Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fourth Uncle

I can remember my first encounter with Fourth Uncle (Sei kaufu, middle of the photo). It was at my brother-in-law's wedding, which was probably my second trip to Qingyuan. I was still very "new" and tried to be as active and sociable as possible. Also I was introduced left, right and centre to all branches of a fairly large family. In a wedding banquet there are multiple rounds of each meal with guests eating in one, seeing the bride and groom and leaving but as I was staying, and also someone different I'd visit multiple rounds.

Anyway, so after my first initial lunch of rice, vegetables, eggs and brandy, I went to rest and sober up a little upstairs. Barely twenty minutes went by when I was called back down because my future wife's "kaufu" (mother's brothers, i.e. maternal uncles) had arrived and wanted to meet me. I went down to be introduced by about seven people, two of whom were kaufu or their nephews. I'd unfortunately already been recognised as having some semblance of holding my drink and had my glass immediately filled with baijiu (稻花香) and told that I should knock it back in politeness. I did and then was asked a multitude of questions in heavily accented mandarin about New Zealand and myself. The most enterprising question asker was Sei Kaufu, the fourth maternal uncle. Always with warmth and with a huge grin (not captured in the photo, regrettably).

And it has been that way ever since. He's always the man to smile and welcome and shake my hand. The one to always come out with a question from left field to fill the lack of topics that sometimes occurs, or rehash the old ones to ply a new angle. He's curious, warm and engaging even though a little glum when not talking. He's one of the ones that makes me look forward to family gatherings, as we've had over the last couple of weeks for Chinese New Year. His home is a certain visit most years as he was born on the sixth day of the lunar year, an appropriate time to double as a gathering day as any, when everyone is in town.

As my Chinese sojourn reaches closer to an ending, I start thinking that it might be one of the last that I see some of them, like Sei Kaufu. He's not young, probably close to seventy. He's probably too fond of the drink at that age too. I've stayed long enough to crave the closeness to people here as I do with people in my home country. I wish Sei Kaufu longevity, happiness and health.

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