The following is a post by staff writer Anne. This is an inspiring story about the journey of her parents through life as they came to a strange place, encountered hardship, and strived toward their goals.
This is the story about the journey of my parents through life. This story begins 30 years ago in a small place called Taiwan, and covers their journey from rags to riches as they started a new life in Canada. When they first arrived, they couldn’t speak neither English nor French and they also had no financial stability. Life wasn’t easy for them, but they pushed forward. I have learned so much from their journey, and I would like to share their story with you.
Coming to Canada
My parents, recently married and now with a 2-year old son, my brother, (I hadn’t been born yet) lived a humble yet content life on a little island in Asia called Taiwan. Both worked hard at their respective jobs, but enjoyed what they were doing. As they were building their new lives together, my father’s mother, sisters and brother had already immigrated to the other side of the world, a land of promise, where my parents had only heard great stories of from my father’s side of the family. My grandmother repeatedly tried to convince my family to also fly to North America by writing them letters, on a monthly basis, about the great opportunities they would have in Canada, especially for my brother.
Respecting the words of her mother-in-law, my mother was convinced after a few letters, since they had a good relationship at this point. My mom took the family, their savings of about $5,000, went through a long process of immigration interviews and application forms, which went smoothly, said their goodbyes to friends and family, and flew to an unknown world.
Relying solely on the expectant support of my father’s family in Canada, my parents’ English comprehension was minimal, and French was a new language they had never heard before. The Taiwanese community was so small that it seemed like everyone knew each other, or had heard of each other.
Starting a new life in a foreign land
Upon arriving, my grandmother and one of her daughters owned a 2-apartment building, and they rented the basement out to my parents. They paid three months of rent and then handed the rest of the money to my grandmother, since she promised that she would take good care of their savings and invest the money wisely for them. My parents handed the money over, because they trusted their own mother.
However unbeknown to my parents, my grandmother did not have their best intentions in mind. We didn’t quite realize it at the time, but my parents were actually looked down upon by my grandmother. We were poor, and they couldn’t speak the language. My mother’s own mom had died when she was young, and she was forced to raise her siblings herself. She made it, but she didn’t have the backing of a rich family and had to forge her own path. My father was also not her favored son, in fact we only learned later that he had been celebrating his birthday on the wrong day all this time!
After receiving their cash, my grandmother and aunt started to dramatically change their faces towards my parents. We didn’t know about it at first, but my grandmother went around town, spreading bad rumours about my parents, telling all and any Taiwanese immigrant, how disrespectful the new family was towards her, how they lacked complete respect for their elders and that they treated her so badly after helping them so much, that she cried every night. Meanwhile, my parents were working hard in looking for jobs and a daycare for my brother, and they were oblivious that all of these rumours about them were being spread. The impact of these rumours was most apparent when my mother found a good job at a big company, despite her difficulty with the language barrier.
During the first few days of this new job, other Taiwanese working there literally snubbed my mother just for having the same name of the disrespectful children in my grandmother’s stories, before even having the chance of saying anything. My mother was so confused, and hurt. What had she done wrong? These stories had spread so far, that during overtime nights, all the Taiwanese women would give each other lifts, since the nights were dark and cold; they would help each other get home safely, but would refuse to give my mother a lift and told her to take the bus. These Taiwanese women had obviously heard the ‘’horrible things’’ that my parents had done to my grandmother. As hurt as my mom was, she did not let these women hold her down from moving forward. She ignored the incessant abuse and continued doing her own thing.
At the same time, my father had also found a lower-paying job, but was satisfied that the mouths of his family could at least be fed and that decent shelter was provided to them every month.
The hate becomes revealed
The word-of-mouth spread of rumours continued. My grandmother would constantly call her own son a pig-headed useless piece of junk and told everyone to stay away from that evil son of hers and his family. In addition, the money that was ‘’invested’’ with her at the beginning was used to buy a piano for my cousin, her favourite grandchild. To top it all off, we were thrown out of the apartment after living there for a month and didn’t even get back the other two months of rent let alone the savings. Why? Because they couldn’t stand the crying of my brother, who was two years old at the time.
What were we to do at this point? My mom was really thinking that going back to Taiwan was the best solution; they had had a much better life back at home, with real family and friends, and with the comfort of communicating in their own language. Canada was not their home. The promise that life would be better was broken and things were getting more and more difficult for them. However, as much as my mom wanted to take the easy way out, she did not want to quit after all this effort; they had already established relatively good jobs, they had found a daycare for my brother and a goal was already set in her mind: to be as successful as possible in a world so different from what she knew.
