Monthly Archives: April 2011

Planning the 2011 season for the Gung Haggis dragon boat team

Gung Haggis dragon boat team on first practice of the 2011 season – lots of enthusiasm, returning and new paddlers. – photo T. Wong

Scottish Robbie Burns music and poetry
+ Chinese New Year food and culture

+ BC history with Scottish & Chinese pioneers

= Gung Haggis Fat Choy

was a break through year
for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. We
started paddling in January then took a break for the Olympics. We
celebrated with a big Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner at Floata where we
first met a Chinese lass born in Scotland, who came to join the dragon
boat team, starting the string of Irish, Yorkshire, French, Belgian and
Australian visitors to Canada who came to paddle and race with us.

2010 Highlights included:
– A Division at
Lotus Races with the Community Spirit Award,
– Rec B Finals at Rio Tinto
Alcan Festival
– Silver medal in Senior B Race at Rio Tinto Alcan Festival
– Silver medal and
2nd overall at Richmond
– Top prize in the steering challenge race for free entry at 2011 Richmond Festival
– Silver Medals in C Division in Banff where we partnered with Spirit of Vancouver 
– 2 teams in A Final at Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta

2011 is year 10, of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team
, paddling
every year @ Alcan Races and beyond since 2002.  It is also Year 15 for a
team that started in 1997 under the name Celebration Team and for which
the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner event was
created as a fundraiser for in 1998.  This is the only team that has
twice won the Hon. David Lam Award for the team that best exemplifies
the multicultural spirit of the dragon boat festival (2001 & 2005)

We will paddle throughout the Summer, entering races at least once a month, and finishing with one of the most fun events on  Thanksgiving weekend, Saturday October 8th – the Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta.  You don't have to paddle every race.   Pick and choose where and when you want to race.

May 7 – Lotus Sports Club, Burnaby – Confirmed
May 29th – Dragon Zone regatta – Confirmed
June 11/12 – Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival – Confirmed
July 16th Saturday – Richmond BC (UBC Rowing Centre) – Confirmed
July 23 Saturday -Harrison BC @ Harrison Hot Springs

Aug 13 & 14 – Vernon or Victoria – RECOMMENDED

Aug 20 – Steveston Last Gasp

Aug 27 & 28 – Kelowna DBF

Sept 10 & 11 Penticton – RECOMMENDED

Oct 9 – Ft. Langley – RECOMMENDED

Lots of smiles on the 2009 team as they paddled in lots of races throughout the year. – photo – T. Wong

We have unlimited team registration to join our “paddling and social club”
– but race events are limited to 24 paddlers + drummer + steers.
(20 paddlers in a boat + 4 spare paddlers) – we rotate everybody fairly, and nobody
sits more than one race (unless they choose, or special circumstances).

$110 Team registration includes practices, boat rental, coaching + equipment.  And we have student prices!

Each race event will have a varying price depending on the cost.  From $40 to $20,
as the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival team entry
is $1800,
and Lotus Regatta in Burnaby is $500. 
RTA is 2 day event with 2 races per day + special races,
one day regattas are usually only 3 races.

We have really enjoyed meeting lots of new paddlers so far this Spring
and welcoming back our veteran paddlers.  Everybody has such a great positive spirit.
We want 2011 to be lots of fun, filled with new friendships + race results to rival last year:

teams over 10 years have raced in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna,
Burnaby, Richmond, Steveston, Vernon, Harrison, Cultus Lake, Ft. Langley
+ Banff AB, Kent
WA, and Portland OR….

Coach and team founder Todd Wong
gunghaggis at yahoo dot ca


Gung Haggis Fat Choy paddlers bite their silver medals at Richmond Dragon Boat Festival – 2nd place overall, and 1st in the steering challenge race.

Dragon boats and chocolate Easter bunnies

Easter Dragon Boat Practice… 
Easter weekend and many dragon boats are on False Creek.  We arrived early to the Creekside Community Centre to watch some paddlers on the water paddling race kayaks and outrigger canoes.  But soon, members of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team showed up for the 11am practice
Paddlers discovered special Easter Eggs under their seats. We paddled
along the south shore, towards the seawall lookout, beside the
Pedestrian bridge. There were 4 gold foil wrapped Lindt chocolate
bunnies, hanging from strings of tape. We paddled underneath and
paddlers tried to grab the hanging bunnies!
But as the dragon boat passed under the seawalk outlook, and paddlers grabbed at the chocolate bunnies, it was noticed that one of the bunnies was not on the end of his tape!  Lead stroke Debbie, spotted a shiny gold bunny floating toward the centre of the creek.

