I’m winding down my day in the luxurious lobby of Jinjiang Hotel and listening to the live string quartet play a jaunty Chinese tune. It was another successful day of root finding.
The day started off with the discovery that the restaurant across the street is actually the official training school for Sichuan “tapas”. I ordered the few dishes that I could pronounce but had no idea what they were. My digestive system ended up doing overtime processing a bunch of ultra-sticky, ultra-sweet things.
Later, I made my way to the hospital where my mom did her residency. I clambered up and down the building to find her specialization. When I finally found the proper hallway, I stopped the first person who looked like she’s been there awhile and would know what she’s talking about. I asked after the people whose names my mom gave me but they were long gone. Being the kind of person who pursues her goals doggedly, I took a chance and asked the elderly woman if she ever knew my mother. Right away, her eyes flashed with recognition and she looked at me up and down with new appreciation. She told me about how my father came to pick up my mother at the end of her term to do “travel” marriage and how they all went out for dinner. The woman called for the only other person who is still around from the time my mom worked there. I showed them the photo of mom and I at a café in front of Notre Dame and we took a very memorable picture together. I felt like a really awesome daughter.
After an appropriate duration of commiserating about the passage of time. I bid my goodbyes and went on searching for the rest of the items on my root finding list. I found the waterlily pond beside the campus clock tower where my parents once hid from the rain. I went to the residence my mom lived, the dining hall where she ate and the street along which she shopped. Along the way, a creepy, short man suddenly bent his head in a pretend respectful way of saying “nihao” but he was actually aiming his face for my breasts. I should preface this by saying that I’ve been harassed more in China than anywhere else in the world. At Shenzhen’s own interpretation of Interlaken, Switzerland, a bunch of men followed me around the theme park, taking pictures while saying “shang yan” (which translates into “a view so beautiful that it was healthy for the eyes to look at”). Now I’m narcissistic like any other but I prefer quiet appreciation (but very vocal appreciation from those I “appreciate” in return). I meekly hid behind my sun umbrella when all I wanted to do was to shove it up their ass. This time around, I held nothing back. I swung the 1.5L water bottle I was lugging around (mom always said women are made of water so it’s beneficial to stay hydrated but I never knew how “beneficial” until now) and swore in the Sichuanese accent I picked up (I’m a quick learner). I think the man got the message.
During my exploration, I also wandered into a dorm room and used their shared toilet. What can I say, I really needed to go, the door was open and I always tried to fully embrace the local experience when I travel. On my way out, I said “nihao” to a really confused resident and an even more befuddled security.
To finish up the day, I wanted to buy something from Jinjiang Hotel where mom used to hangout and have bought some nice things we still use at home. Unfortunately, what caught my eye was too expensive (even with the exchange rate). All I could do was to ask the sales lady to take a picture of me in the shirt for me to send back to mom, for her approval and most importantly, her wallet. So mother, you can show your appreciation of how awesome a daughter I’ve been by allowing me to charge this shirt on your card.