Richmond residents Yu Jiang and Roger Xiao have just returned home from a self-guided tour of northern B.C, which they described as a “life-changing experience” in helping them find answers to their role as immigrants to Canada.
Jiang and Xiao, who went on the trip last month, said the purpose of the journey was to learn about the history of Canada and the importance of reconciliation by immersing themselves in an authentic Canadiana experience.
“After spending days and nights with locals and listening to their life journeys, we found answers to who we are as Chinese Canadians and where are we going in the future,” said Jiang.
“I’ve heard some people complaining the mainstream doesn’t accept us. But my question is: have you truly listened to them and gave them a chance to hear your stories? Understanding and embracing different cultures could help us reach better reconciliation.”
Equality is the core value in the West
Jiang and his group members made a stop in Williams Lake, where they were invited as guests to have dinner with Walt Cobb and his wife at a local restaurant.
“We were strangers to Cobb and his wife, but they still welcomed us with open arms and treated us like old friends,” said Jiang.
“They introduced the history of William Lakes to us and Cobb shared his election story. We then talked about our families, our trip and we laughed a lot.
“We didn’t remember what we ate, but the memories of our conversations are so clear - as fresh as we met yesterday.
“We come from a culture that labels politicians as super high-up figures and it’s impossible to have dinner with them. However, things here are different. No matter if you are a lawyer, a doctor, a mayor, or a plumber, we are all the same and all treated equally with respect.”
Fully harvested dinner
Xiao said one of the highlights of the trip included enjoying a fully-harvested dinner with Don Bassermann, who served on Prince George city council for 18 years.
“We tried moose meat for the first time and drank homemade blueberry wine together,” explained Xiao.
“Most of the ingredients from the dinner were from Bassermann’s backyard and hunting trips.
“When the sun came down, we sat beside a bonfire to cook some marshmallows while listening to his boating adventures and ice fishing experiences.”
Xiao added that they all felt amazed by Bassermann’s diverse hobbies and rich life experiences.
“Each Canadian talks like a philosopher and have deep thinking because they read a lot, travel a lot, think a lot and experience a lot,” added Xiao.
“As Chinese immigrants, we need to broaden our horizons by developing more hobbies. We could be an architect or a lawyer, but aside from working, we could also be a cool artist or work as a volunteer to help the community.
“Another lesson they taught me is that life isn’t just about making money or gaining social status, but more about creating moments and experiences.”
Respect nature and never take more than what we need
Xiao said their visit to Haida Gwaii almost brought tears to his eyes.
“One of the lessons I learned from the First Nations is that they won’t take more than what they need from Mother Nature.
“I was so touched and began reflecting on how greedy I was by sometimes longing for more.”
Jiang and Xiao noted that many Chinese immigrants contacted them with hopes to visit those places after they shared their stories online.
“We left Hope on our first day and eventually ended in Victoria. Some group members called it a trip to find our soul and where we belong,” said Jiang.