Marty Chan – a “banana in China” or Language Barrier: Great Wall

Marty Chan is a playwright, radio drama writer, and a children's fiction writer.  He wrote the “hilarious” play “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl.”  He is also the author of Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, and Mystery of the Frozen Brains.

I interviewed Marty 10 years ago, when Firehall Arts Centre first produced “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl.”  Marty really nailed the experience of multigenerational Chinese Canadians dealing with inter-racial relationships and also with traditional Chinese parents.  Here's my interview with Marty, written for the Peak, student newspaper at SFU: 19/02/96 — Arts: Marty Chan

Marty Chan, Special to The Journal

Published: Friday, September 15, 2006

Never trust family. Like mafia godfathers, they cut deals that result in someone sleeping with the fishes.

learned this lesson the hard way when my Hong Kong aunt made me an
offer I couldn't refuse. She had heard that I was planning to visit
China and insisted that she book my travel plans. She claimed she could
find me the best deal on tour packages. I couldn't offend her because
she had also insisted that I stay in her spare room when I passed
through Hong Kong. I gave her the green light to book my itinerary.

aunt crowed about the deal she had found: a five-day excursion to
Beijing that cost half of what I would have paid if I booked through a
Canadian travel agent. I discovered one of the reasons for the bargain
the instant I joined the tour group. My thrifty aunt had booked me on
an all-Cantonese-speaking tour.

Over the years, I had lost most
of my Chinese. I remembered mostly swear words, and I used them all up
when I learned the truth. I asked the tour co-ordinator if there was
any way I could book myself on an English-speaking tour. He asked very
slowly and loudly in Cantonese, “Do you speak any Chinese?”

waggled the so-so gesture and explained that while I could understand
some Cantonese I could only speak enough to get me in trouble. The
co-ordinator informed me that the tour guide in Beijing might know some
English, but he wouldn't know until we got there. When I asked for my
money back, he spewed the only English he knew: “No money back.”……

Read more Language barrier: the Great Wall

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