A Missed Week

June 28, 2024 – Having to prioritize my time and work

I think this photo is one of my most favourite family photos I have before my mother got really sick and passed away. Of course, it’s a selfie at a Chinese restaurant in Burnaby, BC that was near to where my parents lived. Yesterday was her birthday. She would have been 87 years old. She loved going to Chinese restaurants as much as I love eating Chines food. Admittedly, I’ve been overdosing on Chinese dumplings since returning from Montreal. I can’t get enough of them. If it’s not Chinese food, then it’s Vietnamese or Japanese food. I can get enough Asian food. Most times it’s frozen dim sum or Costco soup dumplings. When I eat Chinese food, I feel closer to my mom and my perceived sense of what my Chinese/Cantonese heritage is/was.

I regret having missed last week’s blog post. The blog post started with an image of those steamed frozen dumplings and a reflection of bumping into a “former student” in Montreal. He was not a “former student” per se. At that time, I just left teaching and he was still in high school I believe he was in Grade 11 or 12. I was becoming a school trustee. It was 2011 and we pulled together in the Pulling Together Canoe Journey, which is a weeklong event during the summer that attempts to build relationships between Indigenous youth and the police. I was a community member and pulled with my former school district. I just loved this student. I called him A-MAIZE-ING… because he was. He reached out to me via FB messenger while I was in Montreal.

We were meant to meet in Montreal. It was like no time had passed, but we had a many things to report on with life ranging from schooling to careers to family to relationships. We walked around his neighbourhood and went out for dinner in Verdun. It was absolutely delicious. Yes, it was shrimp wonton soup with noodles. It was a hot day, but it was something I needed after a week’s worth of very rich and buttery food. LOL. In our conversation, he spoke about a person he knew from UBC. Elder Larry Grant was an elder in residence at UBC and his brother Howard E. Grant is a Musqueum councillor. My friend sent me articles and video link to “All Our Father’s Relations” from the Knowledge Network. I shared that I was learning more about Chinese-Canadians in BC and my friend connected me to these people’s stories.

As soon I came home from Montreal a couple of weeks ago, I took a deep dive in watching the video and reading the news articles and links. The Howard’s were raised with Indigenous culture, language, and values from their mother’s side and were on a journey to learn more about their Chinese heritage from their father’s side. Much like the video “Bamboo and Cedar,” the stories these people tell are eye opening and grounding at the same time. When people as me if I am Indigenous, First Nations, or Native, I did not realize until recently that these questions were valid. There is a history of Chinese-Indigenous children in BC. I thought it was because I don’t look like a “typical” Chinese person, but asking if I have Indigenous heritage is historically valid.

I take much joy in learning more about Chinese-Canadian history in BC, more than I thought I would. I feel more connected to who I am and I am able to sense-make or reason with some behaviours and feelings which brings much a lot of solace and inner-peace. I miss my mom greatly and I believe that she has many stories to share that she chose not to during my formative years. I don’t have bad feelings about that… now. I am understanding that it was acceptable, if not encouraged to live life as a Canadian. Not having the language also served as a barrier to learning more about my heritage and family history. So, I will go with what I know… Cantonese food, dim sum, and congee… to provoke good feelings and memories. For that, I am grateful.

Seeking Independence

June 18, 2024 – A Week in Montréal Conferencing

Nothing beats starting the day with an Illy cappuccino… to be complemented with a hotel breakfast (one of my favourite things to do). It’s so interesting when I thought that coming to this conference would be a hurdle, when really it served to fill my cup, validate my work, and exercise many opportunities to be independent. The more that I am learning more about myself and what I am able to do, I reflect on these moments feeling satisfied, secure, and surprised. I say “surprised” because I spent a good part of my life being number 3, the wife, or the dependent. Admittedly, I did not do this trip 100% on my own. I continue to need some scaffolding (i.e. my brother helping me out with the hotel and how to take the 747 bus at YUL) but I feel really confident and grateful for the many opportunities to try, explore, and wonder.

I managed to get to Montréal from Prince George, get to my hotel, and navigate the Metro to get to the various places of which my conference was held. To navigate the Metro was an accomplishment. I know that the folks who designed the underground transportation made it for people like me, but I was able to figure it out, use is almost everyday I was in Montréal, and reach destinations that were not just the conference venues but to other destinations to meet with friends or see the sites. It was very serendipitous to change my hotel (due to the labour dispute at the university) to be at a hotel that had big rooms, excellent service, and located close to the Metro downtown. I could not have planned it any better… but really, I had luck on my side. Furthermore, the 5 sessions I presented in went well. Loved connecting with others.

As I am moving towards writing an ethics application to pursue an autoethnography, I am more cognizant that I am on my pedagogical journey… still. It’s just a new chapter. My pedagogical journey, of which I wrote about at some length after I left teaching in K-12 schools, is something that I am continuing to do and part of this journey is learning more about who I am a a person and practitioner. I have also learned (from this trip and beyond) that I make my path. That’s it. My journey is not dependent on others. I am the maker of my success, failures, and set backs. This is not to say that there are no barriers, but it’s my job to find ways to get around or overcome them. My job aso includes doing what makes me happy. As my friend had said to me on this trip, “It doesn’t matter to me.. you have to do what what’s best for you… it’s your life.”

