My father reconnected with my grandfather after twenty years of no communication. At that time, Grandparents and four of their six kids have immigrated to the United States. Grandpa asked us to go to Shanghai to meet with one of my uncles. This is the uncle that Dad’s younger sister married to and was doing “big” business in China. It took us three days and four nights horrible train ride to get to Shanghai from HeiLongJiang. The train was packed with travelers that we had no place to sit except in the passage way. Since it was so packed, we could not get any food or water except purchasing some from the train station vendors through the window. We literally had to step over people’s shoulders to go to the toilet. Since it is hard to get to the toilet, I believe that some passengers found other means to relieve themselves because the train smelled of urine mixed with cigarette smoke all the way.
We stayed with my father’s aunt, whom we call as “婆婆”, eagerly awaiting the uncle’s arrival. However, the waiting time turned from days to weeks; and from weeks to months. In order to keep four young kids occupied, 婆婆dug out some books for us to read. 牛虻 (The Gadfly) was one of them and the most memorable one for me. I can still visualize the teenage me sitting on the bed in one of the亭子間 (a typical studio room in Shanghai), bending over with tears streaming down, crying nonstop over the hero and heroine’s unspoken love, and the hero’s heroic action fighting for the cause that he believed in.