My knowledge of Qingdao China was rather limited, all I knew was the Qingdao beer. When I was a kid growing up in Hong Kong, father often brought home from the local store a cold Qingdao beer for his suppers. My memory was the label of a green island (Qingdao means green island in Chinese).
My life long friend Michael been living and working here in Qingdao for less than a year. He invited both my mother and I to come visit. After my father’s passing early this year I thought it would be a great idea. When father was ill, mother never go anywhere she would stay home in order to care for him.
After thirteen hours flight from Toronto, our flight finally landed at the Beijing Airport. It was my second time in two years to step foot in Beijing however it was my mother’s first.
My mother was born in China but left at age 11 after the Japanese war as her widowed mother could no longer able to keep her at home. She was sent to live with her older sister in Hong Kong to have a better chance in life.
Mother is 80 years old now and never been back to her birth place since. She spoke Cantonese a dialect uses mainly in Southern China but in Northern cities like Beijing no one would understand her. It was rather funny to see Mother speaking English to the older Chinese man sat next to her on the plane.
We did went back to my father’s home village shortly after I was born some fifty years ago: It was our family tradition for the first born male child to go home to pay respect to the ancestors. Father was the first son of my grandparents and it was his duty to sent his first son to do the same. In my procession, I have a tiny black and white photo of mother and I. It was our China visa photo. In the photo, mother was a beautiful young woman just reached her twenties. She was holding me in her arms with a slight smile on her face. That was a look of curiosity in my eyes. I don’t have any memories of our first trip to China. However , half a century later mother and son are back in China again and I will treasure our travel experience this time.
Thank you for sharing this momentous occasion, Alfred. Wishing you both a splendid visit and look forward to 'recent' pictures of you there together......This is such an amazing opportunity for you both...........many of us don't have the pleasure of our Mother's company in our adulthood...........wishing you both safe journey and happy times.
Hello Alfred! What a wonderful trip you must be having in that fascinating country. I am so glad you can share it with your mother.
I had a similar opportunity--going to both Norway and Sweden with my parents when they were in their 70's--and there were family reunions. It was very meaningful and I will always remember it, as I know you will. We look forward to seeing your new photographs, and later, more beautiful paintings. There are so many artists in China who are creating superior work every day. A woodblock of Suzhou, which I purchased in 1987 at an "artists colony" in that city, has brought me joy every day.
And, by the way, isn't the airport in Beijing something to behold?
Happy Moon Festival today in USA, maybe you did already:)!
My ancestors were from Shandong province 6 generations ago on my father side (My mother side were from Jinan City 2 generations ago too, but she was born in Harbin). My last name is Zou (鄒/邹) from 山東省鄒縣, one of my oldest ancestors was Mencius ( 孟子), who was the Chinese philosopher. Have you been his place to visit yet? Say Hi for me, thank you:)!
Thank you for sharing your story and enjoy your trip:)!
Last night, was the Autumn moon festival which is not unlike the Thanks giving day in North America. Today is the national day ( the brith of the modern China) the whole coutry is on a 10 days holiday many would trave back to ther home town to be with their families. it is the second most travel weekend of the year other than Chinese new year.the usully busy streets were all quite.
Xueling, we are in Quingdao, Shangdong! great city and great food!
Alfred, all that is extremely interesting! We luck a true information about the modern China. Please, keep us informed as you did during your previous travel to China, or make some summary after your coming back. It is a precious experience, share it with us as much as you can, please. And good luck to your mother and you during your travels!
Xueling....my husband is English and is working in Jinan in China at the moment...he gets looked at a lot..as he is 6' 4" and I dont think the chinese are used to seeing such tall men...as Alfred has said it is a holiday there at the moment so my husband has come home to Costa rica.
@Katie, 6' 4" is not very often to be seen for sure:)! More overseas Chinese are from south. Do you know there are more taller people in north China than in south. Now the younger generation are all taller. How does you husband like there? I don't know much about Jinan, only been there once in a very short visit long time ago, but my grandma told me a lot stories about her childhood... she past away at the age of 95, while I was studying overseas, still miss her so much....
Living among the locals
One of the thing I dislike about air flights is the waiting. Nowadays for international flights ones need to be there three hours before the departure time.
On the day we travel to Beijing China our flight was delayed and mother and I waited for almost seven hours before our flight even took off.
