Author: Ancy Lee
Translator: Pius Lee
My mother’s name is Thuong Hong-Lai. She was born in Teoryang Prefecture, Teochew, China. Nonetheless, my mother’s grandfather was among the few Chinese southerners who emigrated to Vietnam during the late 19th century, as a result my grandfather was a second generation immigrant with 50% Chinese and 50% Vietnamese blood running in his veins. In his teenage years, my great grandfather worried that his mixed-blood son (my grandfather) might lose his Chinese heritage. He sent him back to his Chinese home-town to learn the language, poetry, piety and culture. Some years later, my great grandfather remotely orchestrated his son’s marriage with a Teochew girl as his legally wedded spouse. This young couple (my grandparents) soon had two daughters — my mother is the younger of the two. It is mystifying to me to this day as to why my grandfather left China abruptly for Vietnam alone leaving his wife and the girls —– it happened just before my mother’s birth. This commenced a long separation between the husband and wife across the oceans for many years.
Grandma gave birth to mom and gave her away as a new-born to a friend as her daughter. Grandma was perhaps succumbing to the pressure of livelihood in a husband-less home and the stigma of continually giving births to daughters in a son-privileged chauvinistic society. Girls were surplus merchandise readily be deserted and given away. Shortly after grandpa returned to Vietnam, his parents arranged for him to establish another family with another young bride. It must have been burdensome for my young grandfather to provide for 2 households separated by vast oceans. A common default was to neglect the overseas legal wife and the two young daughters there. Grandma became a de-facto single mom and experienced hardships daily to make ends meet. Grandma decided to brave the oceans to take the long voyage to Vietnam with the oldest daughter to look for her husband. It was a tearful trail with a comforting ending that after many twists and turns of weeks of travel, finally grandpa and grandma were re-united. However, grandma was heart-broken to know grandpa had already married another woman with other children.
My grandpa’s name is Lian-Ci Zhang. In my impression he was always well-dressed in a silky long dress and wearing on his face a pair of shiny glasses tugged in golden frames. He was a gasoline wholesaler merchant, abundantly rich with servants and houses. Grandpa lacked nothing, yet the two wives under the same roof had caused much rift and quarrel. It illustrated the old Chinese saying that: “There is no room for two tigers in one mountain.” Instead of the coziness of a home, there were undercurrents of animosity. On one occasion, grandpa beat up grandma cruelly in a wild field. Grandma fell and fainted. The nearby villagers came for grandma’s rescue and scolded grandpa for his cruelty and called for emergency paramedic help for grandma. The unending torment of cruelty and being deserted at home was unbearable. Grandma summoned her courage and left her husband’s home with three young children —- one daughter and two sons. Grandma braved into an unfriendly and unknown world with two bare hands and four mouths to feed.
As I mentioned, my mother’s name is “Hong-Lai” meaning “red pear”. It was named so because the new-born was pinkish and fat. Soon after the baby was born, grandma gave her over to a neighborhood friend. That family’s surname is Yu, and they were not well-off. A couple years later, my mother’s oldest sister bumped into my mother in the village and recognized her sister, now a toddler, was then skinny and ugly. She complained to Yu’s family that they did not raise her sister well. The Yu’s had only sons and yearned for a daughter. That was the reason they adopted my mother. Mom’s stepmother loved my mother as if her own full daughter. However, in Yu’s household the grandmother also lived under the same roof and she did not love my mother. In my mother’s memory she was often corporally abused by grandma and mom developed a fear against coming near her. The big brothers in Yu’s household were much older than my mother, and their wives treated my mother as a maid servant. They often commanded mom to go to the hill tops to collect sticks and hay as firewood and cow-dung as fuel. Mom’s big brothers were sugar cane farmers, and they would reward mom with sugar residuals after the errands. The sugar reward was harmful to mom’s teeth and she had many cavities and dental problems when she grew up.
Mom’s stepmother had chronic gynecological hemorrhage and feared that her remaining days were numbered. With a heavy heart she worried about my mother’s future knowing that with her passing my mother’s future would be even bleaker and subjected to unconstrained abuse and bullying in the home. The Bible says: “(God is) A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows….” (Psalm 68:5). God always shows mercy to man. Man can plan, but God accomplishes. My mother was thirteen or fourteen years of age when her stepmother asked one of her relatives to bring mom to travel to Vietnam to look for her birth mother. The voyage was a success and true and behold mom now lived with her mother for the first time in her life. She also started to learn from grandma, who now was a famous textile broker in town, the vocation to become a cloth and textile retailer dealer. Grandma was an amazing giant who was lowly educated, but with her fortitude and diligence rose from destitute and being deserted to become a single mother provided a loving home for six children —- four of her own, and two adopted.
