Summer 2008. London, UK.
It’s midnight. The house is quiet. Chinese jazz oldies is playing softly in the background. Helen, 18, is seen singing softly to the song, making sure not to wake anyone up and chopping up vegetables in the kitchen. She’s preparing the ingredients for a chinese pancake. She’s dressed in comfortable clothes.
Wai Po, how are you doing?
Sorry for bothering you at this time of night.
I’m hungry and I can’t sleep, so I thought I’d make some food and listen to some of your music while I’m at it. Just like you used to do.
Just so you know,
I’m doing well in school.
I’m doing very well.
I’m supposed to submit the list of courses and universities I want to apply to...tomorrow. I have a list. A list that mom helped me put together.
But I’m not...
Argh I can’t think when I’m hungry.
I’m making pancakes. Inspired by the amazing ones you used to make with scallions in it. Remember how much I love the dried shrimps I would sprinkle it on top of everything?
Well, I added the dried shrimps into the pancake batter, with the scallions. And it gives it this heavenly crunch. And then, instead of soy sauce, I dip it in some home made spicy chilli mayo made by yours truly.
Oh how you used to nag at me when I try to make Chinese food more western. But you’d always finish them to the last bite while complaining about how it’s not supposed to taste this way and how much you dislike it. I know you secretly loved them.
Anyways. I haven’t been able to talk to mom recently. She’s been. Distant.
Actually she’s always been distant. But even more so after you’ve left us a year ago.
I barely see mom nowadays. She’s always in her room.
I only saw her a few days ago when she knew I had to submit this list so she actually sat me down and told me which schools she wanted me to try for.
Mom hasn’t been cooking much the past year either.
I miss standing there beside you watching you do your magic. You have...had very quick hands you know. I’ve never seen anyone move quite as quick as you in the kitchen. Not even Mom.
I’ve always thought that you and mom looked a lot alike. I’ve always wanted to look more like the both of you.
I wanted to cook like the both of you.
I’ve tried so hard.
But mom never listens.
No, she can’t listen. She doesn’t even listen to herself.
Whenever I came to you about mom you would always tell me that she is not used to showing her love through words, so she would use food, make sure I am fed three times a day. What she can’t say she cook.
What we can’t say we cook...
But she’s not cooking anymore. Not much anyway.
Does that mean…
Wai Po, do you hear me?
I hope you’re listening to this because I’ve never felt so lost in my life.
That list mom made for me...I. I don’t know if law is something I want to do. I know I told you both that I enjoy studying. And I know I said that I want to be a lawyer...but that was because growing up you would tell me how happy you would be if I did. How you’ve always dreamed of seeing a Chinese woman flouncing about in an office full of good looking white men.
And now that that dream is so much closer to us now,
I wish you would’ve spoken to me more in Chinese when you were alive Wai Po. I feel so foreign. In my own body. A chinese girl who can’t speak chinese. Like a banana. Yellow on the outside and white on the inside.
I’ve been trying though. Trying to learn and speak more Chinese. Mom thinks I’m ridiculous and told me that Chinese is too difficult to start learning at this age.
But I remember that story that you used to tell me when I was younger. That story about the foolish old man Yugong who tried to level the mountains and succeeded in 5 generations.
You always told me that it was your father’s dream to level the mountains.
And that dream gave you strength. That dream brought us here. It’s the only thing that I can understand fully in Chinese so I asked mom to write it down for me and I learned it.
Do you want to hear it?
相传， 很久很久以前 北方住着一位年近九十岁的老人。他的名字叫愚公。愚公的家门口有两座大山。它们住当了南北交通。于是，愚公召集全家人开会决定搬走这两座大山。第二天清晨，全家人就开始行动了。他们把一堆堆的泥土和石块逃到渤海边。邻居知道了这件事都过来帮忙。只有一个叫智叟的老人不以为然。他来劝愚公说他不自量力。愚公对他说，“山上的砂石是不会增加的。而我死了以后还有儿子，儿子死了之后还有孙子。子子孙孙无穷无尽。为什么不能把山移走呢？
“Though I shall die, I shall leave behind my sons and my grandsons. (Beat) And granddaughters. Since the mountains cannot grow taller I see no reason why we won’t be able to level them.”