By Xuefei Chen Axelsson
Beijing, March 3(Greenpost)—The reason I wrote about my family banquet is that I like to tell people like my husband about life in Beijing and life in China. I don’t know if people can get to know a little bit about Chinese life through an ordinary family reunion.
On March 2, I arrived in Beijing International Airport with CA 932 taking off from Frankfurt Airport in Germany. On the airplane I watched four films, one is played by Mr. Beans and Emma Thomson, the second is the film directed by Jia Zhangke, played by Liao Fan and Zhao Tao, called Jianghu Ernyu, Daughter and Son in the society. Society in China means Jianghu, that refers to the life outside the political system or institutions. They are mostly self employed or unemployed or employed or exploited in the society. Or they are related to gangs or criminals life. The story is about the love between this young man and a young woman who are dealing with recreational business such as dancing hall or gambling. But this woman saved the life of the man by using a gun to threat other gangsters. She was sentenced to five years imprisonment. She showed that she really loved the man. But the man was ashamed of his failure, yet still wanted to have his own dignity. Thus, though they are criminals, they are respected or got a lot of sympathy by the audience. Another film is I am Not the God of Medicine about cancer patients getting cheaper Indian medicine and the last one was a film directed and played by Jiang Wen about event in the 1930s, a chaotic China which was invaded by Japanese. With such a big harvest of films in my mind, I arrived in Beijing and saw the sun smiling through the smog.
I thought it were my brother Minsheng who would pick me up, but instead it was Yuee and Fengzhong who are my sister and brother in law waiting for me at the exit.
It was always a little bit hesitating to look for the car parking place. With the direction of the staff at the parking place, we found the car finally.
It took about an hour to arrive at World Trade Center in Beijing. Then I called the Media Center in Meidiya at Fuxing Road 11. They said my press pass is done. So Fengzhong drove us there and I picked up the pass first and then we drove home. By the time we arrived home, it was four o’clock. Then my young brother Minsheng who is an engineer also arrived home. He said he would invite us to have a family reunion or family banquet in the evening.
So he went to Tianjin, the second largest city of China to have an important meeting in the morning and then immediately drove back to Beijing for two hours right after the meeting. Although my mother has prepared a lunch for us, we decided to eat together in the evening.
Then Tingting who is my young sister’s daughter or my niece said she would like to buy some clothes for her next week piano playing at the school concert. She will play Jasmine flower. Minsheng drove them to the shop and then came back and then bought a card for my Huanwei mobile phone. While waiting for my father who went out to dance in Purple Bamboo park since morning, I slept for about an hour. By about six in the evening, my father still hasn’t come back. Minsheng decided to drive me out and picked up Yuee and Tingting from the shop near Shuangjing and drive us all to the restaurant Guolin near his home.
Purple Bamboo Park is located in Haidian district. When I studied in Renmin University 30 years ago, I often went there to exercise my English at the English corner there.
After we arrived at the restaurant, Minsheng went to pick up his mother-in-law and son. Then Minsheng’s wife Yang Di came in. She is also reporting the National People’s Congress this year. So we might have something to share. This time I decided what to eat and make the order of the dinner. I ordered a lot of vegetables such as the jiucai or grass lök , fried eggplants, mutton carrot soup, beef, fish and dumplings. When Minsheng’s son Yanxi arrived, I gave him the guitar which was my daughter Annie’s when she was small. Yanxi was so happy that he took the guitar and ran around in the restaurant. I patiently waited for him to come back because the more I chase him, the more he would like to run away. I saw a lot of families eating around the tables in the restaurant. Yanxi saw me stop chasing him, he also calmed down and came back to our table.
Then my parents also arrived with Fengzhong’s car, a BMW bought by my sister.
When all the other members sat down, Yang Di was still busy receiving the telephone call. Yuee ordered a bottle of orange juice while Minsheng ordered a jar of majs juice. My father got a bottle of beer. Here there is no leader speech, but when the four year old Yanxi saw my father to raise the beer cup, he said every one cheer up! All can’t help laughing and were cheered up by the little boy.
Then Yanxi began to sing a song and then recite a poem and tell another two stories such as the monkey and the crocodile and the father and the dog with the water melon.
