Wednesday, 18 January 2012

From chopsticks to English husband.

Like most schoolgirls in Hong Kong, I had occasions of fantasising about 'boyfriends and husbands' with friends. When we were about 10, in one of these talks, a friend named Hui Yuet Au who liked all things glamorous whose goal was to become a celebrity, told us that one day she would marry  a westerner because she would get to eat dinners with knives and forks instead of chopsticks. Perhaps, chopsticks represented in her mind as something ordinary and uninteresting when compared with knives and forks that you could only use in expensive restaurants, or seen in foreign films used by westerners in suits and beautiful dresses.

Without telling them, I had the feeling that one day I would end up in England and could possibly have an English husband.

The only westerners I knew personally were the American couple Mr and Mrs Morgan, Mr Morgan was our church pastor who wore nice suits all the time, his trousers always looked straight and crease-free because he didn't seem to bend his legs when he walked. Mrs Morgan wore immaculately ironed dresses in floral prints who had hair that never moved in the wind. No, I didn’t have the chance to try my English on them since they spoke good Cantonese though understandably in a heavy accent, I would have been too shy to do so anyway had I been given a chance. 

Mr Morgan delivered his sermons in Cantonese, sang hymns in Cantonese and prayed in Cantonese that always made me wonder if God found that confusing because He must have expected English from an American. They did try integrating and identifying with the Chinese life of their congregation by using chopsticks, eating out of bowls and serving food communally at the table, that I admired so much until one day in their house, I caught them using that glamorous eating tools!

I felt betrayed and disappointed, Mr and Mrs Morgan shouldn't be them, not what Hui Yuet Au would have imagined, they should be one of us.

So, Mr and Mrs Morgan were glamorous after all, they lived up Hui Yuet Au’s stereotypical image of the glamorous westerners, nice suits, pretty dresses and they used knives and forks.

Soon, I bid goodbye to my parents, friends and Mr and Mrs Morgan. I came to England with their blessings, to be amongst glamorous westerners in suits and floral-printed dresses who ate with knives and forks. I was one step ahead of Hui Yuet Au’s dream, she would have felt so jealous of me if she knew I eventually married to an English gentleman.

Hui Yuet Au’s dream didn’t come true, instead I am living out her dream. In our kitchen cupboard, we keep knives and forks and there is only one pair of chopsticks. I have a husband who looks good in suits like Mr Morgan used to look except he has creased up trousers because he bends his legs when he walks. My late mother-in-law used to wear immaculately ironed dresses, also had hair looked like Margaret Thatcher that wouldn’t move in the wind.

In her house, I had to follow her dinning ritual by laying the silverwares, Hui Yuet Au’s glamorous eating tools, neatly on the starched white tablecloth. I was expected to sit straight at the dinning table and cut the food up into small pieces on a large shiny plate, meanwhile making sure I didn’t drop the food and stain her brilliant white tablecloth. Conversation with her was minimal as I didn't think she would tolerate my accent and my grammatical mistakes. Eating at her house was such a challenge though I found myself playing a role in those foreign dinning scenes that I saw in Hong Kong cinemas.

Hui Yuet Au might still be using chopsticks somewhere in Hong Kong. She might have worked it out by now; a 10-year-old girl’s dream usually glamourises reality hundred times. I am now living in her childhood dream world that she would not have recognised.

Mr and Mrs Morgan fulfilled God's calling and are now with Him whom they faithfully served for the most part of their lives. To me, they were my good prototypes of all westerners I would soon meet and they sealed in me a solid impression of what an ideal westerner should be.

That disappointed little girl in their house many years ago, is also using knives and forks now, she is still hoping to discover the glamorous western life for Hui Yuet Au,  but deeply convinced that it would never come. 

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