Peter and the Trolls

Writing runs in the family. Not only am I writing, but my son-in-law is a writer and now my granddaughter has joined the club.

Here is her story Peter and the Trolls. She wants me to be sure to tell you that Peter is a frog boy, just in case you didn’t pick that up in the story. ENJOY😊!

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Rooting for Truth 寻找真相 Becoming a Sojourner

Becoming a Chinese American was not my father’s goal, at least not in the beginning of his sojourns to the Gold Mountain. Like his father (Louie Mow) and his grandfather (Louie Fat), he intended to create wealth in the land across the sea and return home a successful Gold Mountain man. They intended to stay only temporarily in the United States, to build up their business for the next generation (my generation) and retire in style and comfort back in the homeland, where they intended to be buried and honored by their descendants.

 

Fate, if you believe in fate, had other plans for Dad and that is how I came to be. If my father had been able to go back to China to remarry after his first wife died, would I be one hundred percent Chinese instead of 50.3%, as the DNA test shows? Would I have been married off to a good family in a village near Gong Yick? Or would I travel to San Francisco with my husband like a few of the Chinese women and bear my children in a strange land? Would my sons carry on a generational name from my husband’s family poem? There are so many “what ifs.” I know, I’ve pondered many of them in the wee hours of the morning when the questions nudged me to find more answers.

At least, I finally have some answers about my grandfather Louie Mow, whose married name was Louie Hong Wei. I know what he looked like at different stages of his life and a few things about his success as a Sojourner as well as the twelve trips he made back and forth to China over a twenty-odd year period between 1907 and 1930s, enough time to father six children.

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I now know my great-grandfather’s name – all of his names. his birth/childhood name, his marriage name, the various transliterations he used and the interpreters at the immigration offices used. I know what he looked like and a little bit about his back story. I am “blown away” by his daring and tenacity.

 

Now, I am the sojourner, traveling by air cooped up in tight quarters for over half a day, but that is still a much shorter time than the trip by boat in 1881 by my great-grandfather or even the trip by my father in 1927. I am heading to a land that is somewhat strange to me, whose language I do not understand although I am picking up words here and there. And like my ancestors, I intend to return home. My journey to China, to Sam Dor Village in Guangdong Provence, has taken me years of preparation. One reason being that I did not even know the name of the village where my father was born until after his death in 1990. The name of the village was carved on his tombstone. My first clue. The search began.

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Patience and perseverance paid off. China has changed a lot since my family left the comforts of home, but the villages were much the same as they had been all those years ago. Going to my great-grandfather’s birthplace was surreal. Yes, we went through the motions of the rituals to honor my ancestors on an empty plot of land overgrown by Chinese squash plants. We saw the old men smoking their water pipes while all of the women gathered in the community center. A couple of women killed a snake that crept up from the pond and showed my fellow Rooters the markings that indicated it was poisonous. Others squatted around bowls making a cocoon shaped pastry and something else that was a flattened out version of a sesame seed ball. Even though they were getting the food ready for a wedding in a few days, they generously shared their treats with us. And I shared little baskets that I had crocheted from red yarn to symbolize the red thread that connects us all.

At the same time, it was as if I was floating about the scene observing everything from a bird’s eye view and then, the veil between the past and the present disappeared and I saw more. Standing in the parlor, I felt the walls around me and heard the joy of child’s naming day. Walking through the streets of the village in my mind, the vibrancy of the villagers in as palpable as was the community of women who prepared for a wedding on the day of my rooting, teasing the young bride-to-be, giving her advice, laughing as she blushed. I felt as if I’d been there before in another time.

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Like my ancestors who traveled back and forth between these two great countries, I want to go back again. I want to go to the house in Gong Yick, now Gong Ye, were my grandfather moved his family, where my father married his first wife, and where my half-brother was born. If it’s still there, I want to go to the marked slab on Long How Hill, aka Bock Sock, where Louie Fat is buried, to pay my respects. I want to spend more time in China, people watching, learning more about . . . well, everything. I want to track down the exhibit about the Yangshi Lei, Lei Family Architects, and anything about Leizu 嫘祖, wife of the Yellow Emperor – not the terra-cotta soldiers-famed emperor from 200s B.C. but the one from the three sovereigns fame of the 27th century B.C. They speak to me in ways that tell me I have to follow the crumbs, pull the red thread until I know why I need to know their stories.

