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Archive for November, 2010

Noah’s Dilemma

Monday, November 29th, 2010

By:  Ellis Goodman

Since I’m engaged in real estate investment and development, I sympathize with Noah and his problems.

Noah 2010

In the year 2010 , the Lord came unto Noah and said: 
Once again the earth has become wicked and over-populated,
and I see the end of all flesh before me.
 
Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing
along with a few good humans.
He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:
You have 6 months to build the  Ark before I will start
the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.
  

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard –
but no  Ark.

Noah! He roared, I’m about to start the rain! Where is the  Ark ?
Forgive me, Lord, begged Noah, ‘but things have changed.

 I need a building permit.

I’ve been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.

My neighbors claim that I’ve violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the  Ark in my yard, and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.

Then, the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the  Ark ‘s move to the sea.

I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl.

I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!


When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued that accommodations were toorestrictive, and that it is cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

Then the EPA ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they conducted an environmental impact study on your propsed flood.

I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on ho many minorities I’m supposed to hire for my building crew.

Immigration is checking the status of most of the people who want to work.

The Trades Unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only  Union
workers with Ark-building experience.

To make matters worse, they seized all my assets, claiming
I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this  Ark.

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a double rainbow stretched across the sky.

Noah looked up in wonder and asked, ‘You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?’ 

‘No,’ said the Lord.  I’ve just put it off for a few weeks, but I’m afraid Noah you’ve lost the contract, which I’ve now given to Noa Li in Shanghai.  He got the Ark built in 60 days and filled it with all the animals.  There were no protests, and the Chinese Government supported the contract and are eager to work with me on a number of other projects.

Sorry, Noah, I thought you could get the job done in California because you used to be so good at this sort of thing.  But it seems you can’t get anything done these days, so I’m going to have to give a lot more business to emerging nations now.

And here endeth the lesson for today.

 Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

 

Rolling Backwards

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Eurostar train at Paris Gare du Nord

Image by lazytom via Flickr

 By:  Ellis Goodman

It was interesting to read my friend, Jian Ping’s, blog on her recent visit to her family in China, illustrated by a photograph of her train journey home, showing the speed of the train at 242 KMPH (150 miles per hour).  Apparently, this was not the “fast train,” which can reach speeds of over 180 miles per hour.  A good friend of mine from England recently flew into Shanghai and took the train from the airport into the center of the city.  This is a 30-mile journey that took just seven minutes!  The Chinese have decided that the mode of transportation best suited to meet their rapid economic expansion is high-speed rail.  They currently have or are developing over 7,000 miles of new track to meet their needs.  And of course they are right.  Trains can move thousands of people, from city center to city center, speedily, safely and cleanly at a fraction of the energy use of air travel.

When in Europe, I’ve become a frequent user of the Eurostar train service between London and Paris and vice versa.  You can now travel from the center of London to the center of Paris in two hours and ten minutes.  Although the flight time is only 45 minutes, going through Heathrow Airport in London, which is a nightmare, requires arrival at least one hour and a half prior to the flight time, and then the long journey from Charles De Gaulle Airport into the center of Paris can take over an hour, depending upon traffic.  The Eurostar however is speedy, clean, comfortable, and includes a very acceptable meal. 

During a recent visit to London, I read that the Eurostar trains are being replaced since they are now over 15 years old and that the newer versions will allow the speed to increase to approximately 180 miles per hour.  A new service is also being introduced from Frankfurt, Germany.  The journey to London and vice versa will take just under five hours.  Europe already has an extensive network of fast train services, particularly in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium.  This is a pleasant, speedy and comfortable way to travel.

President Obama, as part of his efforts to make the U.S. less reliant on fossil fuels, eliminate pollution, and create clean energy industries, has offered up to $80 billion in funding for high-speed train networks.  $8 billion has been allocated to the Midwest, and so it was particularly upsetting for me to read that the new Republican Governor of the state of Wisconsin, backed by the new Republican Senator in that state, has said that he will reject monies for the development of a high-speed rail network, as he wants to see more money spent on roads and bridges. 

