Category Archives: Todd Wong

Dragon Boat Festival is happening!

We had the Gung Haggis Chinese parade dragon out & about at the Dragon Boat Festival @ Creekside/Olympic village. We salsa danced, posed with little children and VIP’s, and saluted the Abreast in a Boat ceremony!

Jenny leads a little dragon dance, while a performer sings a special song about dragon boat paddling.

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Todd, Jennifer, Enzo Guerriero (Festival Board), Andrea Reimer (city councilor), Carson, Barry (TSA team), Caroline.

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Raymond Louie (City Councilor) and Todd.  Raymond used to paddle with a Vancouver Sun team
back around 1997.
We met stilt walkers!
We ham it up with the pizza guys…

Italian for a day… in Vancouver

Italian Day, Commercial Drive, June 9

Italian for a day… Italian is actually the third language I learned, while I learned to play accordion. It is the language of music.. Rossini, Puccini… and O Solo Mio. I grew up near Commercial Drive and had lots of Italian-Canadian friends, and later I even had Italian girlfriends. I played accordion for their families. I cook fettucini and linguine noodles with beef stir-fry and Chinese oyster or soy sauce. And maybe… I will organize a dragon boat team for the Italian Cultural Centre.
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These two ladies were dancers in the flash mob that took place in front of the main stage, after the speeches finished.  About 20 dancers with carnivale masks did a synchronized routine – spectacular!  One of their mothers took this picture for me.

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My friend Giulio Recchioni is the Cultural director for Il Centro: Italian Cultural Centre. OMG… I am still wearing my kilt. I had just come from the Dragon Zone Regatta, racing with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. I think Giuilo would be a good paddler. Maybe we can create a dragon boat team for Il Centro: Italian Cultural Centre.

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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reads from the city proclamation to announce “Italian Day in Vancouver”

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After the speeches I chatted with Vancouver councilor Tony Tang (who wants to wear a kilt), Burnaby MLA Richard Lee, and Michael Cuccione – president of the ICC.
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Sardines on the big grill, at the PCOV – Portuguese Club of Vancouver – always a big line up here.

My corneal ulcer is healing

I have now met 6 doctors in 7 days regarding the ulcer on my right cornea + talked to another on the phone on Sunday. Today I met Dr. Joe and he is a former competitive dragon boater!  And I also met Dr. Anderson, whom I think is the senior ophthamologist.  And… Dr. Silver checked me out again too!

Good news is the ulcer is healing, and only 1/2 a millimeter in size now – so I can stop the drops that dialate my pupil. Ended the day playing music and drinking scotch with my friends – The Black Bear Rebels Ceilidh Ensemble. We dedicated “Farewell to Nova Scotia” to Rita McNeil, and toasted to her 🙂

I have an ulcer on my cornea

Ugh… I have an ulcer on my cornea.  It is kind of crazy that I saw 3 different doctors today.  I spent much of the afternoon and evenings visiting my GP office at 2pm, LGH Emergency at 4:30pm, then at the VGH Eyecare Clinic at 8pm.  The above picture is from August 2009 when I had a corneal abrasion –  thought possibly due to sand/grit from hanging out at Kalmalka Beach in Vernon, during a wind storm.

 My regular doctor was all booked up so I saw her office partner Dr. Yam.  After putting some dye on my eye, she thought I might have a “tear” on my cornea, so she sent me to emergency.  At Lion’s Gate Hospital, I saw Dr. Andolfatto, who confirmed there was something wrong on my eye, and made an 8pm appointment for me to go to the Eye Clinic at VGH, where I saw Dr. Silver who made the final diagnosis.  Nice to know we have a great healthcare system that can set me up with an ophthalmologist at 8pm on a Friday night.

Well.. if it was a stomach ulcer… I wouldn’t be able to drink any alcohol. But since I have an eye patch, and the ulcer is on my eye… I can have a shot of Captain Morgan for every drop of anti-biotics that I put in my eye… which is each hour.

