Before our Trip
If you don't know this about me, I'm not really too "Chinese". I was born in America and grew up in a Midwestern town where most of my classmates were white. There may have been one or two Asian kids per class. My parents were born and raised in Jamaica, and have never had the chance to visit China. My dad can speak some Hakka (our family's Chinese dialect), but not Mandarin, and I didn't take the time to learn from him when I was growing up. While my family's retained some Chinese traditions, a lot has changed over the past couple generations.
The turning point was back in September, though, when my Uncle Lenhing passed away. He and my Uncle Alan were the only relatives that I knew who lived in China for anything more than a short trip. They were very knowledgable, and, as far as I knew, fluent in Hakka (maybe Mandarin, too). Knowing that both of them had passed away made me realize that there were very few people who knew about Haa Gong Tam and my family, and I needed to meet them before it was too late. So, we booked our tickets and hoped for the best!
Haa Gong Tam
I also though about how my life would have been so different had my grandfather never left China. Would we have become a rich family as the value of the land went up thousands of times? Or, would I have become a farmer? Would I have never been born because of the one child policy?
As we were leaving the old part of Haa Gong Tam, I stopped to take a picture. A group of migrant workers gawked at me and my uncle (fair enough, I was gawking at their homes), and wondered why anyone would ever come to see their homes nestled in winding and narrow alleyways. They quickly rationalized it by saying, "Oh, they're just foreigners."
I can always wonder how things would have been different if I were Chinese, but at the end of the day, I realize how hard both my grandparents and parents worked to give me the life that I have. And, I appreciate them, because now I have this opportunity to come back to China to see and hear what I've been missing as, in all honesty, a foreigner.