Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, May 31, 2010

Arrival from China

My father came from China to Trinidad when he was 11. That must have been around 1936. He accompanied his own father on an exploratory trip, and then later as Akung (grandfather) proceeded to move his children - one by one like a lioness might move one cub at a time - from Guangdong (previously Canton) province. The adventure of that travel one can only imagine - by boat to Canada, across North America by train, and then by sea again on the Atlantic to Chinidad. Must have taken a couple weeks each way, each time.

Coming from a land so immense as China, what made my paternal grandfather choose these tiny islands in the south Caribbean? He must have heard about them from some other Chinese compere. The climate was similar enough, and there was need for shops, a niche which the Chinese happily filled. Akung was an adventurer, an extrovert, happy-go-lucky. He made several trips between China and Trinidad, bringing three sons and eventually bringing his wife and two smaller children, another son and the first girl. The last two girls (of that union) were born in Trinidad. But in the years of back and forth, he also started a Trinidad family, which he maintained a street away with the Chinese family which he brought.

So my father left childhood in China, was taught English in Trinidad by his godmother (Christianised but not converted or convinced) and went to work in his father's shops. First in Belmont, and later in Woodbrook, and also on the top of Laventille. His schooling was over the counter, roaming with the boys from Belmont and Woodbrook and Laventille on the streets of Port of Spain, from movies in "t'eater," and in the kitchen with his mother and father.

It was behind the shop in Woodbrook that he kept gold fish, a monkey that would run away across the rooftops, a couple "bad dogs," birds (parakeets, lovebirds, semp and picoplat). And it was here that he devised and experimented with the technology to build an incubator for chieken eggs, with success that led to his life's business - poultry farmer. That's a much much longer story.

Today, we remember a young boy brought to a strange land by a father who loved travel. I would say he was a quick learner, fearless, willing to make his life with his own hands. He never stopped to look back, never judged himself, and with his fiercely independent spirit, epitomised the entrepreneur that this country could use more of today.
Chinese boy, circa 1936

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