Yes, it is. And I am figuring out what makes me happy. I love that #oneword2024. What makes me happy? I love conferencing. I love connecting with folks. I love a hotel breakfast. I am also loving my independence and willingness to navigate this world without fear and with the help of others. Lots of unlearning and relearning has engulfed the last year and a half, but I have never been happier. My freedom and independence has been something that I have been craving all of my life, but never felt that I deserved or was worthy of this way of being. Now, I understand that I do not have to live my life to please others, to achieve other people’s approval, or to do things that don’t align to my values or beliefs. I can do what best for me. This learning is big for me (which may be obvious to others). Right now, it’s liberating. Feels great!!

A Good Canadian

June 9, 2024 – Not sure how to feel

STORY 6

Look at the amazing photo. It’s an image of Babine Lake. I was just there for a couple of days working with Koh Learning and SD91 students. I had an awesome time working with the graduates students who came from the university as part of their coursework. We spent one night connecting and planning out a workshop they had to facilitate the next day. We had a few gut wrenching laughs. And, the students did exceptionally well the next day. The students were very engaged with their learning activity. The two days with Koh Learning was magical and spending some time in Granisle was something I needed to fill my soul to remind me about the land, place, and people. There is/was so much to learn and I was very humbled and happy.

After this event, I was collaborating with a colleague from the university. She is new to the university and I appreciated her insights and innovation. I feel that I will have a lot to learn from her and I look forward to seeing how this collaboration will manifest. During one of our conversations, she called me “a good Canadian.” I can see why se did. In lots of ways, I was being “a good Canadian.” I was not too opinionated, I was diplomatic, and I was considerate to all people (I might have been apologetic too). The comment took me by surprise. No one has ever called me “a good Canadian” before. Strangely, it’s been something I strived for as a second-generation Chinese Canadian.

I wonder if this perspective from my colleague is because she is new to Canada as well, spending a few years in Ontario before coming to BC. Her point of view was refreshing and I appreciate her straightforwardness and honesty. Most of my life I struggled with belonging and acceptance. This feeling could have been derived within my family in different ways, but also, it did not matter how “Canadian” my parents wanted me to be, you cannot change the colour of my skin. Racism was always present and sometimes visible. It’s not a good feeling to be called a racial slur when I don’t even know the language or culture of my Chinese heritage. That information was foreign to me, but for some people, how I looked influenced their opinion of me.

Moreover, I don’t want to get too hung up on stereotypes, but my kid who does not look Asian gets caught in some misnomers like “you should be good at math because….” Personally, I don’t look like a typical Asian. Growing up in Prince Rupert and working at the museum, visitors would often ask me what tribe I was from. I hated disappointing these tourists with an answer like “Hong Kong” or “China.” Honestly, I never saw myself as Asian or Chinese. I had always felt Canadian and I was brought up that way. My parents assimilated me into Canadian culture. I did not know any different. Racism is not blind. This journey into my ethnic identity is to learn more about Chinese-Canadians in BC. I also want to learn more about my family.

On the second day at Granisle, Leona Prince spoke in the opening circle. In her talk, she spoke about knowing ourselves and knowing the land. What struck me in her talk (which was outstanding and it resonated with me deeply) was her mentioning about owning and loving our name. Our last name tells us where we are from and who we are. Her asking ME to accept my last name (or any of my names for that matter) is troubling and extremely difficult. I never liked my name. Hmm… this is telling. “Alice Christine Ho”… for a good chunk of my life. I called myself “Chris Ho” for many years during my adult life. Then it transformed to “Christine Younghusband” (which by the way took a tonne of my thinking time to come to terms with that name) when I got married. Now, I go by “Christine Ho Younghusband.” To be honest, I was undecided.

Name, identity, place, and culture… I am left thinking and wondering… Who am I?

Playing The Game

June 1, 2024 – Clearing out the fridge and freezer

STORY 5

“The game” is something that my mom would do when we were kids. Essentially, the goal is to get rid of all of the food in the fridge or freezer before going out and buying more food. The idea is to maximize the dollar, minimize food waste, and consume what was purchased. Makes sense, but I am unsure if I am good at this game. I come to the game with a lot of intentions (and memories) but my fridge and freezer often remain full. My brother, on the other hand, has an empty fridge (with exception to a few condiments and some frozen staples) and sister play this game religiously with specific rules (i.e., you can’t buy food to complement the food you’re trying to get rid of). Nope. I can see now that playing the game is not my strength. Let’s unpack why.

I just finished a CBC series call “House Special” that looks at Chinese-Canadian restaurants in BC and Alberta. The series went to Penticton, Vernon, Kelowna, Red Deer, and Grand Prairie. The stories told resonated with me. The host, Jackie Kai Ellis, is a second-generation Chinese woman and pastry chef. She tells her family’s stories and her relationships with her family and food throughout this series as she explores Chinese-Canadian food and Chinese-Canadian people living in these communities. Lots of what she shared resonated with me. I love how this series was able to articulate about what I’ve experienced through the lens of uncertainty and cultural assimilation. I felt that her voice and stories depicted much of what I’ve experienced.

