Liu Jiang Cun, Jinjiang, Quanzhou, Fujian, China, February 25, 2017.
Liu Jiang Cun in Fujian Province is close to the sea and is 100km away from Xiamen a popular port city in Fujian.
My recent adventure with my friend to my dad’s hometown in Liu Jiang Cun (mandarin) or Lao Oh (in minnan dialect), speaks of memories of when I was growing up in Manila, Philippines. As a part of a second generation Chinese immigrant family in the Philippines, my parents’ generation brought with them many behaviors and traditions from China that did not make sense in my everyday Filipino reality
While stopping to inquire whether the town had a restaurant we could stop for lunch, I noticed the same creativity & resourcefulness as the Chinese from my parents’ generation. This grandpa had set up a makeshift bed using two chairs and a plank in the middle of his small store for his afternoon nap.
Having no luck finding restaurants in the small town, we happened upon a window with steam coming out. We thought it might be a place where we could at least get a bite to eat. As we peek through the window we were warmly greeted by a middle aged woman cooking buns in large bamboo baskets to sell at the market the next day. Upon hearing that we were looking for a restaurant in town we were told, as we had already gathered, that there are no restaurants in the small town. We offered to buy some of her buns for a simple lunch but were instead were pleasantly surprised as she hurriedly rushed off to her kitchen and came out with bowls of simple rice noodle & vegetable dish she had just cooked for her own lunch. Her eagerness to share the little that she had reminded me of the importance my parents stressed about being hospitable and sharing your food with whoever walked into our home.
I got to taste the same food as my mom’s cooking with Cha Bihon
As we speak with the “auntie” in Minnan dialect it suddenly dawns on me that I have found a root for this language that has always seemed foreign whether I was in the Philippines or in my new adopted country the US. It just dawned on me that I have always been a foreigner in anoother’s land. For a few precious minutes, I finally understood what it feels like to have a “home”… even strangers immediately feel like family.
“Auntie” likewise treats us like family and comes out with more food…her fishball cabbage soup to warm us during this unexpectedly cold and rainy April day. The taxi driver that drove us from JinJiang train station to the town (himself a migrant from a different province) benefitted from our host “family’s” generosity.
I reflect upon my parents’ hardworking nature as I watch “Auntie” sweeping her backyard while waiting for her steam buns, not having a single idle moment.
We wait to watch her take out her steamed buns ready to be sold at market the next morning..
After visiting my dad’s hometown it reminded me that even though how big the world is, distance doesn’t stop a person from discovering family roots. In understanding my family background, I began to also understand myself. With all that I have gone through, all the things I’ve had to adapt to in different cultures, I am comforted to know that some things remain the same and I always have a part of “home” in me that time and place cannot erase. The same value and attitude towards work, life and relationship is an essential part of who I am now. Who are you? Where or what is your “home”?