We will need hundreds of billions of dollars of investment to create a viable, modern high-speed rail network in this country, but the benefits to our economy – clean air and reduction of reliance on foreign imported oil – is easily measurable.  Why is it that once again our leaders are rolling backwards, either ignoring our energy problems or pandering to the special interests of the oil, gas, and fossil fuel industries, and putting our transportation systems years behind our competitors in Europe and Asia?

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

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Asian Trip—Hanoi, Vietnam

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

 By Jian Ping

A courtyard in the Temple of Literature where Confucius' teachings were taught

After being delayed for more than an hour, I arrived at Hanoi shortly before midnight. I had never been so happy to learn about the delay of another flight—the flight from Beijing to Hanoi. Five friends from Chicago were on this flight and I was supposed to meet them at the Hanoi Airport! I smiled with relief when I saw them walking to the luggage claim area shortly after my arrival.  

I looked out of the van that took us to Sheraton Hotel in the city, but could hardly see anything in the darkness. “Don’t expect much,” one friend said. “Hanoi is more like a big village.”

Skills of a motorcyclist

The next day, when we toured the city, I realized my friend’s remark was correct. Unlike the economic boom and high-rises one witnessed all over China, low buildings and streams of motorcycles filled the streets. I was amazed to see families of four fit onto one motorcycle, with one child in front of the driver, and another behind, squeezed between the driver and the adult on the back seat, or young women riding a big bike with high heels.  

We hired a tour guide for the day and visited a few major attractions: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, the Temple of Literature, and the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Our guide, a girl in her late 20s, gave us an introduction

Cyclo Tour

of each place. “Uncle Ho was like a father to us,” she said, pointing to Ho’s portrait at Ho’s Mausoleum. “He was so busy working for the people and the country that he never got married. We are all his children.” I watched her, somewhat incredulously. I felt I was listening to someone reciting an official line…

To her credit, we did go to the old quarters and took “Cyclo” ride. We fought our way through hundreds of motorcycles and small vendors walking with baskets of fruits on a bamboo pole on their shoulders or on the back seat of their bicycles. Small shops on each street appeared to be organized to sell similar items, from construction materials, furniture, to house plants. “It’s like Home Depot laid in the open,” a friend commented as our cyclos passed these streets. The pollution in the city was so bad that most of the many wore facemasks. Regardless, the old quarters revealed a dynamic and interesting sight of life here.   

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. www.moraquest.com, www.mulberrychild.com

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Asian Trip (7)

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Doctor An at her clinic

Three days before my departure from Changchun, Gao, a friend of my nephew who helped us with our film shooting in May, took me to see his niece An, a Chinese medicine doctor.

“You should have come to me right after you landed in Changchun,” An said, referring to my knee. “I have a special mix of herbs that could heal your wound in a couple of days.”

Since I was on antibiotics, she wouldn’t apply any herbal medine. But she took my pulse and gave me an adjustment similar to that of a chiropractor. She was specialized in acupuncture. As we were chatting in the lobby of her clinic, she walked over and started putting a needle over all my hands, arms, and legs. She used a special technique in which she uses a single disposable needle and put it in and out of the “meridian points.” She did it so quickly that by the time I felt the sting, like that of a mosquito bite, she had already taken it out. I found it fascinating.

“Do you feel better,” she kept asking me, referring to the flow of energy through my body.

“I think so,” I said hesitatingly. I always believed in Chinese herbal medicine, but had never subjected myself to any serious treatment.

Me under Fire!

“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you a heat treatment,” An said. She diagnosed my problem of poor blood circulation correctly and said the herbal treatment will help me.

I did go back the next day and went through an hour of heat treatment. Before a hot patch of herbal medicine was placed under my back, a young doctor sprinkled medicinal alcohol on a wet towel on my back as I lay on my stomach on a bed, then he lit it up. After a few seconds, he put out the fire with another wet towel, trapping the heat underneath. I was literally under fire!

