最后的麦客

This time last week, ZJ and I were waking up at his childhood home for the last time, 妈妈爸爸’s place in the countryside about two and a half hours northwest of Xi’an.

We headed to ZJ’s 老家 late on June 27 with the whole family in tow to visit with 妈妈爸爸 and ZJ’s childhood home.

ZJ, 宁宁,强强,大哥,大嫂子, 佩佩 and I spent the following day taking a walk down to the lake situated at the bottom of the plateau, where 仁安村, ZJ’s hometown, sits. After lunch, all of us including the other brother and sister-in-law went to visit 姑姑, 爸爸’s sister. She lives in another village about a 10 minute drive from ZJ’s. She is the only remaining sister as the other 姑姑 passed away two years ago. I met the other 姑姑 my first Spring Festival four years ago and fondly remember her as she was particularly excited to meet me.

At 姑姑’s village, ZJ and I opted for a walk rather than sit in the overcrowded main room of the house as we waited for her to return from tending to her fields. We had merely walked around the corner, when I spotted an elderly woman walking in a strikingly odd way. After scrutinizing her feet, from a distance of course, I sought ZJ’s attention.

Darling, do you think she’s had her feet bound?

Yeah, I think so.

He seemed captivated by the fact that I was enthralled; it’s rare to find those who have had their feet bound still alive. When we got closer, and likely after she noticed us, ZJ asked her age, she in turn asked about me and what village ZJ came from, all while proceeding to tell ZJ she had a hard time hearing him. I caught bits and pieces of their conversation, particularly that she is 85 years old, her feet were bound, her surprise that a man from these parts could have a 洋媳妇, foreign wife, and that she was hard of hearing. Although it may sound odd, this encounter became a highlight of our weekend.

The remaining hours were spent:

– lounging around at home

– eating meals, homemade wok-cooked popcorn, or snacking on apricots

– watching most of our wedding video with 二哥,二嫂子,和尝尝

– reassuring 妈妈 that I would take good care of ZJ in the US

– concluding “How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit”? (review coming soon!)

– conversing, chatting with ZJ’s family, especially my eldest sister-in-law

We headed back to Xi’an on Sunday after a breakfast of 包子 where I munched on my last sugar stuffed steamed bun, fresh scrambled eggs with Chinese greens, porridge with sugared dates, and one or two 凉菜, cold dishes. The food we eat is always simple, but that’s the best part as it’s always prepared with fresh produce.

Much like the simplicity of the food, our visits to the countryside, including this final one, are simple, no-fuss affairs that I certainly will miss until we visit again, whenever that may be.

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