“Let's go get the bunny!” somebody shouted.  And just like that, people started paddling!  The boat quickly approached the floating bunny, and Debbie was able to scoop it up.  But wait… there was still one little gold bunny flapping at the end of tape, under the outlook.

“Let's go back and grab the last bunny,” I shouted to the team.  Our steers person Guillaume, swung the boat around, and the team paddled again under the seawalk outlook.  They grabbed the tape, and the remaining bunny.  Mission accomplished.  Now on with the dragon boat practice, after our fun warm up.

We did our normal practice drills for reach and rotation.  We paddled left side and lead strokes, then right side and lead strokes, to help paddlers get focused on following the lead stroke on the opposite side from them.  We paddled with veterans only, so new paddlers could see good technique demonstrated, and keep our veteran paddlers setting good role modeling.

Paddlers on our first practice on March 27th.  A mix of veterans and new paddlers are forming the core for the 2011 season – photo T. Wong

Over at the bay beside David Lam Park, we practiced starts.  We went back and forth, starting with 3 strokes only, then building up to a 6-12 start. 6 slow strokes to get the boat moving, followed by 6 medium strokes, and finally 6 fast strokes to bring the boat up to plane. 

Good job everybody.  Then we paddled over to Alder Bay, behind Granville Island.  We docked the boat and took a walk over to a restaurant for hot chocolates and coffees, and to stretch our legs.  It was a special treat on a holiday weekend, that we try to make practice a little more fun for paddlers.

Thank you Debbie and Karl for hiding the
chocolate eggs on the dragon boat, and hanging the chocolate bunnies
over the water. 

Everybody had fun paddling to grab the hanging bunnies and to the floating gold bunny.  They did not
worrying techniques such as timing, or rotation, or reaching out.  Maybe on
Wednesday… I think we should put the team into two or three 10 person
boats… throw some gold bunnies into the water… and let the teams
go after them!

Gung Haggis dragon boat team practice for Easter Sunday with Easter Egg hunt

It's an Easter Egg hung for the Gung Haggis dragon boat team Easter Sunday practice!

Gung Haggis dragon boat team in September 2009 – Since then 4 babies have been born to our paddlers – photo T. Wong

We will
have a paddle practice this Sunday for the Gung Haggis dragon boat team practice, and combine it with an Easter Egg Hunt.

11am – meet at
Creekside Community Centre (water side)
quick cardio and stretching for warm-up for 10 minutes.
on water soon after…
return by 12:25pm

being a holiday weekend, we know that some people will not be able to attend…
but some people really want to paddle.

Granville Island – We will paddle to Alder Bay, and stretch our legs.

Coaching emphasis:  We've learned timing, we've learned race starts,
now… it is time to get more from your paddle. 
How to be an effective paddler with paddle position.

We have had 13 Veteran paddlers + 3 2nd year paddlers who were new last year + 2 paddlers who did Junior dragon boats before.  New to dragon boating this year have been 15 people, 5 of whom are from France. 

We hope that you all come back and join the team, we will paddle throughout the Summer,
entering races at least once a month, and finishing with one of the most fun events on
Thanksgiving weekend, Saturday October 8th
– the Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta.

We have unlimited team registration to join our “paddling and social club”
– but race events are limited to 24 paddlers + drummer + steers.
(20 paddlers in a boat + 4 spare paddlers) – we rotate everybody fairly, and nobody
sits more than one race (unless they choose, or special circumstances).

$110 Team registration includes practices, boat rental, coaching + equipment. 

Each race event will have a varying price depending on the cost.  From $40 to $20,
as the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival team entry
is $1800,
and Lotus Regatta in Burnaby is $500. 
RTA is 2 day event with 2 races per day + special races,
one day regattas are usually only 3 races.

Looks like
we will have a strong team for 2011. 

This is the 10th year of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team,
which actually started in 2002 under then name Celebration. 

We have really enjoyed meeting lots of new paddlers
and welcoming back our veteran paddlers.  Everybody has such a great positive spirit.
We want 2011 to be lots of fun, filled with new friendships + race results to rival last year:

In 2010, we placed Rec B @ Rio Tinto Alcan DB Festival and won silver in Senior B.
We won silver 2nd overall at Richmond and won the steering challenge
We went to Banff and won silver in C division.
We placed 2 teams in the A Finals at Ft. Langley.

Our teams over 10 years have raced in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Burnaby, Richmond, Steveston, Vernon, Harrison, Cultus Lake, Ft. Langley + Banff AB, Kent
WA, and Portland OR….

You don't have to paddle every race. 
Pick and choose where and when you want to race.

