Love in Shunde
We had travelled to Beijing from Guangdong on the sleeper train, playing poker the whole way, as Zhong Qiu had never seen the Great Wall before.
This year and the people I met shaped everything I have done since."
Zhong Qiu had experienced such difficulties in his life: his father died when he was 11, and he had to leave school to start work to support his family. By this point (he was 19), he was looking after his mother, grandmother, little sister, and several aunts.
He constantly told me how lucky I was to be able to go to University, that I had to return home as education and family were the most important things, and that he would wait for me there. We felt invincible, but I remember how heartbroken I felt at this moment.
Kelly's Grandparents' House
Kelly was my best friend in Shunde. Most weekends we would spend our days at her grandparents’ home. Her whole family would gather there.
There was always a mahjong table set up in the front room for a never-ending game that people would just enter and leave. There was a huge fish tank, lots of dogs, and a mynah bird that would shriek 'Gong Hei Fat Choy'. Her grandfather cooked the most delicious food, and her grandmother would spend a lot of time upstairs in her beautiful roof garden, where she grew marrows, grapes, huge aloes, and kept tortoises and terrapins.
These people are really like family to me. I have never known such warmth and generosity."
I went back last year for the first time in ten years, which is when I took the picture below. Kelly is married now and has a daughter. On this day, we had woken up early and gone for morning dim sum with the whole family.
Kelly and I then went to the fish market, and spent the rest of the morning making dumplings with grandpa. This was the start of a long lunch and after that we went out to eat 'double skin milk' and scorpion soup. By the end of the day we had to lie down we were so full, and so happy to be back together again!
When my mother came to stay, Kelly's granny took her by the hand, leading her around the garden chatting away in Cantonese, my mum answering back in English like they had known each other for years.