I went to Hong Kong to visit my 100-year-old aunt before my Guilin trip. Knowing that I want to search for her mom’s ancestral village, she was as excited as a little kid. Indeed, all her childhood memories came back. She told me stories of her mom’s brothers, described the scenery, and even drew me a map, reminding me all the crucial landmarks going from my grandfather’s village to my grandmother’s village. Follow the river, go up hill. There is a pavilion on the hill, that’s where one of the uncles did water engineering work. He piped mountain spring into the village, which is so useful. Remember not to miss the pavilion. You need to go downhill once you have reached the pavilion. Make a turn, and grandma’s village is right there.
I begged her to teach me to speak some Zhuang, but she can’t remember anything anymore.
Late at night, my aunt had gone to bed for a long time, and I was also getting ready to turn in. All of a sudden, my aunt rushed out of her room, grabbed my arm, and shouted “Beiher, Beiher, I remember it now. The word just popped into my mind. That’s the Zhuang word for going to the fair! Do you know “fair”? That’s like going to the market. But your market is not the same as our market. When I went with mom to her home, my uncles would take us to the fair. What they said then was Beiher! Beiher!”
My aunt can speak Zhuang when she was little. Ninty some years later, what is the one word that a hundred-year-old remembers from her childhood? That’s to go to the market.