Why does this matter? I just remember that we would eat what my mom made (often a stir fry with rice). There was not much food in the fridge. And, we would have the periodic “Canadian meal” which meant ham, mashed potatoes, and peas, or spaghetti made with ketchup. My most favourite meal was curry chicken and potatoes with rice. AMAZING… and I can not find anything like it. Trust me, I tried. Now in Prince George (as mentioned in previous blog posts), I spent a great amount of energy trying to find Chinese food that tasted much like my mom’s or what I used to eat in Vancouver. It’s super hard to find and what I have found is OK and it only represents a fraction of the Chinese food of what I would like to eat. Something is better than nothing.

At first, I thought that finding this food and having it was more about feeling close to my mom, which it is (and does). But after watching the CBC series, there is an episode that is titled, “Food is Love.” It’s so true. My mom never said “I love you” to me, but she showed her love to me and my family with food. I remember as a teenager going to family dinners to Galaxy Gardens with my family. These were special occasions. I don’t think we went every week, but at least once a month. We had family favourites like #25 (sweet and sour pork Cantonese style). The CBC series spoke about sweet and sour pork throughout the series saying that this is Chinese-Canadian food. This kind of food was created to meet the needs of the consumer (and make money).

The CBC series went to the place where ginger beef was created, Grand Prairie. Beef was Albertan and Albertans love gravy. The beef was sliced into strips to mimic french fries, but also be savoury to encourage folks to drink. The creation of ginger beef was economic, but it’s one of my brother’s favourite dishes. When my family moved away from Prince Rupert (where Galaxy Gardens is located), we went to various restaurants around the Burnaby area (i.e., where my parents built and moved into a condo near Metrotown). We were all adults and have graduated from university. We would often go for dim sum, congee, or “double duck” dinner. Eating around the table equated to family, connection, and LOVE. This is why food and eating out means a lot to me.

It’s love.

Scared To Let Go

May 26, 2024 – Doing what it took to FIT IN

STORY 4

Starting this blog series of thinking about my childhood/adulthood, my ethnic identity, and the person who I have become, I am flooded by many memories I wish to unpack. I’m not going to make rules like… “blog everyday” or force myself into a way of being that is not authentic to me… but I will embark on a story that resonates with me the most, at the time. Today, what inspires me to write is about FEAR.

I don’t have a specific story, per se, but I have many stories that represent the same idea. The first narrative that comes to mind that resonates with me is about my kid and her experience in Grade 4 or 5 and making title pages. In her class, students were required to make title pages for their notebooks (for every subject area and every unit). The making of title pages were relentless and my kid could never get a 10/10.

My kid investigated the 10/10 wall of exemplars hypothesizing how to get 10/10 on one of her title pages. Was it bubble lettering? Was it colouring in circles? Was it using particular colours? Who knew? What she did know is, she never got it despite how hard she tried to achieve this illustrious 10/10. This perceived failure caused her much anxiety, confidence depletion, and doubt. My question is, what did she learn?

I often share this story about my kid and her learning experience with these title pages. Although the teacher made an explicit connection to the curriculum with these title pages, my kid did not understand what she needed to do to get a 10/10. Other students “got it” but she never did. She might have got one 10/10 but getting 10 was something that was mysterious and difficult to achieve. Why the need to comply?

For me, this story captured my attention for many reasons (and for many years). First, I remember my kid in Grade 3 (not so long before) where she questioned why the teacher insisted that she colour the sky blue. She was forced to finish the “turkey drawing” before she was allowed to the the work she wanted to do. In the end, she did neither art project. Honestly, I supported her in that decision. It made sense.

My next thought is, what happened? A couple of years later, my kid was obsessed about doing what other kids were doing. She lost her autonomy and her sense of self or agency to do what best represented her and her thinking. Learning became more about pleasing, achieving, and jumping the hoop to get the grade. I would often share this story to describe the importance of success criteria and formative feedback.

Sadly, it’s more than that. It’s about FITTING IN. This story about the title pages and those damn one-inch boarders was more than compliance and lack of clear success criteria, but more about doing what it takes to FIT IN. As Brené Brown would say, “fitting in” is the antithesis to “belonging.” Fitting in meant to “giving yourself away” or “betraying yourself” with hopes of “belonging to” something you are not aligned to.

This story weighs heavy on me and takes a full-circle. I cannot believe that this story is telling MY STORY. No wonder it resonates with me deeply. I also find it ironic that I chose the image from my collection of the Ukrainian nesting dolls. I used this image and metaphor for a TedTalk I gave in 2017 titled “ALIGNMENT.” The connection is clear and obvious to me. Fitting in has been an ongoing need and want for me.