When I showed the picture of me under seizure to my sister Wen, who was trained as a Western medicine doctor, she shook her head and said she suspected that I had a tendency for self physical abuse. I knew my recent record was not good—falling from a bike, continuing workout with a bad knee, and crossing two continents with an infected open wound. I laughed and went back for another session before my departure. That day, an elderly woman on the bed next to me was being treated with “sucking jars”—a device used to draw out the toxins in one’s body.

A Patient receiving treatment

“I felt so much better after the last treatment,” she said to the young doctor and requested that he made the “sucking” more forceful. He obliged, lighting a cotton ball soaked with alcohol inside a jar, took it out quickly and place the jar on the back of the woman. Before long, there were more than 30 jars on her shoulders, back, and thighs. Red marks formed under the jar, and he measured the pressure and repeated the process all over again. I took a picture of the woman and decided I couldn’t put myself through that!

I left Changchun for Vietnam on October 18. I was to join a few friends from Chicago and tour Hanoi, Ho Chin Minh City and Hong Kong. I promised Mother I’d visit her again soon next year. 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com.

Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011. 

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Asian Trip (6)

Monday, November 15th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Enjoy a hearty meal with Tao, Yan and Mom

We arrived at Changchun about 7 P.M. My sister Yan and her son Tao were waiting for us at the train station. Tao had bought a Volkswagen earlier in the year and had been providing generous transport services to our extended families in Changchun. This evening, he was the designated driver again.

A table of food was waiting for us when we opened the door to Mother’s apartment. I was so happy to see Mother as energetic and high spirited as I left her in May. She, however, frowned at me as she saw me limping.

“You should have waited to come back until your knee is healed,” she said.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” I said. “We have a family doctor.”

It turned out Mother was right. The infection on my knee got worse. Still, I didn’t take it seriously. Limping around, I went to the “Blind Men’s Massage Parlor” the next day and bought a 20-visit massage pass. A full body massage cost 40 Yuan, about US$6, and I couldn’t pass up the treat. In fact, when I fell badly off my bike in Chicago, I was on my way to a gym for a massage. I was in a hurry and fell at a high speed two blocks from my destination. Now, as always

Yan is getting ready for a massage

when in Changchun, I urged my sisters to go with me for massage. My sister Ping and her husband Zhicheng also came from Shenyang. We went to the parlor together and chatted away while enjoying the treat.  In a neighborhood massage place like the one we went to that was run by four blind men, each room had three or four beds and the masseurs worked on their fully-clothed clients, using a small towel over the areas they worked on. They were thorough and strong. Despite the simple setting and condition, the deep tissue massage was quite good!

On the 3rd day I was home, Wen became more concerned about my infected knee and took me to the hospital she worked at. I didn’t argue—I was in pain and would travel again soon. The doctor put me on an antibiotic IV injection right away. For the next six days, I received two IV injections every day. Wen played doctor and nurse at the same time.

“You know you are not young anymore,” Wen said, struggling to put the thin needle into a blood vessel on the back of my left hand. “I don’t think you should ride your bike anymore.”

A sweet moment with Wen, Yan and Mom

“I promise I’ll be more careful,” I said. I meant it. But I didn’t tell her that over the summer, I rode my bike on the trail along Lake Michigan in Chicago for nearly 20 miles four or five times a week. I loved it and would definitely continue to do so.

Because of my knee, I spent most of the time with Mother at home. I had a great time chatting, playing mahjong, or watching television with her and my sisters. Over the last two decades, I had visited them two or three times each year, but seldom stayed for more than 3 days each time. This time, I stayed for 10 days, a record.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com.

Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentray film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

Asian Trip (5)

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

By Jian Ping

It was a relief to get back safely to Beijing. The first thing I did after checking into my hotel was to take a long, hot shower. For three days, I only sprinkled cold well water on my face for a wash. The running water felt incredibly good.

