does this ABC girl know anyway? Her Chinese is terrible!" Four were born in Taiwan, but their mother tongue is Shandongnese with a Pingdu farmland twist. Uncle Rex has been to 馬丘村, but should the rest ever visit, they too will know this feeling.
HEY... I think I know what's going on!
As I am writing this, I think I have finally put my FINGER on it.
What it *IS* is that when I hear people speaking Shandongnese, it reminds me of THEM! My grandparents, my uncles, and my aunts! And of course Mom who speaks with them often.
Everyday in China as we interacted with the cab drivers, hotel staff, shopkeepers - everybody - I kept feeling a sense of familiarity as if I somehow knew these people already, as if any of them could be my elders, as if they were my PEEPS.
Well they ARE my peeps! And what an amazing revelation... !
IT'S AMAZING I TELL YOU!
As the fog starts to clear, my desire to stay connected to Qingdao and Pingdu grows stronger by the day. It's the same feeling that I got back in the 90's when I felt so drawn to Taiwan after spending two summers there that I packed up my bags and moved to Taipei where I lived and worked and really thrived for the next eight years.
Actually, my draw towards Qingdao is even more compelling.
My mind is adrift with the many ways that I could incorporate Qingdao into the life that I have right now (still thinking... tap tap tap...).
In the meantime, I've been finding all sorts of websites about other Chinese Americans who have visited their ancestral homes in China and share a similar experience.
Something tells me that a new chapter is about to be written.
We'll see what happens...