My parents arrived in Shanghai just under two weeks ago. We spent the first couple of days exploring the more touristic side of Shanghai before embarking on a soul searching, family finding journey.
After arriving in Fujian Province in a city called Xiamen, the second largest port in Shanghai, we were whisked off to a town called Na'nan. This was the birth place of my father’s father and the rest of the Njoo/Yang clan. After jumping in the car with a friend called Jeffrey, who had hunted down our long lost relatives we drove further into the country side. The larger town of Na'nan became the village of Jin Tao, which became the even smaller village of Hokken. And we were home!
As we drove along the dirt roads I looked out the window at the small humble concrete houses. The elderly sat outside on plastic chairs holding cards or a smoking a cigarette, the children ran around, whilst their parents prepared noodles in huge pots or removed hot bao from wooden steamers. Winding up a hill and along the ride paddy feields we stopped out the front of a large open air building. As we exited the car we were greeted by 20 or so people. It was as if the whole town had come to meet my father, the long lost Njoo.
The rest of the day is a bit of blur and I will leave the finer details to my father, as his book will surely do this experience much more justice then I, but it was an incredible day. The people of Hokken, even though most are my distant relatives, showed such kindness and generosity to us. As I sat at the table and listened to the intricacies of our family tree and caught short anecdotal tales shouted in a language I still struggle to understand, I was taken aback by their hospitality. I watched as my father sat in a bewildered daze, overwhelmed by not only sights and sounds but memories of the past and present. Each word held together by a muddled translation that could not keep up with the excitement emotions of our surrounding family.
We saw a lot that day and experienced something that I never thought I would be a part of. My father’s world expanded in all but a few hours. He was transported back to his grandfathers birth place, and given the chance to pray for him and his family at his tomb. We shared, although force fed seems more appropriate, a home cooked meal with four generations of the Yang Clan. They invited us into their homes, took photos with us and held out hands as we walked through the country side to pay our respects to those who had passed away.
As we drove away, firecrackers exploded all around us, and hands waved frantically, with a few tears being shed by the older women. I fear I am unable to paint this picture accurately, but it will forever remain in my memory as something very special.