On April 4th, I met my birthfather for the first time. Louie flew into Weifang around 9pm and we met for a late dinner out at a Chinese restaurant (lol. All the restaurants in China are Chinese restaurants. Go figure!).
That night for me was really a showdown with reality. Here I was, a million miles from home meeting a man for the first time that most girls would have known their whole lives. What goes through your head at a time like that? Are you nervous, excited, scared, nervous, mad, happy…? This sort of experience definitely doesn’t happen for everyone and if it does, it only happens once. In addition, when I met him, would I even like him? Would we get along? What if, what if, what if…?
For me, I was a little anxious and just kind of in awe of the fact that I was even having this experience. (PTL! “Honor to whom honor is due…”). As to getting along, we did. It was an easy first meeting. I gave him a hug and we chatted pretty naturally throughout the night, albeit we did chat about some rather odd things for strangers (“How was your childhood?” haha). I discovered that Louie is a very normal, non-creepy (much to my relief!), hard-working man and pleasant to be around.
Dinner was lovely and a wonderful way to get acquainted. It came to a close around 11:30pm and we headed home to get some rest for our travels to Beijing in the morning.
And, look who I met there! There’s the fam. :) From left to right: Louie, Grandpa, Me, Grandma, and, my aunt, Xiao Ping (sounds similar to “shopping.” Yup, we get along. Just in case you were curious ;). Louie and I “train-ed” it to Beijing and bused out of the middle of the city to the Beijing Sport University (BSU) campus where my grandparents live in the faculty housing. They are retired now, but are allowed accommodations there for their years of service in the past. I thought it was ironic that the university they taught at and the one I currently attend both have the same abbreviation “BSU” (Bemidji State U/Beijing Sport U).
Anyways, after a very long trip out of the middle of the city (I had NO CONCEPT of just how large Beijing is! It took an hour! Buses are slow.) to BSU, we were greeted most warmly by my grandparents and Xiao Ping. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my Grandpa can speak English very well and the Xiao Ping, too, has excellent English speaking skills. Her pronunciation is really fantastic (Score!).
I was ushered all around the apartment and told to make myself at home. We got our things unpacked and spent the time talking and looking at photo albums. This was so neat and special! My Grandma, who doesn’t speak English, explained the photos of herself, Grandpa, Xiao Ping, Louie, and our ancestors through the translation skills of Xiao Ping. It was so interesting. I learned so much about both Chinese and my family’s history.
In addition to family history,I also discovered other interesting tidbits about my family while sitting there and being educated in the Luo family tree. I observed right away that my Grandfather is everything you’d picture a proud, retired Chinese professor to be. He always carries himself with a dignified air, sits very straight, and stands very tall. I also found out that he worked for the government as a translator in the Foreign Relations branch for many years. This may or may not have something to do with it. lol.
My grandmother looks like a Chinese version of my 6th grade piano teacher reincarnated! haha. She is just a sweetie and was so very talented in her day. She was a member of the first national volleyball team under China’s new government and she went on to coach China’s national volleyball team in later years. She very much enjoyed showing and explaining all of the photos of her playing and coaching or traveling with her team.
On another note, when I asked, she said she’d never played the piano :).
Xiao Ping has one of the sweetest spirits ever, although she often behaves a little differently due to a mental illness which came on when she was actually about my age. Nevertheless, she was also very talented in her time, a brilliant student and excellent volleyball player as well.
To end our day #1 together, we enjoyed a nice supper out. We walked through the BSU campus where Louie pointed out where he used to swim when he was a student or where they would do this or that. Nice and sentimental :).
Supper was fantastic. We all ate Peking duck, of course, in Peking! SO, So, So good.
When we all came back, we put-zed around awhile and eventually made it to bed. I went to bed that night happy, content, and with lots of sentimental family thoughts on my mind. But, I didn’t sleep in the next morning. Louie and I were off to be off to the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen and were determined to get an early start.