Cherry was one of the two teacher assistants I interviewed when I worked in China.
She was from a small village and she was the first in her family to go
to and graduate from university. She did not like working for my boss
(no one did) so she quit and went down south to Shenzhen. She found a
job at a condo complex that was home to a lot of foreigners.
Here is an e-mail she sent me:
Holland, Happy Chinese New Year.
I am in Shenzhen Guangdong province now. It is very far away from
Changchun Jilin province you have ever been. So I cannot go home. I
miss my parents very much. I am on duty from 7:00am to 10:00pm today.
I wish you have a happy and very prosperous New Year. Warmth, peace, happiness and success always be with you.
Note the hours she is working that day! Fifteen hours straight.
Her second e-mail:
Happy new year!
How are you? Long time no see, I miss you very much. I am sorry for
replying lately. Did you return to China? I was working as a 24 hours
telephone operator in a property company. I am in Jingshan Villa. There
are many foreigners who live in Jingshan Villa. So I can practice
my oral English. Sometimes we also contact with tenants face to face.
We supply service for them. For example, call a taxi, order water, make
a repairment and so on. The environment is very good. I like it very
New Year is coming. I cannot go back to home because of my job. But I'll give you the best wishes.
Good luck! Take care.
Can't go home at Chinese New Year? Most likely
that means, if she keeps working, she cannot go home until the next
Chinese New Year.
The third e-mail:
Hi, Holland, I am so glad to receive your mails. This Saturday is
Easter Day. We will have activities with tenants. How will you spend it?
The Chinese staff at the Jingshan Villa condominiums.
Cherry is standing on the extreme right.
They all look so cute with their bunny ears.
A fourth e-mail
They are Easter day photos. But I do not know the rabbits and eggs. The rabbits save Jesus, right? The day looks like children's day. They join all games and play happily.
Well this e-mail took me back a bit.
I guess the Chinese staff were helping the foreign children enjoy an
Easter Egg hunt. They knew a little about Jesus but how the Easter
bunnies and eggs were tied in with the death and resurrection of Jesus
would be puzzling if you were raised in a communist country, wouldn’t
After all, the Easter Bunny has magical powers that far exceed those of
the Tooth Fairy and are exceeded only by Santa Claus. Right? Of course
I am right. I am practically an expert on this subject. (One of the
great advantages of me NEVER growing up.)
Come on now; remember when you were young. Who was the one person you
really, really wanted to meet? Was it the Prime Minister or Santa Claus?
My reply to Cherry:
Thank you for sending me the photographs. I enjoy looking at them. I
see that there are some foreign children painting their eggs. It is
also nice to see the people you work with.
The Easter eggs and the Easter rabbit have very little to do with Jesus
or the Christian religion. They are two different celebrations that
happen on the same weekend.
For Christians, Easter is about the death of Jesus on Easter Friday and
his coming back to life on Easter Monday. It is a religious holiday.
Christians go to church and then go home for a big Easter dinner.
The Easter eggs and Easter rabbit started long before Christianity.
Most Europeans and North Americans celebrate the coming of spring with
Easter rabbits and Easter eggs but it is not a religious celebration.
It is our way of celebrating the arrival of spring just as you Chinese
have the Spring Festival.
Originally, the people in Europe celebrated the coming of spring because it meant the birth of new life.
In the spring, the animals and the birds have sex and give birth to
their young. The eggs mean new life. The rabbit is known for having
large numbers of young, with six to fourteen babies being born at a
time. The female is always pregnant so there are always lots and lots
of rabbits being born.
Christians added the eggs to their Easter celebrations, especially in
the Eastern European church. I have attached a photograph of painted
Ukranian Easter eggs.
For children, we have the magical "Easter Rabbit" who hides eggs
(especially chocolate eggs) for the children to find. We also
have chocolate Easter bunnies (rabbits). The children paint eggs for
The children do not know the original reason why we have eggs and rabbits at Easter, they just enjoy the fun.
It is good to hear from you and I hope everything is going well for you.
A lesson for Canadian condo residents
When I look at these photos, I see the work the condo staff did to make
a wonderful Easter for the foreign children, I wonder why condo
residents in Canada do so little for their own kids for Halloween,
Christmas, Easter or any other celebrations.
Most condos have so many resourses. There are party rooms with kitchens
and washroooms, games rooms, large lawns and even theatres. Most of
all, they are full of adults who have an almost endless supply of
talent, skills, time and money. Yes money. Everyone could cough up a
What's wrong with us?
I have Chinese-Canadian friends who live in a detached house
development in Richmond Hill. The Chinese community in their
neighbourhood have three-dozen volunteers who start working in hard in
September to plan their annual Christmas party in a local community
centre. Though they started small, they will have 600 people attend
this year's party. Every year it gets bigger.
And the rest of us?
Perhaps we could start something small in our condos and with any kind
of luck at all, we will surprise ourselves with the magic that can ooze
out from our building's concrete if we would only believe, once again,
in childhood magic.