A day later, we finally landed in Beijing Capital Airport and my friend Michael has came all the way from Qingdao to greet us at the airport. Qingdao is about 4 hours by the bullet train. He been waiting for us for three hours at the airport already.
We planned to stay in Beijing for three days in order for mother to rest and later to visit the great wall. It was one of her wishes for our trip.
I was told there are 30 millions live in Beijing which is almost the whole population of the Canada!
This time, whenever I cross the streets I not only have to watch out for my self but also for mother as she is lot slower than I.
Michael has reserved our hotel rooms in a “home-style hotel” in the same area he used to lived. The home-style hotel is rather interesting, they are unlike living in a small apartment with a small kitchen, bathroom which equipped with a washing machine and cooking pots. This type of hotels is very inexpensive a room only cost about $30 a night. What I find fascinating was we were able to live among the local and had a feel of the neighborhoods. From our windows, I was able to observe how the locals live and work, behind our hotel was a little neighborhood with restaurants, shops and apartment buildings.
The staff of the little dumpling restaurant would prepare the vegetable right in the open air on the sidewalk and occasionally a car or motorbike would slowly drove by while she chopping the vegetable. Neighbors often would stop and sit on some boxes when there was no chairs around just to chat. Once a while some would come to purchase a bowl of dumplings. The owner would sit and chat with the customers while they ate.
A fruit shop was next to the dumpling house. It has beautiful fresh fruit display outside, it seem open all hours and I never see them close. Staff from the nearby business even napping on some make-shift beds out of large pieces of foams and covered themselves with sheets, only their feet were expose.
I have heard many these stories but it was never told in such a deep touching way, I can feel your feeling through the words. You have a very beautiful heart Alfred, which roots deeply in your mother's heart. :)
Enjoy the moment of the connection with your mom, and your true self.
we are having a great time here in China. At first, my mom was not sure about coming at first because she doesn't speak Mandarin, she speaks Cantonese and my friend Michael only speaks English. I was able to conviced her I would help to translate and all turned out very well. It is so wonderful to show her the modern China so much been changed since she left sixty years ago.
Wedding photos and celebrations
Wedding is serious business in China. Couple often spent huge amount for their weddings. There are many business are devoted to helping couples for their big days, any thing from wedding gowns to wedding photos. When I was in Beijing, I saw huge tents set up outside shopping centers to sell wedding packages.
Other day we were walking on the beach at Qingdao ,there were many couples in their western wedding attires posing for photos. A small team of wedding photographers and assistants would fuss around each couples. Often, there would be half a dozen wedding couples posing almost next to each other at the most scenic section of the beach.
It was rather surreal to see the formal dressed couples with the half naked bathers sharing the beach together.
Although Chinese couples nowadays prefer to dress in Western wedding attires for their big day but somehow they still follow the tradition traditional Chinese custom for wedding. There are some of them I haven’t seen before:
When we arrived at Michael’s apartment earlier of the month, I noticed all the pink papers covered manholes and water-drain covers. The papers were about two foot square with cutout design on them. Later, I was told it was used for weddings as to prevent the good fortune to escape.
Another interesting custom was the fireworks, during the daytime, we often heard the sounds of the fireworks and firecrackers explosions all over. After the sound we will see the big puff of smoke. Many weddings has drums and gongs as part of the celebration. One late morning, we were shopping for some grocery and pass by a restaurant there were a whole team all dressed in traditional Chinese costumes with drums, gong and with two lines of golden canons for a wedding celebrations. At first, they would perform the drums and gongs show three times and then came the firecrackers and fireworks before the newly wed couple arrive in their limo.
At exactly at noon ( a good fortune hour for the wedding) the couple and the wedding party arrived and step out from the limo. The golden canons shoot out colorful confetti and spray the couple. The whole group would pose for photos before enter the restaurant.
One morning, I was leaving Michael’s apartment to get some dumplings for breakfast and came across another wedding celebrations in the neighborhood. A team has gather on both side of the driveway the apartments. There were different sizes of drums set up, the largest one was the size of large table. I was surprise to see most of the performers are seniors with faces brightly makeup and dressed in colorful customs. The lead drummer was a older man but he perform with such power and energy unmatched by man far younger. They perform their well cerographic celebration routine smoothly. A small group of neighbor has gather to watch the show. Some even came prepared with small stools. Around the home where the bride lives was decorated with pinks and blue balloons. Even the trees and hydro poles also decorate with the red “double happiness” signs in red and gold. The whole show last almost the whole morning until the groom’s limo arrived to whisk away to the restaurant for the big wedding banquet.