My father is 84 years old and my nephew is 4 years old. Minsheng said anyway today is the 25th day of the first month of the year of pig, it means we are still celebrating the Chinese New Year. Then my father said today is also Zhao Chunzhi’s birthday. I remarked that my father really got a good memory. Yuee said “Did you know who is Zhao Chunzhi?” I explained to Minsheng’s mother in law that Zhao Chunzhi is my step mother or my elder sister’s mother.
“That was your ex wife!” said Minsheng’s mother in law. Then my father explained his history again. He got married at the age of 15 and his wife Zhao Chunzhi was 18. When she was 32, she got menagitis or inflammation in the brain. She was carried to the hospital after four hours of walk. But she died after a couple of hours rescue leaving four children behind. My big sister was 11 years old, big brother 8, second brother 5 and the second sister was 4 months old. Later my second sister was given to a muslim family and we never met again. Then came my mother to Chen’s family and before I was born, there was a boy who survived just for two months. Then I was born and followed by my young sister and young brother.
My father often mentioned her especially during spring festival when we all gathered together. Now I understood that her birthday is within the New Year, maybe that is why. Maybe also because a man can also remember his first love forever. It is not just woman who missed her first husband. Man can miss his first wife too.
My father is a great father. It was not only because he fathered eight children, but also because he and my mother together raised these six children so that they all grew up and formed their own family. My two brothers didn’t get the chance to go to university due to the cultural revolution, but they managed their family and life reasonably. My big sister studied at medical school and became a gynaecologist later. I got a MA and became a journalist. My young sister studied intellectual property law and got a MA in law and got a job under the State Council. We both studied at Renmin University which is one of the most famous universities in China. My brother in law works in Foreign Affairs, my brother studied at Petroleum University and got a MA. Later he became an engineer in chemical engineering construction. He shouldered the responsibilities in projects. His wife now is also a journalist and editor in People’s Daily Online where I used to write for in English.
My father said it is worthwhile mentioning that your three families have some good results. First Tingting is like an adult sitting together with all of us. Then Annie who is 12 years old can speak some Chinese with grand mother or mormor. My husband called before I arrived in my sister’s home. Then he let Annie talk with mormor or laolao.
“ IS Chen Xuefei there?” Annie asked in Chinese.
“Who is Chen Xuefei?” My mother asked.
“That is my mother.” Answered Annie.
“I am your Laolao, can you say hello Laolao?” taught my mother.
“Hello Laolao, Byebye, Zaijian.” Said Annie.
Although simply just two sentences, my mother felt she was communicating and these words spread to my fathers ears, he became even happier and spread this message immediately to everyone he met.
“She can speak Chinese over the phone and call us from Sweden. The meaning is important! That means our family stretched into the Nordic world. ” My father said. My father is always insightful and he had a vision. He studied confucius books and could recite them a lot. His life was clear and his philosophy or principle are all based on the four books of ancient Chinese. He has his standard on what it means to be a gentleman.
Then he said the little Yanxi made him happier because he dared to express himself in front of people. He is not shy and he speaks very seriously. He said if you all sing together with me, then I feel I cannot sing myself. That means you shouldn’t disturb me, only with my own concentration, I can remember better.
Both my father and mother said thanks to Yanxi’s mormor or grandmother praising her for taking good care of Yanxi. But Yanxi’s mormor is also modest and said the boy is just good, his parants are good and his grandparents are also good.
My father asked me if Jan and Annie are happy to see me coming to Beijing. I said not at all. This was a negotiation and long term planning result. I have proposed this half a year ago and said this is an important event in China and I must go. But they don’t like me to leave. Right before I left, Annie got a fever and cough a lot. We had to cancel a compromised booking of skiing and I hope by Monday, Annie can fully recover so that she can go to school. Anytime when I felt I neglected Annie, she would be sick or when she became sick, I realized that was due to my negligence. I felt so sorry about it because when I was busy I could forget her for two days. And then she would catch a cold.
My father said if only you hadn’t leave China Radio International and continued to work there. I said I am still working for them from time to time. My heart is still with them, but I have to make a living by working a lot myself. For important events I still reported to CRI which has a lot of good colleagues of mine.
I feel glad to have such a family reunion and we didn’t have leftovers this time. It is a pity that my big brothers and sisters couldn’t join us this time, but hopefully I will find time to meet them later too.
Coming home, I immediately had a good sleep with a lot of sweat, but write this story in the morning when I wake up.