Jan Everett （2013）
Have you ever had a deep yearning for something that you know in your heart will never come to fruition? A dream that you think will never be fulfilled? Everyone has something that their thoughts keep returning to, no matter how you try to put it out of your mind. So it has been with me for many years.
My sister and I inherited different genes.
I received blue eyes and pale skin from my mother’s Scottish heritage, she deep brown eyes, olive skin and black/blue hair from my father’s Chinese ethnicity. But whatever I lacked in looks I made up for in passion for my father’s side. I spent my younger years listening to my grandmother’s stories about Chinese Culture and it is this that fuelled the fire that still burns within me to this day. I have been to China many times over the years but until this last trip I have been unable to quench this thirst for belonging. My friend from W.A. Roz Hanley is a Singapore Chinese, of Hakka descent and both of us have poor Chinese language skills. Roz and I seem to mould together like two sides of a coin. Our passion for anything Chinese holds no bounds. Many times we had planned to visit Guang Dong together, but always our plans had been foiled. Not so this last trip, leaving our fellow travelers to go on to Sichuan to see the pandas, we flew to Guang Zhou. Our minds were made up, our intentions to keep to what we had agreed to do clear.
First we took a fast train to Shen Zhen
to meet Roz’s family and one of her cousins for the first time. They treated us to a wonderful lunch of traditional Hakka food. After lunch we were driven to an old Hakka fishing village to explore the narrow streets and old style houses which are still in use. It was as if we had all known each other all our lives. It was an amazing day. On our way to catch the train back to Guang Zhou we visited an old Professor, who was Roz’s uncle and lived in an apartment on the grounds of the school where he had taught. He presented Roz with a book he had written and she quizzed him on family ties. Roz’s family implored us to stay the night but we could not, or our plans for the next day would have to be put on hold again. On our trip back to Guang Zhou we were already planning our next visit to Shen Zhen.
Next day we met our friend Flinder
whom I had gotten to know while he was attended UTAS; he now lives in Guang Zhou. After greetings we all piled in to a taxi and headed for the bus depot. I had emailed him before our arrival and told him that I was looking for, a small village somewhere near Toi Sun (Tai San). In the taxi I showed him the characters for the names of the places I sought. The information I had was from over 90 years ago and Flinder explained that he did not think it was possible to find it after so many years. With mobile phone in hand Flinder made enquiries about the village I sought from his wife’s family, who are Cantonese. They told him that there were hundreds of villages and that it might no longer exist, finding it was near impossible. I was unperturbed by their doubts, I had waited too many years. As long as I could get to Toi Sun I would know that I was half way there. The two hour bus trip was amazing, old village after old village. It was as if this part of China was still caught in a time warp hundreds of years ago. On all my trips to China over many decades I have visited so many provinces, but I had never seen anything to rival this. Leaving the coach in Toi Sun we caught a local bus, now aiming for a village that I knew was near the one I was looking for. After forty five minutes the bus grinded to a stop on a long stretch of road. All that I could see was farm land and a large gate. We hopped out and as I looked up I could see the characters for Nam Long.
Joy overwhelmed me
It did not matter if we could not find the right village now. For years I had looked at my grandfather’s information about his family written on a silk handkerchief and framed on my wall. I had never dared dream that I would ever be this close to it. Although it was a 30 degree day I did not seem to feel the heat. We wandered up a long road, Roz under her umbrella taking photos of a water buffalo swimming in the river to escape the heat. Finally a village came into sight, my heart skipped a beat, but as we got closer the road split in two. Now what should we do? Should we walk to the one we could see, if it is not right one we could ask about the village? Should we turn back now before it gets too late to get a bus back? Was I happy to have gotten this far enabling me to return another day? My thoughts raced. So close, yet so far from attaining my goal. Before we could decide two motor bikes came in to view. We waved them down and showed them the paper with the village name on it, they pointed to the road in the other direction and before I knew it we were on the back of the bikes. Me holding tight to this man I did not know, Roz hitching up her dress and hopping in between the two men. We sped off over the bumpy road, with me trying to hang on and turn around to take photos of Roz. After what seemed to be a never ending road my eyes widened in disbelief I started to yell back to Roz “I can see it, look I can see it”. Ahead of me as if appearing out of nowhere was a large white building with Bai Sha (Beisheng) written on the top.
My eyes began to well up with tears of joy
I felt that I had finally come home. We spent a great day with the villagers none of us spoke Cantonese and none of the villagers spoke Mandarin or English, but that seemed not to matter as they all gathered around reading my family names and chattering amongst themselves. As each new person arrived they would look at Roz thinking it was her that was seeking family, then I would be pointed out to the disbelief of the new arrival. At one stage they hurried off looking for someone who might know, but alas, he was not home. Finally as the day started to end one of the villagers commandeered a car and drove us to the next town. There at a government office they copied my family information for the villagers. Then we were dropped at the bus station and after many handshakes we left. On the long bus trip back to Guang Zhou I thought about how my grandfather had wanted to make this trip, but was unable to because of the war. I thought about how my great grandfather Ma Sui had written all those years ago, that after the turmoil has ended China will again become a strong nation and his wish was that my grandfather should come home to this village. I thought about my journey to Bai Sha and how I had fulfilled what I had constantly longed for. Finally I thought about how against all the odds I had found my ancestral village and I was sure that I had been guided there by Ma Sui’s spirit.