Thank you Alfred! It is refreshing to see the customs still in evidence and that has all not been fully "Westernized". Your stories of your travels are very interesting, too. I'm looking forward to more.
I love the photos, too.
One of the first things I noticed after arrived in Qingdao was the tall trees everywhere. They are mature trees support with wooden poles on every sidewalks and parks and theywere so perfectly lined up it looked like an art installation.
I was told, with the many new constructions all over the city. In March, Qingdao municipal government launched a large scale forestation program which aims to make the city greener. The more than three million of trees were moved from the eastern forest of Shandong province which cost 4 billion yuan ($634.4 million) but the program triggered a debate among residents and internet users as the questioned of lack of public consolations before such a huge project which maybe a waste of money.
Later, authorities published a statement on its website and apologized for the lack of communication with residents and slow replies to residents questions about the project
What a fine son you are. Your Mother must be very very proud and comforted.
Your snippets of China are most welcome.
I must say though, that relocating trees from the eastern forest of Shandong province which cost 4 billion yuan ($634.4 million) is a strange way to "green" a city, from a Canadians point of view, not to mention an arborists point of view. I wonder if many of those trees "re-located" in March, will be alive next spring? What an extraordinary story.
Rose, I agree with you it seems strange had the trees moved from the forest to the city and I also wonder how they will survive in the city with many cars.
It was wonderful to share the experience in China with my mother. Before she decided to come with me she was reluctant as she doesn’t speak any Mandarin or much English to communicate with the local or my friend Michael. I assure her I will translate for her and it would not be any problems for her.
The night before we left for China, I discovered she had packed a heavy winter coat in her luggage. She told me all her friends told her Beijing will be as cold as Toronto and has to bring lots of winter clothing. I told her I was there the same time last year and it was very warm and no need for the winter clothing. Although she left that winter coat behind but all the clothing she brought with her were too warm for our trip, After we arrived, she has to buy new light clothing for our stay here.
Fast food to go
The American fast food has become part of the life in China. Companies like KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut are everywhere. Most of them even open 24 hour and the menu often has some Chinese touches. For example the McDonalds’ apple pie has been replaced with pineapple and taro. Pizza hut has a sea food pizza with shrimps which taste like shrimp dumpling from Dim Sum (the shrimps were baked in the pizza dough instead of topping). Mother really likes this one!
As soon as we walk in the local McDonald, the young staff right away pulls up the photo menu on the counter. All one needs just point at the picture to order.
The local KFC is two level outlets, at night the line are often long and slow moving. It seems they only fried the chicken when ones order. There often a number of bicycles park outside waiting for orders to delivery
I can speak two Chinese dialects and read Chinese fairly well. I learnt the first Dialect from my grandmother she cared for us when my parents worked full time back in Hong Kong. Grandmother could only speak Toishanese which is a Southern dialect. Later, when I went to school I learn to speak Cantonese. At home we mainly speak Toishanese which was very useful when we moved to Canada. Many early Chinese immigrants had come from that part of China which was the spoken dialect in many Chinatowns in North American. Often I can speak easily to elderly Chinese here when their own adult children would had trouble communicate with them.
Since our family been in Canada for 40 years I had lost most of my Chinese writing ability due to lack of use. In northern China, Mandarin is prefers dialect and few could speak Cantonese but at least I able to read. During my stay in Beijing and Qingdao, I realized how luck was still able to read and understood the Chinese characters. Often, whenever I couldn¡¯t come up the word in Mandarin I would write it on a small pad and would able to communicate with the local. Learning Chinese characters is not easy, one learn them by memory and there are thousands to learn from.
As soon as I got back I decided to re-learn my Chinese characters. My goal is able to write on my computer. I went to Chinatown and ask around and was told there is software for my need. It came with a small electric pad and pen which can transfer my written Chinese onto my computer. I had it installed a couple days ago and it been just wonderful to improve on my writing Chinese. Never too old to learn!