Posted by Otie on June 23, 2006 at 11:04:48:
In Reply to: QotD posted by SS on June 22, 2006 at 14:11:01:
(1) I was born and raised in Vancouver, British columbia, Canada, most of which was originally built by Chinese immigrants, who were paid very little, and many of whom were killed by unsafe working conditions as well as racists. Today Vancouver has more citizens of Chinese heritage, as well as Chinese immigrants, than any other city in Canada, including Toronto; third largest metro ethnic Chinese population on the continent, after New York City and San Francisco. Visiting my 2nd cousins who live in San Francisco, by the way, is fun, not only because Berkley U and Haight-Ashbury are the original radical hippie cosmic meccas I simply must revisit repeatedly, but because of the vast -- and centuries old -- Chinese community there.
(2) I was born and raised in East End Vancouver, among the biggest Chinese community.
(3) My best girlfriend when I was growing up was Anna Yuen, first generation Canadian. Her parents and grandmother were from Mainland China. They described to me their memories of fleeing from struggles with Japanese military, with Chiang Kai Shek's Taiwanese military, and with the making of the "Cultural Revolution," and of how they were at last able to find themselves as Canadian citizens. When we were little girls, Anna took me to various parts of Chinatown, and told me a great deal more about her family's memories and current day-to-day cultural ways. Through her I gained a deep respect for Chinese communities worldwide -- as well as for the first and second generation Chinese-Canadians and their cultural conflicts with their parents.
(4) My mother taught me all about Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian radical doctor whose life ended while he was on the battlefields in Mainland China, working in his invention the M*A*S*H* unit, using surgical tools he invented which have long since been mainstream. My grade 7 teacher -- who used to be the editor of the Fisherman's Union newspaper when my mother was his secretary -- taught our class about Dr. Bethune in detail, about how successive generations of children in China are taught about this Canadian hero who died trying to save their ancestors. One of our Canadian actors, Donald Sutherland, played the role of Dr. Norman Bethune in the movie, "Bethune." It was Bethune who worked closely with Tommy Douglas to convince the federal government to set up our national health care. (Tommy Douglas is our most popular Canadian political leader of all time -- by recent CBC survey; his daughter, Shirley Douglas, Sutherland married and their child is Kiefer Sutherland, star of the series "24", grandson of Tommy Douglas.) Anyway, it is through the history of Dr. Bethune and Tommy Douglas that most public schools in Canada teach kids about 20th Century Chinese history -- as well as 19th century Canadian history involving the construction of our coast-to-coast railroad by Chinese immigrants.
(5) When I was a teenager three of my closest friends I hung out with inseparably were Chinese-Canadian and gay (two boys and one girl), one of whom, Maizee, has been my lifelong friend. Our friendships shared heart-to-heart feelings, comradery, and loyalty. I feel that each of these people gave me a special gift of understanding. I'm very grateful to have been given their trust.
(6) As a radical hippie teenager, I hung out with fellow activists of every stripe, including the teens who were active for Chinese-Canadian civil rights. One teen went on to head up one of the radical newspapers of the time, The New Leaf. Another teen was involved in radical Chinese language radio programs. Another Chinese-Canadian teen was my older brother's girlfriend for awhile -- she was more into making granola and giving people impromptu flute performances. One of my Chinese-Canadian activist friends around this time was one of the founders of the popular organic bakery on trendy Commercial Drive called "Uprising Breads". She also is one of the performers of a popular group of Japanese drummers (even though she's Chinese) who perform at Folk Fests and Peace Demonstrations. So, yes I've done a lot of reading about Chinese cultures but my greatest resource has been from hanging out both socially and actively with a delightful variety of Chinese-Canadian friends.
(7) I have taught English Second Language classes since 1979: most of my students throughout the years came from Chinese countries: Mainland China, Hong Kong (when it was a U.K. colony), Taiwan, ethnic Chinese Vietnamese, et cetera. I can speak a small number of Cantonese words, thanks to the kids teaching me over the years.
(8) Also from growing up in the northeast end of Vancouver, from a little girl to a rookie teacher on a Native Reserve, I have been blessed with friendships from some Native Canadians -- Chinese migrant immigrants from millenia past. I was close with one woman up in Port Hardy, Glenna, and her family: her youngest brother, who was gay, her father who was a Native advocate counsellor and her mother who was a court stenographer. They taught me about several cultural ways which have survived the millenia and evolved, such as making teas, herbal medicines, spiritual masks, and religious ceremonies. Because I grew up with 4th and 5th generation Chinese-Canadians, as well as with Asian immigrants and current 1st generation Chinese, became "adopted" by Glenna's family -- who are probably more than 100th generation Canadian, taught on the Native reserve, and spent the last 27 years teaching mostly Chinese-Canadians new and descendant, I was fortunate to be given this life with such a broad perpective and respect for Asian peoples.
No, I am not Chinese -- although Mongolian is in my genes from ancestors in the Ukraine circa 1300. My sister-in-law and niece both married Chinese-Canadian men. My little brother's first intimate girlfriend was Chinese -- it was her right to end her pregnancy. I have never been to China or to any country with a majority Oriental populace -- yet. I do watch Chinese movies occasionally on our multicultural channel, "Channel M," if it has English subtitles -- and occasionally a student will bring a movie to school for us to watch (with subtitles). My father bequeathed to me his vast collection of books, which include poems from China and Vietnam which have Chinese, Vietnamese, and English translations in them -- as well as his copy of Mao Tse Tung's Red Book. Chinese music is heard at school all the time -- the kids sing Chinese songs they remember, and bring Chinese music on their portable machines (from the ancient Walkman to whatever contraptions they're hooked up to nowadays). Vancouver has a massive celebration in the streets and schools every year for Chinese New Year. The Dalai Lama is about to make another visit soon, and yes, anything going on in any Chinese-ethnic country is usually top mainstream news here in Canada as well, not only because our most popular prime minister, Trudeau, had exchange visits and trade agreements with China back when he'd gotten in heck for it from the Nixon government and even the UK (noteably, President Nixon himself not long afterward did his own cultural exchange visiting, good for him). British Columbia premiers and mayors have had routine cultural and trade meetings ever since, as part of our mutual "Pacific Rim" association.
So, yes, I know a fair bit about chinese cultures, because.....
Does any of this help, SS?
Cheers, Gon Booey!
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