I can’t do it anymore and honestly, I don’t get the success criteria to achieve them. I’m tired of giving myself away and betraying who I am. Over time, I lost who I was and now I am relearning it. I remember the extreme feelings of fear of “not getting it right” and getting reprimanded for “making a mistake.” I tried my best not to (or at least hide them) for purposes of fitting in, perceived acceptance, and being seen.

Meh.

This story resonates with me as a child, adolescent, young adult, and adult. I remember driving into a planter with a rental vehicle a few years ago. I damaged the bumper and I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I did not know what to say to the rental office. The entire drive I was going through scenarios in my mind and my heart was racing as if I was running a marathon. The anticipation was excruciating.

I had that aching feel-like feeling often throughout my lifetime and in many different circumstances (i.e., dropping glass during a science class during my first year of teaching, workplace interviews, and making an ICBC car claim). All of these examples do not seem on the surface to relate to my ethnicity or upbringing, but in many ways, it does. Don’t make any trouble. Don’t be a burden. Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

This fear factor (witnessed as unusual behaviour), is learned and deeply embedded in my psyche. It guides my decisions and ultimately, I become my own biggest suppressor so that the “true me” cannot be seen (or heard). As a result, I’m hiding. I’m pretending to be someone that I’m not. I am just too scared to show who I really am. Hence, the Ukrainian nesting dolls is an appropriate image for this blog post.

What I learned from the car accident with the rental car is, NOTHING HAPPENS. After driving the car back to the Vancouver Airport and parking the car, I went to the rental car desk and made the claim. I filled out some forms, they assessed the damaged. And they smiled and said that the bill would come by mail. That’s it. No judgement. No yelling. No shaming. That was a huge lesson for me (except for the $800 bill).

It’s hard for me to be seen… truly seen. As a child to adulthood, I have many layers, armour, or shields to protect me. I can let some of myself be seen, but it’s was most likely not 100% of who I was/am. Too worried to be judged, too worried to be hurt, or too worried to be disappointing anyone. There are undertones of being the youngest, being a girl, and being Chinese… all things (and more) I tried to hide or minimize.

One layer at a time is being opened and exposed. One nesting doll after the other, I am finally reaching the true me. The little doll sitting at the centre of all of these layers. Being exposed, hence sharing my stories and the desire to learn more about my history and ethnic identity as a Chinese-Canadian in BC. This pedagogical journey of mine that started well before the pandemic continues onto the next chapter.

Chasing or Choosing

May 23, 2024 – I’ve used the words synonymously.

STORY 3.

Yes. I’ve posted a photo of the Costco soup dumplings. Am I chasing or choosing… these dumplings? I super good question. I’m not 100% sure if I could differentiate the two ideas apart. There has been many years now living in Prince George when I have pined for good Chinese food, specifically Cantonese food. It’s the first thing I go for (next to seeing, visiting, and sitting beside the ocean) when I return to the Lower Mainland when I am visiting family or friends, attending a conference, or just travelling through. I need a healthy dose of “good” Chinese food. I’m not sure what “good” really means, but food that is familiar to me and absolutely yummy to eat.

It’s much like these dumplings. I scoured the town looking for good Chinese food. I was not looking for the Western Chinese food that normally entailed a combination plate of sweet & sour pork, chicken chow mean, and beef chop suey. I was looking for authentic Chinese food, in particular, food that my mom ate or would order when we go out for a “double duck dinner” or dim sum. I was desperate, not realizing that I took this food for granted when I lived at home or in the Lower Mainland. Chinese food is so accessible and “normal” when I am living in the Lower Mainland. Looking for “good” Chinese food in northern BC was something I was chasing for. I needed it.

I saw these dumplings on Facebook Reels. Some people whom I follow enjoyed these dumplings. They look a lot larger in the photo on the box. When I first saw them at Costco, I thought they were as large as a BBQ pork steamed bun. I stand corrected. As you can see, they are just as large as any other soup dumpling. What’s brilliant about these dumplings is, they are frozen, they come in a plastic bag, and it cooks/steams in the microwave within 2-3 minutes. There is a yummy sauce that comes with the dumplings and I add the chilli oil to make this meal almost perfect. What would make it perfect would be a vinegar dip to go with, but I like the sauce that it comes with.

After my first bite, I was smitten. I could not believe how good these dumplings tasted. I have some other frozen dumplings that I buy from the Superstore (i.e., vegan dumplings) and from the International shop downtown (i.e., pork/shrimp dumplings and sticky rice). Trust me… I spent months looking for viable options in Prince George so that I would not have the need to fly down to Vancouver to binge on Chinese food… even though I still do. There are lots of Chinese food I am unable to get in Prince George. Admittedly, I try to make congee at home and I go for Cantonese Style Chow Mein at the Fortune House from time to time. That’s it. Why does it matter?

Chinese food is the only thing that I have and do that is remotely related to my culture. I don’t speak Cantonese, nor do I do or understand any of the culture, stories, or ways of being. I somewhat understand the red envelope ritual and moon cake near Chinese New Year, and that’s about it. At some level, it almost feels like I am culturally appropriating because I don’t know the stories or origins of these traditions and there is one part of me that wants to know and another part that does not. I am assimilated into the Canadian culture that I have no reason to learn these customs even though I felt lost during family reunions. If anything, the food made me feel close to my mom.