We are now looking for race events to fill our
summer, and are currently looking at:

May 7 – Lotus Sports Club, Burnaby – Confirmed
May 29th – Dragon Zone regatta – Confirmed
June 11/12 – Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival – Confirmed
July 16th Saturday – Richmond BC (UBC Rowing Centre) – Confirmed
July 23 Saturday -Harrison BC @ Harrison Hot Springs

Aug 13 & 14 – Vernon or Victoria – RECOMMENDED

Aug 20 – Steveston Last Gasp

Aug 27 & 28 – Kelowna DBF

Sept 10 & 11 Penticton – RECOMMENDED

Oct 9 – Ft. Langley – RECOMMENDED

Naramata Bench Wineries Spring launch at Vancouver's Bayshore Hotel… yum yum!

Some of my favorite wineries from Naramata were in Vancouver last night…
wineries… 13 restaurants… 3 hours… one location…

Todd Wong sampling 09 Black Dog cask wine, from Township 7 Vineyards and Winery.  Definitely something to reserve ahead of time, before it is bottled and put to market – photo D. Martin

Laughing Stock Vineyards, Marichel Vineyard,
Nichol Vineyard, Peseus Winery, Red Rooster Winery, Poplar Grove Winery,
Serendipity Winery, Therapy Winery, Township 7 Vineyards, Van Westen
Vineyards, Black Widow
Winery, D'Angelo Estate Winery, Elephant Island Orchard Winery,
Hillside Estate Winery, Howling Bluff Estate Winery, Kettle Valley
Winery, La Frenz Winery, Lake Breeze Vineyards.

Restaurants serving canapes, and dessert were: O'Doul's,
Central Bistro, Hillside Estate Winery Bistro, Twisted Fork, Hamilton
Street Grill, Edible at the Market, Cin Cin, Westin Bayshore, Bishop's,
Vij's, Adesso Bistro, Kitsilano Daily Kitchen, The District.

love comparing duck tastings between CinCin's Smoked Duck Breast with
Truffle Artichocke Salad on Focaccia Crisp & Foie Gras Stuffed
Cherry, vs Kitsilano Daily's Braised Breast of Duck with Blackberry Jam
vs Hillside Estate Bistro's Fraser Valley Duck Ballontine with Cured
Orange & Blueberry Macaroon vs Centro Bistro's Cherry Smoked Duck
Breast, Bacon Pear Chutney with Peppered Raspberry Vinagrette.

We did repeat visits to the restaurant tables… eg. 6 venison canapes
at O'Doul's where we hung out soooo long, that the paired winery, Black
Widow, brought out the special bottle of syrah… while I had been going
back and forth between
Merlot, and the Hourglass blend. I didn't get to taste Vij's Garam
Masala Beef Curry with Coconut Green Bean or Westin's spiced lamb kotta
with Crisp Parnship and Blackberry Gel until the end of the evening.

good was the “Chardonnay du Monde” winning Chardonnay from Red Rooster
(not advertised), the Kettle Valley Merlot, Township 7 Merlot + “Black
Dog” from the cask, Howling Bluff Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blac
Semillon, and… the Elephant Island Stellaport Solera Aged Port Style
cherry Wine – from the cask!

This was different compared to an afternoon spent lazily driving up and down the
Naramata Bench, as one sips wines while watching the eagles float on the
updrafts from the Okanagan Lake… But it was a great opportunity to access the
barrel casks before they
are actually bottled… and to taste the restaurant offerings, without
having to spend $100 per meal X 13 visits… or drive between
wineries… after drinking too much…. Yes it is an all-in-one… but a
great introduction for us to plan our next weekend holiday in Naramata
Surprise!  Anthony was serving us wine from the Perseus Winery booth. He shared that he is 1/8 Chinese + Indonesian, Portuguese and Spanish.  He hadn't heard of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, but loved the idea of cultural cuisine fusion.

BIG SURPRISE!  We discovered that Howling Bluffs owner Adam Smith loves Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  He shared with us that his daughter is half Chinese, and they love the Chinese-Scottish fusion of our event.  We exchanged phone numbers, and hope to get together to plan some events together.

Adrian Dix is the most multicultural of both NDP and Liberal leadership candidates

Adrian Dix understands and lives multiculturalism
– He could be BC's next premier with a multicultural vision like Sir James Douglas, “the Father of BC”

Adrian Dix speaks at a Vaisaiki event in 2007.  On the far left is then BC NDP leader Carole James, and wearing the orange tie is Federal NDP leader Jack Layton.   I have yet to find a picture of Adrian Dix wearing a kilt.  photo (hopefully) courtesy of Flunging Pictures

BC history is filled with characters who pushed for a “White Man's Province” such as the political leaders who wanted to charge the Chinese head tax, and created the 1927 Chinese Exclusion Act, all the way up to Premier Duff Pattulo who wanted to keep Canadian born Asians out of the WW2 armed forces, because he knew the next step would be giving Chinese-Canadians the vote.

