Zuva Turner-Tan

My name is Zuva Hanah Wong Nooy Turner-Tan. I am nine years old and named after my great-great grandmother Wong Nooy. Her family name was Wong and Nooy means girl. Chow is the family name of my mother’s father but they use Tan due to how immigration officials placed surnames from Chinese and English.

My great-great grandfather Chow Gim (Norman) Tan paid the Head Tax to get into Canada. When he went back to China to marry in 1926, his wife Wong Nooy could not come to Canada with him. When Chinese people came to Canada, they got work blowing up the mountain side to make the railway with dynamite. They did that because they got more money. Lots of them died from it. He went to China and had a son. In Canada, he worked as a cook and then later opened a café. My grandfather came to Canada as “paper son” with Wong Nooy. There were seven children and Gong Gong is the eldest. My grandfather is Gong Gong. Gong means grandfather on my mom’s side. His name is Sid Chow Tan. He did not see his mom for eighteen years.

I live in Victoria, B.C. beside Chinatown. In 1885, a rich Chinese family built a building next to the building that I’m living in now. Pandora Street used to be the main street of Chinatown. There used to be a place where Chinese people went to gamble in Dragon Alley. They also used to go to Fan Tan Alley and they would have to run away in an escape route to get away from the police. There is also a Chinese school where they teach Cantonese. This is what Wong Nooy spoke. I don’t speak Mandarin but I can count up to ten and say Ni Hao which means “How are you?”

These days the main street in Chinatown is one block over on Fisgard. In Chinatown they sell fruits and vegetables and bubble tea. On Fisgard Street, there is a Chinese temple. It is a very old building with fifty steps to the top. There is incense in the temple. You have to light it and put it in a bucket of sand for the gods. There are also wooden pieces that you shake in your hand and ask a yes or no question.

My mom is half Chinese. Her mother is Ukrainian-Irish and married Gong Gong. My father is Canadian. His great-great-great grandparents came from Ireland and Scotland. They were pioneers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This means that I am one quarter Chinese. My Gong Gong has lived in Canada for most of his life.

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