Posts tagged with "family"

A Visit From Big Sister

Sushi with Misun

Misun, aka my big sis­ter, vis­it­ed from France yes­ter­day. We gorged our­selves on all-you-can-eat sushi, and I let her sur­prise me by choos­ing not to know what she ordered for us. Now I wish I had kept note so I could order the same things again.

Sushi with me

It was hard to argue with her about the bill. She kept insist­ing that she pay because she’s old­er (from her Korean cul­ture), and I kept insist­ing that I pay because I’m the host (from my Chinese cul­ture). I even used the argu­ment that if it’s the elder who pays, then she would always be pay­ing. Unfortunately, the host­ess took her side and refused my mon­ey.

She was only able to stay in Ottawa for the night, but before turn­ing in well beyond our bed­times, we caught up as peo­ple can only do in per­son. We’d been keep­ing in touch the whole time we’ve been apart, and now had the chance to fill in the details.

The time I most felt like I knew what it was to have a sis­ter was when we brushed our teeth togeth­er in the bath­room. Afterward, we com­pared grey hair, me laugh­ing at her three strands, as I have a steady diet of salt added to my pep­per.

Misun's note

When I woke up, I found this cute note, with our faces (includ­ing Dolly’s) drawn on it.

The Case For Nature (vs Nurture)

When I was young, my dad had a fight with his broth­er over open­ing a con­ve­nience store next to a phar­ma­cy (my uncle is a phar­ma­cist) in a plaza that my grand­moth­er owned. Both types of stores have lots of com­pet­ing prod­ucts, so the argu­ment was about who would be the one to open their store. I guess my dad won, because he bought the con­ve­nience store and ran it for quite a few years.

After that, I did­n’t see my uncle or his fam­i­ly at all. For so long that I com­plete­ly for­got that I had a cousin, Crystal.

When my grand­moth­er came from Hong Kong to vis­it one year, she reunit­ed the fam­i­lies again, and I saw them for the first time in a long while1.

At that time, the pop­u­lar thing to do was play cards. I had the rep­u­ta­tion as being the fastest, most dex­ter­ous deal­er out of all the kids. But when I went over to my uncle’s house one day and we were play­ing Asshole, I noticed Crystal deal­ing exact­ly the same way I did, except faster, with­out even pay­ing atten­tion.

It was at that point that I real­ized, “This per­son is my fam­i­ly”.

The only oth­er time I had such a stark real­iza­tion was dur­ing my trip to Hong Kong ear­li­er this year. At an inter­na­tion­al buf­fet, we grabbed some dessert from the cart and ordered some tea. My uncle, aunt (both sib­lings of my dad), and I were sit­ting at the table, with deli­cious pas­tries in front of us, but none of us were touch­ing them. When some­one asked my uncle why he was­n’t eat­ing his dessert yet, he said that he has to have tea with his sweets. And it turns out that was the exact same rea­son me and my aunt were wait­ing too. One of these lit­tle quirks that one nev­er expects some­one else to have, and some­times we’re even ridiculed for it, and yet here we were, three peo­ple doing the exact same thing for the exact same rea­son.

I gen­er­al­ly believe that humans are more like­ly a prod­uct of their expe­ri­ences, with a touch of inher­it­ed qual­i­ties too. After all, I’m almost noth­ing like either of my par­ents. It was only these two expe­ri­ences that made me admit that there’s a lit­tle more of us that’s inher­it­ed, that we’re a prod­uct of our genes, than I would have believed.

  1. I even dis­cov­ered that I had a new cousin, Darren, who was Crystal’s broth­er. []

(Mis) Understanding Art

Few peo­ple in my fam­i­ly seem to under­stand my art.

When they look at my pic­tures, they make com­ments about the qual­i­ty, or whether or not they’re smil­ing, or ask how much mon­ey I make. It’s nev­er about the mean­ing, or my intent, or what I’m try­ing to express. Only one of them saw what I was going for in com­pos­ing this pho­to of my grand­ma and aunt with the poster in the back­ground.

They also talk through my videos when watch­ing them, when every bit of pac­ing is impor­tant, miss­ing sig­nif­i­cant estab­lish­ing shots.

Maybe it’s the cul­ture. Very few Chinese kids are allowed to be artists, as it’s seen as too risky or imprac­ti­cal. My gen­er­a­tion of fam­i­ly seems to be full of accoun­tants, and engi­neers, pro­gram­mers, or any­thing else with secu­ri­ty. Even though piano or vio­lin lessons are com­mon (I can’t think of a sin­gle Chinese friend who did­n’t take piano lessons at one point), it’s more of a sta­tus sym­bol to be able say that you can afford the pri­vate lessons and instru­ment.

This is prob­a­bly why I feel like I don’t relate or can’t speak to most of my fam­i­ly. When they don’t under­stand my art, they don’t under­stand me.

Grandma's Story

I’ve been try­ing to get a bet­ter idea of grand­ma’s life, so I’ve been ask­ing her as many ques­tions as pos­si­ble in the last three weeks. Her mind tends to drift and she gets lost on sub­jects; lit­tle snip­pets from the rest of my fam­i­ly sort of fill in the blanks. I’ll add more if I can get any­thing else out of her.

Grandma was born in Hong Kong, but she fled to Chiu Chow dur­ing the Japanese inva­sion by climb­ing a moun­tain with her only son slung on her back. For some rea­son, she feels a lot of pride about Chiu Chow even though she was­n’t born in that city, and always points out peo­ple from there1. As a result, she can speak both Cantonese and the Chiu Chow dialect.

Continue read­ing “Grandma’s Story”…

  1. She says she rec­og­nizes them by their faces. []

Old Family Portrait

Old family portrait

I found this pic­ture at my uncle’s house. It is:

  1. Hilarious
  2. Hilarious
  3. Hilarious
  4. All of the above

How weird is it that I did­n’t even rec­og­nize myself. And look at those glass­es! They were my first pair, which prob­a­bly means I was around 14 or 15. Apparently, I was still wear­ing my cal­cu­la­tor watch at that age.