Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jonathan Went to College

     A lot happened since 9.11 in the US, financial meltdown -- human destruction, and in China Sichuan Earthquake and Japan Earthquake -- natural destruction.
     Time flies; my parents had gone back to China for close to 10 years. They felt like prisoners here since they do not have friends to talk to and they could not go anywhere without my driving them. Back home, they could talk to the colleagues who worked with them all their life since they live in the very same buildings. Or they could simply visit whomever by just simply ringing their door bells. We had a Manchu neighbor Li when I was in high school, he was a director of the institute. Now their next door neighbor Ma who is Hui (Chinese Muslim) married a Han wife. He was the communist party secretary which was above my father.  Everything is within their walking distance. Although they could wave a taxi anywhere on the street (like New York City now), they prefer to take a bus if they have to go somewhere farther away since it is free for seniors. Since they are over 80 years old, they each get 1000 yuan each Chinese New Year as a reward on top of their pensions. My mom retired when she was 55 and my father was 60. They are lucky! I felt so bad for my mother-in-law, at age 72, she just went back to work earning minimum wage because their retirement money was disappearing due to the bad stock market. They are not alone, so many others lost their money and lost their voice too. Their financial advisor had told them 15 years ago (from one of the world's leading financial management and advisory companies) that their money was safe with them and they could receive a good income until they were 99 years old. My father-in-law said if he had tucked his money under his mattress, it still be there today. Although my father-in-law worked for a multi-national company for over 30 years as a research scientist, his company owned all of his patented inventions. The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America by  David A. Stockman.
      The GDP of the US is 14.99 trillion (2011), $7720 per capita for 313.9 million people. For China: 7.318 trillion and $157 per capita for 1.344 billion people. Somehow, the US owes $1.2 trillion debt to China. In November 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 16% of the people live in poverty in the US, including almost 20% of American children, up from about 14% (ca. 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, about 13% (40 million) Americans lived in poverty. Between 200,000 and 500,000 Americans were homeless. About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or transitional housing between October 2008 and October 2009.
      I had been working for a independent moving agent (under a bigger worldwide company) for over 10 years now with little savings for my retirement except Social Security if it is still there. My parents spent all their lives working for the oil company. It looked like we had to use oil whether we liked it or not. My brother has been working for an airline in China for over 30 years now and it looks like he is going to work for the same company for the rest of his life.
      About twenty years ago, I started writing my thoughts and memories as a keepsake for my children. It was never finished. Jonathan went to college. I was a little surprised that he was actually interested in history. He took a course called Modern East Asia. He came home and talked about the history he learned and asked me about my family. I really did not know much since I was never interested in history. My high school history returned back to my history teacher right after the test. I felt a little embarrassed after he went back to college. Richard in high school and Joseph in middle school will ask me the same questions soon so I had better be prepared. Still I could not imagine reading a Chinese history book. I could not even read a history novel. I had been a student for so long, the best way for me to learn was through lectures. I found Professor Kenneth Hammond’s “Chinese History 5000” from Yao to Mao, and at the same time I asked my parents to send me whatever they had on our family history.
      I explored my family roots in my second book, "Searching for My Hakka Roots." Modern technology can trace DNA to show one's ancestry via genetics. There is a possibility that I am not who I am by blood since so many Chinese changed their names throughout Chinese history. Just like my cross the hall Manchu neighbor Mr Li in Chengdu, China and Mary from my Church here USA, her family name "Wang" as she knows is not her true Manchu family name. Since it the only family name she knew, she and her larger family of "Wang" will have to defend that name. They will look up to their "Wang" ancestors and follow their good example. I felt so small yet as a part of a family clan, but I have a duty to pass on our family tradition and keep our family's good name.
     Although they knew they had British, French and Italian blood, my three sons have their father's last name "Brach", not related to "Brach Candy". Although most people know how to pronounce "Brach Candy," they always miss pronounce our "Brach."  Since Brach is a German name, they naturally want to know more about the name. His father's ancestors came from Poland in late 1800, but lived on the border of Germany and Austria five generations ago. His cousins have tried to search for their roots, but failed.  Maybe because of their last name, my three sons choose German as their second language over Chinese. My parents, my Chinese relatives, and Chinese friends have always complained that I did not teach them Chinese, as if I could. The first time I heard German without looking at who was talking, I actually thought it was a Chinese dialect, since there are so many dialects I do not understand.  Another time, a person with last name "Han," which is mine, turned out to be a German. He told me Han/Hans are pretty common in Europe. Jonathan had German as one of his majors; he was in Germany for a whole year.  While he was there, he finally figured out what he wanted to do with his life.

Hunan, Chinese civilization center is German ancestry
Jonathan in Germany
Richard in Germany