WHEN I WAS SEVENTEEN

sweet 16When I was seventeen, it was a very good year.  The Pan American Games was in Winnipeg.  I had finished Grade 10.  I wore mascara and eyeliner and had a $7 hair switch which I put up in curls almost every day.  I was full of confidence I didn’t possess.

I invited myself to my pen pal, Gail’s home in Winnipeg (to see the Games) and a waitress job in her grandfather’s restaurant.  The most surprising thing was, my mother allowed me to go.  She  was trusting Gail’s mother to keep me safe from harm.

scan0002-1Our mothers had met at the Immigration Office in Hong Kong.  Coincidentally, we were on the same plane from Hong Kong to Tokyo.  There they boarded a different plane to Winnipeg.  We stayed on to Vancouver.  Addresses were exchanged and they kept up correspondence over the years.

Feeling lonely and set apart being the only Chinese girl my age in town, I asked my mother for their address and started writing to Gail.  That was the start of our friendship and the trip to Winnipeg the summer of 1967.

Thinking back it was a miracle.  I boarded a Grey Hound Bus to the big city of Winnipeg all by myself.  Gail and her family were virtual strangers to me.  I stayed for the whole summer, coming home in time for school.  I had more courage then.  Or maybe I was too young and naive to be scared.

Winnipeg was much much bigger than our town of 600.  Somehow I got around.  Chan’s Restaurant was on Main Street.  It was big, consisting of two floors.  I worked on the main floor.  First lesson I got was, You don’t get friendly with a customer.  You do not sit down and have a conversation with them.  Boy, it was a good thing I worked for a friend’s family!  Otherwise I would probably get sacked.

I never did see any of the games.  Mostly I worked.  That’s what I remembered anyways.  I did meet a few guys and saw a couple of movies.  Of course that got Gail’s mother calling my mother right away.  She was responsible for me so I sort of understood.  I didn’t want to cause her worry.  I did my socializing in the afternoon after that.

It was not the young guys that had things on their mind.  It was the adults.  Uncle Bing gave me rides home when we were working the same shift.  He wanted to show me different parts of Winnipeg on the way.  One night he took me to the airport to watch the planes take off.  He taught me to drink coffee and smoke a cigarette.  I liked Uncle Bing but sometimes he had this weird breathing – fast with a funny sound.  I did not understand.  He was married with children.

God protects the young, weak and innocent.

 

About hafong

Hello! My name is (Leung) Hafong alias Lily Leung. You always say the last name first….that is the Chinese way. That is my partner lurking behind me. Since this is my blog, I won’t mention his name. But this is a rather cool picture. You see me and yet you don’t…sort of the way I feel about myself most of my life. So this blog is a self-exploration, an archeology dig of some sort. My tools…..words of a thousand or so at a sitting. I will try for that.
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6 Responses to WHEN I WAS SEVENTEEN

  1. Hi Leung,
    Nice to get to know you. You have a great writing style. Check back soon.

  2. Aathira says:

    Hi Lily, You have a lovely blog 🙂 Enjoyed reading about you!

  3. Lovely photos and wonderful stories of your youth. It’s funny how independent people can be at a certain age compared with how they are when they’re grown up. For example, when my mum was 13 and lived in what is now Greater London, she would travel on the Underground on her own without a second thought.

    Now that she’s an adult with three grown up children and living away from London, when she does use the Underground, she feels anxious and daunted by it. Strange but true.

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