A good afternoon to you on this 7th day of the November Ultimate Blog Challenge. It is past the noon hour. No snow yet so the mornings are dark. I slept in! It was still pitch black at 7:30 am. My blackout curtains are also working too well. I made them last fall because my next door neighbour started to keep her outside garage light on 24/7 as security. It is mounted high, casting a bright light at night over her backyard as well as ours. The light goes through the aluminum venetians and reflects it onto our bedroom walls. It was rather disturbing for sleep. Negotiations was too difficult. The curtains was my beneign solution.

We had a late breakfast, our usual Sunday fare of bacon, eggs and sourdough pancakes. It’s quite filling. I can delay lunch a bit, sip my tea and lay out the foundation for today’s post. Our digital maestro, Paul Taubman, suggested writing “about where you have been, where you are now, and where you see yourself going in the future.” I thought I would take it literally and talk about my physical where have I been.

I was born in a tiny village on main land China in the Taishan region in the province of Guandong. The name of my village (san eng) means mountain top. It’s all very complicated especially when it come to passports nowadays. In the past, I’ve always put Canton, the old name for guandong for my birthplace. Now immigration is super picky. They want the name of the actual town even though they can’t find or verify it on the map. So I had to make it up. It’s very difficult to translate it phonetically. The immigration person couldn’t find it, of course, but it was acceptable. Strange, isn’t it?

our house in China

I was born before we had electricity. So it’s been a few years. I saw my first electric lightbulb when I was six in a hotel room in the city of Canton. My mother and I along with 3 cousins and their grandmother were on our way to Hong Kong to join my father. It would be my first time seeing my father since I was 2. He had immigrated to Canada and now we were meeting up in Hong Kong. It was tricky for my mother and I to get out of Communist China. I have vague memories of mother going to Taishan City to get this and that paper. And it was who we knew that helped us.

I think my father stayed with us in Hong Kong for a year or so before heading back to Canada. That’s how my sister came to be. At first we lived in rented rooms in someone else’s flat. We were able to share the kitchen. That’s how alot of people lived. After awhile my paternal grandfather sent money from Canada and we bought our own flat. It had 3 bedrooms. My paternal grandmother and my 2 uncles were already in Hong Kong ahead of us. We all lived together.

I can’t remember how long after my father left for Canada that my grandmother and my younger uncle also left. Then it was my older uncle. That left my mother, my sister and I. My mother’s family was worried about mom alone with 2 children. My mother’s sister and younger brother came to live with us to help out and keep us company. Then it was our turn to leave for Canada. My sister was not quite 2. Here’s our family photo before we left.

This is turning into a long story. The short of it is we ended up in Maidstone, Saskatchewan, a small town of 600 then. It had electricity but no running water and no flush toilets. I was almost back to where I started out in China. Though I had lived in the big city of Hong Kong for 2 years, I don’t remembered being frazzled by the drastic change in my environment. I did have a sense that the lights had gone out. I had a vision that Canada would be full of colourful balloons and cotton candy. The adults called it Gold Mountain. How was I to know?

Enough for now. It is getting late. Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps I can talk about the now, how I ended up here, in Saskatoon, later on. You are always welcome to come back.


Saturday, January 25th, Chinese New Year. Not much for those in China to celebrate. The Coronavirus having claimed 41 lives. The skies are grey here. I am doing as best as I can. It’s not life as usual. We cannot really use that phrase anymore. There’s no more as usual. It has to be better. I’m trying to do better but when I try too hard, I get stuck and spin my wheels. I’m spinning and kicking up a bunch of dust and debris. I’m trying to find my words to get me out of here. What I need is a bus, train or a plane.

I have very faint memories of leaving our village in Taishan, China with my mother many years ago.  There was my mother, me, No. 2 Pau(my grandfather’s sister-in-law) and her 2 grandchildren travelling with us to Hong Kong. To help, my grandfather’s youngest brother travelled with us by bus as far as the big city of Guangzhou. He had made the trip before. But my mother said he was not much help at all. She had to steer us – 3 kids and an elder woman.

What is vivid in my memory all these years later was seeing my first electric bulb in the hotel room. It dangled from the ceiling so bright when my mother finally woke me the next morning. I can remember sitting on our duffle bags at the station. I had strict instructions to stay put and take care of Ah Pau while the rest of them went in line to buy tickets. It was for the train that took us to Hong Kong. I had no memory of it at all. I thought we had caught a boat. My mother corrected my memory years later. I was only 6. How much could I remember?

But I do remember there was no one at the other end to meet us. There was a mixed up. We were all afluttered. What to do? My mother had an address. We got a taxi. As we were getting into it, Ah Pau said to the driver not to take us astray. She had heard all the horror stories of what could happen in cities. My mother tried to shush her. It was fine. He took us to the right address. Of course he tried to rip my mother off with the fare. But our friend’s wife flew out of her house and gave him whatever.

Not long after, my father and his cousin showed up. They had gone to the wrong station. It was the first time that I knew my father. I was 2 years old when he left our village for Canada. So we lived happily ever after in Hong Kong. My sister was conceived and born. My father and his cousin flew back to Canada. My sister was almost 2 when we flew to Canada to join our father.

Oh, what a mash of words! But they’ve told a story. Buses, trains and planes have been in my life. They’ve taken me to a few places in life. So much for this day – number 25 for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. To be continued tomorrow. Hoping for smoother words.