I walked into yet another Dim Sum joint with my new chaperones, my aunt (the wife of my grandmother’s sister’s son) and her two children, Syler (16) and Kate (25). I am starting to understand more of what is being said around me after a week of listening and attempting to speak Cantonese. It’s a shame that I’m going to be learning Mandarin and will have to put aside the limited gains I’ve made in the southern dialect. This dim sum restaurant didn’t appear much different than the other 4+ that I’ve been to this week, but was essentially different because it wasn’t in Hong Kong. I walked through the rows and rows of tables filled with smiling families and friends conversing and reaching over one another for the yummies on the table. My aunt instructed me to take a left at a specific juncture with a firm point, and I instantly recognized our table. In movies, there is often the cliché scene of two long lost relatives finding one another. These scenes show eyes that slowly rise to meet each other while emotional yet optimistic strings sing away in the background. Generous and vigorous hugging usually follows. I’ve gawked at these scenes for my entire life, and today realized that although they are sappy, they hold some grain of truth. As I turned and found our table, I saw Pau pau (my grandmother). However, I knew this couldn’t be Pau pau, because I knew that she was back in America calling to check up on me everyday. The beaming octogenarian that stood before me was her older sister, yet the resemblance was uncanny. I was astounded, and to only further the effect, she pointed and beckoned me loudly and laughed with Pau pau’s same chopped, coarse chuckle. Although the meeting held no more significance than the fact that it was the first time I was meeting my great aunt, meeting Kao Pau incited a sense of history and tradition in me, and I felt that I had somehow… returned. Shoot me for sounding corny.
Earlier that day I gathered up all of my belongings into my backpack bid Hong Kong adieu. As the train left Hong Kong, I watched more of the country side revealed itself from under the blanket of urban sprawl. As I traveled further into China and away from the glitter of Hong Kong, I realized that Hong Kong was unique in many aspects and that it was not representative of all Chinese cities. I had harbored some hope that Guangzhou would be similar to Hong Kong in its glamour and aesthetic appeal. Guangzhou is not Hong Kong, but the difference is welcome as Guangzhou provides me with a “real” perspective that I’ve desired.
As I walked out of the Guangzhou train station, the difference was immediately apparent. The streets are dirtier, there is smog, the Internet is restricted, and coolest of all - a hammer and sickle came on the TV before the news. But despite these differences, I look forward to my stay in Guangzhou because, as I said before, the Chinese side of my family lived here, so I should be able to do the same. After Dim Sum, my aunt walked with me back to her apartment. As I rode the elevator to the top floor, I realized that I would be staying in another beautiful apartment with yet another awe-inspiring view of the city.
I guess I am just fortunate to have comfortably rich Chinese relatives. Additionally, I have found a new friend, the five-year-old daughter of the caretaker. She is a pretty little disaster…
who can’t keep her hands off of all of my electronics (in her defense, I did bring a lot of cool gadgets: my MacBook, Canon G9, FlipVideo, Ipod Nano, and Nook). She has already started referring to me as gau gau, or brother. Like most children her age, she has an undying source of energy stored somewhere in her two foot frame and never tires of climbing all over the furniture like a feral monkey. I put up with her antics because I see her as an asset. Since she is only 5, she speaks simply, and I can practice my Mandarin with her. However, I’ve already found that she is a malicious teacher, and laughs at all of my mispronunciations.
After the home-cooked dinner I took a walk around the local park, which is centered on a decently sized man-made lake. At the entrance of the park there is a large open concrete space that serves as a community gathering point every evening. As we turned a corner, the full scope of this gathering came into view and this was stunning. It was around 9pm at night and there must have been 400 people in this space either sitting and smoking, performing large choreographed dances, playing badminton without nets, singing karaoke with TV’s on the back of hand carts, or selling goods. For a city, I was again surprised by the community cohesion. I slept very easily knowing that I would get to play ultimate tomorrow. My goal is show America’s dominance in the sport, and throw lots of flick hucks.
P.S. - Good luck to everyone from St. Louis (You: I’ll destroy your life at slap cup. And don’t eat glass silly…) to New Jersey trying out for Club. I expect to hear deets soon!