Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reflections on Flood, and my New Orleans

Flood in the South reminds me of this story of me and my father.

I saved my father from being stranded by flood when I was four. We were visiting his home village in central China. A storm hit the area. It rained for three days non-stop. Then I suddenly developed a severe fever. He was supposed to leave the day after. But he worried about me. He took the last train out of the town that very night. He wanted to make sure I would get timely treatment in the capital of the province.

Two hours after we left, levee of one of the river near the town collapsed. The two towns were flooded. Thousands of people died and my grand parents spent 10 days on the top of their roof.

We could have died too. My father always says: his favorite daughter also saved his life. He always wanted a son. He hoped I was a son. But I was not. And he loved me dearly just as well.

We always bond in a special way. Deep in my heart, I always like man with big and passionate eyes and a charming smile like he used to have. A stroke aged him. And his favorite daughter was barely at home for the last 15 years.

Image of flood used to scare me. It still does. And I never knew the worst will hit this city in the South. I read about it from a newspaper in Italy when I was on vacation there. It seemed untrue then.

Besides New York city, New Orleans is my most favorite city in this country. I always love the Mississippi river from Mark Twins' novel before I ever set eyes on it. I sat on the river bank in downtown Memphis during my short stay there, waiting for something significant to happen in life. Time stood still there and the river flowed with a calm and pace that made me belive that waiting is worthwhile.

But it is the city at the end of this great river, a city with Jazz, sunshine on French quarter that I have fell in love with.

I would like to call the city my New Orleans, not only because I love to claim onwership, but also because it is the New Orleans that I know. The city I visited briefly and have loved since.

And now I also know that it is only part of the truth that I have known and have loved. I do not know its higher than average poverty population, segregation and neighborhoods being ignored and forgotten.

It was there I first realized that I was unhappy with my life and something need to change. I remember the jazz singer who smiled tenderly at me, sitting among the listerners when tears covered my face and he was the only one who saw them.

I kept this doll I got from New Orleans since I last visited in 98. For seven years, the doll has been by my side with its porcelain face and a sad gaze. I feel I am like that doll under my straight face of a generally cheerful and lighthearted person. She has a soul that is like mine. A soul in struggle and conflict, yet with love to give.

I held her in my hand the other day. Her sadness and wound looked fresh.

She was sad for the her hometown, she was sad for me. But we shall both recover. We shall both regain our strength.

And sometime in the future, I will visit that city again. I will walk under the sun of Bourbon Street and say it silently: Hey. Nice seeing you again. I am back and you look great. I shall recognize faces of happiness and fun of people who cherish seizing the moment of happiness so that they won't regret missing it one day.

Be patient and believe. Voice will be heard and justice will be done. Hearts will be filled with hope again and your pain shall not be in vain.


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