My mom passed away in 2018. Ever since then, my life has taken a tumble in lots of ways. I never realized I close I was to my mom. I spent the last “20-days” of her life with her… taking care of her… and learning more about her. I feel that in this blog series, some of those stories will come out. It will be a good thing if it does. Since she has passed, I’ve wanted to write about a book about her… about me. She kept so many “secrets” from me… us, as siblings (not sure)… and I felt like I was starting to get to know her (as a person) during her last few weeks with us. I miss her a tonne. My mom knew all of us in the family and she was the glue that kept us all together.

That’s why the dumplings are so important. I feel close to my mom… and for some time, finding this food in the place where I now live, felt like a chase. I was so desperate. I needed to fill my self and my soul with something that would nourish and comfort me. My kid would say that all I eat are dumplings. That may be true, but that is a choice. I choose to eat dumplings when I want to feel closer to my mom, to feel comforted. Somehow, the dumpling represents love, joy, and family. Now that I have found these (frozen) dumplings in Prince George, I can make that choice. That said, anytime I’m in Vancouver, I am having Chinese/Asian food as many times as I can and I am often near the ocean. This is who/how I am. It’s part of my identity.

Shoes That Fit

May 21, 2024 – I have more than enough.

STORY 2

What I am realizing is, I am likely going to collect stories or memories as they arise into my psyche on an inspired or provoked basis versus a weekly reflection. I will continue to maintain the standard of committing to a weekly blog, but I do want to take these moments to reflect on memories and feelings (or my interpretation of what had happened). I almost think that this might be more of a psychological exploration, but I feel as of late, that’s what I need to do to figure out who I am and what motivates me. What I am understanding is, what motivates me stems from many of my experiences as a child or young adult. Trauma is embedded in each story. It’s not one or two dramatic events (although I had those too) but rather the ongoingness of traumatic events that no one really noticed, or noticed and did not (or could not) say or do much about it. I’m guilty of that too. I’m sure I’ll unpack that too.

I have decided tonight that I will start numbering these stories or memories. I know that I have written some content before this series or on my other WordPress site with OpenETC. I will look for those over time, but I need to take the opportunity to document these stories or memories to unpack what I’ve experienced and I believe that many of these experiences related to my #ethnicidentity, positionality, and sense of self. These memories may be interrelated while others might be tangental. I am in the process of sense-making. Much of my past as a second-generation Chinese Canadian cis-gendered woman in BC is somewhat unknown to me. I’ve led much of my life striving to be a successful “white male” Canadian and did a horrible job in doing so because I found it confusing, disingenuous. and inauthentic to who I was/am. Maybe in my 50’s I’m permitted to say, “what’s up & why is it happening?

This story today was inspired by a walk with my friend the other day. I had worn runners for the Moosehide Campaign walk downtown and returned to the university replacing my runners with Crocs (which is my shoe of choice despite all of the stories I’ve heard about not be “safe” shoes to wear). That day, I continued the day with my Crocs and leaving my runners in my office overnight and for days to follow. When my friend prompted me via text to go for a walk, I realized that my runners were in my office at the university. I have another pair of runners, but those are meant for the gym (to walk in “circles” on the indoor track). Curiously, I thought I must have another pair of runners in storage. I went to go look Underneath several pairs of winter boots and on pair of gum boots, I found runners. Not just one pair of runners in the bin, but a few pairs. I chose one pair and voilà, the image for this blog post. These runners look almost new. During the walk I was left wondering, why so many pairs of shoes?

I may or may not have mentioned that I am the third child of three. My sister is 4-years older than I am and my brother is my older twin. Positionality in my family has always been a “thing” for me. I would grudge-fully call myself “number three.” My relatives would number themselves off in their families, meaning my aunts and uncles on both sides of my family. That said, they had many siblings within their families, 7 and 9 respectively (I may be corrected in future on these numbers). Anyway, I was 3 of 3. Admittedly, that concept waned on my for decades (aka., half a century to be exact). As a child, I would always get hand-me-down shoes and clothes. I never had “my clothes” per se. I just took clothes I was given, most times. This is not to say that my mom never bought me clothes, but I always remembered my shoes being too small. That’s it. I would ask for a new pair of shoes, but often I had to live with what I had for as long as I could. Interesting… I did not expect to write that last sentence (and I’m flooded with examples). Huh. [I just love writing as thinking.]

How I felt at that time was, my shoes are too small. What I understand now is, my parents were doing the best that they could with what they had. Runners were not cheap and it was best to wear shoes or anything to its fullest capacity before investing in a new pair. As mentioned in my last blog post, my mom was frugal. She had to be to keep food in our mouths and a roof over our heads. I am romanticizing the experience, a bit. I’m guessing, but I feel that I’m not too far of my guess. My mom was so proud of not having any debt, buying and building a house of their own as immigrants to Canada, and giving (always) to those in need when she could. I remember this pride when during her last #20days. I remembered about painting every wooden panel for the new house on 240 Prince Rupert Boulevard and realizing they painted the wrong side and had to do the work all over again. You can sense her frustration at the time while she laughed at the thought. For me, having shoes that don’t fit or shoes in general was a sore point for me, hence my many pairs of shoes.

