Welcome to Toisan Pride

Toisanese (Hoisanese is the REAL pronunciation; and Mandarin speakers call it "Taishan" or Taishanese") were among the first Chinese-Cantonese immigrants to hail to the United States from the Guangdong/Guangzhou Province of Southern China in the Pearl River Delta, west of Hong Kong.

Many Hoisanese immigrants came to the U.S. starting in the 19th century to help build railroads, and eventually stayed to establish laundromats, restaurants, etc. and worked hard to build a better future for their families. Some famous Hoisan folks include: U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Chef Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook); Hawaii Senator Hiram Fong, Hong Kong Martial Artist Donnie Yen (star of IP MAN), Actor James Hong, Former California Treasurer Matt Fong; Actress Anna May Wong. For more Toisan/Taishan background history, click on Wikipedia.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Some day, I plan on updating it but Blogger isn't the greatest with blog templates so I appreciate your patience! I welcome comments, stories, photos, Toisanese/Say-Yip history, anything about our wonderful people to toisangirl@yahoo.com.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chinglish and Ah-Gung

I have to admit, I feel so "Un-Chinese" these days, lost between worlds because I'm so Americanized, despite my first language being Hoisan Wah. The vendors in Honolulu Chinatown all speak Jonshanese from Southern China, or Hong Kong Cantonese and can't understand me, and vice versa. So I resort to speaking English in Chinese restaurants, deli's and stores whether in California or Hawaii. I personally feel a level of disdain in knowing that I am ethnic Chinese and yet I can't converse with anyone, since Hoisan Wah is so rare in Hawaii. I know enough Mandarin to get by but not to order a full-scale meal at a restaurant.

My  children, who are 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Japanese, are caught between Hawaii-Japanese-Americanized influences because of where we live. They don't know any Hoisan Wah. They can speak a few simple phrases in Mandarin and Japanese but aren't fluent in anything except standard American English.

Growing up in Los Angeles County, my family spoke a lot of "Chinglish."  My parents and grandparents spoke Hoisan Wah to me and my brothers - and we'd reply in English. It was a galore of blended conversations for the simplest things from shopping at 99 Ranch Market, Kenney Shoe Store or eating dinner.

When Ah-Gung and Ah-Pwah (maternal grandpa and grandma) arrived from China to the U.S. in the 70s, they were strangers to me as a child, but we quickly bonded as they became our caretakers in the absence of our parents, who were busy working dad's grocery store in East L.A.
Ah-Pwah and Ah-Gung
 Ah-Gung was awesome, he was a jack of all trades. He could carve anything out of wood from wooden tai chi swords, bookcases, cribs, bookshelves, book study stands and could even bake fresh loaves of bread made by hand. An avid athlete, swimmer, and kung fu and tai chi practitioner/artist, he and his five brothers were known for their martial arts skills in their Toisan village, according to my mom. Ah-Gung could speak Hoisan Wah and Tagalog, having lived and worked in the Phillippines many years working to send money back to his wife, who was busy raising my mom and two siblings solo in the Leung Toon Village of Toisan.

I admired Ah-Gung deeply because he was a kind, honest, fun-loving, and sincere man. He was an old soul. I couldn't help but feel at peace in his presence, there was no pretentiousness, no judgment. It was the best feeling in the world, just hanging out and not having to talk. He was the "cool" guy at the swimming pool with his water tricks and the kids would surround him asking him to show them how to do it. I felt so proud that he was my grandpa and always wanted to be with him. He passed away many years ago but I sure miss him.