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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Our Family Tree

The idea of compiling our family tree has been around for years. When I was 26 years old, while vacationing on Guam, I sat my dad down one after dinner; it was during that evening that I discovered my mom and dad’s full names in Chinese. When I was growing up, my mom and dad were simply “mom” and “dad”. Dad wrote the names down, pronounced them, as I recorded his words. When I returned to Seattle and told a good friend what I had uncovered, she was shocked that I had not known earlier. I explained to her that it is a Chinese tradition to address one’s family members, especially those who were senior to you, by their position in the family instead of their names. Here’s a perfect anecdote to describe what I mean.

In late 1991, I was due to arrive in Seattle for my first winter term at Seattle University. Before classes began, my dad decided it would be nice for me to reconnect with his brother, who lived near Vancouver, B.C. I had not seen him in over 17 years, since I was 2 in Vietnam, so I was nervous.

One afternoon, my cousin Hank and a friend Alex, decided to take me to the mall just across the American border in Bellingham, WA. After a couple hours of window shopping and people watching, we headed home. To my surprise and astonishment, we were stopped at the border. (I had purchased some new leather boots and a suede jacket in LA the week before. They thought I bought them in WA and was trying to get past the border guard without paying duty.) They separated us and took me into an interrogation room. To make a long story short, they asked me who I was staying with; I answered “my dad’s third brother and his wife”. No, I did not have a name, I did not have an address, I knew my cousin’s American name but I did not know his American last name. I thought I was dead meat and almost started to cry. Hank pleaded with them in the other room and explained I was a naive islander from Guam, etc….. After 15 minutes, they searched our car and let us go. Obviously we did not tell my uncle and aunt until about 5 or 6 years later; enough time had passed that allowed us to actually laugh about it.

Back to the present, when my sister Sara and I spoke last night, she was planning to somehow collect family photos and set them up in a database. This will (knock on wood) allow family members to search for photos by date and name. Undoubtedly it will be a colossal task because my mother has 13 brothers and sisters and my dad has 6. Everyone is spread out all over the world, we have family in Hong Kong, Germany, Norway, Guam, all over the U.S., the Philippines, and I think we still have family in Vietnam. This family tree/photo archive idea is one that I have been thinking about for a very long time. Now that someone else is avidly on the bandwagon, this project has picked up steam. I’ve begun making a few calls and inquiries, being the oldest and speaking a bit of Cantonese are coming in very handy.

7 Comments:

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Sara said...

OK, so my plea for you to relax about this until I had completed my research on the photo database has fallen on deaf ears. I'm working on it, but have not promised to have anything set until the end of the year.

 
At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Island Girl said...

I think it's a great idea and I really want to get started on this now that I am married. I figure that when the hubby and I have children, it will come in handy for them to know where they came from. After all, his family are mostly Danish and English while mine are Japanese and Okinawan. I bet you'll be surprised to learn what you do when you do your family tree.

 
At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was very funny and interesting too! Good luck to Sara on the photo archive of your family. They sound like loads of fun!---Allisa

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger Paz said...

What a wonderful idea. It will take a lot of work, I'm sure, but it will be worth it.

Paz

 
At 1:12 AM, Anonymous rowena said...

A colossal task indeed! Best of luck on the project. Attempting to do a family tree for me would be... mind boggling! My grandmother on my father's side had 12 kids and I think, the last family reunion there were 300 people present. Talk about a party!

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Gia said...

Let me know when you need photos and names of all my illegitimate children!

 
At 6:12 PM, Blogger Family Tree Made Easy said...

Hi Gia-Gina, I thought you and the fellow readers might be interested in making a Family Tree. You can get FREE information on how to do it, by clicking here: family tree Thank you for your time, hope to see you there!

 

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