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News from the TTA

Memoirs: Home is Where Your Heart Is

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Cynthia & Abraham Chong

I believe that I am very blessed– to be able to call three of the most beautiful places on earth “Home”.

CHINA (Land of my Forefathers)

JAMAICA (Land of my Birth)

CANADA (Land where I now live and will one day pass on to my children and grand children)

These three places are diverse in abundant beauty, culture and outlook on life. From each, I can draw on physical and emotional factors making me a better person. I know I will never be fully either a Mainland Chinese, typical Jamaican, or Canadian for that matter. I am the sum total of all three and accept those qualities inherited and acquired to make me appreciate all three cultures.

CHINA Being Chinese makes me a member of a race that can trace its history and culture back more than 4000 years ago. I admire China’s grand scale in going about building a nation of 1.5 billion people.

Historically, China’s magnificent grandeur can be seen in monuments, buildings, artifacts so detailed and awe inspiring. Its system of government (a meritocracy) is admirable and maybe the key in governing such a huge population and getting things done. I marvel at the progress of China, a country that in twenty five years progressed from streets clogged with only bicycles and rickshaws to a modern, efficient transportation system replete with super highways and Hi speed trains linking all the major cities. China may very well be the next super power.

Hakka Tulou in Xiamen Fujian Province China

As a Hakka, I am proud of the Hakka’s emphasis on love and respect for the elders and the family. It was this drive to succeed that pushed the Hakkas (mostly impoverished because of their various migrations over the years to the Southern regions of China) to pull up roots and travel to all parts of the world seeking their fortune. One of those places was the Caribbean island of Jamaica.

JAMAICA Who can forget my native island paradise, Jamaica, the land of Wood and Water – a lush, fertile tropical haven where technically one should never go “hungry”? One can always plant bananas, climb a coconut tree or stone mangoes for food. We had a simple, carefree childhood there, nurtured and protected by our enterprising parents. They knew no English and somehow they prospered in their shops and restaurants by sheer dint of hard work and thriftiness.

Growing up in Jamaica has given me this appreciation for - spicy food which is a blend of African, Chinese and SE Asian cuisine, not forgetting the raucous reggae music which pervades the island and is exported to the world. The Jamaican’s love of fun and “in your face bravado” is well known. This sense of rhythm is ingrained in the swagger of the way Jamaicans walk. One can always tell that someone of Chinese origin was born in the Caribbean and not Mainland China, just by observing his manner of walking and demeanor. Jamaica has produced so many outstanding athletes who shine regularly at the Olympics. Jamaica gave us the foundations of an excellent education, the universal English language (although spoken in broken patois) and the social justice of the British parliamentary system.

Tourists flock to Jamaica for “sun, sand, sea” attracted by its natural beauty. On a visit to Jamaica I

was struck by the vivid “blueness” of the Caribbean Sea (Blue Danube, eat your heart out) whose gentle waves wash the shimmering white sands of Negril. In all my travels, I still maintain that Jamaica is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, all things considered. A central mountain range traverses the island from East to West giving it a rugged beauty - cascading waterfalls such as Dunn’s River Falls are plentiful, not forgetting the lush green undergrowth of Fern Gully.

Driving from Kingston in the South to the North Coast via Mt. Diablo is an experience in itself. The winding road hugs the mountain as it ascends up, over, and down the mountains to the flat coastline. Each bend in the road reveals spectacular, unforgettable sceneries. Along the way can be found itinerant vendors selling the fruit in season - sweet roasted corn, coconut water, mangoes, naseberries, otaheite apples, guinep, sweetsop, bananas. It was a welcome treat to stop and banter with them, while partaking of these native tropical fruit.

One may wonder how anyone could forgo the charms of Jamaica for the winter chill of Canada. There is a longing for a stable economy able to provide an environment that will safeguard the future of the children. Still, Jamaica will always have a special place in our hearts.

CANADA Canada is now our country of choice. No two countries - Jamaica and Canada - could be so dissimilar mainly due to climate differences. Canada has a spectacular, rugged landscape containing 20% of the fresh water in the world. From the majestic Rockies nestling beside the pristine glaciated waters of Lake Louise, the rolling hills of Ontario and the awesome phenomenon of the Bay of Fundy in the Maritimes.

As Chinese Jamaican immigrants, we faced the usual hurdles of finding a means of livelihood and battling the harsh wintry conditions which we were not accustomed to. Still, we were in our youth and willing to take on all the challenges of finding our niche in the competitive Canadian way of life.

Each one of us has some tale to tell as we adjusted painfully from living in a Third World country to competing in the “rat race” of one far more developed. I was impressed with the transportation system of Toronto – exploring the underground sub way with its vast plethora of shops, restaurants, commercial businesses so conveniently placed, thereby making it possible for one to live underground and avoid the cold of winter snows.

One cannot help but be impressed by the 10-20-lane super highway called the 401, making travel to far places more manageable. Winter in Canada is willingly endured with the promise of a beautiful spring and idyllic summer to come. I love the attractions of the good life downtown with all the glitzy shops, theatres, baseball games at the Sky Dome, sailing around Center Island, and just exploring Harbourfront and the signature CN Tower.

We are now in our golden years - for most of us, our perseverance has paid off. We are proud of being citizens of a democratic country, which adheres to the Rules of Law. It is a country with a benevolent type of Socialism aimed at caring for the young and old, stable and tolerant of minorities. When we travel abroad (displaying our Canadian connection) we feel the love and respect of people from all parts of the world. This respect stems from the reputation of past Canadians as liberators during the Great Wars. I feel that there is no better country to live in than Canada.

My family owes so much to Canada – its tolerant multicultural diversity that allows all races to practice their faith and culture. We have made peace with the harsh winters and realize that there are benefits to having four different seasons in the year. Life is never boring as we prepare for the arrival of each season –competing in sports such as hockey, baseball and basketball; wearing the clothes appropriate for the weather and decorating our homes according to tradition. When we travel the world we feel fortunate and proud to be known as “Canadians”. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who shaped this country – the original inhabitants, the valiant soldiers who went to war, and leaders who gave us good Government; and let us not forget the courageous immigrant Chinese workers who laboured under dangerous conditions building the railways thereby uniting the country.


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