I’ve been trying to find the words that capture my two-week stay in China and divided between Beijing and Hong Kong.
And, for once in my life, I am at a loss for words.
How could I possibly capture the beauty and majesty I discovered and saw in historic monuments as the Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, and Summer Palace that were created dynasties ago? How could I express the succulent flavors that coated my mouth when I ate Peking duck, original Hong Kong milk tea, candied cherries in the narrow alleys of Beijing, crisp green vegetables, and the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) that I slurped up with wide eyes of happiness? How could I possibly put all of these into words that do not do justices to the experiences I had gallivanting around in China?
People ask me what I loved most about my trip. The places I saw took my breath away, but it was the people I met and reunited with that brought my breath back to life to savor. It was the people I loved most about my trip. I treasured the night sky that twinkled with neon lights from tottering toys when I was with my cousin, talking about Chinese history and world politics. I valued eating spicy-flavored Chinese chips with my aunt as we chatted about our daily observations and philosophies of Beijing. But, most of all, I basked in the hilarious struggle of trying to communicate my broken Mandarin Chinese with my 92-year-old paternal grandmother’s who had her own language of Mandarin, Cantonese, and Shanghainese rolled in to one. For the first time, I met with my great aunt (known as “Gu-Paw”) in Chinese who is 93-years-old and is fragile as a feather with the brightest light of life in her eyes. Her gnarled hands danced and her eyes shined when my aunt, cousin, and I visited her. No one in our family speaks openly of her daughter being mentally challenged from lack of medical care and services during the Communist-era and how Gu-Paw spent her life caring for her daughter. From “Gu-Paw,” I was slowly grasping the concept that sometimes there are no need for words to be spoken when action and doing what needs to be done to survive come first and foremost—especially when it comes to family.
After all my time spent with all these people on my trip, I have a greater appreciation and understanding for the sacrifices my father made to come to the U.S. His move from China to the U.S.A. came down to these three words: A Better Life. A better life for him. A better life for my sister and me.
From this trip, I have taken away the feelings we feel come to and from the foundation of our family. In the end, family and especially parents just crave and do whatever is necessary for the best for their children and what is believed to be “A Better Life.” The prices of “better” are astronomical. To have a better life requires risks, fearlessness, and, above all else, survival. I am honored and humbled to be in a family of true survivors who have created the better to the best of their abilities.
Cheers to China for giving me a glimpse of understanding that the love and hate, happiness and sadness, and laughter and tears comes from our family who always just want “A Better Life” for themselves and for future generations.