The importance of determination and perseverance
At the young age of 26, my mother decided that keeping her distance with her in-law family was the only way that she could keep her goal in action. But even after doing so, stories were still being spread, and more dramatically as ever. On Mother’s Day, my grandmother went up to the alter during a Sunday mass, fell on her knees and started bawling her eyes out telling everyone that her son is the most disrespectful person on earth and that she is the unluckiest woman on the planet to have had borne such a filthy being. At this point, my parents had started to establish a couple of friendships through their own, because after getting to know my parents, people were slowly realizing that my grandmother was just starting drama and spreading untruthful words about them, and they didn’t understand how a woman could say such lies about her own child.
This drove my mom to wanting success even more; she toughened up like a rock, and completely cut herself off from anyone that was still being brainwashed by my grandmother. She even decided to have another child (me!) to expand her family. She was determined to give her children a much better life than they ever had.
After a decade of constant working, sacrificing all savings to send their two children to top-notch private schools, never being lazy, and always eyeing that goal of hers, my mom and dad (who had also found a very good job at an aviation company) finally saved enough to buy a nice big new house.
Moving beyond the past
Seeing how great we were doing, my grandmother decided to pop back into our lives, showing a little more respect, but never apologizing for the past, and pretending to be so happy for them. My mother was not impressed, but she still respected her elder and never brought up the past. For a few years, things were actually decent; us children got to know our aunts, cousins and uncles. It felt like a family, with Christmas dinners, birthday parties, get-togethers, and ski trips. We put aside our anger and accepted the way things were going; it was my father’s family after all.
All was good, until my grandfather, who was left behind in Taiwan by my grandmother, passed away. By this time, his entire family had stopped caring and nobody went back to give him a decent ceremony, not even his own daughters or other son. I do need to admit that he was a selfish man that only really cared about himself; he was picky and very difficult to live with. My parents had sheltered him when he decided to give Canada a try, but he ultimately did not adjust and decided to go back to Taiwan.
They would also go back to Taiwan and visit him every now and then, although they didn’t know at the time that he was telling my aunt things like he wanted to shoot my mom because she wasn’t respectful enough towards him, which we only found out after he died and we were left with his things, including these letters. We had no idea he had felt that way about her, but she still went back to Taiwan and paid and stayed for the entire ceremony.
Meanwhile back in Canada, my grandmother had also heard the news that her husband had died because my dad had called her and his siblings about flying to Taiwan and paying their respects. All of them gave an excuse not to go and only asked to bring them back a death certificate. Clearly, they just wanted whatever little money he had left; how crude, thought my dad.
When my parents came back from Taiwan, my grandmother and an aunt physically came to their door and asked for the death certificate. My mother did not want to give them satisfaction and was so frustrated they could be so inconsiderate about a family member, that she told them off and said that no death certificates were brought back. This was the last straw for us; we indefinitely distanced ourselves from all of my dad’s family and my parents decided to continue pursuing their goal.
Reaching true success at last
Thirty years have passed since my parents first came to Canada. My parents have reached far and beyond their goal. They now own several properties and have invested wisely, and they have continued working hard at the same companies and are looking forward to retiring soon. Even more importantly, both of their children grew up to cherish the values taught to them, have graduated from university, and continue to strive with post-graduate studies while earning an income.
My parents have come a long way, but they only made it because of hard work and perseverance. Even when other family members shat on them and spread rumours behind their back, and even when their money was stolen by said family members, they still rammed through and realized their goal. They were able to save and earn enough to give their children the best shot that they could, and they have built up more savings than they ever dreamed of, but that was slowly earned by sacrifice and ambition.
Even with many obstacles in life, one can still be successful, as long as you believe in yourself and work at it.
[Kevin] Seeing Anne and her parents is what made me realize how important it is to never give up on your goals, even if the tide is turned against you! We come from such different backgrounds; in my own story, my mother fills the role of her grandmother. Even though our backgrounds are different, her parents have shown me how important it is to pass down your values to your children as well as the importance of moving beyond the past.
It’s easy to see people once they have made it and forget about all of the sacrifices that they had to make along the way. Although they are doing very well now, they had to work hard at it and go through a lot of crap. It was only possible because they never gave up.