Beijing Train Station--Waiting Room

The next day, I met my sister Wen and my brother-in-law Mingfu at the train station. The old Beijing Train Station located in the center of town appeared to be from an earlier era, so different from the sparkling new South Beijing Station. Travel by train is still the main means of transportation in China and the station was packed. After elbowing my way through security checks, I was swept forward in a stream of humanity into the No. 2 Waiting Room. 30 feet into the large hall, I found myself grounded on a spot the middle of nowhere, with no space to move forward or backward. As I was wondering how on earth I could find Wen and Mingfu in this crowd, I saw Wen slowly make her way forward in the main “walkway,” searching left and right with each step. She must be looking for me! I raised my hand and waved frantically to her. Miraculously, she saw me and gave me her usual calm smile. It took her five minutes to cover the 10-feet between us.

“We came early and Mingfu is waiting in front,” Wen said, equally relieved to find me.

It was challenging enough for her to move through the crowd without any luggage. There was no way I could join them. She decided to meet in our train carriage.

Our train moving at a speed of 242 kilometers per hour!

“Watch out for your belongings,” Wen said. She always worried about my carrying the bag on my back. Pocket picking was common in public places.  

The rush to go through the ticketing gate was another drama. I used to warn my American colleagues that if there were three people in front of a ticket office in China, they’d elbow their way to the front instead of forming a line. With at least a thousand people, the scene was chaotic. I grabbed my carry-on and backpack and simply moved with the flow. By the time I found my carriage and eventually reached my seat, I was sweating as if I had just finished a five-mile run.

Wen took over my luggage and placed it on the overhead rack, a space that she had taken for me with her handbag. 

“Sorry,” she apologized as if it were her fault. “I know you would have flown to Changchun if it were not because of us.”

Wen and me on the train

That was true. After a six-hour bumpy ride on a bus the day before, I was not looking forward to another six-hour train ride.

“I’d rather be with you,” I said.

Wen gave me the window seat and took out all kinds of snacks for me to munch on. I leaned against her shoulder and gave her hug. I already felt close to home.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com.

Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Women in Ministry: Healing the Wounds of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Monday, November 8th, 2010

By Nancy Werking Poling

Author of   HAD EVE COME FIRST AND JONAH BEEN A WOMAN and

OUT OF THE PUMPKIN SHELL

Time spent with young adults seldom fails to inspire me. Last Thursday was such an occasion.

Three seminary students (all of them women) invited me to lunch to discuss a book I edited back in the nineties: Victim to Survivor: Women Recovering from Clergy Sexual Abuse. We spent two hours in a quiet Japanese restaurant talking about the church, gender, and the abuse of power. The seminarians had taken to heart those who contributed to the book. They shared in feelings of betrayal and anger at a church that protected its clergy at the expense of vulnerable members.

It occurs to me that much has changed since the writing project began. Most of the contributors did not yet have email. They sent drafts through the post office, then we’d work our way through the story over the phone. We’d cry, we’d laugh. The issues always were how can we help the reader understand the dynamics of abuse and how can we show that it harms the church as well as individuals. The authors were committed to protecting others from the pain they’d experienced.

Today most denominations have clear protocols to follow when abuse is reported. They take preventive measures by requiring clergy to attend workshops about boundaries. Seminaries require students to do the same.

Has the problem gone away? Certainly not. But victims, women and men, who risk speaking the truth have made a tremendous difference. And I am confident that women in ministry, like the ones I had lunch with, are going to make a difference too. They will be compassionate in reaching out to victims, and they are not going to shy away from holding perpetrators and the church accountable.

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My iPhone & Me

Monday, November 8th, 2010
Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

By:  Ellis Goodman

I’m far too old to be a “geek” or a “nerd,” but in my own fashion I have attempted to adapt to modern technologies.  Having spent over 50+ years communicating through letters, I now communicate by emails. Instead of encyclopedias and libraries, I use my computer for research – Google or whatever.   I have my Mac, my iPod and of course my – “never-leave-home without it” – iPhone.  I even use DragonSpeak for my writing. 

However with all these modern amenities, I’m not quite comfortable living in this high-tech world.  Last year at Christmas time, my daughter, who lives in Paris, gave me a printed tee-shirt on which was recorded “I think my phone must be broken – it’s not working!”  This was a not too subtle swipe at my battles with technology, and it is true to some extent.  I love my iPhone.  I love my Apps (although I only have those which are free).  I love receiving text messages and really value my access to my business emails, especially when I’m traveling domestically or abroad. 

