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.

I
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.

My
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?”

I
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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