May 14th, 2007

My uncle visited on the weekend.

Well, I’ve always had this kind of policy of using nicknames and initials to refer to other people on this blog. For example, instead of writing my wife’s name, I just call her lzh. So in keeping with that, I’ll just call my uncle Shushu. That is, after all, the title I would use to address him if our family were Chinese.

So, Shushu visited this weekend. This is a big deal. Firstly, Shushu moved to England a couple of years before I was born, so I didn’t see him often when I was growing up. Secondly, in the seven and a half years I’ve been in China, none of my relatives has come to visit me. Thirdly, until Saturday evening, I was the only member of the Waugh family lzh [haha! her blog is friends only!] had ever met. I’ll let her tell a little from her point of view (quoted from her friends-only blog):

我 们在一起3年多了,�是除了他,我还没�过waugh家�其他的�员,�次被朋�问起是��过他的家人,我都觉得�好��。毕竟我们已�结婚,�从没�过 公婆,在中国这�事情是从�都�会有的。那天他告诉我,����看我们,我兴奋�了,但是转而�平�了,因为我怕希望��失望.

[my shitty translation]

“We’ve been together for over 3 years, but apart from him [me], I haven’t met any other members of the Waugh family, and every time friends ask me if I’ve met his family, I feel a little embarassed.  After all, we’re already married, but I’ve never seen my parents in law, in China this kind of thing would never happen. The day he told me Shushu was coming to see us, I was really excited, but I calmed down again, because I was scared  my hope would turn to disappointment.”

[Note: My father went to Singapore, and was talking about coming to Beijing to visit, since he’d already be half way here, but in the end that fell through, hence her fear hope would turn to disappointment]

Anyway, hope was satisfied. 8:30 Saturday evening we took the bus down to Beitiaping Zhuang to try and catch the last bus out to the airport. The last airport bus through Beitiaping Zhuang leaves Gongzhufen (Princess’ Tomb. At least, I think that’s where the airport bus leaves from) at 9pm. As it turns out, we managed to get the second to last bus, but that’s even better, because it meant we had stacks of breathing room and there was no chance we’d wind up having to persuade a taxi driver to take us out to the airport. So we got to the airport at 9:30, wandered down to domestic arrivals, and checked the arrivals board…..

……uh oh. Couldn’t see his flight. MU586 just wasn’t there, and no flight from Shanghai that arrived at anything close to the time he told us he’d arrive was on the board. The last flight in, according to the board, arrived at about 10:30, almost an hour before Shushu’s flight was due. Then I thought, well, according to the Beijing Airport website, MU586 originates in Los Angeles and stops in Shanghai en route to Beijing. So I wandered down to international arrivals to see if it was listed there. MU586…. STA 00:05, almost an hour after Shushu said it’d arrive, but wait, ETA 22:31….. what? do planes actually arrive early? have I been transported to some alternate universe? and wait…. it’s coming from Osaka?! We checked at the information desk, and they confirmed that MU586 does indeed stop in Shanghai on its way to Beijing, so we settled in for the wait.

Well, the confusion was cleared up. Shushu arrived and called me (good idea, swapping cellphone numbers before he’d even left England). I said, “Where are you? I can’t figure out whether your flight is coming through international or domestic!”

“Domestic, I assume. Oh wait, there’s a big VW in the middle of the arrival hall”

“I see it. We’re walking there now.”

I used to hate cellphones. Now I see how useful they are.

So lzh and I started walking towards the Passat on display in the middle of the arrival hall, and there was Shushu walking towards us.

So we got a taxi and took him to the hotel just around the corner from our place, and got him checked in despite some minor confusion over dates- lzh had booked him a room saying he’d arrive late on the 12th, but because we’d arrived after midnight, the clock had already ticked over to the 13th. But nevermind, he got his room, we chatted for a bit, then lzh and I left him so we could try and get enough sleep to act as his tour guide on Sunday.

As it turns out, we did no tour guiding. We went to the hotel to pick him up, then because it was a bright, sunny day simply drenched with UV, we brought him back to our apartment to get my spare hat. Then lzh decided that it was close to midday, so she might as well get some meat and veges and cook us lunch. So Shushu and I sat down and chatted while lzh went off to get food, then came back and cooked up Shushu’s first ever (I presume) home-cooked northern Chinese banquet. He seemed pretty happy with the meal, which is good. Then we sat around chatting and before we realised it was already six in the evening.


Anyway, the point of him coming to Beijing, he insisted, was not to go sightseeing but to see us, so it didn’t really matter that he didn’t get to see anything more than our  messy apartment.

But one thing was important: A DVD. I didn’t make it to my brother’s wedding two years ago because I didn’t have the money, but Shushu was there and had made a short DVD of the festivities. He’d left the DVD in the hotel, so we went back there, taking a short detour so he could see our cultural revolution buildings and a little more of urban Beijing.