But our history is also filled with visionary people like Sir James Douglas, the first governor of BC.  He was born in Guyana of mixed Scottish and Caribbean heritage.  His wife Amelia was Metis, and he stood up for the rights of First Nations peoples in the Fraser Canyon gold fields stating in 1958 that “the Laws would protect the rights of the Indians
no less than those of the white men.” 

The recent NDP and Liberal leadership races saw Christy Clark and Adrian Dix emerge victorious from their serious challengers of Kevin Falcon, Mike de Jong, and George Abbott for the Liberals; and Mike Farnsworth, John Horgan, Dana Larson and Nicholas Simons for the NDP.

And so… I have been asking myself, “Who is the most multicultural?”

Multicultural understanding is important because without it, we don't have cultural equality in society.  Without respect for different cultures, society become mono-culture.  This was British Columbia during the 1908 Anti-Asiatic riots in Chinatown and Japantown.  This was BC that created the anti-potlatch law and put all First Nations children in Residential schools.  This was BC during the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II.  This was BC, when Canada created the laws that only permitted direct passage to Canada, making it impossible for people to travel directly from India, hence the Komagata Maru incident.

Being a great leader isn't just about being multicultural.  But I think that a great leader must understand multiculturalism. Afterall, the great civilizations have always placed great importance in trade and knowledge.  It has been the death of civilizations to close themselves to the outside world, and insulate themselves in their own ethnocentricity.  In the past years, we have even seen former Premier Gordon Campbell change his tune from working against First Nations to working together.

The Georgia Straight
published this story the other day: “Adrian Dix brings cultural literacy to the NDP leader's office, which could spell trouble for Christy Clark”.  Author Charlie Smith looks at the people around Dix, and his supporters such as Vancouver City Councilor Kerry Jang.  He writes, “Of course, Dix attracted a great deal of support from people from other
walks of life. But had it not been for his outreach to multicultural
B.C.—which set him apart from the other candidates in the race—he
probably wouldn't have won.”

In a similar vein of politics and multiculturalism, Vancouver Sun writer Douglas Todd recently tried to find out how many of
Vancouver's mayors have been historically of Scottish ancestry.  He
tried googling the names and mostly came up with names of Scottish and
British ancestry.  He called me up to ask me my views, which I said was directly linked to the Scots then being the largest ethnic group of Vancouver, but also because of racism, because Chinese were not allowed to vote until 1947.  Read: Opinion: Is the end in sight for Vancouver's 'Scottish' mayors?

He also asked me how soon did I think Vancouver would have a Mayor of Chinese ancestry.  I told him it would be just a matter of time, since Kamloops had Peter Wing, the first Chinese Canadian mayor in Canada in the 1960's, and Victoria recently had Mayor Allan Lowe.

Horgan and Dix have talked about their Irish ancestry.  Horgan says he “can talk anything with anybody”, and Dix said his father was born in Dublin.  Horgan also received endorsement from fellow Irish/Scots Burnaby mayor Derrick Corrigan and his MLA wife Kathy Corrigan.

Christy Clark attended the University of Edinburgh and named her son Hamish.  But it has been harder to find out ancestral backgrounds for some of the other candidates.

Maybe they don't see ethnic heritage as an important part of a campaign, if the candidates are all the same mainstream colour or ethnicity.  But “getting the ethnic vote” has become an issue in the present federal election.  Articles about how the Conservatives and Liberals are stumbling over each other, and in their efforts to secure ethic votes, or stage photo opportunities are making the news rounds.  Meanwhile, the strategic placement of ethnic candidates is discussed as well, especially in the federal riding of Vancouver South, where Meena Wong NDP candidate aims to take some of the Chinese vote away from Conservative Wai Young, as well as challenge incumbent Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh,

Multicultural issues are increasingly inclusive of Gay Lesbian cultures too.  MP Libby Davies and MLA Mable Elmore were big supporters of Adrian Dix.  It's good that in today's society, a candidate's gender preference or race is no longer an issue in the media.

Much has been written about Dix's connections to the South Asian community.  MLA's Harry Bains and Raj Chouhan are leaders in the South Asian and Labour communities and were quick to endorse Dix.  Going into the last week, MLA Jenny Kwan endorsed Mike Farnsworth.   But it isn't just who you know that makes you multicultural, it's how you live your life.

