A big congratulation to my son Brian, who got married in July to a beautiful young lady named Sooyun Hong. The wedding took place at The Castle on the Hudson in New York. The venue and the wedding were beautiful. The rehearsal took place back in Brian’s apartment the night before the wedding. We all went out to a nice Italian Restaurant around the neighborhood for dinner after the rehearsals.
At the rehearsals, Brian and Sooyun served us drinks and snacks. One of the drinks had a strawberry it in and a little bit of alcohol it in it. My husband, Henry, was holding our grandson, Joshua, so I wanted to give Joshua the strawberry. As I tried to pick up the strawberry from my drink, Henry started lecturing me about the alcohol in it, but I just wanted to give him the strawberry, the little alcohol in the drink will not matter that much. Joshua could not understand Chinese, but he could probably understand what was going on from Henry’s tone and expressions. When Henry finished talking, Joshua was trying to make a statement to Henry saying “it’s just a strawberry”, thinking what was the big deal about this strawberry? So I gave him the strawberry, his face was filled with agony and his shoulders were shivering after he tasted it. I wished I had my camera ready to capture his expression. Just a moment ago, he contested his grandpa, but now he knew that the strawberry tasted different. He was very cute.
I was born in China at the end of World War 2. Soon after I was born, the Civil War started between two political parties – the Communist and the Nationalist party. Our family escaped to Hong Kong in 1949 right before the Communist took over China.
We were the only family to have escaped to Hong Kong from both sides of my parent’s families. I was only about 4 to 5 years old at the time and do not remember the journey to Hong Kong. My early childhood memories about our family were from my mother.
Hong Kong was occupied by the British. People who were afraid of the Communist fled to Hong Kong, but not everybody wanted to go or could go. In that time, Hong Kong was an undeveloped place and Shanghai was well developed and prospering as many other provinces in China. A lot of people did not believe the Communist Party would take over China and some of them were hoping a different Government would bring people better lives. However, for most of the rich people, as long as they did not get involved with the politics, lived their lives without much change. Also people who had money did not want to leave China and leave their wealth behind. That was some of the situations during that period of time, according to my mother.
My mother’s side of the family fell into the category of people that did not want to leave. My uncles were bankers and importers and married to prominent families. My Aunts were married to medical doctors. They stayed behind and did not want to leave. Later on they were tortured and sent far away to revolution labor camps. They suffered a lot and their children did not have a fair chance for education. My brother, sister and I had a chance to visit them in 1989 right before the Tiananmen square incident. One of our uncles, who was an importer, was still alive then. He used English to carry a conversation with us. Amazingly, after all these years, he did not forget the language. We got a chance to meet our uncle and some of our cousins and their children whom we never met. It was a happy time for all of us.
As I’ve discussed previously, the reason we got the opportunity to escape to Hong Kong was because my father was a high ranking officer in the Republic of China. We previously had the choice to retreat with the Government. My parents could choose to go to Taiwan or stay in Hong Kong. They chose to stay in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s official language is Cantonese. Although the dialect is a form of Chinese, for someone from other provinces the language is totally foreign to them. Fortunately written Chinese is the same so at least they can communicate in writing in the beginning. Like a first generation immigrant struggling to perfect English, they eventually learned Cantonese, but it was never perfect. Just like me.
When we got to Hong Kong, my parents did not have money, did not speak the local dialect (Cantonese), did not have a place to stay and did not have a job. I was too young to know all of this but as I grew older, I knew we were poor. But the poorness did not bother me at all because my mother came from a well set family. She taught us the value of life and that money is not the whole matter of our lives. Your character is much more important. We did not have many material things while we were growing up but now, my 8 brothers and sisters and I are doing well with our lives.
This past summer, my husband was invited to volunteer with the Florida International Volunteer Corps (FAVACA) to help the Amerindian population in Guyana to develop cosmetic products using an abundant local ingredient called Crabwood Oil. My husband was able to use his extensive experience to help out this community to develop a product for them to sell and support their families. This was not an easy trip for my husband going to this remote area and I’m very proud of him for going. Over my next couple postings, I’ll let my husband describe his experiences in his words:
On August 17, 2011, the plane I was on touched down in Guyana in the early morning. It was the first stop for me in Guyana in the capacity as a FAVACA volunteer in partnership with Farmer to Farmer to work with Amerindians that reside in the Three Brother Community. This inland mission was also by the invitation and arrangement of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs of Guyana.
