Jook-Sing, eh?

Growing up Chinese in Canada

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Being Chinese

I am Chinese-Canadian. You can physically see this. I have black hair, dark brown eyes and golden skin. I am petite. You might even say that I look stereotypical from my size and shape. Yes, like many other middle class Asians, I had piano lessons as a child, but in no way was I a prodigy on the piano. I am good in math, but I am not interested in it. In fact, I am going to be receiving a B.A. in drama in the Spring of 2002! Very different from the stereotypical Asian student who majors in natural sciences, engineering or business.

My majoring in drama has shocked some of my relatives. In fact, an aunt of mine gave me a strange look when she asked me what I was studying. She then told me that I'd never make any money with a drama degree and that I should be doing something useful, such as Applied Sciences (engineering) or business. Even my cousins are wondering why I'm working towards such a 'lousy degree'. Sometimes I wonder if they're actually studying for something that would make them happy or if they just want to have a lot of money. Money doesn't always make one happy. You can be very rich and still suffer from depression. My philosophy is to do what you want to do, even if it means that you'll live in a shack.

Yes, as a child, I did go through a phase where I didn't want to be Asian. Yes, I did run home saying that I wanted to be blonde and blue eyed like my best friend at the time. But I have learned to accept my ethnicity. I have learned to understand it. Unlike many CBC's (Canadian Born Chinese) I can speak Cantonese without an obvious Canadian accent. Yes, I would use English phrases in Chinese (for instance, when I'm talking on the phone, I'd say in Cantonese "hi this is Cindy is so and so there?" while in Cantonese, one usually says "hi! Cindy. Is so and so there?") and yes, it sometimes drives some of the HK people I know just a tad bit crazy; because of the phrases I use they know that I'm "jook sing" which literally means "hollow bamboo". The phrase is used to describe Chinese people born in the west because they don't fully fit into Chinese culture nor mainstream Canadian (white) culture.

 Jook Sing

A Cantonese phrase for "Hollow Bamboo"

 The phrase is used to describe Chinese people born in the west because they don't fully fit into Chinese culture nor mainstream Canadian (white) culture.

Being Canadian

I'd say that I mostly had a typical 'Canadian' childhood with skating lessons, Brownies/Girl Guides (Girl Scouts in the U.S.) and summer camp. In Brownies, I was appointed "seconder" (assistant to the "sixer" who leads the "six" - a group of 6 Brownies in the same unit). Brownies and Girl Guides isn't popular with middle class Asian families in my area. It probably still isn't, at least not two years ago when I returned to work as a Junior Leader. Most Asian-Canadian families I know send their children to tutoring programs like Kumon (in addition to the piano or violin lessons)rather than "fun" things like Scouting or Guiding. Sometimes I wonder why they do that. Perhaps they don't know about it? Or maybe it just isn't Asian custom to do so?

Unlike most Asian families, I did not learn English through my parents. They believed that I would pick up better English if I learned it through television and through school. They did not want me to pick up their accents. Since I do sound 'white' on the phone, some Chinese Canadians (many I know have a detectable accent) think I have "sold out". So I'm a liberal arts major in a university that isn't in town (most of the Chinese grads from my high school go to university here in town) and is a traditionally more "preppy/white-Felicity/Dawson's Creek" type school (as opposed to the more "hip" HK Chinese who live in Toronto). In fact, I am used to being the only person of Asian descent in a group setting. It was like that in summer camp (there were a number of Asians at music camp, but they were all in a strings program while I was in musical theater) and in most of my drama classes at university. I don't feel uncomfortable about this, and I do not feel that my peers are ignoring me due to my ethnicity. I feel that I am accepted by the others in my class, and treated the way that I am expected to be treated.

Being Me

Why is it that some people assume that a person is a 'sell out' because he or she doesn't act the way that they are expected to act? So what if I

Why can't a person be his or her own self?

Sure, in society, we have to follow certain rules and regulations in order to survive, but which society are we talking about? Perhaps I am following the rules and regulations of MY society. Perhaps my society isn't the same as yours.