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Memoirs: Celebrating my Culture

Updated: 7 days ago


The Arawaks say, Xaymaca... “Land of Wood and Water”, we say Jamaica.

My earliest memory is of Moore Town, Portland...we lived by a tributary of the Rio Grande, surrounded by the ever imposing John Crow and Blue Mountains. Although it did not seem so at the time, this was an idyllic spot to live and to enjoy the wonders and the beauty of the land that is truly Jamaican. We were not allowed to climb the mountains then, but we played by, and in the river. We saw the diversity of the landscape, as the river flowed steadily, then soared and swelled to great heights when rain fell and vegetation flourished in the rich soil.

This is not unlike the people of Jamaica, with the diverse cultural groups, the rich music history and yet a moderate pace of life. All these complemented by the beautiful beaches and blue skies. Our life continued in Kingston...and yes, I am very proud to have gone to the some of the best schools, grateful for the knowledge and experiences acquired... the friends I made and still have. We were a part of the cultural vibrancy that is Jamaica. Although then, I was a part of that unique culture, I was always aware that I am Chinese and very proud of my Chinese heritage.

As Chinese children, my parents (Jena and Edward Chong) always strove to instil values that although not unique to Chinese, were in some way reflective of that lifestyle. Respect, good education, hard work, obedience, a sense of history and tradition dating back thousands of years, all part of the package we embraced. My father took us to see the Chinese operas at Ward theatre (Jamaica) where we would enjoy the music, traditions, acrobatic prowess and intricate makeup and customs. We even practised and performed in Chinese cultural dances, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes not. I cannot forget my failure to learn the language at Chinese school, as I focused more on listening to the old Chinese folklore and tales. Oh, but how can we forget the food? Especially at Chinese New Year, that was a must celebration with family, friends, and those monster fire crackers that lit up the sky and seemed to never end.

Yet, we chose Canada to be our home. My husband, Franklin and I attended university in the United States and then we chose Canada. We saw Canada as a peaceful nation, historically open and welcoming, egalitarian in philosophy while respecting cultural differences and where there is a commitment to social justice. Canada, as a place to call home, allows us to maintain our family unit, love and enjoy life with extended family and friends, and celebrate our cultures. Our children Tracey, Frances and David, have the opportunity to choose and live their dreams…to be themselves. Fortunately, our life experiences over the years have enriched our lives in a balanced way, and are shared with our children, family and friends. Yes, here in Canada, we aspire to fulfill our dreams and to integrate our Jamaican, Chinese and Canadian heritages.

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