Updated: Nov 17, 2020
My earliest memories begin in Jamaica. A warm, quiet home: my father washing rice, the swishing sound of it, swirling round ‘n round in the pot. The Nu Nuk Gun (beef jerky) and the smelly fish hanging on the clothes line to dry. The day after the storm, which left the bird cage open and empty, when he said “the parrot was smart - it flew away before the big wind”. How when I picked the neighbour’s rose and he gleefully chased me under the four poster bed. My mother’s soft cry when my baby brother, being suckled, bit her. Her singing opera to soothe him.
My parents left China to go to Jamaica for different reasons. My mother, Sybil Sue Ho, was an arranged bride, and my father, Frederic Lee Hing, a soldier of fortune. Their culture enveloped my life - Hakka language, customs, superstitions, food, mahjong, Double Ten celebrations (with lots of my favourite lychees). Looking back, I am very proud of my Chinese Heritage. My parents tried to instill good work ethics, morals and the love of the Fatherland in their children (I was to become a communist princess!).
It was only when my parents moved to a new location, where they had a bakery cum grocery shop, that I realized that we were different from the people around us. I was Chinese, spoke a different language and had a funny accent. At school, I made friends and soon learnt to talk like a native. My Jamaican nannies were loving and amusing and would often scare us with ghosts or “duppy” stories”. I absorbed and loved the Jamaican culture: its people, food, music, rhythm and beauty of the island paradise.
Hakka people are bound to wander… and here I am in the best country in the world - Canada! Actually the best place on the planet! A country that values freedom and democracy; a safe haven for those fleeing from wars, famine; and for those seeking better opportunities in life.Here, I carved out a successful career in banking, married an awesome man, raised a lovely family and broadened my outlook. Canada opened its doors to me and has given me a wonderful life.
I love my Chinese Heritage, my Jamaican upbringing and most of all, my Canadian home of choice.