Wednesday, January 20, 2010
18.01.2010 - 20.01.2010 -17 °C
Running down the stairs on Monday evening was only the beginning of my appreciation for my real parents. Seeing my beautiful parents wrapped in their Italian coats, cashmere scarves, in Ralph Lauren, and carrying their Calvin Klein bags reminded me of how much I missed my family and where I came from. Having spent four months in China, I had forgotten the image of my parents and in some ways, of myself. When my dad squeezed my cheeks, it had not felt like five months had passed between us. However, seeing them again reminded me of my roots as a Chinese-American.
I remember a distant past of my old Merry. I cared about my looks, found socializing important, and hailed individualism. I still have these three traits, but I have since toned down the maintenance of them all. My experience in China has taught me to “go with the flow”. I have let myself try strange foods like sea cucumbers (bugs really) and adapt to the Chinese school system, even if it means wearing a school uniform for 12 hours. Having physically seen my parents, I was in awe of the length of my journey. I am no longer the extreme superficial—a preppy white-washed Chinese-American—but instead a 17-year old with a better understanding and preservation of her roots.
Over plenty of 一手店 chicken parts—feet and livers— and sausage, I felt my families unite. I easily compared the advantages of my real and host parents with the lifestyle that we had chosen to make. Luck and fortune had placed me in a similar class where I had been accustomed to living. By having the same class status and Chinese parents, the bonding was easier. My fathers laughed easily with each other as they drank Harbin beer. Fu Baba talked about his reaction to receiving my email and my mother talked about how she met my dad. Gao Mama talked about how proud she was to have me and my dad talked about how we have been generations of independent spirits. I saw the similarities between my parents and grew to appreciate the two environments I have experienced. The entire night was overflowing with happiness. We ended the night with a family picture.
On Tuesday morning, Gina and I woke up at 6 a.m. We were going to spend a day with my parents seeing Harbin’s famous tourist attractions. First, we went to Gloria Inn, my parent’s hotel, which was next to the FaHong Memorial Tower. We had breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of porridge, fried dough, eggs, noodles, and muffins. I ate plenty of bowls of porridge and ate plenty of fried dough. Usually, fried dough is supposed to go with hot or cold soybean milk, but I prefer it with porridge. Over breakfast, we talked about 心有余而力不足。My dad phrases it best as “Your will is beyond your capability”. I’m not sure in what context it was used, but it definitely rang true. An example would be someone who is extremely ambitious and wants to go to Harvard but with low SAT scores, mediocre grades, and only a somewhat athletic ability in tennis, that dream is pretty close to nil. Anyways, I like to take challenges in moderation, just as I should with anything else, like food.
After breakfast, we went to the Tiger Park which is located north of the Songhua River, outside downtown Harbin. This was my second time here, since the first time, my host dad took me along with international guests. However, this time was much better. There were more lions and they actively chased each other. I would capture the best moments with my own eyes. Of course, the tigers scared me by their size and their roars. After we finished the tour bus, I walked around the tiger park. One person had bought a possibly live chicken. One of the tigers jumped up and pounced on that chicken. He took it in front of me and one nasty crunch, yellow pus had squirted from the chicken. Immediately, the tiger began plucking the feathers and spat it to the side. I was pretty excited to see such a ferocious animal tear its prey apart. In my UGG boots, I slid to the exit. It was time to have lunch.
We went downtown near Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) to eat with one of dad’s classmate, who worked in the Environmental Science department at HIT. We went to Qilin Restaurant, which is fancy but the food is what made the place especially spectacular. I had one crab and took almost the entire time to eat it clean. Afterwards, I chow down on rice and tofu. There were plenty of leftovers, which I wanted to take back home. However, I had forgotten to take it out of the car when we switched to another one. I hope that before I leave Harbin, I can go back and eat more crabs. We visited HIT’s Environmental Science department. It showed me what a research facility looked but more visibly, smelled like. Its pungent flavor—smushed boiled eggs, dank dirt, and boiling chemicals—was enough to convince me this major was not for me. One cool thing was the rocking incubator. Tubes, flasks, and beakers swished their contents in a temperature-controlled machine. After the tour of HIT’s Environmental Science department, we went to St. Sophia. It is Harbin’s famous Russian Orthodox church. Even though this church was a block away from school, I had never stepped inside it. Like all, my eyes were drawn to the dome. As my eyes snaked their way up, I noticed that most of the walls had been chipped away. The frescoes and colors looked as if someone took a spade and scraped it all away. Instead, the walls hung with photographs from 19th and 20th century Harbin. St. Sophia was reminding me how fast we had accelerated the human civilization. We did not waste time in furthering our beliefs. During the Cultural Revolution, people had eagerly erased religion. Like cockroaches that thrive in all conditions on this Earth, religion does the same.
Afterwards, we walked to Gloria Inn. On the way, we all bought 糖葫芦, which are sugar-coated fruits on a stick. This was my second time getting one and I got pineapple and one sour fruit. The most common one is a sour red ball. We changed into our snowpants before going to the World’s Largest Ice and Snow Festival. Luckily, it wasn’t as cold as my first time at the Ice Festival. The night was -5 to -11 Celsius degrees. Finally, I got to see all parts of the festival and got to slide down many things. In addition, I rocked a bicycle. The front wheel was replaced with a piece of metal. However, I still pedaled around the arena. Afterwards, we went to a coffee shop where I had watery chocolate milk for 20 yuan in a small Dixie cup. I bought a sour fruit 糖葫芦for 8 yuan. In addition, I got to play on a spinning circle that flipped me so much that the sides of my butt hurt from banging into the seat. My hair did flips as well and my throat was dry when I got off the ride. Overall, I enjoyed the night. Afterwards, we went back to the city to eat at 东方饺子王 and I ate 3 ½ plates all by myself! It was 三鲜饺子，双玉米饺子和蘑菇饺子。Spending the day with my parents and Gina had been enjoyable and unforgettable.
Today, my parents had their last day to explore Harbin. However, my dad unexpectedly got a fever after lunch. He lay in bed shivering or sweating. It is possible that since he is not used to China’s environment, his body is reacting to bad sanitation. I massaged him and kept him company. Even though my dad had gotten sick, I was able to spend time with my dad. It was a quiet daddy-daughter experience but one I was grateful for.