Sunday, 31 August 2014

Chinese Canadian

Here's an interesting article I came across on my Facebook feed:

I agree and disagree with some points of it, but it makes me reflect on why I Just Can't Become Chinese.

I remember my first times going abroad. I was with the Oakville Children's Choir, and groups from China would be curious about me amongst a bunch of white people. They asked, "I'm confused. Are you from China or are you a foreigner?" For them, I was either Chinese or not. There was no in between. I went to mainland China for a trip once and someone said, "Ah, I can tell that you're a foreigner because of the bumps on your legs." What?! My mother has those bumps. That didn't make sense to me, but the only thing that got through was that I am not Chinese. And yet when I'm in Canada, when I explain that I'm from the Toronto area and my parents are from Hong Kong, they tell me I'm from China. To people coming from outside of Canada, I am not Canadian enough (read: white?) to qualify as Canadian.

I shouldn't be complaining. I am not an exile, a political refugee, or someone whose home is lost to war. Did I ever have a home in the first place? Yes, it is in the suburbs of Toronto. The thing about growing up there, as opposed to growing up in a homeland, though, is that home and family to me is one specific house where my parents tried to maintain a certain way of life. Home did not spill out into the streets, public life, and school.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Where I Am Now

I have to pace myself to see all of Kingston! I'm used to larger cities where I can never see the whole thing in one or two weekends.

In Kingston, I feel like a foreigner because I'm so used to living in larger cities now. BUT I grew up in a town of a similar size just on another side of the lake. unlike travelling, I feel like I eerily know all the codes of this town, and yet I am a stranger. It's a town where people are freer to talk to you even if you don't know them, telling you that you don't have to pay the parking meter on holidays, talking to you in line at the grocery store, saying sorry and thank you more often than I've heard in the past 10 years. Maybe it's just tourist season, but I feel as if people here take more time to tell you things and explain things. Just today I went into Cooke's fine foods asking for Jaffa Cakes. I feel in a larger city they'd say no, sorry and then move on to the next customer but here she explained why (when they get them they're close to expiration and so they didn't sell enough for it to be worth it, but if I come back around Christmas they might stock them because it's a sure sell then).

In conclusion, Kingston is not my home and yet it eerily is, being in Central Ontario, I've never been more "home" than ever before, if home means where I grew up. Meanwhile, where I grew up is has been sucked into an endless cycle of new housing development which is all part of the huge growth of the Greater Toronto Area.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

King's Town

My first impressions of Kingston, Ontario is that it is a unique combination of Ottawa, with its federal presence; any town with the population of about 100,000 in Ontario; and a stereotypical college town in the United States.

I've never lived so close to the waterfront before - not even when I was in Iceland. I think when I was living in Gamli Garður in Iceland, I was a couple of minutes further away from the waterfront than where I am now. So I take advantage of it by trying to bike along it every day. It must be the most photographed place in Kingston and probably one of the most photographed shorelines in Ontario, because every few metres I see people taking pictures. It's funny, Lake Ontario reminds me of a calm sea. I'm lucky enough to have grown up with one of the Great Lakes near me so whenever I see a lake in another place, I think, "That's not a lake - that's a pond! I can see the other side of it!"

Some photos from my bike rides. I like to think of these places as my backyard:

Berlin - Montreal

The Berlin in the following articles is like Montreal for me. Both cities have low rent that attract people from all over, notoriously artistic types, to it. Then, the city beats you up, puts you in a minimum wage job and demands that you pay rent while you're too distracted to know why you moved there in the first place. When you finally get out, you're still in love with it, but you know you shouldn't be tempted to go back.

The articles:

Before I went to Berlin (on vacation), I read up about it a lot. When I finally got there, I looked around, shrugged and thought, "Meh." Maybe it was the expectations in my head of a pounding, vibrant city (I went in January and again in February), or maybe it was that I didn't stay for long enough, but my first impressions were that it didn't have so much going for it as other people had advertised. Montreal was a different story. I moved there because I had fallen more and more in love with it every time I went to visit.