Ouyang Homecoming

This group blog tells the first person story of an extended Chinese American Family who reunited online and organized a trip to their ancestral roots in China.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Moments to Remember---By Norman Owyang

Julius Caesar said,” I came, I saw, I conquered.” Paraphrasing this, I say we came (to China), we saw (our ancestral village), we conquered (the uncertainty of meeting our relatives). After fighting off some jet lag from yesterday’s long flight to California, I reflected on one scene. It was the huge red banner with gold lettering in Chinese and English, declaring a family welcome to the overseas Chinese back to their hometown, Dai Ling. It was strung over the main street to greet us as we marched in from our bus. Village officials came to welcome us. This was the beginning of the moments to remember.

The village officials led us upstairs into a large assembly room in an administration building. After we were all seated, we were officially greeted by the mayor and elders in Cantonese. For us Chinese language challenged ABC’s (American-born Chinese), there were 2 English-speaking ladies who were interpreters. We also had the great fortune of having my sister-in-law, Annie, with us. She is fluent in Chinese and was invaluable throughout our entire trip, not just in the village and sight-seeing, but also in bargain-shopping. But that’s another story. I had the dubious honor of being the senior Owyang among us, so I was automatically selected as the elder of our group to address the audience. On the fly, I managed to get my introductory remarks out with my limited Cantonese (American dialect), but fortunately had Annie help me with the rest of the greeting. Then we broke up into small groups with various elders to trace our roots through pictures on the wall and Dai Ling’s official book, “The Historical Data and Genealogical Table of the Owyang Family for 4,700 Years.” That was my second moment to remember.

We then walked through the village and visited the various homes where our forefathers lived. Other writers in this blog will tell you of their experiences in meeting relatives still living in the village and in seeing their ancestral homes. For me, seeing the small 100 plus year old house where my great-grandparents lived was awesome. And seeing pictures on the walls of my grandparents, father, uncle, my brothers, nephews, nieces and me added to the excitement. The villagers actually tried to stay current with their overseas cousins. This was another moment to remember.

Then we walked a ways down the road to my grandmother’s tomb. It was on the shoulder of a busy street in the midst of apartment complexes and next to an old shack. Grandma was the first Chinese woman dentist in America and was killed by an erratic car driver in San Francisco. She pushed her youngest son, my uncle Eric, out of the way and saved his life. Kathy, Eric’s daughter, and her family, were on this trip. Jeremiah came to visit his great-grandmother’s tomb several years ago and his story so touched the vice general secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of Zhongshan, that she pleaded with the government bureaucrats not to move or destroy the tomb with new developments. They listened and the tomb is now an untouchable landmark. A moving story, but one that comes close is what took place later. Kathy’s children, Erica, Christine, Carlito, and Erica’s husband, Tony, came to my room and asked my OK to go back to sweep up the debris around their great-grandmother’s tomb. They took a taxi, borrowed a broom, quickly cleaned up the gravesite, bought oranges, gave their respects, and were back in time for dinner. These were all moments to remember.

Finally, the village dinner celebration for us combined with honoring the senior citizens. And a grand one it was, as you can read and see from the other articles and photos. Annie helped me write my speech in Cantonese to address the crowd. With my overseas family standing behind me for support, I managed to do it with my ABC dialect. On behalf of all of us I then presented the mayor with a gift of appreciation. The celebration finally ended with bursts of firecrackers. We paid our respects and thanked all our cousins for these moments to remember. Some of us are already planning another village reunion.

By Norman Owyang, son of Edwin Owyang, son of Com HIn Owyang, son of Gum Tong Owyang.


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