27 May 2010

In which I decide I am going to China

So, in early April, I discovered I might have an opportunity to go to China--land of my ancestors and my father's birth--with my father, my uncle and other family members.

I immediately want to go. My only thought is, if my father's going, I want to be there with him.

My cousin mentioned it to my uncle George, and my uncle sent me the itinerary. We'd be leaving on October 24 and returning November 2. In between, we'd be visiting Beijing and the Great Wall, then flying to the capital of Yunnan province, Kunming, and traveling to various sites in Yunnan, including Baoshan and Dali. But the main reason for travelling to Yunnan is to visit sites that have great family significance--a bridge my grandfather built and his burial site.

I am nervous as I broach the trip to my wife, Lori. It's not cheap: nearly $3,000 between air fare, the tour package, and travel insurance. My fears are dispelled as she enthusiastically agrees I should go. A family trip with a genealogical aim is her kind of trip. However, between cost and the timing of the trip, only I would be able to go from our family. Other Chiens are lining up to go, too--my brother, another cousin, my step-mother--and the traveling party can't be larger than eight without impacting its cost. It's also at a time of year when our kids are in school. Finally, the cost would be prohibitive for my wife and two children to go, too. While a dream is to travel with them to China, the cost and the timing of this trip prevents it from being the trip that fulfills that dream. Finally, I must scrounge the time off at work. Thankfully, my boss at the library is flexible about time off, and I am able to put together enough time off earned in order to make the trip.

Unbelievably, astonishingly, joyfully, excitedly, I am now committed to going to China!

24 May 2010

A Journey Begins

Each year, the first weekend in April brings one of my favorite days of the year.

Draft Day.

You see, in 1984, I read a book by Lee Eisenberg and Glenn Waggoner called Rotisserie League Baseball, and I convinced my friend, Steve, my cousins, Dave and Paul, my father, and another friend from college to start a Rotisserie baseball league. Rotisserie Baseball is the original game in the now booming fantasy sports industry. 2010 marks our 27th straight year of playing our league. Once a year we gather--14 of us, representing 12 teams--to draft at auction the players that will be on our team in the coming season. The Baker's Dozen, we call ourselves, and my four-time champion team is called Chien Music. That's an ongoing journey that might merit some posts at a later time. However, this post is about the beginning of another journey.

The 2010 draft was held in Poughkeepsie. Afterwards, a few of the team owners gathered at a local pub overlooking the Hudson River to catch up. For some of us, it’s the only time each year that we actually see each other. My cousins Dave and Paul were among the revelers at this post-draft gathering, and at one point, my cousin David said to me, “So, did Paul tell you he’s going to China again?” (He went last year with Dave and his sister, Judy, his mom and dad, and Dave’s wife, Cheryl, and daughter, Jeannette.) “No,” I said. “Tell me about it. Is this a business trip?” (Paul works for UPS.) “No,” Paul tells me, “I’m going with my mom and dad and your father.”

If this were a scene in a movie, a spit take would have been appropriate at this point. “Wait a minute,” I say. ”My father is going to China? How come I don’t know about this?” I pressed Paul for details, but I don’t think I was listening at that point. All I could think was, my father is going to China. For the first time since he was seven years old, when his mother and two brothers fled in the face of Japan’s 1937 invasion, my 80-year-old father is returning to the land of his birth.

Holy crap, I thought. I want to go to China.