My dad’s talked about this since the early 90’s: Of bringing the whole extended family for a visit to his hometown (more like village).
Not that we minded the idea. Back then we only loathed about what the likely quality of basic amenities would be like. After all, there were stories of toilets with no doors, toilets with no toilets but a hole in the ground. Somehow it never eventuated.
Through the years, the kids (my nephews and nieces) grew, and my parents have also continued keeping in contact with his relatives (well, they are mine too). They too have made visit(s?) here (but I was away studying/living in Adelaide at the time). A recent idea my dad had was to contribute toward a memorial of his ancestors, to keep the roots alive.
Recently, that idea came to fruition. And what better timing to also time the visit to the completed site with bringing the family there as well.
We had spent the week leading to, and including Christmas Day 2009, in Xiamen China. Xiamen city is only about 2-3 hours bus ride to the village, so it isn’t like a real trek too deep into China (please mind my poor knowledge of Chinese geography). That has worked out quite well all this time for my parents, making it easy for them to visit our relatives all these years.
My dad organised a tour group for this visit- which was actually just us, the whole 29 of us! It was a fun time for all as there were no outsiders and we were as our usual silly-carefree selves
I can’t say there was a sense of belonging, personally. After all, we were all born in and grew up in Malaysia. As a father I reckon my dad feels some form of achievement in finally bringing his own children together to see his birthplace, to see where we are from, his and our roots, connect with some distant blood relatives, and his contribution back to the community when he left with his father to seek, and found, a better life in distant shores. He had done well for himself with very humble beginnings, and by extension my generation (and later) are now a lot better off comparatively.
Take away the brick houses beside and behind this structure, and you have the house in which my father was born.
My grandfather built this house in the ’60’s apparently after the ethnic unrest in Indonesia, fearing the same for Malaya/Malaysia, with intention to bring everyone back to China to live in this bigger house.
This is (almost) everyone, infront of the “shrine” cum community hall that my dad funded and built
For Caitlin, at 5 years old I don’t think this will be a lasting impression. Ideologies of family ties is too mature for her. She will remember the some of the places we visited, and the fun with the cousins. She probably won’t remember how cold it was; she may remember what she wore; but she’s worn that same jacket before elsewhere.
One thing I’ve been saying to people who asked what I thought about my first visit to China is: “We were on the bus, driving through very long tunnels, to emerge to drive on long bridges.” I was rather awed by the landscape- it’s one thing to read about it and watch it on tv, but it’s another to see the natural landscape: mountains and valleys. Also, the technology deployed in this developing country is actually also more advanced than Malaysia. Tunnels bored through these mountains; long tunnels, and impressive world class bridges to carry you further. The highways are also multi-tiered, criss-crossing each other at higher and higher levels.
It is a big big country, there are uneven developments everywhere. I personally only saw 3 beggars on the street, only in Xiamen city; 2 of whom are disabled, the 3rd looked able-bodied but with a toddler probably 2-3 years old.
More pictures here: