Grandparents in China, 1988

You may have just noticed a series of typewritten travelogues with dates from June, 1988, approximately six months before I was born:

Florida-San Francisco-Shanghai
Hong Kong-Vancouver-San Francisco-Florida

They were written by my grandfather upon returning from his trip to China, with my grandmother, in 1988. I don’t think he mentions himself by name. It’s Cy. Doris is my grandmother, who has still has the travelogue printed out and filed away. I just visited her and took phone scans of all of the pages. I wanted to convert them to text, but the typescript did not convert well, so I opted for the phone scans instead.

Rita and Cy are my grandfather’s cousins. The two Cy’s grew up together and were best friends until my grandfather died in 2002. The quartet made it to Italy, France, and Israel together, in addition to this Asian soiree. My grandfather had been to The Phillipines during WWII, but to no other parts of Asia. In Beijing he pays homage to his deployment to the Pacific, although I can’t tell how canonical that story actually is.

I was surprised at how similar my Grandfather’s writings are to my own. Is tongue-in-cheek the right way to describe it? My mom has said before that my writing style is similar to his, and a year ago I read another trove of his writings, but it was not until I saw his typewritten ‘incidents of travel’ that the similarities really struck me. I also have very similar feelings and perceptions about traveling with other people, even if I don’t always express them (to think, I don’t actually share everything on this blog!).

Me being in Florida visiting Grammy D coincides with my parents going to China. My mom was invited to lecture at an optometric conference, so my dad tagged along, and following the conference in Hangzhou they are tacking on Xi’an and Beijing. Their incidents would read:

  • New York-Beijing Airport-Hangzhou
  • Xi’an
  • Beijing-New York

It’s interesting to think that my parents got back yesterday from visiting some of the same places that my grandparents visited and so well documented nearly 30 years ago, when China was such a different place, yet a place certainly in transition, as you can sniff out between my grandfather’s lines.

I think that my grandfather’s perceptions and analysis reveal a progressive man. He seemed more critical of the Americans than the Chinese! I can’t say the writing is completely devoid of any chauvinism or exceptionalism, but honestly I expected more than I perceived. The particulars of the Forbidden City are the most peculiar to me, and much of that was about the Japanese, not the Chinese. I also found it interesting that in 1989 they were still calling Guangzhou, Canton.

Writing has become a common thread from my grandfather, to my mother, to me. I would continue, but my mother already put it well in her blog:

Begin with a Whisper

Probably one of the last photos of the six of us

Probably one of the last photos of the six of us


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