A long flight from New Jersey to Shanghai is about to end. Just a long flight of reflection, boredom and some Chinese language files. Why did I throw away that lucrative job offer and take my chances in the city called the “Paris of the East”? Was it to finally get out of the rut that I called my life? Was it to finally reconnect with my true self and lay some demons to rest? Or was it a mix of the two?
These were some of the questions that kept floating inside my mind as I listened to my Chinese language lessons and trying to tolerate the suit next to me. I remembered living in Shanghai despite being nearly 20 years ago. There was no skyline that the world knows, the cost of living was no different than the rural interior and most of all the Bund was not commercialized at all. What freaks me out the most is the fact that Pudong used to be nothing but rice paddies when I left the city to emigrate to Hong Kong! There was no Pearl Orient Tower or any of those skylines that tourists love taking pictures. Now, there is a suburban district for the nouveau
The pilot makes some announcement that one of the flight attendants translates into Mandarin. People unbuckle their seat belts, clean their seats and a few make calls on their cells. I just sit back and gaze at the scenery while people are scrambling. It’s still amazing how this field of rice paddies is now an airport that serves the world. Just rice paddies I remembered when I was young. Nothing to see across the Bund and nothing special in the main city either. The only highlight was Steven Spielberg filming some movie called “Empire of the Sun” in Shanghai; but that was long before I left and started adapting to life in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong. Another major city in Asia. What Shanghai is now was what Hong Kong was in the 80s from what I remembered. My parents emigrated to Hong Kong with help from some relatives there. I remembered spending so much time learning how to speak Cantonese, properly writing in traditional Chinese so the locals would not harass me for being a “DaiLookYen” or Mainlander. Sometimes I just couldn’t take the insults and fought back. I fighting this kid to the point where he was pissing in his pants from the fear and pain I was returning to him. My parents gave me a hell of a beating for that and my mom was worried that we would get deported to the Motherland because of that incident. Sometimes, I think about mom and I know in my heart that I still miss her.
Baggage pickup was quite confusing trying to make out the heavily-accented English and the standard Mandarin on the intercoms. The airport was pretty hectic despite being just a few years old. After walking around in all the confusion and information overload, I finally made it to my baggage claim area and picked up what I came for. Another 5 minutes was spent making out the airport map and signs and asking confused foreigners for directions. Then, I saw my sister, my nephew and her Spanish boyfriend with signs of my name in English and Chinese. Yes, this is the same sister who I haven’t seen or spoken to for nearly 15 years and I feel strange but happy despite it all. It was just good to see her and my nephew who is now hunting for colleges in the UK and Canada.