LESSON LEARNED: update contact lens solutions, don’t leave lens in eyes for too long… otherwise corneal abrasion or ulcer will develop. “Deep ulcers extend into or through the stroma and can result in severe scarring and corneal perforation… This type of ulcer is especially dangerous and can rapidly result in corneal perforation, if not treated in time.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corneal_ulcer

125 Places That Matter in Vancouver, includes Hastings Park Livestock building that housed detained Japanese-Canadians during WW2

Vancouver Heritage Foundation had a ceremony on Dec 1 to recognize the Livestock Building at Hastings Park, an important part of Japanese Canadian Internment History, as one of Vancouver’s Places that Matter.
At 1pm, everybody met in the Hastings Room, and MC Lorene Oikawa, told people the order of events.  We would do a walk to the Livestock Building for an unveiling, followed by a walk to Momoji Gardens for a Parks Canada unveiling.  Finally we would return to the Hastings Room for formal speeches, personal stories, and presentations in appreciation.
Marta Farevaag, Chair of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, watches as Mary Kitagawa steps back from unveiling the plaque for the Livestock Building at Hastings Park.
Mary had recently pushed for the University of British Columbia to recognize the Japanese Canadian students that were not allowed to finish their degrees at UBC because they were interned during WW2.  It was an emotional ceremony when 76 students were honoured with degrees at a special tribute 70 years later.  http://japanese-canadian-student-tribute.ubc.ca/
Watch this video of Mary Kitagawa speaking about the detainment and internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2.  Roy Miki, Japanese-Canadian Redress co-leader and author stands at the top of the stairs in long dark coat and white hair.  Chinese-Canadian historian/author Larry Wong stands on the stairs in rust coloured jacket.  Lorene Oikawa, union leader and human rights activist stands on the right in red coat.
The Parks Canada plaque at Momoji Gardens was re-located for better public viewing, and unveiled.

One of the event attendees shares a personal moment, as she stands beside the plaque with photos of family members.

Naomi Yamamoto MLA, is the first Japanese-Canadian to be elected to the BC Legislature.  She shared a story how her father had spent 5 months living as a detainee at the Livestock Building.  Naomi explained that because her father was an older teen-aged boy, he was separated from his mother.  His father had already been separated from their family and sent to a labour work camp.  Unfortunately, her father could not attend the ceremonies on Saturday, due to not feeling up to it.
My friend Ann-Marie Metten was deeply touched by some of the personal stories.  She wrote:
“Mary Ohara’s story resounded. She told of her incarceration in March 1942 in the livestock barns at Hastings Park, still reeking with manure and infested with bugs. Birds flew overhead and fouled their blankets. Bedbugs bit at night, and the administrators brought in DDT and sprayed the bedding, including the blankets under which the children would sleep at night.

“At age twelve, Mary developed mumps and had to be isolated from others so as not to sprea the highly communicable disease. She and other children were moved to the coal-storage area under the livestock barns, where only a small hole high in one of the walls let in daylight. In the darkness, other young children cried for their families. She was held there for ten days.”
My friends: Ellen Crowe-Swords, Ann-Marie Metten (executive director of Historic Joy Kogawa House), and Joy Kogawa – author of Obasan, the first novel to address the issues of the internment of Japanese Canadians.  Roy Miki, Simon Fraser University Professor Emeritus and 2003 Governor General’s Award Winner for Poetry, had called Obasan, “A novel that I believe is the most important literary work of the past 30 years for understanding Canadian history.”
My friend Inger Iwaasa and my accordion.  Inger married a Japanese Canadian, and her daughter is pianist Rachel Iwaasa, who performed at Kogawa House for the presentation when Joy Kogawa was named recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.  Inger said she recognized each of the songs that I performed: Sakura, Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower), O Solo Mio, Neil Gow’s Lament, Hungarian Dance No.5, Dark Eyes.  I wanted to perform a mixed repertoire that would represent many of the ethnic groups that had come to settle in Vancouver: Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Irish, Hungarian and Russian.
Todd Wong, Judy Hanazawa, Jessica Quan – special projects coordinator VHF, Mary Kitagawa, Lorene Oikawa, Tosh Kitagawa.

