(Through Rose-Coloured Glasses)

Life is a struggle. Always.

Last weekend, we went to see a play called Future Folk, in Toronto.

It is produced by the professional group Sulong Theatre Collective. It tells the story of the Filipina nannies who come to Canada seeking a new life. Back home in the Philippines, life is a struggle. They come under the Live-in Caregiver Program, which, while dangling the prospect of freedom and possibility of an immigrant status, in front of some women in desperate situations, usually provides Canadians with very affordable and compliant nannies. Philpina nanny, this is  an universal phenonemon with many countries around the world.

Through songs, dances and story narrations, we learned about the hard work of the nannies, abuses they face with their employers and problems with families back home. Although it is mainly one-sided, but the play does reflect some of the problems that exist. It tells the hope and struggle of the Philpina nannies, and hence the title of the play, Future Folk, I presume.

Flash back forty years, when we were still university students, we also did shows and plays of the hard life of the Chinese immigrants. Those who came to this “Golden Mountain” to seek a better life for their families, to work in the coal mines, in the TransCanada railway, in the kitchens of chinatowns, and sent their hard earned money back home to their wives and children. Most stayed and were buried here, never had a chance to return home. We traced the root of the Chinese immigrants, the history and devastation in China in that period, that forced them to seek a chance of a better life.

Same story, different period, different nationality. Life is  a struggle. Always.

Also this week in Toronto, they are showing a documentary, Last Train Home, on migrant Chinese workers and their family problems in nowadays China, directed by Lixin Fan, a Montreal documentarian.

Each year, the train stations, ferry terminals and bus stops are packed with travellers, more than 130 million of them, who travel from their factory jobs in the big cities of China to their faraway homes in the country, to be briefly reunited with family members for Chinese New Year celebrations. Just like the Thanksgiving and Christmas here, except on a more massive scale.

The film follows the struggles of Changhua and Sugin Zhang, a couple who left their rural home 16 years ago for more prosperous jobs in urban factories in Guangdong province. They left behind a daughter and a son, who were raised by grandparents. The daughter, Qin, just turning 18, has grown to resent her parents for their long absences: “All they care about is money.” She drops out of school and works in a factory, against the wish of her parents. Conflicts and alienation grow between them. But what can they do? As the mother said, that’s life.

Same story, within country, different setting. Life is  a struggle. Always

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