至近至親 至遠至疏 王莉萍
Separate ways Wong Lee-ping
Wong Lee-ping works fast, wrapping and shaping Beijing-style dumplings in her tiny kitchen with a practised skill. As she works, she talks, her Beijing accent flattening out the words. She is a stocky, soft-spoken woman with a kind, round face.
But there is a sadness in her eyes; she is all alone.
In 1993, separated from her husband, Ah Ping was raising her daughter on her own in Tianjin, but with an ageing aunt in Hong Kong who needed care, she decided to make the move. In Hong Kong, she had her aunt but she also needed a job. She decided to make use of her Putonghua and took work as a tour guide, mainly for Taiwanese and mainland Chinese tourists.
But she missed her daughter, and three years later, in 1996, she applied to bring her to Hong Kong. But life was not easy for her daughter in a new city and at a new school. “She wanted to have everything her classmates had – a television, computer, rucksack. She spent every dollar I earned,” Ah Ping says. The pair argued a lot.
It was an extremely difficult time. And when Ah Ping’s aunt died, Ah Ping felt she had no one to talk to anymore. She started to lose her emotional bearings. One day she just couldn’t find her way home. She was taken to a police station, and after a social worker referred her to a specialist she was diagnosed with depression. It was debilitating. Unable to perform basic tasks, such as counting money, she had to stop working and go on the dole.
Her relationship with her daughter broke down and her social worker suggested they live apart for a while. A year passed, and the social worker suggested they try to live together again. Their arguing turned violent, and Ah Ping was badly beaten by her daughter. She will never forget the last thing her daughter said to her: “Why should we meet again? You can’t give me anything.”
When she thinks about her child it makes her sad and depressed. “She’s my daughter. She’s supposed to be the person closest to me, but she’s the furthest from me,” she says, wiping away tears.
Instead, life goes on in Hong Kong. She sometimes feels like an outsider here, even after all these years. “When I talk to strangers, they often ask where I’m from. I don’t like it,” she says.
But she enjoys cooking, and receives compliments on her dumplings in particular. She says she spends a lot of time at home watching television, and has even removed the battery from her doorbell so that she isn’t disturbed.
She wants to stop thinking about her daughter, and whether it was the right or wrong choice to move to Hong Kong. All she wants now is to live a happy life. As I bid her farewell at the end of our interview, I find myself wishing her the same.(Excerpts from the book Life and Times)