Mable Elmore is BC's first Filipino-Canadian MLA, and when I asked her who the most multicultural candidate was, she told me that He
is the first MLA to have a Vietnamese speaking constituency assistant. 
This was a tremendous help, when Dix became involved in the accidental
death of Vietnamese workers at a Fraser Valley mushroom farm, and took his assistant with him to help translate. I also heard Raj Chouhan speak on this event at the BC Federation of Labour conference, because Chouhan had been the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers' Union.

Most importantly, Dix's wife is of South Asian ancestry.  Rennee Saklikar is a wonderful woman, whom I liked immediately when I first met her.  She complimented me on my Gung Haggis Fat Choy activities, and we have crossed paths in literary communities.  She is a poet and this weekend, she shared with me that her poem “June 1981” has been nominated for poem of the year for Descant Magazine.  They have known each other a long time, and it is impossible not to share each other's cultures and perspectives.  Because of this, I am sure that Dix is also affected by the Air India bombing of June 1985, because Saklikar's aunt and uncle were lost on that flight.

When families become interconnected, we become part of each other's culture and history.  In the same way, that I have met so many people of both Scottish, and Chinese ancestry, or both combined – it is acknowledged that all the guests who come to a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner, are part of our multicultural family now. 

Dix is known as an intelligent and sharp critic – one of the opposition stars in Carole James' shadow cabinet.  While I had hoped that Carole James could fulfill my vision of a Dougals-like premier, with her Metis and Scottish ancestry, as well as her compassion for inclusion and human rights, it looks like Dix is the man who might best exemplify the qualities of Sir James Douglas.

In the Canadian Dictionary of Biography Online, Sir James Douglas is described as such:

      “A man
of iron nerve and physical prowess, great force of character, keen intelligence,
and unusual resourcefulness…  A
practical man, but yet a visionary, Sir James Douglas was also
humanitarian. He treated individuals, including Negro slaves and Indians, with
a respect that few of his contemporaries showed.”

With Dix's reputation as the hardest working member of the NDP, and his commitment to close the gap between rich and poor, to make health care more accessible, to stop closing schools and maintain student teacher ratios, to look after the environment…. and his “cultural literacy”- he may well be the person most likely to fill the shoes and multicultural vision of Sir James Douglas.

Read the Georgia Straight article:

No kilt – but here is Adrian Dix participating in the Fiji Festival last summer, wearing a green grass skirt.  Second from left is Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, and in red is Burnaby MLA Kathy Corrigan.  photo by Patrick Tam, Flunging Pictures.

Gung Haggis dragon boat team practice on Sunday & Wednesday

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team practice this Sunday
April 18, 11am

followed by Wednesday April 21, 6pm
Creekside Community Centre (Dragon Zone)

Gung Haggis dragon boat team at Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival in June – photo T.Wong collection

Some people are participating in the Sun Run and won't be joining us.  
So it is the perfect time to bring new friends, and I will do some one-to-one coaching with new and experienced paddlers.

May 7th is our first race…
We need to have a roster signed up quickly.

June 11-12 is the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.
We need to set the roster for this race too.

$110 for joining the club  – this includes boat rental, equipment and coaching 2X week
Each race event is separate… usually $15 to $30 depending on number of races and size of event.
Student discount available.

Cheers, Todd Wong
email gunghaggis at yahoo dot ca

Forbidden Phoenix is a theatrical treat –

Fantastical story of Canadian History and Chinese Mythology:
Forbidden Phoenix at Gateway Theatre

The Forbidden Phoenix

Book and Lyrics by
Marty Chan

Lyrics, Music and Orchestration by
Robert Walsh

APRIL 7 – 23, 2011

Forbidden Phoenix is a fantastical work of theatre, music and action choreography.  It tells the story of a father and son, but as mythological The Monkey King from Chinese culture interwined with the migration of Chinese labourers coming to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

WOW…. I am amazed…. It is incredible!

There is much to commend for this play.  Actors must sing, and fight martial arts.  The music is a complex blend of East and West.  The minimalist set adapts easily with imagination and movement.  The script is multi-layed with metaphor and humour.

Dufays is an incredible physical actor. I was blown away by all the
little “monkey things” he does, like move his head, or scratch, or lope
across the stage.  He brings an intellectual Monkey King that both cares for his people, and also the emigrants who go to Gum San (Gold Mountain) to work on the railroad.  His character carries the story as many plots are revealed.

Grace Fatkin IS the Empress Dowager.  She has a commanding presence.  She is the protaganist in China, also known as Jung-Guo.  Her soprano is full and rich.