Like all iPhone owners at the present time, I am a customer of AT&T.  I would love my iPhone even more if I could only get the damn thing to work and give me an uninterrupted and reliable service.  But regrettably, this is not my experience.

Why is it my phone worked perfectly at The Great Wall of China, at the Pyramids in Egypt, in the Metro deep under the streets of Paris, and in ancient monuments in London, but … I can’t get it to work in my house, and only with difficulty in my Chicago downtown office building.  Driving the twenty-five miles into work from my home outside Chicago, is a nightmare of dropped calls, and misdirected connections.  Even my emails and App uses are plagued by “searching for connections” and information not downloaded from the server. 

European friends have an uncomprehending look when I describe these problems in the U.S., which they still believe is a world leader in high-tech products (of course that is no longer true).  And, when I see movies or TV dramas depicting instantly communicated calls in often life-saving circumstances, I feel a complete pang of jealously.  I know that, if I was in one of those life-or-death situations and tried to use my phone, I would get “telephone not registered,” “circuits are busy,” or just plain nothing.  I would not be the one to save the world or indeed myself using my iPhone.

I’m not sure whether this experience is unique to me or applies to a vast number of AT&T iPhone users.  I know there have been many press reports about the AT&T system being overwhelmed by the usage factor.  When I have phoned AT&T, which I’ve tried on a number of occasions, I always get an ultra polite assistant on the other end who assures me that there should be nothing wrong with my phone, that there are no towers “down” in my area, and that maybe it’s a problem with my telephone. 

I even took my phone to an Apple store, where it had a complete diagnostic test, similar to an MRI and a brain scan as far as I could see, and they agreed that the number of dropped calls was far in excess of what they should be.  Accordingly, I got a brand new phone, which I thought was very generous of them.  However some months later, my problems with AT&T have still not improved.

So, maybe it has nothing to do with not being a “geek” or a “nerd.  Perhaps it’s true – my telephone must be broken – “it’s not working!!”

 

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

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Asian Trip (4)

Monday, November 8th, 2010

 By Jian Ping

A photo of Nainai that I found at a niece's home

According to local customs, visiting graves of loved ones has to be at sunset—a time when day turns to night, Yang changes to Yin. Earlier in the day, Wen and I bought five kinds of fruit at a farmer’s market and a niece went to a shop and purchased a large bundle of paper—a thin, yellowish paper that was regarded as “paper money” for next life. We’d burn the paper at Nainai’s grave, a ritual that was supposed to complete the transformation of the paper from this world to the next.  

 At the designated time, we walked over to Nainai and Grandpa’s grave at the edge of a cornfield. A large group of distant relatives accompanied us. We pushed aside the sharp leaves of corn and arrived at a small open area. A single grave—a mere mound of dirt covered by grass and weeds—stood near a date tree. Tears welled up in my eyes. Nainai lived a hard and simple life when she was alive, and now, her burial place was just as simple and plain!

We placed the fruits in front of the grave, and five of us—grandchildren of Nainai and Grandpa’s two sons—kneeled down in front of their grave. Shiqing lit the paper, and a distant cousin, who had brought Nainai’s ashes back to the village three decades ago, striped the leaves off a corn stock and used it to stir the fire. One layer after another, the yellow paper burst into flame. Facing the glow of the fire, each of us, aloud or in silence, expressed our love, gratitude, and respect for our grandparents.  

Nainai's grave near a date tree, in the middle of a corn field

For half an hour, we kneeled on the same spot and watched the paper burn, hoping Nainai and Grandpa could take comfort in our tribute. A sharp pain shot up from the wound in my left knee. I sank my teeth into my lower lip and endured the pain. I thought I could find a level of peace and closure by visiting Nainai’s grave, but seeing the condition of the site, I was more unsettled. I apologized to Nainai and told her that we would arrange to have a tombstone set up at the next Memorial Day.