Here’s the really beautiful thing about my sojourn and all the work that has made it possible: even though I have not always been totally accepted in the East because of my Caucasian blood nor in the West because of my Chinese blood, the really beautiful thing is that I have found that place inside of me where I am “at home” no matter where I am.

 

 

Rooting for Truth 寻找真相 Reflections

Thirty-one years ago, I started out on a similar journey. China re-opened its doors in the 1970s after over two decades. I was determined to learn more about my father’s homeland even though he would not answer my questions about his life in China prior to his immigration to the U.S. I was clueless of the circumstances that brought him to the Gold Mountain – gam saan (Cantonese), jīn shān (Mandarin) 金山. I was equally ignorant of the trials and tribulations that forced the sojourner to become an immigrant.

In 1985, I took advantage of China’s cultural exchange program and joined a group of interior from the American Society of Interior Design. We did the grand tour from the Forbidden city in Beijing to the terra-cotta soldiers in Xian, to the canals and famed embroidery shops of Suzhou. I did not know at the time that we were only eighty-four miles from my father’s village when we were in Guangzhou. I discovered the difficulty of doing research in China because I did not speak, read, or write Chinese. The first clue was when I asked “Do you know anyone name Louie?” Finally, I figured out that I needed to write the character .

“Ah, ha,” my guide said, “Yes. Lei.”

Thinking she misunderstood me, I repeated “Louie. Lou-ee,” as if sounding out the word would bridge the gap between her understanding and mine.

“Lei. Mandarin dialect. Maybe Louie different dialect.” That was another clue that my quest was going to be a challenging one, but little-by-little, I’ve learned some words through my research efforts.

This time as I boarded the plane for the first leg of my journey from Virginia to California, a distance almost half the width of China, I did so with the knowledge that I would go to my father’s birthplace. Will I be able to enter the house where my grandmother, Lee Yuet Ping, became part of the Louie clan and gave birth to three of her six children? Louie Hung On, my father, was her first-born. What else will I find there?

In less than one day of travel time, I’ll make the journey that took my father over one month via the S.S. President Jackson. I will go through customs with my duly stamped Passport-Visa. Dad, who was seventeen on his first trip, was held for many days at Angel Island, an immigration center in San Francisco Bay. I am traveling as an American tourist. Young Louie Hung On traveled as a student and son of a merchant which in 1928 avoided being turned back due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first law passed to restrict free immigration of all Chinese laborers. However, being a merchant’s son did not protect him from being culled out of the lot for health reasons, and if Dad had traveled a few years earlier, his case of clonorchiasis, Chinese liver fluke, would have sent him back across the Pacific. Four years earlier, it was discovered that clonorchiasis was easily treated, so Dad’s stay on Angel Island was extended a few days or weeks rather than months or years as was the case for many detainees.

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Customs will probably ask me a few questions. My group leader said it will be easier to travel as a tourist even though my intention is also as a writer. It was not so easy for Louie Hung On, who traveled with clan members, but not his father or uncles, and who faced hours of interrogation alone. He was not a “paper son” who had to memorize information about another family, a scheme Chinese used to out-smart the Exclusion Art, but I imagine it was scary for him to arrive in a foreign land and sit in front of foreign interrogators in a strange over-crowded building full of countrymen searching for wealth and a way to help their families back home in their villages. Villages I look forward to seeing and where I hope to gain a greater understanding of my Gold Mountain father.

If he was the apprentice . . .

Thanks to the reporters of Newsweek who tackled the difficult task of digging up the truth about Donald Trump’s business practices.

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Until you have a chance to pick a copy of Newsweek and read the article, check out The Washington Posts’s article on-line, Trump Revealed.

Here is the link: www.washingtonpost.com/trumprevealed/

If you are on the fence about who you will vote for in November, these articles are a must read.