Kazumi Evans embodies the feminine in Phoenix.
She is graceful, emotional, vulnerable and strong.  Her balletic movements compliment the colourful costume which opens to reveal feathered wings.  She gives a good counterpoint to Dufays' Monkey King.

Damon Calderwood is
over the top perfection…. He is the easiest to hear and understand with
effective dynamic range (can you tell I am a musician?)  And he never goes into Snidely Whiplash
stereotypes…. the character development is excellent. You never
suspect that Van Horne is “the devil” – Shades of Goethe and Faust!!! I
was wondering what those red things on Van Horne's back were
initially… but giving a stick of dynamite to Monkey King to play with.

I enjoyed this compared to to other East-West musical productions because:
1) 99% in English
2) Music had a broader range of
3) great character and story developments.
4) didn't
always understand what was going on – but it was still spell-binding and
kept the attention…. just short of breath taking.
5) martial arts
choreography – very exciting. Reminded me of Dr. Dennis Law's “action
musicals” at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts…. he also did
a monkey king production – but the music was really Chinese, and less
emphasis on story telling and story development – more on spectacle.

The scene of Van Horne dancing with the Iron
Dragon reminded me instantly of the Vancouver Opera production of Nixon
in China with Kissinger dancing and singing at the state dinner.

I was also amazed to discover the people I
already knew on stage and in the orchestra pit. Aaron and Alvin have
been in Red Letters + Aaron was in Flower Drum Song. Cam Wilson, Qiu
Xia He, Jonsey on Shung (not bagpipes), Jonathan Berard on Percussion,
Peggy Lee on cello. All leaders in their field and also do a lot of
cultural fusion! Wow!!!

I think after watching almost every Asian-Canadian play/musical
produced in Vancouver since about 1986, I have a good sense of what is
going on. While I did go to Nanaimo to see Denise Chong's “The
Concubine's Children”, I missed Marty Chan's “Best Left Buried”.

lot of people might not quite understand Forbidden Phoenix, and don't
like Chinese music….

I think the Gateway orchestra is amazing.
Individually, they all have done and contributed so much to Vancouver's
intercultural musical fusion. I had listened to it online…  Of course it reminded
me of Disney's Mulan – which I have the soundtrack.

Jade in the Coal's music was almost all
traditional Chinese, and was less connecting with a Western audience,
while being exotic – but the fascination doesn't hold long. Forbidden
Phoenix's lyrics were all in English, with Chinese operatic
inflections… creating both a familiarity and an exotic-ness.
East-West fusion has to stay away from stereotypical cliches to stay
fresh and keep from bogging down in old stereotypes….

I saw Peggy Lee in ''Québécité'' –
the jazz opera with a libretto by Afro-Canadian poet George Elliot
Clarke and music by Canadian-born, New-York-based D.D. Jackson – whose
mother was Chinese.
Qiu Xia He is the leader of Silk Road Music,
featured in the 2004 CBC TV Special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”, and has
performed many times at the Gung Haggis dinners.
Zhongxi Wu and his
wife Karen Wong performed at the 2006 Gung Haggis dinner, and also with
me at a “First Night” show for 2005 Dec 31.
Jonathan Bernard with his
wife Lan Tung, form Orchid Ensemble, and I see many of their
Cam Wilson, wrote “Canadian Four Seasons” for the
National Broadcast Orchestra – which I saw last fall, and suggested he
create a 5th Season (Indian Summer) – we have mutual friends Mark Ferris
(concert master for Vancouver Opera) who is married to Gloria Leung,
former Ricepaper editor. Mark performed at the 2004 Gung Haggis dinner.

The musicians such as Qiu Xia, Zhongxi Wu, and Jonathan Bernard are so
authentic, and have played with both the musical jokes and hooks, so
much in their own careers that their timing is knowledge is impeccable.

Great that Alvin Tran made his debut in Red Letters, and is now
in Forbidden Phoenix, as did the South African Christopher Kim Sing.
Isaac Kwok was also in Red Letters, and I first met him in Flower Drum
Song, produced by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre. I personally think
Isaac would be a great lead for Brigadoon (which was the last play I
saw at Gateway a few years ago).

somehow I keep thinking I should hear Chinese language coming from their
mouths. It's a bit of a mind twist of cultural expectations vs
reality. But that is like meeting a multi-generational Chinese from
Australia, or Scotland, who speaks in an Aussie or Scots accent. And I
have friends just like that! And we are in Canada, with a Canadian
play, set in Canada, for a Canadian audience – so they speak Canadian!

“To Be defined as Chinese or not to be Chinese?” Is this the question? CNN's Jane Leung writes an article.

