On Home and Memory

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The bridge my father used to swim under as a child

After my internship ended, I took ten days to visit my family’s hometown of Xinzhou in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei. I took an overnight sleeper train from Beijing to Wuhan, where my uncle picked me up, and lectured me about how Donald Trump is dangerous for the world, to which I said, “Tell me something I don’t already know.” Upon arriving in Xinzhou, I went straight to my wai gong’s (maternal grandfather) house to eat lunch, where they stuffed food into my bowl, as they have done for the last twenty years of my life. I lived with my nai nai (paternal grandmother) in her three story house that my grandfather built, and we played xiangqi as we did every summer night when I was a child. I thought about letting her win, but she taught me to be more competitive than that.

 

"Beautiful Xinzhou"

“Beautiful Xinzhou”

Later, I went to the bridge that my father used to swim under as a boy. The water was muddy and tinged with green, but the sunset falling on the surface was lovely. There were people swimming, and my aunt told me that someone drowns every week. That night was a Taoist holiday, so the town’s elders came out to the riverside, including my wai po, who I ran into there. We lit paper lanterns and pushed them along the river, where they joined the fleet of multi-colored lanterns floating downstream. Then, we burned paper money to scare away the bad spirits. On the way home, I watched the ashes float into the air from everywhere in the town, still ablaze, like phoenixes in migration.

Summer has never been my favorite season, but this summer was one of growth and learning, thanks to the Freeman Foundation grant. Not only was I able to work at a fulfilling internship, experience Beijing, and meet with various Davidson alumni, but I was also able to visit my family and further connect with my own identity.

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