Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Homecoming – Part 1

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In April 2007, Zen Master, Zen Mum and I signed up for the The Best of China Cities – 12 days tour with a 6-city itinerary:  Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, HangZhou, SuZhou and Shanghai.

Translation:  TRIP OF A LIFETIME

As an American-born Chinese, I make Zen Master proud by being unable to speak my own language.  English is the first language that I recollect when I was a child, Chinese being secondary.  In light of our trip, I’d thought it would be a good thing to be able to speak some Mandarin.

So, you know, I could blend in and not be a complete freak.

The library is my bestest friend, and it lent me some conversational Mandarin CDs for a few months prior to our departure.

I had kept a journal while in China, and here verbatim was the first page:

Friday, April 6, 2007: 

Woke up at 4:00 AM.  13-hour plane ride painfully long.  Saw for the first time Palom Plateau – mountains near Beijing.

Translation:  Woke up early to catch bloody long flight out of either Atlanta or Chicago (I don’t remember which) to Beijing.  As the plane neared Beijing, saw rugged mountains (LAND!!) and when we finally disembarked, I threw myself on the ground and rolled around on terra firma because I’d forgotten how it felt.  Can we say claustrophobia?

And can we say:  Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

WOW!  Too bad I couldn’t get a better picture, but the tour bus was going too fast!

Oh my!

I’ve always had problems with anyone invading my personal space.  That went out the window here.  We learned pretty quickly that there was no such thing.

The final entry in my journal for this day:

SLEPT LIKE A ROCK.

Next stop:  TIANANMEN SQUARE AND THE GREAT WALL

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Homecoming

The other day Zen Master came over and knocked on my head, not unlike Biff in Back to the Future“Hello, anybody home?”  He kept knocking on my head.  “Hellloooo?”

“Uh, did you need something, Zen Master?”  But he had walked away.

Sometimes I truly believe that women are not the only ones who PMS.

Zen Master is 68 years old this year.  Although you really wouldn’t know it by the way he constantly gripes about being on the cusp of 70, and on some days, he talks as if he’s already 70. 

Zen Master arrived in the United States in the late 60s, touching ground in New York City where he subsequently met Zen Mum through her relative, and they married.  In all of these years, he has had only one opportunity to go back to China to visit his family, and I vaguely remember that time.  It was during middle school and my brother and I had to stay behind because it was during the school year.  But that was the first chance for Zen Master to finally and formally introduce Zen Mum to his mother, my grandmother.

My grandmother has since passed on, joining my grandfather who is the first to pass many years earlier.  Whenever Zen Master speaks of his mother, he grows quiet until he has to get up and walk out the room.  He vividly remembers growing up in rural China with his family, the hardships and impoverishment.  Grandfather had always left home looking for work, looking for food for the family.  His mother bore everything in the homestead, and at his first chance of getting out of the farming village and finding gainful employment, almost immediately Zen Master returned his due by providing for her, Grandfather and Zen Master’s three younger siblings.  That support would continue steadily and without fail every year while simultaneously trying to etch out a living and a family here in the States.  This support especially for his father and mother continued until their very end.

I met my grandfather when I was quite little and still lived in New York.  I have never met my grandmother.  I have never been to China. 

I had read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and she had noted that when she first arrived into China, when she stepped off the plane, it was like finally coming home.  I have always wondered if that would happen with me. 

So tapping into my many years of savings and my many annual bonuses, when Zen Master and Zen Mum finally retired, we went to China.

TO BE CONTINUED.

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