A quiet afternoon.
An elderly gentleman walks very near me as I’m sitting at a green marble table on a green marble block stool in a nearly empty park. I had just sat down a few minutes before to journal, something I have not kept up with very much.
The marble is beautiful, but quite hard.
I didn’t know if the man was just scoping out this foreigner or if he was about to say something.
He shuffles along, leaning heavily on his cane when he needs to stand on his bad foot.
I look up and smile.
He says, “hello”. I say, “Nĭ hăo”.
I wasn’t quite where this would go, but if he did speak English, I was waiting for the usual “Where do you come from?” He didn’t ask that right away, but the question of origin did come up within a few moments…
“Ohhh! Canada! Do you speak French? You have one French part there.”
I was a little surprised. I’m finding more and more that when anyone knows something about Canada I get a little excited. Recently, someone I met knew that Ottawa was the capital. Impressive!
I wondered how this man knew this little tidbit about Canada. Perhaps he has children or grandchildren who had studied there. A doctor I recently talked with had a daughter who did her undergrad at Queens.
The man’s name is Sam Chung. Immediately, I thought of Gen’s brother – hehe. This (much senior) Sam has this knowledge of Canada due to first-hand experience, having been there more than a decade ago.
He talks about “Nygra,” which, after a puzzled moment, I realize is Niagara Falls. He talks about seeing The Falls from the American side and then the Canadian side, saying he drove from Chicago to Niagara Falls and through a few provinces, ending up in Halifax. He mentions about how big Canada is.
He tells me he is from “the mainland” – Canton province. It is somewhat unclear why he left, but it had to do with “young people joining the army”. He is quite old, so he pauses from time to time to call up words in English. But, overall his English is quite good.
I found it surprising he spoke English so well, as he was clearly quite old. It is usually people my age or younger who speak English here.
He is an ex-army man living in an apartment by the park provided by the Taiwanese government. In the 1950s he had trained in the US to use certain weapons to defend the Taiwan Strait against China. The Taiwan Strait Crises.
He also mentions the Korean War and the Vietnam War, but he doesn’t really say if he had a part in either of them. You might start to understand just how old this man is…
Sam also tells me that he didn’t see his family on the mainland for 40 years. He had no contact with them either because there simply was no contact between the two Chinas then.*
He mentions being part of a church in Taiwan that was connected with a church in the US. At one point, through this church in the US, he was able to find out that his parents were still alive. But by the time Cross-Strait relations had improved enough that people in Taiwan could go to China, both his parents had died.
Now, he visits China fairly often and sees his older brother. He tells me that his brother is rather poor, having only the essentials. But, he also speaks very well of China. Saying, unequivocally, “China is better than Taiwan.”
I wondered what he found to be “better”, especially knowing about his brother.
He likes, in my words, that China “gets shit done”. It is the efficiency in China that he is impressed by and not needing to ask the people for input or permission to do things. He gives the hypothetical of putting a highway through the park we are in. He says, “If the government wanted to do it, it would be done in a month”. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about what the people who lived around the park (himself included) might think.
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- I seem to think that because Canada takes up so much space on the map, people should know something about the place. I am starting to lose this expectation. haha
- “The two Chinas”:
- The People’s Republic of China (PRC) – China
- The Republic of China (ROC) – Taiwan