So Shushu got his laptop set up and we watched the DVD he’d made. He apologised in advance, because at the time he made the film, he had no idea he’d be coming to China, so it was a bit more focussed on him meeting up with the other Waugh’s than on my brother’s wedding, but there really was no need for such an apology. It was great to sit there seeing my family in their natural habitat (or at least just up the road from where they live). I saw parents, brothers, a sister, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents I haven’t seen in literally years. I saw cousins and my sister in law who I’ve never met. It actually left me feeling a little homesick and missing my family. Those who know me know how big an admission that is. But something about seeing Mum and Dad and the family and old family friends hanging out at an old family friends’ bach (less a bach, more a small mansion. Very nice place) hanging out in the sun and racing up and down Waikanae beach with Kapiti Island in the background…….

A bach, for you non-Kiwis (how did you manage to build up so much bad karma to have been born outside Godzone?) is a small holiday home, traditionally little more than a shack hastily slapped together and continually patched up. These days, some houses whose owners call baches are looking decidedly luxurious. Small extra linguistic note: In Otago and Southland provinces the word ‘crib’ is used instead of ‘bach’. Oh, and ‘bach’ is pronounced something like ‘batch’. Apparently it’s derived from ‘bachelor’, as in the first baches were shacks knocked together by working bachelors as shelter from the job and the elements. Later on, such buildings were used by families as holiday homes. At least, that’s what I heard….

Anyway, it was great to catch up with Shushu. Last time I saw him and his wife, they had no children and we were in Gisborne (home of Clan Waugh) for my aunt’s wedding. That was over ten years ago. I’d just finished my first year at university, if I remember rightly. It was great just sitting here chatting with him. I learned a lot about the family history. Apparently my mum was really beautiful when she was young. I’ve seen photos of her in her younger days, but the old black and white photos don’t really do her justice. Dad and Shushu had one thing in common with me and my Da Didi (the one whose wedding we watched on DVD): Everybody always used to think Dad was the youngest and Shushu the oldest. Actually, seeing the two brothers sitting next to each other on the film, you couldn’t possibly tell who was older and who younger. They had one thing that was completely the opposite from me and my brother: When they were young, apparently Dad was really handsome and all the girls were chasing him. Nuh. The girls always ignored me and went after my brother.

But actually, I think the most important thing was that lzh finally got to meet another Waugh. I don’t really want to explain that. I can’t think how to express that clearly myself, and although she did a brilliant job of it on her blog, I can’t really find any quote that would be appropriate here. So if you’re one of her friends, go to her blog and read. If not, tough.

But lzh’s impressions of my family, from meeting Shushu and from watching the DVD of Da Didi’s wedding, are interesting, and may perhaps provide a few hints to that last paragraph:

Describing Shushu:


“Chatting with him, from his appearance now, I think he must’ve been really handsome when he was young.”

My parents:


“My father in law looks especially gentle, he was a good-looking guy in his younger days, my mother in law also has quite a an air of leadership about here, Shushu told me when she was young she was really beautiful, and I can  still see she must’ve been.”

On seeing the whole family:


“I don’t know why, after seeing them, I feel even more fortunate to have chosen this husband, because he was born into a fortunate, harmonious big family. Of course there’s another reason: He’s half Irish, intelligent, kind-hearted, and I’ve heard that’s an ethnicity that has been very welcomed [accepted? appreciated? damn, I’m a terrible translator, there seems to be a lot more meaning in the original than I can fit into English]”

Well, I don’t want to get into racial stereotyping, but when I read that comment about being half Irish and whenever I hear lzh saw similar such things, a certain Celtic pride bubbles up in my veins….. I should point out, however, that it’s Mum’s family, the Daly’s, who bring the Irish blood, and that the Waugh’s hail from Scotland. Still, there were a few Daly’s present at my brother’s wedding and Shushu took great pains to assure lzh that Scots-Irish is the best possible mix Europe has to offer.

On the possibility of my parents visiting in November:


“I hope they  can come and see us in November, I’m lookç?€ing forward to it [why did she have to go mixing Chinese and English grammar? grrr…..] And our beautiful musician sister, I hope she can come here to play, that way I can go out 购物 (shopping [mixing languages again. grrr….]) with her, I’m sure she’ll like it, haha!”

Well, our beautiful musician sister has occasionally made noises about coming to visit, and I’d really like her to come to Beijing too. Not to go shopping with her, but to go to some bar and listen to some good music with her.

Actually, one thing I really appreciate about lzh, and one thing came through in her original blog post, is that she already sees herself as part of the Clan Waugh and New Zealand as her second home, even though she’d never even met another Waugh until Saturday night and the closest she’s gotten to New Zealand is the Kiwi Club held at the New Zealand Embassy on the last Friday of every month. She talks about going back to New Zealand to visit the family. Watching that DVD last night (and we watched it a second time when we got home, and we’ll show it to her family next time we go to Yanqing), once she’d been told who was who, she was talking about them as if she knew them personally, and not just from pictures, a video, and the descriptions my uncle and I provided.

So, Shushu, I know you’ll be reading this when you get back to England: It was really good to see you and hang out and chat. Both lzh and I had a great time this weekend. Next time you’re in China, you’re more than welcome to visit us again (but I’d be even better if you brought your wife and kids next time. I would like to meet my cousins), and we may well take up your offer of a place to crash if when we get to the UK.

And the rest of you: My uncle builds spaceships. How cool is that? My uncle builds spaceships!

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