At 8:20 am on Tuesday, June 24th, a train pulled out of Penn Station in New York heading north at 35 mph on an eleven hour journey through cornfields, cows and rainbows to Montreal.  On this train, my sister, 14 bags of her stuff, and me, completed the next stage in a story of immigration that, as family lore would have it, includes Genghis Khan, a potato famine in Ireland, fleeing from Odessa to Athens with only a baby carriage after overhearing some revolutionary sailors in a park, friendly USSR-Cuba relations, a cheap-season trip to Club Med and a fateful sunburn, and British poetry.  But this newest leg in the story of how my sister ended up migrating to francophone Canada was driven by a much better reason than some of the wars and famines that have moved the Aabs and Hawrylkos in the past:  some Canadian guy named Marc, who, after June 28th, I have been happy to call my brother-in-law, and whom my sister is happy to call her Happily Ever After.
But even with rainbows and misty gondola rides through mountains glimmering with fireflies and the Power of Love (yes, my sister’s wedding was indeed amazing), migrating ain’t easy.  It’s not easy for those who go, schlepping their strange accents and rice bags of shoes to countries that count kilometers instead of miles.  It’s not easy for those they leave behind, who wonder how long they have to store their high school textbooks.  And it’s not easy for those who were already there, who somehow have to make room in their closets and cities and subways for these strange new newcomers.
Because it isn’t easy, there has to be something really darn good about the place people migrate to, in order to make it worth all that disruption.  (And not every place is lucky enough to have a Marc.)  So come be awed with me for a moment at the march of the humans, more powerful and romantic than Morgan Freeman’s penguins ever could be.  Be awed with me at the ability and willingness of a population to get up and leave home to pursue a better life — a hallmark of significant societies throughout history. And the places these people go:  they have become the greatest civilizations of our time.  If you want to understand where the world is going next, look where its people are going.
Back now in China (as all Aabservations eventually migrate…), Continue reading