Happy Canada Day Eve… tonight is the party for my grandmother’s 102nd birthday

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This is a picture from last year… when Granny turned 101… she is surrounded by her great-grandchildren – my nephew Cohen and my niece Chloe are in this picture – photo T.Wong

Tonight is the 102nd birthday party for my grandmother. She was born in Victoria, the grand-daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, who came to Canada in 1896. While her father Ernest Lee and husband Sonny Mar, both paid the Chinese head tax, they died decades before the apology. Life was very tough in those days, Granny was one of 14 brothers and sisters. After her father died, she and her 2 elder brothers helped to raise the rest of the siblings with the youngest being only a year old.

I love my grandmother, my mother’s mother… When I grew up, I saw her a lot, as she lived on the next street.  She tells me that when my mother came home from the hospital after giving birth to my younger brother – I didn’t recognize my now non-pregnant mother, and I ran back to Granny who had been babysitting me, while Dad brought Mom home from the hospital.

I am sorry for the time, when I was a child, and Granny was child-minding me and my brother – and I locked Granny out of the house.

I am grateful for the many times when Granny would listen to me play my accordion, over the phone… to encourage me in my practice.

This morning I drive to the airport to pick up my Hamilton area cousins who are descendants from Granny’s younger sister Esther, who was #4, following #1 Henry, #2 Arthur and #3 my grandmother Mabel.

Today is also her younger sister Helen’s 97th birthday in Nanaimo.  A few years ago, Auntie Helen’s friend was listening to CBC Radio’s North By Northwest Program with host Sheryl Mackay.  Sheryl had interviewed me about the Chinese-Canadian History Fair previously in Vancouver, but announced that there was a similar history fair at Malispina College (Now known as Vancouver Island Univeristy) and quickly brought Auntie Helen to see the exhibit.  Auntie Helen walked around the room, then suddenly recognized pictures of her grandfather.

“Hey, this is my mother… This is me!”  Who put up these pictures?”, she asked… as I stood a few paces behind her.  I soon greeted her and gave her a big hug.  Auntie Helen is one of the featured interviews in the CBC TV documentary series Generations: The Chan Legacy http://www.cbclearning.ca/history-geography/canadian-history/chan-legacy.html

 

http://www.cbclearning.ca/history-geography/canadian-history/chan-legacy.html

Dinner with Arlene Chan

Jim Wong-Chu, Arlene Chan, Todd Wong.  Jim is holding “Swallowing Clouds” which he co-edited and contributed poems to.  Arlene is holding up her newest book “The Chinese in Toronto from 1878: From Outside to Inside the Circle.  I am holding “Paddles Up!” co-edited by Arlene and she also wrote chapter 1: The Beginnings, to which I contributed a quote, and a picture of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team in the Vancouver Taiwanese dragon boat race.

www.arlenechan.ca

My writing career was launched in 1997 with The Spirit of the Dragon: the Story of Jean Lumb, a Proud Chinese Canadian. This children’s book tells the amazing story of my mother who was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour, for her community activism. The Spirit of the Dragon was selected as a Choice Book by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. My second book, The Moon Festival: a Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, was shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award. Awakening the Dragon: the Dragon Boat Festival was published in 2004 and as a paperback in 2007. My fourth publication was released in 2009 as the first book on Canadian dragon boating, entitled Paddles Up! Dragon Boat Racing in Canada. I am currently working on a second book for an adult audience. It is entitled The Chinese in Toronto from 1878: From Outside to Inside the Circle, to be launched in October 2011.
Back Row: Allan Cho, Sid Tan, Adrian Lee, Todd Wong, Sean Gunn, Bruce MacBay, Deb Martin
Front: Albert Lee, Beverly Nann, Arlene Chan, Mary Wong, Jim Wong-Chu
 Here is a youtube video of Arlene Chan talking about Toronto’s Chinese Canadian community, and it’s relationship with McGregor’s Socks, and how the clothing manufacturing industry brought the Chinese and the Scots Canadians together.

McGregor Socks: Arlene Chan

401 Wellington Street West At the former home of McGregor Socks, Arlene Chan tells the story of the Chinese community’s connection with Toronto’s

Gung Haggis brings Chinese dragons and lions to St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragons invade St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Vancouver 

Lions and Dragons and more Dragons – oh My!  Gung Haggis Fat Choy entry in the CelticFest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Vancouver. “Perhaps
no group spoke to the modern mixing of cultures better than the Gung
Haggis Fat Choy revellers who wove in and out of the action Sunday
morning. The colourful Chinese dragons and green attire represented the
relatively new hybridized festival that originated in Vancouver. A
coincidental celebration of both Robert Burns Day and the Chinese New
Year brought the new celebration that
creates an interesting
mix of poetry, music and food every January.

“I think it’s an interesting idea — we have these Chinese unions combined with St. Patrick’s Day,” said Nick Hsu.

The 43-year-old was part of a group of family and friends who travelled up from Seattle to parade.

Vancouver St. Patrick’s Day parade takes over streets of downtown

 

It was one of the best entries yet for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy troupe in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade… Past years have seen a large Taiwanese dragon boat as a parade float.  But for 2012… we had 2 Chinese Lion dancers + 1 five-person parade dragon + walkers holding 5 more dragon hand puppets to help celebrate the Year of the Dragon.Paddlers from the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team in Vancouver were joined by martial artists friends from Seattle.  In Seattle, the 2012 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Seattle dinner was a benefit for Belltown Martial Arts Club, which have participated in the Seattle multicultural dinner for most of the past six years.  The Vancouver Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner celebrated it’s 15th dinner in 20012, and the dragon boat team has been paddling since 2002.

For 2012, I brought some of my dragon boat hand puppets from home, as I did for the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade, when I had walked with the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens.  We interacted with many of the children watching the parade, who were delighted to see the plushy dragon toys!  We encouraged them to “pet the dragon’s head for good luck”, which many children including adults such as CelticFest chair Joanna Hickey did.

Gung Haggis paddler Xavier MacDonald strutted the streets in his kilt with a Chinese lion head costume – photo Todd Wong


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Decorating the car, and everybody wears a necklace with green hats optional!  What a great group of people!  We were entry #73, and we decorated the car from the middle of Granville St. Bridge – then moved onto the Howe St. onramp, as the parade filed into order starting at Drake. St.

Video from St. Patrick’s Day Parade – look for Gung Haggis Fat Choy sign at 0:19 + interviews at 9:36 http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Vancouver+Patrick+parade+takes+over+streets+downtown+with+video/6321376/story.html

www.vancouversun.com

Hundreds
of people have crowded downtown Vancouver’s Howe Street this morning to
watch as bagpipers, Irish dancers and hurlers–of the sporting variety
–paraded with dreadlocked dancers, green samba queens and even a roller
derby team.

Chuck Davis' “History of Metropolitan Vancouver” mentions a Robbie Burns Dinner in Vancouver Chinatown

Chuck Davis' “History of Metropolitan Vancouver” mentions a Robbie Burns Dinner in Vancouver Chinatown

I am sorry to say that Chuck Davis never attended a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

The
following entry in “The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver”,
1935, ISBN 978-1-55017-533-2 (2011 edition) at page 151 states as
follows:  (brought to my attention by David J. Bilinsky)


(entry for 1928)

ALSO
AUGUST 25 A statute of the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-96)
was unveiled in Stanley Park by the Rt Hon. Ramsay Macdonald, the former
British Prime Minister.  The bronze and granite statute is an exact
replica of one standing  in Burns' birthplace in Ayrshire, Scotland
(Local Scots annually mark Robbie Burns Day on January 25, but it was in
the 1930's that fervour was particularly marked.  Even the Chinatown
Lions' Club organized an annual Burns dinner, complete with haggis
served with a sweet and sour sauce.)

Chuck and I knew each other though… I first encountered him many times at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, where he would often come to do research.  Later, I became involved with Chinese Canadian historical events and issues, and our paths would cross.  One time, we had a lengthy chat about the Janet Smith murder case, when a Scottish nanny was killed in Vancouver, and a Chinese house boy, was wrongfully accused of the murder, then later acquitted.

photo – photo Todd Wong
But Chuck did came to speak to the Vancouver Library workers during a historic
1st time ever strike – when I invited him to come out.  He was always very proud
that his book “The Vancouver Book” was the 2nd most stolen book at the
Vancouver Public Library.
photo – photo Todd Wong
I had organized an author's reading series for the CUPE 391 strikeline, inspired by 2 reasons.
1) Victoria author Terry Glavin had wanted to do research at VPL
2) a lot of community groups such as the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra had booked the
community rooms at VPL, and could no longer have a space to do public programs.

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This picture was takenin 2009, to mark the 250th birthday of Robbie
Burns.  We also did a virtual wreath laying in “2nd Life” – organized by
Dr. Leith Davis – director of Centre for Scottish Studies SFU – who had
just flown into Vancouver YVR from Scotland, and came straight to our
ceremony.  That night at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – she declared
it the best Burns Dinner she had ever attended – having spent the
previous week in Scotland attending many Burns Suppers.

Read the story of the event here:
250th Anniversary of Robert Burns recognized with poems at statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park

The Chinatown Lion Club dinners began at the Bamboo Terrace Restaurant
just over 50 years ago.  They continued for many years, many of them organized by
Vancouver lawyer Chuck Lew, but dwindled in recent years.  I attended
one of the dinners at Floata – possibly in 2009. We did a one time
merger…  maybe in 2010.  I asked Chuck about creating a 50th
Anniversary Robbie Burns Chinatown dinner for Vancouver Chinatown Lions
Club – but I don't think they ever had one…  He told me that it was
getting harder to organize… and even had asked me about organizing the
dinner for the Chinatown Lions Club – which I declined, in order to focus on Gung Haggis Fat Choy events.

For the record – Chinatown Lions Club always served the haggis
traditional style with sweet and sour sauce (or some kind of Chinese
sauce).  They never ventured into fusion cuisine.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy
dinners have created a number of haggis-fusion-cuisine dishes –
including: deep fried haggis won-tons, deep fried haggis / seafood
dumplings, haggis won ton soup, haggis spring rolls, steamed haggis /
shrimp dumplings, steamed haggis / pork dumplings, haggis lettuce wrap.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy on Global Morning News

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Allan McMordie and I took Haggis wonton
and Haggis shu-mei to Global Morning News. Sophie Lui and Steve Darling
said they were delicious, they even had seconds!

We did two segments.  The first was cooking.  I heated up some fried rice, and added haggis.  Meanwhile, both Sophie and Steve tried the haggis wonton and haggis shu-mei that had been pre-prepared by the Float Restaurant the night before.

For the second segment, Allan played Scotland the Brave on his bagpipes, then I performed the first verse of Robbie Burns' immortal poem – The Address to the Haggis.  We bantered a bit about how our event makes Chinese New Year safe for Scottish-Canadians, and makes Robbie Burns Day and haggis safe for Chinese-Canadians.  Sophie ate the spicy jellyfish, but Steve politely declined. 

We also talked about how we have set Robbie Burns lyrics to a Johnny Cash song and Allan lets me play my accordion in his celtic ceilidh group, The Black Bear Rebesl.  Sophie said she loved all the fusion and fun of our event.

Click on 11:05 for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy segment on Global Morning News