anxiety · awkward · Comfort zone · Conflicting emotions · family · feelings · jobs · life · people · perception · strangers · travel · unexpected situations

A Good Lie

Yesterday evening I had dinner with some rich folks in China. It was so not my comfort zone for a variety of reasons:

  • I had to go over their house (before the dinner)
  • I didn’t know them
  • They spoke in a different dialect (which I don’t understand)
  • Awkwardness

Most of all, I know I tolerated the situation for my mom’s sake because although she didn’t know these people well (after only briefly meeting two of them the night before), I knew they were important to her. You could say neither she or I would even exist today without their help.

The story is my mom’s mom’s maternal grandparents originated from Xiamen. Her maternal grandmother grew up in Gulangyu (also known as Kulangsu) which is an island near Xiamen. My parents and I took a ferry there yesterday to explore the island, along with taking pictures of my mom’s grandmother’s old childhood home. During World War II when Japanese soldiers came to seize Xiamen, my mom’s grandparents were able to escape with the aid of a neighbor couple who helped them buy passage out. They took their daughter (my mom’s mom) along with them and eventually emigrated to Cambodia where they settled into new lives. For the years afterward, they continually kept in contact with the neighbor couple, who were too poor to leave China, through letters and sending them packages.

The word plaques for Gu Lang Yu at the dock to get off the ferry onto the island.
View of one of the streets on the island. It was still really early in the morning so no big crowds yet.

The couple ended up very rich through owning several of their own restaurants. Their son became letter penpals with my mom’s older brother and they communicated that way for many years. Both of my mom’s siblings and their extended families have visited the man and his family in Xiamen and now my mom has too.

Personally there are still so many gaps in this story for me since the specifics of certain things are unclear to me. Like, if this family is actually blood related to my mom although she has described them as having some kind of family relation to her. Perhaps distantly related?

The formality of the visit also bothered me. Was it really necessary that not only my mom but my dad plus me had to come over their house? That was like 20 minutes of sitting in a living roon trying not to look bored while my mom and the son were chatting back and forth. The son’s relatives were there too and most of them just sat there like I did barely saying a word. Again, I’m out of sync with the culture of China but also I have had very little exposure in New York with visiting relatives’ homes and the expected decorum of that stuff.

Before the house visit, my mom told me if I wanted to prevent people from asking me too many questions, I could say I just graduated college and am currently looking for work. And, that if I was prompted with what I studied, I could pretend not to understand the question and instead wait for her to answer for me. Many thoughts went through my mind at her advice, considering my situation of being unemployed and not currently in school studying anything. To be honest, I get it. I’m almost 30 years old and in the cultural sphere, outsiders would probably have an unfavorable opinion of the parent if they knew the (grown-up) child still didn’t have her sh*t figured out.

Days earlier, it was an entirely different case when my mom met up with an female school friend who she hasn’t seen in-person for more than 30 years. With the friend, I think because she is someone she truly knows that it was easier for her to be honest about me being out of work. Maybe she was also afraid that the rich folks would judge me for my unemployed status and wanted to avoid the embarrassment. Of course I don’t know the extent of what my mom told her friend regarding why I don’t have a job yet but I do believe she trusted her friend more to not be judgmental so there was no need to use a good lie in place of the truth.

Edit as of 9/19: I felt the need to write this one now that I have had some misinformation cleared up for me. In fact, the family of the son that my parents and I met is not blood-related to my mom, but everything else I wrote is true. It was actually on my last day in Xiamen that I did get to meet my mom’s distant relative, her maternal grandmother’s older brother’s sister who is also super rich and owns three restaurants. She was so nice and treated us to a big meal at one of her restaurants, with the name of the restaurant itself having been named after her own mother.

Have you ever had to tell a “good” lie?

5 thoughts on “A Good Lie

  1. Aw that’s an amazing story about how the two families are connected from way back! That’s truly… wow. I’m really in awe of that. I can see why they wanted you to come along, too, because it does relate to you in a way. That’s how you came here too 😀 ANCESTRY. It’s also interesting how both interactions were approached differently!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is nice that I got to know about the connection between the two families and how it affects me. I was actually wrong about the family possibly being blood related to my mom! I made a correction at the bottom of my post to elaborate on that. I did get to meet my mom’s actual relative in Xiamen later on though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s cool there’s history between the two families but at the same time I feel like the connection won’t stick for my generation (mine) because after my mom, the cultural differences are too great. For example, the dialect they used to talk in I could barely understand. And my command of Mandarin in front of them was so poor lol.

        Aw, don’t stay up too late. Sometimes the urge to respond to comments is so strong even though it’s bedtime. XD

        Liked by 1 person

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