Jane Leung: Tired of not being 'Chinese enough'

A Canadian-Chinese stakes her claim on the native land
Defining one's identity is an important part of maturity.  It becomes complicated when racial identity is also a part of that.  Jane Leung writes an interesting article about her perspective of being told she's “not Chinese enough” as well as being defined as “Chinese” by mainstream society. 

Having moved to Hong Kong, after growing up in Canada.  She finds other Chinese people thinking of her as “second class” because she doesn't speak Chinese or know about about Chinese culture and history?  How could she if she is technically an immigrant from Canada?

I spent 6 weeks in Taiwan, at age 20, learning the Mandarin language (my parents spoke Cantonese, because their ancestors had come from Guangzhou (Canton) province, then I traveled to Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.  In 1993, I traveled 2 weeks in Beijing and Xi'an.  Like Leung, people asked me “You look Chinese. Why you don't speak Chinese?” 

In their perspective of the world, from the ethnocentric Middle Kingdom, being Chinese meant looking Chinese AND speaking Chinese. If you couldn't speak Chinese, you were basically regarded as stupid – even if you were technically a Canadian and very smart in Canadian culture.  But imagine what life is like for Chinese immigrants to Canada… if they can't speak English, they are similarly regarded as less equal.

Being “Chinese” is a spectrum, and a social construct. It means different things in Hong Kong, China, Halifax or Richmond BC, or Alberta. But Chinese emigration experiences to Canada, Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere all have similar experiences.  It all depends on context. Jane Leung is on the right path.  Define yourself, and don't let “others” define you.

This is why other definitions of “Chinese-ness”
are used in Canada, such as Canadian-Chinese or Chinese-Canadian, or
Canadian born Chinese-Canadian. It all depends on context. Last year on
the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat, we had paddlers
of Chinese ancestry who had been born in South Africa, Scotland, Italy,
Malaysia, Beijing, Hong Kong, Canada and Alberta… and everybody
thought it was very cool. Diversity or mono-culture tunnel vision?
Definitely the global perspective is on the rise, to include Chinese
emigration patterns around the world, something that Scotland National
Museum already does.

Every immigrant group to North America and
elsewhere goes through a similar identity shift, whether they are Irish, Scots, African, South Asian, Vietnamese or even Greek. I remember watching the movie
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with a friend born and raised in Hong Kong.
Throughout the movie, she
kept elbowing me and saying “Ai-Yah! Just like Chinese!”

Even ex-pat Brits returning
to England after time spent in colonies had to endure derision, but it
is no where the same amount when language skills are involved.
Canadians born and raised with Chinese ancestry, are often called
“jook-sing” (hollow bamboo) by their immigrant counterparts, or
“bananas” (yellow on the outside and white on the inside”. Of course
this counteracts the names of “FOB” or “Honger” by “CBC”ers (Canadian
Born Chinese). Leung hits it on the head when she writes “For locals
who can’t adapt to multiculturalism accepted in other countries, the
only way they think they can tangibly confront this issue is by picking
on what they believe is the living embodiment of something they fear:
Westernized Chinese kids.”

Read Jane Leung's article here:
Jane Leung“Banana’s here! Poor thing. Illiterate and can’t speak properly.”

This was not the welcome I expected from family friends when I arrived
in Hong Kong from Canada. I had grown up as the token Asian, but now I
had become the token white girl, a.k.a. the “gwai mui.”

I am Chinese. I look Chinese. I was born in Hong Kong.

have had Confucian principles bred into me from birth. I put career and
good grades above life itself and believe that whatever I can’t achieve
through talent I can make happen through hard work and self-discipline.

Yet, if I listen to friends and family here in Hong Kong, I am no more Chinese than lemon chicken.

I was raised in a Western community in Canada and speak basic Cantonese,
but can’t read or write it, which apparently means I am a sell-out, a
banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) with no right to
associate with locals or their higher Chinese values.

It is apparent to me that some Chinese feel “more Chinese,” thus superior to those who aren’t fluent in the language.

Vancouver Sun: 10 Legendary Vancouverites

Do you know these 10 legendary Vancouverites?
Vancouver Sun article includes Yip Sang, Mary Lee Chan, Wong Foon Sien

Check it out at: Vancouver Sun: 10 Legendary Vancouverites

Here are my personal connections to Joe Fortes, Mary Lee Chan, Yip Sang, and Dal Richards.

I learned the story about Joe Fortes when I first worked at the Joe Fortes Library when I started as a teenager.  I can answer trivia questions that his baptized name was “Seraphim”, and he was one of Vancouver's most beloved life guards of English Bay.  Here's a great video of Joe Fortes by Global TV's Mike McCardell.

