In January of 2023, my cousin Mengning relocated from Guiyang, a city in Southwest China, to Rochester, Minnesota to begin a year-long research fellowship in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She brought her daughter Yilan with her, and they moved into the upstairs guest room of my parent's house. We were joined several months later by Mengning’s baby son Jiuxi, as well as her mother, who helped take care of Jiuxi while Mengning was working. When I came back home in the summer, I spent as much time playing with Jiuxi and catching up with my 大姨妈 (aunt) as I could. Although I hadn't seen her in four years and could count the number of times we’d talked on one hand, I felt an instant sense of comfort around her, whether we were laughing about the constant bus delays in Rochester compared to the expeditious taxis in Guiyang or encouraging Jiuxi as he took his first steps. Living so far from my extended family, I never knew the togetherness of a traditional Chinese household. This summer, I got a glimpse of what it would have been like growing up with the different generations of my family close enough in distance to share liveliness, dinners, and celebrations of even the smallest milestones.
At the same time, I watched my cousin try her hardest to maintain a household. She would work over eight hours each day at Mayo Clinic, pick up Yilan from daycare, and immediately start preparing 煎饼 (Chinese crepes) for the kids or take them on walks to the 小公园, our shared name for the little park down the street. As I noticed how my family members infused Chinese traditions into their routines in America, I reimagined the gradual melding of Eastern and Western lifestyles that my parents incorporated into our own household when I was a child. In this ongoing photo series, I wanted to capture the moments where I saw my cousin’s family blossom within our shared home, as well as where I felt that shared connection to my family members as I watched Mengning and 大姨妈 create a new, albeit temporary, life for their family in the American Midwest.
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