Toren and Joshua were playmates three and six years ago when they were much smaller but no less cuter than today. It feels good to be reunited with Danielle and Toren who lived in the same building block as we did in TEDA, China. We moved to Manila but returned to China around the time they moved to Tianjin City. Our paths criss-crossed but we managed to arrange playdates. Before they left for Canada, Toren gave us an unforgettable dance performance of his favorite tunes in their living room and now, he opened the reunion floor with his recently learned, cool hip-hop moves. Danielle made sure the trampoline was ready for the kids’ arrival in Regina and the three remastered front flips and attempted backflips.
Danielle has lived in mainland China for thirteen years so there was food she missed that Jason was only too happy to prepare: jiaozi, jia jiang mian and huo guo. Those are dumplings, Chinese spaghetti and hot pot. We were transported back to Tianjin, a family gathered around a spring festive table, struggling to fit the meat filling within a tiny square.
There is a Filipino word that is hard to translate into English — kilig. It’s the excited giddiness of meeting a crush or meeting your friend’s special someone. Knowing the backstory of the long distance relationship (not to mention other hurdles), I felt kilig finally meeting Danielle’s boyfriend, Kurt in the flesh.
We biked and scootered in the park, visited and played in Toren’s school and went to the museum where my interest in First Nations was piqued when Danielle who is part Cree, told me about the residential schools the previous evening.
In Canada, the Indian (Aboriginal) residential schools (French: pensionnats autochtones / écoles résidentielles) were a network of “residential” (boarding) schools for Indigenous people (First Nations or “Indians”; Métis; and Inuit). The network was funded by the Canadian government’s Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and administered by Christian churches.
The school system was created for the purpose of removing children from the influence of their own culture and assimilating them into the dominant Canadian culture. Over the course of the system’s existence, approximately 30% of native children, or roughly 150,000, were placed in residential schools nationally. At least 6,000 of these students are estimated to have died while in attendance.
Danielle and her mom, Marion played Boggle every morning and afternoon. When I joined them for a couple of rounds and performed poorly, I realized what an amazing privilege it was to see how people’s perspectives are broader than your own. They found connections where I desperately couldn’t and it’s me again appreciating how much of a metaphor this is for life. Sometimes, it’s an uphill battle to keep blinders off so we can see the bigger picture. It comes through constant practice and being exposed to experts who do it with relative ease.
Our last night in Saskatchewan was capped off by Marion on the autoharp and Danielle on the ukulele gracefully singing Baha’i and Chinese songs. The words of one of the songs struck me as something I’d like to aspire living out more.
Where there is love
Where there is love
Nothing is too much trouble
And there’s always time, time, time,
Time, time, time, time, time, time
Here’s also a beautiful poem Marion herself wrote: