I was invited to dinner last night by my friend Anne Unfortunately, at the last minute she was unable to attend, but I braved the -29 C weather and went anyway. I was glad I did. Anne’s friend and co-worker Ying was there, too, with her husband and daughter. And her parents. I had met them earlier this week. They are visiting from Harbin, China and have only a few words of English. I have only one word of Chinese, though; I can say ‘hello’ in Mandarin. But it’s amazing how much we can communicate through smiles, gestures and Ying’s translations. The dinner we were at was cooked by the Collective Kitchen, one of the projects of the Edmomton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN). The members are all recent immigrants. They come together to learn a bit of Canadian cooking and culture and to share some of their own. They cook the dinner for EMCN’s Christmas party. The food was varied and delicious. The best part for me, though, was meeting a few more people from far away places, people who lived through times and events that I have only read about or watched in movies.
I will never forget reading “The Killing Fields” and later seeing the movie. Last night I sat at a table with a woman from Kampuchea (often Anglicized to Cambodia). She was a young girl when Pol Pot was in power, and saw the killing of her parents, a younger brother, a sister, an uncle, and many more. It is hard to imagine living through all that, then moving to a completely different country forever, and still being cheerful, which she is. I had trouble getting through much smaller challenges in my life, and I have nothing but admiration for those who endure the unendurable and then go on to create lives containing happiness, creativity and peace. I’m sure she must have her own ‘dark nights’, but last night she was happy, smiling and optimistic. We talked of her early years and she told me she could watch the movies about those times because movies are nowhere near what it was like to be there; but she can’t bear to re-live those days in her memories; that is still too real. Her husband, Kim, is a jeweller working in silver and gold, with his own small shop. He is a quiet man, but also interesting.
Also at our table was Jiri, a young man from the Czech Republic. He has only been here five months, but his English was pretty good. Luckily, as I have not even one word of Czech!
The entertainment included playing snd singing by a group of six or seven people (the 14year old only played for a few songs); all of them from Chile or Mexico. They were good musicians and lots of fun, too.
After them, an older Chinese gentleman in gorgeous white satin clothing had us all stand as he led usvtgrough the long form Tai Chi. I haven’t done that for a while, and only from my books, so I was able to keep up through about a third of the exercise, then fell behind, finally stopping and simply enjoying his grace and the beauty of the precise movements. Mine were far from precise!
The last of the entertainment was a man (from either Chile or Mexico) demonstrating some Karate katas; the patterns of movement used to train the body. He, too, was graceful, and his controlled strength and grace were delightful.
Then it was all over. My new friend from Kampuchea and her husband gave me a ride home, so we had a bit more time to chat.
A very goid day! And a reminder to me to overcome my shyness more often.