Mary Lee Chan
I am friends with the children of Mary Lee Chan, and descendants of Yip Sang.  Mary Lee Chan's story about saving Strathcona neighborhood from Free way Destruction is wonderfully captured in the film documentary “Mary Lee Chan Takes On City Hall“.   There is a current campaign to name the newly proposed library in Strathcona neighborhood after Mary Lee Chan:

Here's a link from historia Chuck Davis' Metropolitan Vancouver

Yip Sang was an important figure for the building of CPR Railroad, and Vancouver Chinatown development.  The Yip Sang family reunion is also legendary.  I contacted descendant Hoy Yip when I started organizing a family reunion for the Rev. Chan family descendants for 99 and 2000.  Descendant Steven Wong (on his mother's side) paddles on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. Vancouver Archives has the Yip Sang project online:

Wong Foon Sien was a pioneer in fighting for the repeal of the Chinese
Excusion Act in 1947, and asking for redress for the Chinese Head Tax. 
Here's a good story about Wong Foon Sien, by my friend Larry Wong

Dal Richards at the 2010 Canada Day celebrations at Kitsilano Showboat stage – photo T. Wong

I have known Vancouver-born Dal Richards for the past few years from our roles on Canadian Club Vancouver.  I had the honour of being included with Dal for the BC Royal Museum's “The Party”centrepiece display for the 150th anniversary
exhibition – titled Free Spirit: Stories of You, Me and BC – The Party featured 150 British Columbians who’ve helped shape the province.

Nobody born in Scotland?

Lachlan Hamilton, CPR surveyor and alderman might have been of Scottish ancestry, as were many of Vancouver's pioneers, but a google search isn't revealing anything so far.  Sam Greer is listed as born in Ireland.  Major Skitt Matthews, who started the Vancouver Archives, was born in Wales.

A google search on Alfred Larwill reveals more about the history of Larwill Park, formerly the Cambie street Grounds, and now a parking lot, and the proposed site of a new Vancouver Art Gallery, where the Olympics hosted the Live City Downtown site.

Interesting how 3 of the 10, were evicted (or almost) from their homes: Larwill from the Cambie Street Grounds, Greer from the CPR lands, and Fortes nearly from his shack on English Bay – if not for a blockade of 100 people.  His house was moved to the present location of the English Bay bandstand, where a plaque now commemorates Joe Fortes.

Tyee: “How Strangely You Canadians Elect Your Leader” by Aleeza Khan

Tyee: “How Strangely You Canadians Elect Your Leader”

A global perspective is always interesting…. How are Canadians viewed by the world and how do Canadians view the world.

Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff has viewed the world as a media correspondent for BBC and CBC, and also as a professor at Harvard University.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper rarely visited another country, until he had to as Prime Minister.

I have met Jack Layton and his wife Olivia Chow and found them both very personable and friendly.  Both have a good understanding of multiculturalism, inclusion, and immigrant issues.  They are such a “Gung Haggis couple” because of their intercultural marriage.


Jack Layton posed with me and my bagpiper friends Allan and Trish McMordie, following the 2009 St. Patrick's Day parade. photo T. Wong

Check out this article in The Tyee, by visiting Brit Aleeza Khan.

Tyee: “How Strangely You Canadians Elect Your Leader”

A visitor from the UK contrasts Conservative PM David
Cameron with Conservative PM Stephen Harper, and what it takes to win
there and here.

By Aleeza Khan


Visiting U.K. writer Aleeza Khan — here
sampling the other Canadian bloodsport — wishes to be clear that she
likes Canadians and our cultural customs, a lot.

I'm not totally new to your
land. While I'm from London, I have many connections to Canada and have
visited numbers of times. What has made me feel a stranger during my
current visit, though, is this exercise underway called the Federal
Election of 2011.

From my vantage in Vancouver, I've been
taking notes and forming comparisons with the election we in Great
Britain went through less than a year ago. You may have noticed that
the person who became prime minister, David Cameron, calls himself a
Conservative, as does your Stephen Harper. There, most similarities seem
to end in the way the two men present themselves, in the way they've
run for office, and in the effect they have on the voting public,
particularly younger ones like me.

Can I share some observations?

1. In England, we feel the need to like our prime minister. You apparently don't.

2. In Canada, the prime minister says coalitions are evil. In the UK, the prime minister owes his job to one.

3. In Great Britain, candidates want as many people as possible to vote. Not in Canada.

4. Back in England, younger people are a lot more politically engaged than here in Canada.

Read full article here: