Burnaby News Leader interviews Todd Wong about SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy “Canadian Games”

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Simon Fraser University is awash with images of Toddish McWong, dressed in Lionhead mask and Royal Stewart tartan kilt.  The
picture has been adopted by the SFU Recreation and Intramurals
department to promote the inaugural SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy “Canadian
Games.”  There are 4’x2’ signs hanging from
the ceiling of the Academic Quadrangle, and there are 3’x 2’ sandwich
board signs all around the campus.  I never
expected to see so many images of me in a kilt all around the SFU
campus, 12 years after I first donned a kilt to help participate in the
SFU Robbie Burns Day mini-parade.

 

Katie
from Burnaby News Leader interviewed me today at Simon Fraser
University, asking me questions about the origin of Gung Haggis Fat Choy and the creation of the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy “Canadian Games.”

 

The story should appear in the next few days. Here is my recollection of some of the interesting questions she asked me:

 

Q: What is Gung Haggis Fat Choy?

A: It
is the intersection of two seemingly different cultures in which we
discover the similarities.  It is the exploration of Scottish
Canadian and Chinese Canadian pioneers and history that belongs to all
Canadians.  It is the intercultural fusion that happens as more
and more of Canadians from different ethnic and cultural groups marry
into each other's families and cultures.

 

Q:Why?

A: Why
not?  It's going to happen anyways.  Almost all my cousins
have married people who are non-Chinese.  This allows their
children and their children's children to be able to celebrate both
cultures simutaneously and with fun.

 

(At
this point the photographer says that he has a friend who hated all the
family politics and tension filled expectations surrounding Chinese New
Year in his family – but irronically he and his partner have been
attending the GHFC dinner for the past two years, and enjoying it
immensely).

 

Q: How do people react to the cross-cultural fusion?

A:
Very well, they “get the joke,” and after the dinners there are so many
people who leave smiling, saying “I have to tell my friends,” or “Only
in Vancouver could this happen.”

 

Q: Has anybody Scottish Canadians reacted negatively towards you?

A: Do
you mean, “How dare you misappropriate and make fun of our culture and
traditions!” (laughing) No… not at all… never in fact.  They actually think it’s pretty cool that a Chinese Canadian guy is promoting Scottish culture.  Harry
McGrath, coordinator at the SFU Center for Scottish Studies, comes to
the Gung Haggis Fat Choy poetry readings and he told me the other day,
“You’re famous in Scotland.” He was referring to a Canadian Press story
that had interviewed McGrath about this Sino-Caledonian fusion.  Harry thinks it’s grrrreat!

 

Q: How do you feel about people coming to the events?

A: I think it’s great. They get the joke.  As Canadians we have to laugh at ourselves, and have fun with ourselves.  So many Canadian families are now blended cultures.  We are celebrating inclusiveness.  We are celebrating learning about each other’s cultures.  We are celebrating learning about Canada’s own Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian histories.  It belongs to all Canadians – not just a particular ethnic group.

 

Q: Have there been any other Scottish Chinese dinners like yours, are there any imitators?

A: Not
that I know of (it slipped my mind that the Chinatown Lions’ Club has
done a Robbie Burns Dinner for many years – but apparently not as wacky
or humourously as mine).  There was somebody
who worked with me at the Vancouver Public Library, who told me he and
a group of friends had their own “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” dinner by
ordering in Chinese food, reading Robbie Burns poetry and playing a
bagpipes cd.  I am going to have to put together a “Gung Haggis Fat Choy
Dinner Kit” and include suggested format, Robbie poems, Asian Canadian
poems, my own poems and a bagpipe cd by my piper Joe McDonald
(laughing).

 

Q: Where do you see this going?

A:  All across Canada.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners in every town.  People are asking about Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  They want to do their own dinners.  I have heard from people in Edmonton, Nanaimo, Tacoma, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Portland…

And if it brings people together than that is great!  I know that my own ancestors had a hard time in this land because of racial discrimination – often because of Scots.  But now we have so many cousins marrying people of Scottish descent.  We are all intermarrying each others’ cultures.  This is creating a uniquely Canadian culture.  And it is all good.

 

We finished by doing a photo session with Mario the photographer.  He
had me jumping into the air, holding my dragon boat paddle in one hand,
and my dragon hand puppet perched on my other hand (I don’t think he
was trying to get a shot under my kilt).  I did a variety of leaps, recalling my jumping repetoire from my days spent freestyle skiing on moguls.

 

Ó 2005 Todd Wong

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