Reflecting on this story is in some ways messed up. I don’t mean to judge myself, but what I am doing is looking at what has motivated me to buy shoes and examining why I have many pairs of them (not just runners). I can still remember those shoes.

X-Bread

a bag of sliced bread
Childhood memories. Making the most from not much. X-bread was a regular purchase at Safeway.

May 19, 2024 – Shopping with my mom as a child

STORY 1

It is an interesting day to write this blog post. Today is my dad’s birthday. My dad and I are somewhat in contact. Our relationship is somewhat strained or misunderstood. I am starting this blog series not in honour of him. It’s more of a coincidence. In many ways, this blog series might be in spite of him. Not sure how these stories will evolve, but I have decided to document my memories in this blog to record my perceptions of these experiences to sense-make my ethnic identity and experience as a second-generation Chinese Canadian woman. My story is not unique, but my story is unique to me. It’s almost like a 1000-piece puzzle, but I only have about 30-40 pieces. I’m hoping to collect more pieces overtime and return back this blog series as well as other posts to develop an autoethnography and possibly a book about my mom.

During the pandemic, I started a blog post series called #pandemicreflections. I made a commitment 4-years ago to write a weekly blog reflection during the pandemic. Under lock down, writing a weekly blog was something to do but also something to entertain myself. I thought that the pandemic would have ended in a month or two. I did not anticipate the pandemic to last one or two years. That said, I remained committed to that blog series and I opened up a second WordPress site because I was gradually losing access to this site. I wrote a lot about that too. Serendipity happens… and I’ve regained access to my website again. After the announcement declaring the end of the pandemic, I’ve meandered a bit in terms of what this blog (and my other blog) would be about. I continue to appreciate writing in a public way, but lately lacked a purpose. Today marks the beginning of the #ethnicidentity series.

I hated buying X-bread. (inside voice)

Going to Safeway was one of the places we went to grocery shop when I was a kid. If it was not Safeway, it was Overwaitea. People loved my twin brother. I remember going to the bakery section and folks behind the counter would always recognize my brother. He was a super cute kid… and folds loved him. I always remember folks giving my brother free doughnuts. I’m sure I got something too, but I just remembered that he would randomly receive things from strangers like was a superstar. Another thing I remembered, clearly, was my mom intentionally going to a basket in the bakery section where there were piles of bread. She was very specific about going to this basket and choosing a particular loaf of bread. I had no idea what she was looking for, but what I did notice was the “X” written by black felt pen over the small orange price tag, the square sticker, on the bag. The experience was pretty consistent. There was always an X on the bag. I realize as an adult that the X represented day-old bread. My mom bought stale bread. I never understood this as a child, but my mom was frugal. Our family had no money. We were immigrants.

Just edited above from “they” to “we.”

I am not an immigrant, but I was born into an immigrant family. I know that there are stories about how they immigrated and how they struggled to make ends meet. I plan to find those stories to get a better sense of how my parents (and sister) immigrated into Canada, moved to Prince Rupert, and did what they could to remain debt free, build a home, and put food on the table. Admittedly, I have much to unpack and understand. What I am reflecting on is X-bread. I’m not a huge fan of bread or sandwiches, in general. I often think that my hate for X-bread might be part of this reason why. I remember my dad making himself breakfast before he went to work, like a daily ritual. And, this bread was always toasted. Of course it was toasted. It was stale bread. He did not seem to mind the bread or having toast. He almost seemed appreciative to have this bread/toast and to participate in his morning ritual. Toast with peanut butter and honey seemed like the toast toppings of choice. He would make toast with a hot cup of Red Rose tea with milk and sugar. I remember him sipping on this tea at the dining room table with a plate of toast, two-pieces.

The image above is a bag of bread that I bought the other day from Cobbs. I make an effort not to by day-old bread and find the “most freshest” bread I can find. Going to Cobbs and getting a loaf of sour dough bread that’s cut right before my eyes is very poshy for me, but also something I feel like I deserve. Eating this bread feels special to me. I loved making a grilled cheese sandwich from this bread. It’s chewy, hot, and tasty. Having this grilled cheese sandwich this morning was so satisfying. I’m still not a fan of bread, nor do I like sandwiches generally, but a grilled cheese made from Cobbs bread felt fancy to me (even though I’m using expired margarine and cheese found in the fridge). We don’t realize that how much of our childhood experiences can impact how we perceive and do things. Just from writing this blog post, I am brought to many memories relating to food, my childhood, and the idea of poverty or working class. My parents worked very hard. My dad worked at the pulp mill. My mom worked in the canneries, food industry, and pulp mill cafeteria. And yes, she made sandwiches for a living (in most of her jobs). Coincidence? I’m guessing it’s not.

