“Where are you from?”
Well… it’s complicated.
Hong Kong is my birth mother. By nature, I am Chinese. Even after moving to Canada with no recollection of life in Hong Kong, somehow I’m still acquainted with Chinese music and film. I speak fluent Cantonese, even if I’m not confident enough to use it all of the time. Many people ask me how often I visit my birth city, and my answer is “I have no schedule… just whenever I happen to have a reason to go there”; yet, with such an uncertain schedule, I’ve found myself in Hong Kong enough times to call myself a local. I know the buses; the streets; the secret spots and hidden gems.
Vancouver is my adoptive mother. It’s nurtured me into a person who is Asian on the outside, but Western on the inside. My black hair, brown eyes, and yellow skin is not enough to cover up the fact that I dress and think and speak like a Canadian. When people ask me “Where are you from?”, I introduce myself as “Canadian”. Vancouver is what made me value things such as community and the beauty of nature. Thinking back, I remember that the word ‘community’ kept coming up in my elementary school days. They really emphasized the importance of respecting other people and contributing to each of our various communities, and there’s a mix of bitter longing and sweet, proud appreciation everyday when I read Vancity Buzz.
I remember one season of The Amazing Race where an adopted girl and her birth mother ran the race together, and the birth mother told other people not to refer to her as the girl’s mother. “I’m not her mother… she has a mother”, she said. That’s exactly how I feel, and why I call Vancouver my hometown. It’s why I only thought it was cool when Beijing hosted the 2010 Olympics, but I was proud when Vancouver hosted the 2012 Olympics.
I’ve been in Hong Kong for a week now. It’s weird to think back and remember this place as a city that I was once so ecstatic to visit, yet now it feels indifferent. I’m not jumping around to go out and explore like I usually do. Don’t get me wrong. I love this place. I’m still excited to be here, but it’s a different type of excitement… like how I feel about going home [to Vancouver]. I’m always excited to go home, but you also know that actually there’s never anything to do aside from see people and visit some places you’ve already been to a million times before.
Slowly, this birth city is making a bigger mark in my heart…