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A Slight Delay
“Flight 187 to Shanghai is delayed for one hour, flight 187 to Shanghai,” says the annoyingly chipper voice on the intercom. Everyone in the waiting area groans. That’s what they said two hours ago. Not that I blame the airline for the less-than-pleasant weather conditions outside. I can see why they don’t want to risk takeoff with all the flurries of white having a party in the sky and whatnot.
It’s almost Christmas and everyone just wants to go home for the holidays. While jolly St. Nick isn’t actually a big deal in China, winter holidays are kind of the only time most of these people can get away. Everyone’s a little antsy and agitated and whatever Christmas spirit had just dissipated over the storm brewing outside responsible for this “slight” delay. It almost feels like an apocalyptic scene out of The Day After Tomorrow.
It’s my first time going back to my home and native land since stepping foot on Canadian soil, plus I’m going solo, which is doing nothing for my nerves, you can imagine. I haven’t been on a plane since I was six and that time I was gullible and simpleminded; the flight attendant just popped me a couple skittles and once the plane took off I was out like a lamp. This time is totally different. I’m completely on my own and after watching one too many episodes of Mayday, me being a little anxious would be an understatement.
I remember the day my grandmother told me I’d be moving to Canada to live with my parents. I grew up with my grandparents, not to mention extended family in every nook and corner. By the time I turned two my parents were long gone to this mysterious faraway land where polar bears roam streets and people live in igloos. They claim it was for a “better life”, but I swear they went just to make more offspring with the one child policy in China and all, hence my litter of siblings.
You can say I wasn’t too fond of that idea; it was like after having a few more babies they just realized there was another one approximately 11,281 km away. Back then I didn’t even know who my parents were. To me they were just a grainy photograph stashed under my pillow, hazy figures somewhere in the back of my mind.
Despite my protests I was forced to go against my will, all my childhood memories packed in a box to be FedExed overseas. I left behind virtually everything and came with nothing but grief, all because my parents said so.
I remember sitting at the airport, waiting. Kind of like now. I remember wondering. Wondering how my parents could do this to me. Wondering why. For two people who had claimed to love me so much they sure were doing a crappy job of demonstrating their affection. Going to Canada would’ve meant a reunion, which I wasn’t sure I wanted at all. I remember thinking that this day came way too late and way too soon.
Once I got here I discovered the land of ice and snow wasn’t exactly a land of ice and snow. There were no polar bears. People lived in houses. Colossal disappointment.
When I arrived in downtown I met a lot of kids just like me. Well not completely like me; their parents never abandoned them. In some ways while I left much of my family behind, I had this new family of people that understood me and related to what I was going through.
While it was hard adjusting—it took me forever to get over the jet lag—I found Canada to be tolerable. Sure Chinatown was pretty much a carbon copy of China, minus the diseased animals and decaying matter, but I liked our little apartment with the nice view of the city. And when there are no annoying cousins clinging to your back or aunts nagging that it’s your turn to stir the rice, you learn to compromise the little details like the occasional rat and mouldy walls in a really pretty shade of green.
Winters were exciting at first, but gradually got annoying. First snowfall: fun times. Second snowfall: I could get used to this. Third snowfall: wait, you expect me to shovel this stuff?
School was a bit tricky, but I liked how Canadian teachers were so easy and total pushovers. I sure didn’t have to work as hard anymore. The diversity kind of amazed me and all the girls—no matter if they were white, brown, or any other colour of the rainbow—bonded over our unanimous love for Dora the Explorer. There were a couple kids that weren’t necessarily racist as much just misinformed. Like that blonde kid, Ryan or something, who always asked me for help in math which did bother me until I finally learned how to say, “figure it out yourself, buddy,” in English. Just because I’m Chinese it didn’t mean I knew all the answers to the word problems on page 185. I did of course, but racial profiling is wrong, even when you’re in grade one.
In the beginning I thought Canadians sure were strange. My dad owned a restaurant and I was all for the business, but it was weird how much Canadians ordered takeout. At first I thought they were just such busy, productive people, but then I discovered that these same people also had time for morning jogs and to catch every Maple Leafs game. The kids in school also had such extensive knowledge on celebrities; I mean the biggest celebrity I knew back home was my uncle who was an extra in some old Chinese war film that no one but my family watched.
As time went on I guess I started assimilating more into Canadian culture. Some people refer to this as whitewashed, though that would be innaccurate. I discovered that ice caps were so much more than big blocks of ice and that Tim Horton’s should be its own food group. While Chinatown is obviously very Chinese, there is quite a diverse cultural experience in downtown from eating falafel at Akram’s Shoppe to buying paprika at Ethiopian Spices for my mom. I guess it’s possible that some day all our cultures will be blended into one and we will all be beige, just like Russell Peter said.
“Flight 187 to Shanghai is now boarding, flight 187 to Shanghai.” Everyone in the waiting area has snapped back to life. The weather has finally taken a chill pill and all the snowflakes have left a sparkling white blanket over the city. It’s pretty, but when you’re a jaded Torontonian, you know that this stuff is just going to turn into dirty slush in approximately 15 minutes.
Looking back I guess it’s a good thing I came. You know the saying: the grass is always greener on the other side. Life was hard at first but things do get easier along the way. And actually, being on the Canadian side I can say that the grass is truly greener here, I mean literally. But despite the obstacles, the challenges I had to overcome, the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, in rain (snow, really) or shine, I can honestly say I have no regrets.