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  • "I left Hong Kong for Paris when I was 23. I remember my parents waving goodbye to me at the airport. At that time, it was natural. Everyone in Hong Kong did that. Everyone said goodbye to their kids going away to study in a foreign land. Now, as a mother, I wonder how my parents were able to do it—go to the airport with big smiles on their faces to wave goodbye! They didn’t even say they felt sorry that I was leaving. My parents were so eager for us kids to have good educations. They just felt it was great that you go away, so you can do something extraordinary….

    My father was a merchant of rice, and then frozen food. Just like any Chinese business man, he saw how he could earn money and then he did it. My father worked very hard. But his business wasn’t successful, so during a period, we were quite poor. In those days in Hong Kong, parents had to pay school fees, and there were eight of us, so can you imagine?! Paying for school fees for eight of us was so much! But my father always found a way to get us into good schools. Then, he wanted us to go to university.

    All of us did our studies abroad, so it was nothing strange when, after I finished my undergraduate studies at a Chinese university and worked one year in Hong Kong, I said, “I have a scholarship to go to France.” No one was surprised. I wasn’t surprised either. I said to myself, “Okay let’s get on the plane and go to Paris.”

    When I got on the plane, I didn’t feel bad leaving my parents, because I didn’t think I would get settled in Paris. I thought, a few years later I would go back…not even a few years, because the scholarship was for me to study French. I thought in one or two years, I’d be so fluent in French, I could go back to Hong Kong. But I stayed on and on. I had my children, and I worked in Bordeaux. That’s life. I don’t even think I chose to stay in France. I had my children, then it was normal to get them into the schools, and then I stayed on for work, and then suddenly, 30 years are gone!”

    -Anne Siu On Cheung
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