The last in our series of four student responses to the notion of diaspora, Liz Wan Yuen-Yuk offers this poem which recounts the travails of a domestic helper who (one suspects) has come to reside in Hong Kong:
“Among My Sisters I Sit”
by Liz Wan Yuen-Yuk (28 March, 2014)
I’m not here to complain—
Despite my sisters and I have endured pain
And much of our efforts were sometimes in vain.
Still, with time’s aid our old lives were slain,
Which, upon us, fate had laid.
How was our former life?
Oh, happy, carefree, light, and blithe.
Play, dance, and song filled our childhoods,
And in our village we formed a sisterhood.
The clock ticked and we all matured,
And soon were merged with our partners.
Our sisterly talks turned to ways to nurture
Our fruits of love and shall-be treasures.
After days of mingling toil,
Like how farmers turn their soil,
With my sweet child in my arms,
Among my sisters I am found.
Our troubles began when
A ruinous wave of economic downturn
Washed over us and swept away what we’d earned,
Including our husbands’ jobs, we later learned.
With such soaring unemployment rates,
We had to go beyond our airport’s gates
To the place we’re in today—
Hong Kong, which somehow radiated rays
Of hope of improved living ways.
Our sisterhood approached agencies,
To inquire after vacancies.
After trainings of various skills
(Including how to ace an interview),
We set off for a better view
Despite the goodbyes were tragic to review.
Thrust out of our comfort zones,
“Sisters, we have only one another’s shoulders,
Together we will be tough boulders;
We shall try to smile and not moan”.
Is it our past life’s simplicity?
Tap water, gas, electricity,
Never had we seen such domestic complexity.
Busy traffic crisscrosses the city,
Beeps and horns work out daily,
As if citizens’ only symphony
Is chaotic cacophony.
People hustle with a speed so high
Without a moment to spare and stop by.
Lanky buildings look straight yet wry,
Looming over us or reaching for the sky?
Working for my masters day and night,
I wonder when there’d be land in sight.
Do the dishes, mop the floor,
All these are just daily chores.
Along with all the errands I run,
The best words to say are, “Yes mum”!
But, how much love could I give
To a baby who’s not mine?
Are my arms strong enough to lift
A child while missing the one I’ve left behind?
To my child that I am near
Happens just a few precious times a year.
Left behind is also my love, my life,
For whom I’ve endlessly strived.
Still, long distance relationships are hard to keep,
Especially when years know how to leap.
The world I’d known is to our eyes gradually dimmed,
When what’s lost have extended to my youthful pimples.
Have I any dimple?
They’re left in the time when life was simple.
Still, we sisters stoop down to rebuild a world
In which sticks and stones would not be hurled.
Cardboard boxes on the ground with some forming a ring,
Fastened to rails with pieces of string,
This shall be our palace fit for a king,
With tales to tell and songs to sing.
“Never mind the gusty wind, soon enough it will be spring!”
In the past when the blue moon shone,
With a tear I’d think of home.
Now, along with my know-hows that have been honed,
I’ve hardened myself to be alone.
Down is my downright diaspora’s tone;
Cold nostalgia no longer chills me to the bone.
What keeps me going now is the day we love the most dearly,
When, in our sole sanctuary,
Among my sisters I sit.