What messages or rules do we make for ourselves?

I will say, I have a greater appreciation for my parents the more I learn about my childhood and where I have come from. I am a product of an immigrant family who gave everything they had to ensure their children have a better life. I can attest, my siblings and I have very good lives and who we are today was 100% on our parents. I’m not sure why I have a greater appreciation for my mom than my dad. I’m sure that will be unraveled in future blog posts in this series. There are other posts I have written that will relate to this blog post series, but this post is the first post done with intentionality to document some of my memories. I anticipate that a structure will evolve over time with each post. I can see elements of the memory, my current behaviour, and how it made/makes me feel. The other connections relate to my experience as a second-generation Chinese Canadian to sense-making my ethnic identity and how it impacts my identity as an educator, researcher, and learner.

Mother’s Day 2024

May 14, 2024 – A late weekly blog post… and it’s ok.

I just flew back to Prince George on Saturday, May 11, 2024 at 7pm. I was away for almost 3-weeks with trips to Kelowna, Vancouver, and Banff. All three destinations were back to back. Some trips were for work or I had work embedded during the non-work oriented trips. Although I was away, I continued to work. Now that I have returned, time is just flying by such that my weekly blog submission for this week is somewhat late. There are no negative consequences for a late submission. The weekly blogs are for my benefit and reflection. I like the time to pause and take a moment to reflect on the week and wonder what the learning I have endured during that week that is worthy of sharing and unpacking within my blog. I am currently maintaining two blogs, this one and one with OpenETC. Although both are work-oriented, I am not separate from my work, so much of my personal thoughts are threaded throughout both blog site so that I can take an intentional moment to write, think, and reflect. As I am attempting to catch up on my late blog, I am reminded of the good feelings of contributing to my blog, thus the intrinsic motivation to continue.

In today’s blog post, I want to write about Mother’s Day. My kid picked me up from the airport on Saturday and we went out for dinner soon after. I had the option of choosing the restaurant. I was leaning towards an Asian-oriented restaurant. When I was in Vancouver, I spent very intentional time going to places where I could get Cantonese food or Chinese food. If it was not Chinese food, then I would go to places that offered Thai food, Mexican food, or other food genres I cannot get in Prince George. Going to places, in particular Chinese food places like THE BOSS in Metrotown, reminds me of my mother, heritage, and childhood memories that are comforted by the tastes of certain food. The environment also plays a role as well as the people who inhabit these places. I loved going to T&T and Saint Germain’s Bakery in Metrotown to get egg tarts, BBQ pork buns, lo bok go, and rice rolls. More Chinese food memories and favourites of mine. I think I ate about 6 egg tarts when I was in Vancouver. I could not help myself. They were so delicious. The egg tarts were not my pastry go-to’s when I lived in the Lower Mainland, but now living in a place where egg tarts are not abundant, I had to have them. And thankfully, I enjoyed them too.

In the end, I chose to go to the Fortune House in Prince George for dinner with my kid. After a few days in Banff and having only North American food for each meal, I was pining for Chinese food once again. We had (as you can see in the first photo) Seafood chow mein Cantonese style along with chicken & cream corn soup and salt & pepper prawns. Each dish hit the spot and brought me back to the good memories I was trying to achieve when I was in Vancouver. These dishes also reminded me of the Chinese food I used to get with my family when we lived in Prince Rupert and we went to Galaxy Gardens Restaurant for family dinners and special occasions. Looking back, it almost seems like several lifetimes ago, but I do hold on to the good times we had together as a family in places like the Fortune House (or any other Chinese Restaurant in Burnaby and Vancouver). I have very fond memories of my mom too. Eating out was her way of expressing her love to us. And yes, I miss her very much.

My mom was the backbone of our family – the nucleus. She kept us together and, in her own way, took care of us that was personalized. I did not realize this until she passed away in 2018. Life for me and our family have not been the same since. At times, it feels very fragmented and often I feel disconnected from my dad. I am grateful for my siblings who both live in the Lower Mainland who look after my dad (in some ways) and stay connected with me. Again, it’s not the same without my mom, but I am still connected with my siblings and I’m grateful for that. We are so different from one another but we are able to see and honour each other in ways that is nourishing and entertaining. Returning back to Prince George the day before Mother’s Day was bittersweet. One the one hand, I am very thankful to come home and sleep in my own bed, be with my kid, and get back to a regular routine (like eating at home). On the other hand, I returned to my place that needed some TLC and a bit of spring cleaning. So, Mother’s Day was spent housecleaning. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my Sunday, but it was an opportunity to get organized.

Cleaning took most of the day and I was grateful to have time to myself to feel more grounded in place and recalibrate my way of being to be more situated and intentional for my work and play. I even moved some furniture in my room so that my desk faces the window. I was so inspired when I was in Banff in my hotel room where the desk faced the window of which perfectly framed a gorgeous mountain view. When the desk was faced towards nature, I was way more productive. Seemed counterintuitive when I should be outside and enjoying the landscape. Anyway, I wanted the same feelings in my home (and hopefully my office at work) to have my desk facing the outdoors to feel motivated to write in a free and comprehensive way, like I am doing right now. I am so tempted to move my laptop to the living room, but no… right here, at my desk, looking out at the trees and the sky makes me feel whole, enlightened, and free. It’s good to be back home and I am taking the time to get settled and enjoy this term with my writing and research. I need to maximize my time but also notice what I need to do to ensure my success and happiness while doing so.

