1/28/10: Beijing, China
My mom’s mom is the fifth of eight children in her family, and the only one who left China. For 30 years after her departure, she and her siblings lost touch, only to regain contact through one of her nieces back in the 1970s. Over 30 years later, Zhou and I got the chance to meet my grandma’s younger brother and sister (children #7 and 8).
Today we spent several hours chatting with Jiu Ye and Jiu Lao Lao and their spouses. By we I mean Zhou, as they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese. In traditional Chinese custom, they wouldn’t allow us to leave without filling our stomachs (du zi) by taking us to a nice lunch. Zhou warned me beforehand that the only way to signal we were done eating was to leave food on our plates. However I kept finishing the food off and Jiu Lao Lao kept piling more on until my stomach was about to burst and I realized Zhou was serious. Then, when we returned to Jiu Ye’s apartment, they topped off their generosity toward two relatives many years and thousands of miles removed by giving us each a red envelope (hong bao) of money.
These few hours were just a small example of the hospitality and generosity Zhou and I have received from many family members in Beijing. Zhou’s aunt and uncle (Jiu Ma and Jiu Jiu) have given us a place to stay and food to eat, and also bought us gifts such as our train tickets to Xi’an. Zhou’s cousin and her boyfriend took us out to the Temple of Heaven and upon hearing about my interest in Chinese chess, bought me a set. My Aunt Marilyn and cousin TJ took us to the Great Wall in their very short and hurried stay in Beijing.
Obviously Zhou and I like getting stuff, but the best part of all of this has been seeing family for the first time since September 10th. Although traveling is great, it’s very difficult being away from home at times, and we’ve really enjoyed these past nine days in our home on the other side of the world. We can’t thank everyone enough for welcoming us and giving us this sense of being home.
Zhou and I have been avoiding taking taxis as much as possible because of their relatively high costs (compared to subways, buses and walking), but today we had to take one to get to Jiu Ye’s. After several minutes of discovering that 99% of Beijing taxis are occupied, we hailed one and hopped in. In her native Chinese dialect (everyone has complimented Zhou on how well she speaks Chinese), she explained to the driver where we were going and we were off.
“Are taxis here metered?” I asked suspiciously, on high alert from the taxi scams that were prevalent in Southeast Asia.
“Shhhhhhh! No talking.”
I sat there in silence for several minutes absolutely confused by this. Maybe taxis in China are like libraries in the States. Maybe Zhou read this on the back of the seat in front of her. Wait, Zhou can’t read Chinese! This can’t be the reason. Maybe it’s common knowledge that Chinese taxi drivers need quiet to driver safely and effectively. If that’s the case, I suppose all you know this. I’m half Chinese and I had no idea. I must be the most dense tourist ever! But I’m really not that clueless.
“Why can’t I say anything?” I whispered.
“No English!” she mouthed back.
Oh. She had the taxi driver believing we were locals that he would not be able to rip off if he wanted to. That makes perfect sense. I felt like an idiot.
Pictures of the Day: I actually didn’t want to go see the pandas, but Zhou really wanted to. Then I didn’t want to leave.