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Published: October 31st 2018
Back by popular demand, for three weeks only, I'm bringing you my travel blog as I travel through southern China in search of the Owyeung village.
And by popular demand, I mean my uncle requested it. Gotta keep the fans happy. He's currently dog sitting for me for three weeks, and I have a pretty stupid dog (but very cute!), so this is the least I could do. And I also am hoping this puts me in good favor for being allowed back in our college football fantasy league next year, because TBH I've forgotten to select all my weekly picks every single time. My excuse is Stockholm Syndrome.
In the past six years since I last blogged, I've graduated from Babson (they made me stop studying abroad to graduate, can you believe it?), developed an unfortunate allergy to seafood and mushrooms, got a job, lived in Stockholm, and visited the Dominican Republic, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark for the first time. I've been busy. Oh, and I also had a midlife crisis which resulted in a dog. His name is Obi Wan Kenobi, and does not respond to "Ben". Often not "Obi Wan Kenobi" either. Have I mentioned how cute he is though?
So back to China. My grandmother passed away 2 years ago, and it was her wish that we go back to the family village. Somehow, we found this program called Roots, which brings Chinese Americans back to their...roots. Fun fact, if you're Chinese and came to the United States before about 1965, there's a 95% chance you're from this area in China that's the size of the San Francisco Bay Area. Roots helps Americans connect with their Chinese heritage in the Guangdong Province, often helping them discover family villages, ancestry, and their family stories. Prior to coming here, we had to take classes every Saturday in Chinatown in San Francisco. You can bet your bottom dollar that my ginger mother sat in the front row every class and took color coded notes. My dad and I prefer the term "work harder not smarter", and just looked at her notes after class. She even beat the two of us in a class where we shared what it meant for us to be "Chinese American". Not sure how the only non-Chinese person beat the two of us with her story of growing up in Florida. Ah yes, Florida, the land of the Chinese. That's what I always say.
So now we’re off on a 3 week long adventure—2 weeks in China as part of this trip, and 1 week in Taiwan just for fun. My parents flew from San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan, and spent a few days there before heading to Guangzhou, the start of our trip. I flew from Stockholm to Guangzhou via Beijing and arrived a day early. My Mandarin is incredibly rusty, but I did manage to haggle over currency exchange (a rookie mistake exchanging currency in an airport but my ATM card wasn’t working), grab a taxi, argue with the taxi driver, and make it safely to my hotel alone at night with my Mandarin so excuse me while I pat my own back. And, what would a trip to China be without a stop at McDonald’s? I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and walked to the closest McDonald’s and ordered like it was 2012 and I was still living in Shanghai.
My parents arrived the next afternoon along with other “Rooters”, and we went out for a hot pot dinner. It was very seafood heavy, but I did get some great chow fun (noodles) and char sew (pork). It was delicious. Rachel would have died from a food coma.
When deciding to come a day earlier than everyone else, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate in this part of China, since Guangzhou is in Guangdong Province, also known as “Canton”, the first part of the word “Cantonese”. But ever since China started making everyone learn Mandarin, many people, even in Canton, now only speak Mandarin. Nowadays, people use Cantonese primarily to speak with older family generations (or if they live out of China like in the US or Canada). No one of working age in the stores or restaurants speaks Cantonese—all Mandarin. It’s so ironic that with my very broken Mandarin, I’m the translator for the family. Every few minutes my mom says “I wish Olivia were here” or “Olivia would have so much fun here” or “It would be much easier if Olivia were here to help us translate”. When we leave the big city area and get to the villages, there will be hopefully be more Cantonese speakers. Otherwise we’re in for a rough few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed.
There are no photos yet because the Great Firewall of China has blocked me even with a VPN. China: 1, Chelsea: 0. Off to a great start!
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