I flew out on the 19th from Ogle International Airport, which is a small airport mainly used by single engine airplanes for short flying distances serving the rural areas. The flight was unexpectedly very smooth. We left the airstrip and went down to a small village by the river named Kumaka. This is an important marketplace for the nearby communities doing their merchandise exchange and shopping in these river communities. The journey to my host, Greg’s home took one and a half hours by a boat fitted with a powerful outboard motor. I was told that it would take about four hours if only using a small motor; and twelve plus hours if paddling a canoe. Boating is the only way of transportation for everyone living in this community because there is no road connecting the houses and communities in this area. All residents have their houses built near the rivers for easy access transporting in and out of the area by boat.
Before we got to Greg’s house, he pointed to two small wooden building along the river used as the school buildings. I was told all students regardless of the grade level share the larger building as a class room. It very much resembled the one room schoolhouses in the early North American settlements. The smaller building is used as the teacher’s residence. There was no one on the grounds because school was in recess. I took a picture of the buildings from the river.
Greg also made a stop by the bridge leading to another building which is used as a community healthcare center. This center provides minimal medication and treatment for minor illnesses. More serious illnesses and open wounds have to be transferred to Mabaruma where they have a hospital with some equipment and is better staffed. If the Mabaruma hospital could not handle the situation, the patient would be airlifted to Georgetown for treatment. One of the learners that came for the workshop is the health worker of that center. She took a patient with an open cut by boat to Marbaruma after her first day of training. It was a long journey for a young lady riding over two hours on the river in the dark of night. I salute her.
I’ll be writing much about what is going on in my life and also what I hope to see in the future. But you really can’t understand today or tomorrow unless you understand your past. I’ll be writing periodically some reflections on my past and I thought I’d start today with a little about my father.
I was born in China. But my family escaped to Hong Kong when the Communist took over China. My mother told us that people would exchange boxes of gold for a ticket at the airport. But when we got there, everybody was running for their lives and no one was willing to trade their ticket for our treasures.
Eventually, the reason we had the opportunity to escape to Hong Kong was because my father was a high ranking officer with the Government of the Republic of China. He was a special agent for grain control in Shanghai. During the Civil War, all the grain was controlled by the government. He worked direct under Chung Ching Kok. I think he got that job because he graduated from a well known university and was well educated academically. But with his connections in the government, we were able to escape the Communist takeover.
After we got to Hong Kong, I was about 4 years old – too young to know what was happening. But I knew my father started a few businesses. He was a lousy businessman – they all failed. In the deepest despair of his life, one night he passed a church where the evangelist preacher was giving a message. He went in and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior that evening. After that night, he didn’t just commit his heart, but he went all the way and committed his whole life. He gave his life to serve Him. Changing all of his life plans, he attended a Baptist Seminary in Hong Kong and then went to serve in a poor area after graduation. We were poor, but they were poorer. During that time, not too many people had money because Hong Kong back then was an undeveloped place and a lot of people fled from China without money.
My father was neither a good preacher nor a politician. You would think that since he worked for the government he must know politics well. It was not true. He could not serve at well established churches because he did not know how to handle the powerful and rich members in the church. So he went and served the very poor.
Because there were no jobs available, people could not make a living for themselves as well as for their family. A lot of them ended up in the hospital for emotional as well as physical problems. My father would often go to the hospital to visit patients at the hospital every morning. When he visited the patients, he told them about God and sang hymns to them; although he never got the tunes right. He often made the doctors and nurses laugh with his off-key singing.
Unfortunately, many of the patients did not make it. After they died, my father would then try to care for these people by helping with the arrangements. The first place he visited was the coffin shop where he negotiated the cheapest price he could. Then he would go to people he thought would or could help to purchase the coffin for the dead because the family did not have the money to buy the coffin or the plot to bury the dead. Next, he would visit the cemetery director to get a free plot for the burial. And then his final stop was to visit the orphanage director on a small island away from Hong Kong’s mainland. He tried to get the children in there because the family couldn’t afford to put food on the table for them. The condition of the orphanage was also very poor. But as I said, people had no money.
My father would arrange the funeral service and make us attend because he said there are not too many people that would attend a poor man’s funeral service and we should show the family our caring. Every time during the service when I saw the family was crying badly with no hope for their future, I had great compassion for them. I wanted to get rich so that I would be able to help them. I also wanted to build a clean and loving place for these orphans that would also provide them the best education so they could just have a chance to survive in the world when they grow up and not to be beat down by society once more. I had this all planned out not knowing I was poor myself. I was in my early teens, but I never felt poor. I think my mother had a way to teach us more the value of life and character than money.
Posted in Family, Uncategorized
Tagged Baptist, China, Church, Civil War, Communist, Dad, Daughter, Family, Father, Government, Hong Kong, Hospital, life, Past, Seminary, Shanghai