End of 2018

The past two months has been like a rollercoaster ride. Near the end of November, I went on a trip to Barcelona for the first time, which is also my first time in Spain. I thought that would be my last and only trip abroad in 2018, but there was a great last minute deal during the extended Christmas holidays, so I went to Düsseldorf for the first time too (not my first time in Germany, but I had only visited the Moviepark, when I was a kid). Two great cities in Europe has finally been checked off my travel bucket list.

Rotterdam Blaak laurenskerk ferris wheel next to Markthal sunset clouds

I remember that I felt super excited and happy that I could still go and have some fun before the year ends, but like always, I had dark thoughts that there must be a catch or something might go wrong, and I kept telling myself that any happiness always gets taken from me, so don't be too sure of that. Nothing happened before, during, and after my week long trip to Barcelona, but on the first day in Düsseldorf, I heard the bad news. My grandmother from my mother's side has passed away. She was the only grandparent I had left and I barely had the opportunity to spend time with her or any of my other grandparents for that matter.

When I hear people talk about their grandparents, it is always stories about how they were pampered, as they were less strict than their own parents and they got showered with candies and gifts. I, on the other hand, barely have any memories with them.

My grandparents from my father's side died very early on, as my dad is a bit older than my mom, and I remember there was only one moment, I could have met my grandmother in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, but I left before I could meet her, since I was very young and it was smelly, hot, dirty, and uncomfortable being in the old village for a girl raised in the city and I didn't want to wait for hours (in case, you think I am exaggerating, there were public squat toilets closeby!). I heard she was happy we all went to visit her and she regretted that she was away at that moment and missed us, coming to her house. I did ask my dad to just take her outside the village and have us all meet at a Chinese dim sum restaurant or something, but she was already really old and couldn't walk that well anymore.

I do have some memories of my grandparents from my mother's side, when I went to visit them in China during the summer holidays. My grandpa was a quiet and calm guy, who had a warm smile. The total opposite of my grandma, who was temperamental and loud. They actually remind me a bit of my own parents. In a way, they are a bit similar. I actually loved watching the interactions between my grandpa and grandma. While my parents bickered all the time, my grandpa was very patient and gentle with grandma. I never saw them argue, but that could also be because of their age (when you are older, nothing really matters, and you have seen and experienced it all) and they could be nicer in front of me, as I was their only daughter's (besides my mom, they have 6 sons!) daughter. My mom was actually jealous of me, as grandma was never that nice to her. But she didn't remember that when I was a child and while I was tortured daily, deprived of sleep, bullied at school, dealing with pains and fatigue, pestered by my annoying brother and little brother, and having a crazy mother on top of all that, I lashed out at my grandma. I yelled at her that my life is already horrible enough and I didn't want a grandma that keeps nagging me too. I told her that if she kept doing that, I would hurt her daughter, my mom. She would be too far away to stop me (We are talking about the distance between the Netherlands and China). The threat seemed to have worked, as she was always kind to me from there after. I also realised that no matter how crazy a mother can be, underneath it all, they do love and care about their children. I even gave my grandma a long last hug, before I left China on my second last visit to her and I don't like to touch people. I have never hugged my own parents or siblings. Somehow, I felt that she needed a hug and she didn't know how to ask for one. I was able to visit her one more time last year (planned to visit her in January next year too, but it is already too late) and I am happy that I was able to shed my shyness for one moment and openly film some footages of my grandma, which I can now show her great grand children, who don't have the chance to meet her.

I hesitated on bringing the bad news to my mom, as she would be devastated and not be able to enjoy the rest of her well deserved and short vacation in Germany. I also wondered for a moment if we should still celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve, but her death actually tells us to cherish all the good moments that we still get to have with our close ones and get together to share stories, so that they live on in our hearts.

From my grandpa, I learned to persevere, be strong, and never give up. When he broke a leg and he needed to walk with crutches, he still managed to walk up the stairs of a 8 story high building, all by himself, just to see the new apartment of his youngest son. It is something for him to be proud of and he didn't want to miss out on it. There was no elevator and even I, a young girl, was out of breath, when I got up there. He was already an elderly and barely going outside, due to his broken leg. It was cool how he didn't pursue to go up at once, but let go of his pride and male ego and stop for a short break every 2-3 floors. I even brought out a chair and a bottle of water, so that he could rest well.

From my grandma, I learned that you can conquer your greatest fear. She was very affraid of stepping on the escalator, as they looked like sharp, metal teeth to her. It was hard to imagine for me, but I suppose, they do look like big monsters that could swallow you alive, if you grew up in a village and the first time, you see those, is when you are already a grandma. But when I told her that I would carry her on my back (don't try this at home, I was naive and a stupid kid back then) on the escalator, she was willing to try. With small baby steps at a time, she was eventually able to put her feet on the escalator herself. I was happy to see her achieve this, as this opened up another world for her. Not just the local department store was now easily reachable and explorable for her, but also other farther places, like metro stations and airports. I heard she even visited the Tian Tan Big Buddha in Hong Kong. A big achievement for a granny from Guan Lan, China.

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