My father’s parents came from China in the 1920’s, leaving behind two young sons, permanently. Uncle No. 1’s youngest son, First Cousin Cheuk Seang, whom I have never met, still resides in the family village of Shalan near Guangzhou (formerly Canton) in the province of Guangdong. Everyone in the village is a Lee. All our first cousins bear the name Cheuk as our generation name that precedes our given names. I am Cheuk Gin, and my brothers are Cheuk Mon and Cheuk Kin.
Cheuk Seang writes understandable English in emails, and we have recently begun corresponding. Cheuk Seang tells us Shalan Tong is neglected, with the able-bodied seeking jobs and fortunes in Chinese cities and abroad in Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. Only the elderly, women and children remain in a once prosperous village that supported generations of our family.
Global warming has impacted the monsoons, increasing their duration and devastation. Where Shalan Tong once had land that could be used to sun dry crops, there now exist worn roads that are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. So, Cheuk Seang, an entrepreneur who runs a small handicrafts factory in his home, has embarked on building a road to move his goods to Chinese markets and to provide a place for drying the crops.
Cheuk Seang has reached out to all the Lees, in the village and abroad, to pay for this road. My American first cousins and I have all responded, sending money to our ancestral home, because we are family.