Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ciao Ciao Gastown

ALC emoting for the assembled 
group at the Bressani Prize
A rough night. I was afraid that I would sleep through the alarm (which I have never done in my life by the way). I had to be at the airport by 10.30a for an 11.30a flight. So civilized. In Toronto, I had to be there two hours before to fly domestically. I get scanned for the first time. Okay, I think, but this won't be pretty. I try not to think of what they will see on the scan. But it's very quick - literally two or three seconds.

Breakfast at Griffins restaurant downstairs in the hotel. I treat myself to a $5 coffee and a light breakfast. Ouch, I feel guilty even just writing that down. Taxi to the airport. Goodbye Vancouver I hardly knew ye ... but wish I had gotten to know you better. I fell in love with you - it was like seeing a beautiful face that you have never met before across a room, so fleeting and yet it left an intense impression on me.

Exterior of the VAG
I feel a special connection to the city because R's parents were born here. After the internment, his maternal grandparents Tsunekichi and Yei Hayashi were driven out of Vancouver (with thousands of others) and forced to relocate east. They ended up in Lemon Creek in Slocan, B.C. in an internment camp during WWII - the entire family: his grandfather in one section, the grandmother and four young children in another part. After the war the Japanese-Canadians were forbidden to stay in the west and they slowly made their way to Ontario to find work and accommodations which was difficult as many would not rent to Japanese Canadians. Imagine trying to do that as the head of the family with six children? The humiliation and stress of that? What that would do to a proud man's ego...

As successful and resilient as the Japanese-Canadians are (and they are very) I know that the war did irreparable harm to the families involved. The stoicism with which they have endured the destruction of their families, livelihood and basic civil rights is unbelievable. Sometimes when J feels timid or uncertain about something I remind her that she has the blood of both her Sicilian and her Japanese grandmothers in her veins and that they faced many more hardships than we ever did...

Never buy into that hogwash about how racially tolerant Canadians are versus our American cousins. Read your history. Know your past.

Whenever anyone refers to R's Japanese heritage I am quick to append Japanese-Canadian and to let them know that his family has been here in Canada for almost 80 years. If he ain't Canadian I don't know who is.

Imagine if the war had not happened, that the Japanese-Canadians had not been interned by the government, that they had not been forced to give up their businesses and move east to Ontario. R could have been in B.C. the whole time and I would have been stuck in Toronto alone. Gulp. I don't even want to think about it. This is a long and very sad story that, one day, I hope to write about with the help of my Japanese-Canadian in-laws.

Elevators leading to the Istituto
The flight home was uneventful. I read, I watched Inception. I copy-edited the latest issue of Descant. I pretended to understand the convoluted plot of Inception. The truth is I have no idea what I was watching but I was intrigued.

On the plane, I am itching to get home. Each day I left a heart on J and R's fb pages to remind them that I am thinking of them. One heart for day one, two hearts for day two, etc ...

R picks me up at the airport which I appreciate because I know he is busy with work. Great to see his gorgeous face as I exit the baggage claim, weary and none too fresh smelling (me that is, not R). It's good to go away sometimes. Then you get a true sense of the wonderful things you have waiting for you at home.


Andrew said...

Welcome back, and congrats. on a successful trip.

Michelle said...

Thanks Andrew, it was a lovely experience. :)

Christine said...

Glad you home. Happy you enjoyed Vancouver!

"Never buy into that hogwash about how racially tolerant Canadians are versus our American cousins. Read your history. Know your past."


Michelle said...

Thanks Christine. :)