I love where I am. This feeling is not focused necessarily on place, location, or position, but rather a mindset, way of being, and gratitude. I will always miss my mom. And, I love being a mom. Lately, I’ve been opening a door that looks into my heritage and past to regain an understanding of who I am and how I have perceived and navigated through this world. The image below is my #OneWord2024 and a hot bowl of homemade chicken congee. I made that soup on Mother’s Day in my mom’s slow cooker. It’s not exactly how she made it, but it is reminiscent of how she made something out of nothing. She had to learn now to cook in Canada and made a living doing so. It’s hard to believe that she was able to work so hard for our family. adapted to a new way of being in Canada, and made the most of her life (even though she did share with me during her last 20-days that she did not live out her golden years… she was 80). She was proud of what she accomplished in Canada, like being debt free, building a home, and supporting others in need. She was amazing!!! I hope that I can live up to her standards and stamina. I am super proud of her. Happy Mother’s Day.

Reconnection Feels Good

May 4, 2024 – Doing what fills my cup

We are now well into the spring/summer term and I am using this non-teaching term (for me) to do what it takes to do what makes me happy, but also move forward with my research and other work that would contribute to my research program but also add to my self-knowledge. Returning to Burnaby, BC is not exactly returning home. I was born and raised in Prince Rupert, BC, schooled in Vancouver, BC, and lived in Sechelt, BC for about 25-years. I’ve spent the last 5+ years living in Prince George, BC. It was like starting all over again, metaphorically and literally. Returning to the Lower Mainland is as close to returning to home. My parents lived in Burnaby for about 20-years after moving from Prince Rupert and living in China for a short period of time before retirement. My mom passed away in 2018 and I moved to Prince George later that year. A tonne changed since 2018, so returning back to Vancouver gives me an opportunity to return to some happy memories, like with food, people, and places, I regain a better sense of myself and purpose. My cup is filling and I am happy.

My first priority when I come to the Lower Mainland is to each Chinese food (or any Asian food) that I cannot get in Prince George. Food is my singular gateway to connect to my culture but also my mom. Although the restaurant in the mall is no longer there (i.e., the place where we had dim sum and “double-duck” dinner), I am able to go to other restaurants and places to reignite those memories, feelings, and connections. When I first arrived to Vancouver, it was raining. It felt great!! I miss the rain. It does not rain much in Prince George… and I was wearing my Crocs. Seemed serendipitous. I went to my sister’s place downtown and we went to an udon restaurant near her place. It was like Chipotle, but udon style. And so the Asian food mantra begins. It was delicious and satisfying. Then we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery. There, I was very interested in the weaving exhibit. We even bumped into my kid that day. She was en route back home. The first day concluded with me going to and dropping off my stuff at my brother’s place and going to the Neptune Restaurant for fish congee and deep fried bread; nothing better on a rainy day. PS. My kid got the same meal in Richmond.

I’ve had Thai food (i.e., tofu pad Thai, chicken green curry on rice, and beef pad see yew), Mexican food (i.e., tacos from Gringos), fish and chips in Horseshoe Bay, fried chicken from Jollybee, and yes… Chinese food (i.e., congee, lo bok go, pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings, taro root dumpling, beef rice rolls, BBQ pork buns, curry beef pastries, and egg tarts). It’s been a whirlwind of food. I’ve also loved getting boba drinks, affagatto, and brown sugar shaken oat espressos. I have no regrets. I wanted to return back to my roots and to some really good food. Although it’s been super wonderful to stay at my brother’s place during my time in Vancouver, I’ve been spending my time like a tourist (and local, kind of) to enjoy place. I loved meeting up with many friends who live in the Lower Mainland, to connect with my sister (and her husband and my nephew dog Stanley), and see my mom at her resting place. In lots of ways, Burnaby is my home. I love being near the ocean and I enjoyed visiting places like the Chinese Canadian Museum and Chinatown Storytelling Centre.

I continue to move forward with my research program and part of it is looking into the history of Chinese immigrants in Canada. Alarming and yet, not surprising. I love working remotely and learning more about my ethnic identity through place and people. I have a couple more days left here and I intend to make the most of it. I have a few meetings online. At my workplace, we continue to have meetings on Zoom, which makes working remotely possible. Which each day, I am feeling confident and excited about my research program and I am willing to do what it takes to explore ideas such as my ethnic identity as a second-generation Chinese Canadian woman, non-mathematics subject specialists in BC schools, and identity development of teacher candidates and educators through portfolio and climate change education. I can see the connection with these three topics and I am encouraged that I can proceed in the academy to explore these ideas further to add to the body of knowledge, but also to learn more about myself, my purpose, and my identity.