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News from the TTA

Memoirs: Best Decision I Ever Made

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Peter Lee

Being born Jamaican and growing up in the country meant smelling the sweet aroma of breadfruit roasting on a coal stove on a Sunday morning while the maid prepares our favourite ackee ‘n’ cod fish.

A rooster from mom's "fowl coop" would start crowing his "Cock-a-Doodle -Doo" which sounded like, "Good morning one and all" followed by a chorus of other roosters. My mother would be singing her favourite hymns from her old hymn book in her usual off pitch voice. In the distance I would also hear a church bell pealing, calling its congregation.

Like a ritual, every first Sunday of each month, Mom would wake us up for our monthly "wash out "of castor oil with orange juice, or Benjamin's herb tea which she would force us to ingest saying we needed to cleanse our system. She would also fortify us with doses of "Scot's Emulsion", and NCF, a kind of molasses based supplement.

Being born Jamaican meant being scared by a "Jonkanoo" band at Christmas time wearing scary masks made of horse's head and onion sacks, demanding money from anyone they encounter while cracking their whips to the beat of their drums.


Being born Jamaican meant being awakened at midnight on New Year's Eve by a marching band of locals beating their drums and playing their home-made wooden flutes to welcome in the New Year.

Being born Jamaican and Chinese by heritage, I've experienced undeserved respect from those who would address me as "Missah Chin", and add "Sah" at the end of each statement. It seemed the poorer, uneducated locals regarded anyone of lighter complexion or those who appeared wealthier, to be better and, therefore, deserving of higher regard. However, at the other end of the spectrum, I've suffered downright racism and had insults directed at me by others who would say out loud, "Go whey Chiney nyam daug; Go bakk a HongKong”.

I must admit that these echoing insults and constant degrading remarks about "Chiney people" had drastic effects on me which shaped my attitude and demeanour in my later life. I grew up wanting to prove them wrong, that I was different from the "Chiney man” that they stereotyped. I would lash back at their insults with the worse curse words and was even prepared to be physical if necessary. Yes, I would out do them in almost everything they indulged in like cussing bad words, drinking, fighting, race driving, etc. I won't elaborate in other stuff or vices which I indulged in. That was my way of getting even and proving them wrong.

Having migrated to Canada in 1977 meant starting a new life, escaping the violence, the racism and the recurring verbal abuse, the mentality, the constant begging and their abusive behaviour. It had reached a stage where I came very, very close to drawing my gun in a few altercations where I lost my cool and was prepared to shoot. Canada offered the freedom from all this abuse, and for the very first time I could go walk the streets and go about my business without hearing someone shouting, "Chiney man, go back a Hong Kong. Jamaica a Black man country." I didn't see any burglar bars over the windows, and I didn't have to cringe or look over my shoulders whenever I heard a car backfire. Most importantly, I was able to link up with other Chinese Jamaicans through the Caribbean Chinese Association when I first arrived in Canada, and more recently our Tsung Tsin Association whereby I'm gradually learning to accept and identify with my culture and heritage.

"Grilled" Homes

I must end by saying that migrating to Canada was the best decision I've ever made in my life, second to, of course, marrying my wife, Joan. Since I've been here over thirty nine years, I've been dealing with the public sector during my many years as a sales consultant prior to my semi-retirement and I've never personally experienced racism or verbal abuse. In a few isolated cases I might have experienced reverse racism by my superiors who envied the way my colleagues and clients reacted to me and perhaps thought I was a threat to their positions and concocted reasons to dismiss me. Other than that, I've found Canada to be the best country I could have ever chosen to be my home.

God bless Canada!

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