Another 12 hour trip to Asia; this time to China.
I am en route to Shanghai where I will be meeting my mother who has been there since November, and perhaps my father, who would be arriving to Pu Dong from Taipei on the same day as me. The mother part was planned, the father part was not. My parents are divorced and have been nearly my entire existence. Although they have shaken off the bitterness in their relationship and have mastered cordiality, they rarely interact. My mother lives part time in the US and part time in Shanghai; my father lives in Plano Texas with my family. It is a rarity to be in the same city as both my parents in the US so you can imagine the pause I took when I learned that I could be hanging out with both my parents on my first trip to China.
To add to the melodrama, I just learned that my father’s parents are both from Shanghai. This is amazing to me. And it amazes me for 2 reasons: 1) my mother told me my father was from Sichuan which inadvertently makes me a liar to the many I have told I hold roots there, 2) I was actually surprised by my mother’s factual mistake despite history proving that she is not a historian. Regardless, I am spending some time in Shanghai, the city where my ye ye (grandpa) and nai nai (grandma) grew up, met, married, and from which they eventually fled to Taipei. And I will be in Shanghai with my divorced parents. I will be with my father in a place of his roots. (My mother’s parents are from the Hunan province. It is far from Shanghai; thusly I will not be experiencing Hunan this trip).
To prepare for this trip, I did nothing. I mean, I google’d things to do: The Bund, salsa in Shanghai, tallest building, etc. But I did very little research and have minimal knowledge about China’s history, culture, economy, and people. But as life will have it, I was given a movie and a book to help educate me for my trip. The movie took place in Hunan and Shanghai and the book in Sichuan. Both are set in a time during Mao’s revolution and so I will arrive with some knowledge of that piece of history thanks to the recommenders.
While indulging in my routine guilty pleasure at airports (i.e. reading a Marie Claire magazine, which to my defense, has some articles of substance littered between images of fashion), I stumbled on an article speaking to China’s recent ban of reality television shows in support of better tv – that is, programming involving more traditional culture etc. While I am not a fan of reality tv (aside from SYTYCD of course), I was stunned by this news. It is not brand new information that China can be controlling, but it aroused some feelings in me to know that I will be soon setting foot in a world where freedom will have a new meaning. Residue of communist China will not be something that is happening to “them” over there on that side of the planet, but it will be happening to “them” the people around me. I am filled with wonder. In what ways will people exhibit the years of communist values in their present lives? How will I be impacted by the macroculture of China as a tourist with native roots who is highly acculturated to American values? In what ways will I add or subtract from my global identity after this trip?
I anticipate a rich experience.