Shiqing took us to visit a few graves of our family ancestors afterwards. Wen and I carefully read the inscriptions of a few tombstones. Earlier, relatives in the village had made inquiries of Binbin, my brother, Father’s only son. They thought it was Binbin who had come back for a visit. We were also told that only sons and grandsons could have their names carved on tombstones of their parents or grandparents. We were relieved to see a couple of the stones listed daughters’ names as contributors as well. We certainly wanted to present to Nainai our respect and love–the granddaughters–by having our names listed with pride.  

Burning paper money at Nainai's grave

We spend the second night at another relative’s home. Early the following morning, Xiaogui, a nephew who worked as taxi driver, gave us a ride to Dezhou. It was the end of a weeklong National Day Holiday and we couldn’t get any train tickets back to Beijing. In the end, we took a long distance bus—a service notorious for its lack of safety and security. The two-hour fast train ride from Beijing to Dezhou turned into a six-hour long journey on bumpy and local roads, with only one five-minute bathroom break at an outhouse. We were thirsty and hungry by the time we reached Beijing, but we had no regrets.     

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com

Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China is being developed into a feature-length documentary film. It will be released in 2011.

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Asian Trip (3)

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Corn on the country road

We arrived at Dezhou and found Shiqing, Fengqin and Lanzhi, a niece who lived in Nainai’s home village waiting for us. Shiqing negotiated with a couple of cab drivers for the one-hour ride to the village and came to us in frustration. “We’ll take the bus,” he declared. He was not happy about the price. Wen had warned me to yield to Shiqing since he was the oldest among us, and more, the grandson.  I bid my tongue and obliged, as I would during the visit.

October was harvesting time. Along the paved road to the countryside, piles of corn, still on cobs, were laid out to dry. In the fields, cotton was being picked by peasants, and where corn stocks had been cleared, peasants were busy spreading manures in preparation for the planting of winter wheat. The mini bus, crowded with people, swung us left and right on the winding road. A conductor balanced herself to sell tickets to new passengers and called out to the driver to stop whenever someone requested to get off. An hour and a half later, we were still on the country road.

“Look, Dong Wan is right over there,” Shiqing suddenly woke up from his doze and pointed to our right. He grew up in the village and claimed he could find his way around with his eyes closed.

First dinner with my nieces and their husbands

“I feel Nainai’s presence,” I murmured to Wen. I felt a sudden surge of energy rushing through my body and my eyes were filled with tears.

We got off the bus at the next stop and Lanzhi took us to her sister Lanju’s home. A large gate opens to a brick-paved courtyard, and we met with a large group of people—children and grandchildren of our cousin Fu, Shiqing’s older sister. Loud greetings, laughter and introductions are joined by the excited barking of two dogs. I had no idea we had so many relatives in the village.  

I tried hard to remember their names, rankings, and family units of the people; and Wen, just as overwhelmed, quickly took out a piece of paper to make a family tree. It was dinner time when we arrived at the village, and a big table had been set up in the middle of a large bedroom. In a few minutes, a dozen dishes of pork, fish, pork feet, tofu, and stir-fried eggplants, green beans, mushrooms, green peppers, and etc., were placed on the table. Despite the fact that we had never met these nieces and their families before, we felt right at home. We raised our beer and soft drink glasses and toasted to our gathering and the memories and gratitude of our grandparents, or to them, great grandparents.

Me on Lanju's bike

That night, Wen and I slept on the Kang at Lanju’s. The heat from cooking kept the Kang warm, and in the stillness of the night, far away from any noise of traffic, Wen and I drifted into a deep sleep.

The next day, two of our nieces and a niece’s husband took us to visit relatives in nearby villages—family branches from children of our second aunt, Father’s older sister. I sat on the back of an electric motor bike, and Wen, on another; while Shiqing and Fengqin got onto the cargo cart of a tricycle, also powered by electricity. Our nieces greeted everyone we passed on the road and explained to us who they were—half of the village seemed to be connected either by blood or marriage.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com

Director Susan Morgan Cooper is making a feature-length documentary film based on Mulberry Child, which will be released in 2011.