Being one of his granddaughters (the author) I had only met grandpa twice. The first occasion happened when my amazing grandma was on her deathbed (1977). Mom’s second younger brother traveled to grandpa’s province to invite him to no avail. At long last, grandpa came to grandma’s funeral. That was the first encounter. The second encounter happened in the autumn of 1981 when grandpa was fatally ill and was receiving treatment in a hospital in our province. I accompanied mom to visit him. Grandpa only knew the Teochew dialect and my Teochew was poor. With grandpa’s permission, I asked my mother to translate for me, as I felt the urge to pray to God to heal grandpa. I prayed in Cantonese and mom translated for me. Later, I heard that grandpa was healed and released from the hospital. However, through the mouths of relatives I heard the rumor about grandpa commenting on the occasion about my praying for him. He was displeased to have me kneeling and paying homage “to him” as if he was already dead. Certainly that was a grievous misunderstanding as I only knelt to God and prayed to God. No one should annex the glory of God! Recently from one of my cousins I found out that grandpa lived to his nineties. No wonder the Bible confirms God’s kindness and goodness to all man: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4).
The next article will elaborate on how my parents met…..
Author: Mrs. Thuyen-Anh (Ancy) Lee was born in Vietnam. She immigrated and was educated in Sweden as a teenager. Her profession was social work until she married Pius in 1994. The couple responded to the calling to be ministers and relocated to NY in 2023.
Ancy Lee (translated by Pius Lee). “[Interesting Adventures] Mother braved the oceans to look for her parents” NYSTM Truth Monthly, February, 2023.
當我們一家被迫拋屋棄貨被驅逐到龍安省（Long An）的一個小鎮墟（Thu Thua）之後；我們的戶口被取消，孩子同時也被取消在城市內上學的資格。四哥與我、弟妹都要輟學。
Storm surge causes inundation of large swaths of coastal land. Eleven years ago, storm surge from Hurricane Sandy havocked large damages in New York (NY) and New Jersey (NJ). Today, some of those destructions are still noticeable and remain unrepaired.
The Vietnamese government had planned well ahead and prepared many makeshift-hut developments such as the one we were sent among all the villages and provinces.
Upon the confiscation of our family-cloth-business, there was an undercover policewoman stationed at our home for three weeks every day from 7:00 am till 6:00 pm. Our every move was scrutinized⋯⋯
Autumn is pleasant. It has many public holidays for the most populous countries in the northern hemisphere. In the U.S. we have Labor Day, Columbus Day and the Veterans Day. In China there are Mid-Autumn Festival and Double-Yang Festival.
We were all stunned by the apocalyptic scenes of devastation and destitution caused by wildfires in Maui, HI. The utter sense of desolation and desperation was overwhelmingly sad. It destroyed the idyllic Island of Maui. Many people are still in denial and disbelief when they look at the news reports.
Mom and dad ran a textile and cloth business for thirty years. Their humble street hawker beginning was never remote. Only through thrift living and hard work did mom and dad gradually expand their business and eventually proudly owned a retail shop in the middle of the vegetable markets.
Heatwaves in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere captured the public’s attention. The inadequacy of the central air conditioning units in many of the northern cities testifies to the unexpected increase in air temperature across Northern Europe, Asia and America.
Born in Vietnam, my siblings of six including myself, lived in a Chinese town called “Cholon”. Cantonese was the business dialect that even the native Vietnamese learned to speak. Many of the Vietnamese natives sent their children to Chinese schools.
Man is an adventurous creature. In the pre-pandemic year of 2019 the US travel and tourism industry generated 1.9 trillion dollars in economic output. That was a startling 9% of the nation’s corresponding GDP of 21.38 trillion dollars in 2019.
When the communists took over Vietnam in 1975, my second eldest brother (David), I and my younger brother (Kevin) were studying in the “Same Heart” middle-and-elementary school in Cholon, Vietnam. Originally a private school, it was changed to a public school under the communist government.
My parents ran a textile and clothes retail shop from our home. Under the new communist government after the Vietnamese civil war, every home was eager to sew the new national flag. Therefore, all of a sudden our home business was thriving beyond our wildest imaginations.
Pollen allergy is more commonly known as hay fever. Medically speaking, it is called seasonal allergic rhinitis —- a provocation of the immune system to overreact to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. Hay fever occurs mainly in the spring and fall when pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds are in the air.
In the May issue we mentioned the civil war between North and South Vietnam. It finally ended on the so-called “Liberation Date” on April 30, 1975. The North united the country into a communist country.
▪︎前美國國家氣象局 NOAA 氣象預測科研組長
▪︎現國際短宣使團 (義務) 總幹事
▪︎2022年9月起成爲 IFSTM 國宣跨文化訓練講師
▪︎現任 Fairlea Aged Care, Harris Park & Rosehill, Sydney 院牧