This weekend I attended the UMA (Uniao Macanese Association) evening dinner. I got to write a speech about my Macau trip. I didn’t do that bad. A lot of people liked what I had to say. Here is what I wrote.
BOH-ah NOY-teh, my name is Jillian Rogers. I am 23 years old and will be attending the University of Cardiff in the fall to obtain my masters in Creative Writing. I recently attended the Youth Encontro de Macau. The experience was one I will never forget. I would like to personally thank UMA for the opportunity to learn about the amazing culture my ancestors came from. The experience to visit not only Macau but China as well was very eye opening. Up until this year, I didn’t have that big of an idea of what it meant to be Macanese. Because of this trip, I was able to connect with my Macanese roots and learn about the rich cultural heritage that is Macau.
When people think of Macau, it is normally centered on this idea of gambling. Macau is in fact the gambling capitol of the world. It is even getting its own Eiffel Tower (like the one in Vegas!) But it is so much more than that.
I am not big on gambling. When I heard about this opportunity, I only thought about the historical buildings I might see and hopefully some of what Macau was like back when my mother was there.
This was my first time outside of the US. I had no clue what to expect. Coming from foggy Bay Area, I rarely got to experience humidity. When we got off the plane, we had to take a bus to the Ferry Building in Hong Kong. It was such a shock to get outside, after being in an air conditioned plane for thirteen hours, and to experience the intense humidity. Ninety degrees over here is nothing compared to how it felt at 80 degrees over there. After a long day of traveling, we all wanted to go to bed. I unfortunately had to get up earlier than the others in my group because I was the chosen leader of our chapter. I got to meet the consulate of Macau and listen to his very kind words about keeping the heritage alive. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to witness this.
I was very impressed with the transportation. When we went to Macau, we had to take the Turbo Jet, which was this pretty big ship. All the transportation was very cheap and easy to navigate. I’ve always been interested in travel and I was so happy to get to experience this aspect of travel. When I was in Hong Kong after the trip Encontro, it only cost $40 to cross three bridges, each bigger than the bay bridge. I’m sure if I took a taxi the same distance here it would cost $200. Also in Hong Kong is the longest suspension bridge in the world. That is so cool!
There were several amazing places that I got to see. From the A Ma Temple to the Ruins of St. Paul, there were plenty of awe inspiring sights. There was one place we went to called the Mandarin House, which had 65 rooms in it and was how a house looked like when Macau was first getting started. The house had Chinese and Western influence. Definitely a place I would have loved to stay in… if it had TV and internet. There was also the dragon boat races. Our own Bay Area dragon boat team was in attendance at the races! Man, did I really enjoy dragon boat racing! Galaxy NUMBA ONE! It was too bad it rained on our chance to actually dragon boat ourselves. There was a Typhoon warning that changed most of our plans. We did get to visit a temple that looked like it was from that movie “Skyfall.” And we visited a Macanese house. I even got to experience a very interesting way of making coffee. So the rain didn’t totally “rain on our parade.”
Our trip consisted of plenty of activities, museum viewing, and oh yeah. The food! It was amazing! We had all kinds of Portuguese dishes, Chinese dishes, and Macanese dishes. I didn’t know how much I love Egg custards until this trip! I even got a free copy of a Macanese cookbook, which I intend to make use of right away with some Minchie. The dinners were very organized and it seemed like all they wanted to do was fatten us up. One dish that I did not like at all was the Snails. Snails over there are ten times bigger than the ones over here. I have an irrational fear of snails and I had to sit next to a guy who was eating a whole plate of them at the closing ceremony. His name was Julian and every time someone said my name or his name, we would both look up. It was kind of hilarious.
There were plenty of activities that we did over the trip. We did an Amazing Race game, go to a soccer match, and also folk dancing! I’ve been in a quite a number of musical plays and know how to follow steps. This dance was crazy intricate. I always forgot a step or miscounted. It was so fun though! The Amazing Race game was something I will never forget. Halfway through the game, my teammates left me and I had to walk by myself to the next checkpoint. Even walking through the streets of San Francisco alone makes me scared, but somehow I felt okay. There were plenty of signs and friendly people who were willing to help point the way.
The trip was very educational and fun. I learned that the Chinese government has a plan to help connect the countries more efficiently by creating bridges that run from Macau to China, helping to reduce the amount of traffic in the area. They are also trying to make China more Eco-friendly. They are already starting up their work on new buildings that are environmentally friendlier to the Earth. Their hope is to create a better China by at least 2017.
I went to Macau to get closer to my roots and to connect with where my grandmother was from. Recently, my grandmother, Maria Conceição, passed away. My grandma was an amazing person and she is truly missed by me and my family. While in Macau, I felt like I was at home. The people were very welcoming and I had this feeling that I was meant to be there. The second to last night, I found what I was looking for. I went on a walk to the Ruins of St. Paul at midnight. I forgot my phone and all I had on me was my wallet. Halfway through the walk, I felt like I was being watched. When I did finally reach the ruins, I could see a bright light illuminating the ruins. Maybe it was just the light behind the structure, but I knew as I walked up to it, that it was my grandma looking over me the whole time.
One of my favorite souvenirs from Macau was this picture frame. I had this picture from when I graduated from high school. I hold it very near to my heart. It’s of me and my grandma. Every morning I wake up and see this and remember her. It always reminds me of how proud she was of me. It gives me courage. On the trip I even brought along a letter she gave me when I graduated college last year. It reads: “To my dearest granddaughter Jillian. Hoping, wishing you a very bright future. Love you very much as always, Nana and Balbino Cruz.”
This trip inspired me to be more involved with my Macanese heritage. It is a beautiful thing to be Macanese. We must not let our heritage die out. By supporting Macanese youth to go explore our heritage, we are continuing our traditions and hopefully our children’s children will be as involved with our Macanese heritage as I hope to be in the future.
As the leader of our group, I got to go on stage during the opening and closing ceremonies for pictures. We even got our pictures on the front page of the Macau newspaper. I am so glad that I got to be the leader of our group. I wasn’t sure at first, but in the end it turned out that it was a fun experience being the chosen leader.
Everyone was really nice on the trip and we all got along nicely. There were people from Canada, Australia, Rio De Janerro and Portugal. The people from Rio gave these amazing gifts to each of the leaders. I got a little bottle of Portuguese Tequila, a pen, chocolate, and some coffee beans. Each casa had their own leaders. We had three leaders in the USA alone. It was great to hear from all of these different groups about what their casas were doing.
I would like to also say how great it was to go with Emily and Stephanie, the other youths who went on the Encontro. They were very nice to be around and were very helpful whenever I needed advice. They were also very helpful when I cut my trip short. I was supposed to spend four extra days in Hong Kong, but plans got changed. Emily and Stephanie missed their flight home and stayed overnight in Hong Kong. They graciously let me stay with them so I would have company before I left for home. I’m so glad that they were to help me out. I could not have asked for a better group to lead.
I am so happy and thankful that I got to have this experience. I learned a lot about not only my heritage, but also about what I want to keep doing in my life. I want to travel more and see the world and what it has to offer. I will definitely go visit Macau again and hopefully bring my mom and sisters with me. If I could travel back in time and relive it again, I would. Thanks for listening to my amazing experience and I hope you all have a wonderful evening.