I can’t believe it’s been five years since I last came to Huangmei, my hometown. And even more crazy is that I am celebrating China’s National Holiday for the first time in fourteen years. The last time I celebrated the National Holiday was when I was five, at a point in my youth which this sort of break didn’t signify anything special. Then, I was living with my grandparents, who looked after me because my parents had moved away to America. Even though I was born in Wuhan, I lived in Huangmei longer and feel more comfortable calling this small county my hometown.
This time around, I want to really be present with my relatives, especially my grandparents, who are seemingly aging. I also get to meet my new nephew, who is 7 months old and his mother, the wife of my cousin.
When I get to Huangmei in my mom’s friend’s car, it is dinner time and I get to try some excellent food in a restaurant. I get to feast on yellow head fish and sweet potato starch, the latter a dish Huangmei does well and is known for. It’s weird how every time I go back to my relatives’ home, whether it be my grandma’s or my aunt’s I feel that it has shrunk smaller. I attribute to this feeling to my growing up. On the second night at aunt’s house, my aunt takes me out to get some clothes. We go to the streets in search for sleepwear and other basic clothes. Of course, having relatives buy gifts for me was very nice and I had to thank her, not only because my mom reminds me to do so, but because I do appreciate the generosity. Also, when I meet my nephew, I feel so different, as my promotion to an aunt means that I will someday be giving this one more gifts. From the campus store in Shanghai, I brought back some NYU merch, because I thought why not, and got the little one a teddy bear, which was much appreciated because it was so cute.
After two nights in my aunt’s house, I go to my grandparent’s house, and when I get there, they welcome me with fireworks, which I just find a bit surprising but made me happy. My grandparents’ house is newly renovated with four floors, a big deal in that small rural neighborhood. Really, that part of Huangmei is called Caishan, and the location of the house is where I grew up to six before I moved to America. I immediately asked about the small mom and pop shop of junk snacks that I used to spend my pocket money on, and later in the day, my sixteen year old cousin takes me there. I only get to stay two nights in my grandma’s place, so I make use of the daytime to do my homework, which really isn’t that interesting, but it was something that had to be done. What was interesting was when people noticed me, knowing who I was, my relationship to this family, because, really, I didn’t show up in like five years. I also got to take time to play ping pong with my cousin at the elementary school that I used to go to. The elementary school however, still felt pretty similar to how I remembered it. During this trip, my time with my grandma was actually very short, but I could tell that she was pleased to see me, saying how tall I am and trying to persuade me to learn to ride the motor scooter. My grandpa also reminds me to take photos of the house to send to my mom.
After reconnecting with my grandparents, I take the bus back to my aunt’s house, and get to stay there for a few more days before I take the long bus ride to Shanghai. In the few days I had left, my cousin got me to go to two movie screenings, Never Say Die and The Foreigner. Never Say Die was actually really funny and enjoyable, a nice surprise for me. The Foreigner was more for people who liked guns and fighting and people dying in films, so not for me. But, it was as expected because it was a Jackie Chan movie. I also had the displeasure of watching the Chinese Holiday TV program for Mid-Autumn Festival, which was just singing and some magic tricks that didn’t appeal to me. Still, it was nice to take part in something that felt so close to Chinese culture.
However, one of the struggles of traveling in China is configuring the VPN, because it takes a bit of trial and error and sometimes it does not work. I also had to say, traveling on the bus to Shanghai from Huangmei really put a damper on my mood, because it went from 9:15am to 12:30pm, simply due to traffic and some stops in the middle. I will say traveling to my hometown during this break was a good decision, because I get to be with family and feel closer to the China that I knew growing up. Having said that, I did miss Shanghai while I was in Huangmei and now that I’m back I feel really in my element. Onward with the semester!
This article was written by Kai Zheng. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Kai Zheng