I’ve made it to Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, which is located in the far northeast of the country. The city and vibe could not be more different that Beijing and Shanghai. It just feels dirtier, grungier.

And also, since the province and city are so close to Russia, many signs and billboards are in Russian. During dinner at my hotel, I sat next to two groups of Russians eating, smoking and chatting away in Russian. It was a trip.

I should get a better feel for the city once I walk around tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing the Russian architecture and influences in the old part of town. I’ve read that I can snack on some piroshki, the Russian version of Chinese dumplings.

But the real reason I’m here in Harbin is not to play tourist. I will be meeting one of my uncles this weekend, my estranged uncle, that is. He has lived in NE China all his life and our family has not been in contact with him for decades (or some I’m told). This is a fact-finding mission, a trip to find out more about this side of the family that has been a secret and mystery for so many years.

There’s more to this story, obviously, but I’ll need some more time and thought before writing any more on the subject. For now, I’ll just say that I’m eager to meet my relatives, eager to find out their side of the story.