You are never too old to learn: advice from an aspiring Chinese-Canadian writer

posted on November 27, 2019

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

I have always had a passion for writing. When I was young, my mother encouraged me. So did my junior high teacher. When my first piece appeared in China Daily (overseas edition), I was thrilled, even though it was just the size of tofu. After that, I was hungry for more. I experienced the joy of seeing my story in print again and again.

Then I challenged myself to study journalism in Canada. Shortly after I arrived in Toronto in the summer of 1990, I set a goal for myself: to publish articles in English, which I eventually did in various publications.

Since I came to Canada, I have done all kinds of jobs: babysitter, flower vendor, stay-at-home mom, bookseller, Mandarin teacher, substitute teacher,volunteer, TTC ambassador, and I have written about all of my job experiences. This is my latest story.

Brief Encounters at Toronto Pearson International Airport

I work as an operational support representative at Toronto Pearson International Airport. I remember when I arrived in Toronto on a student visa from Beijing via Vancouver, my first impression was the bright and colourful lights at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Now almost 30 years later, those lights still amaze me on a regular basis.

My job is to check boarding passes along the Terminal 1 connections route. How can I make my routine job interesting? I simply start a friendly conversation with passengers. It will go from there. “Where are you going?” I ask. “Washington.” They answer. “You are getting near to Donald Trump!” This is my punch line that works well with folks who are heading to the capital of the United States. They laugh and say things like, “It’s chaotic.”

If the destination is London, England, I might say to passengers, “To have tea with the Queen!” It guarantees a smile or a chuckle from complete strangers. They respond, “Hopefully.” “I wish.” “Perhaps.”

Travellers just arrive from one flight and are on their way to catch another. Our interactions are as short as seconds and as long as minutes. How can I make it a pleasant experience for passengers at such fleeting moments? I am not glamorous as some of flight attendants. And I don’t have their gorgeous smiles (I only have 12.5% of my teeth left).

I can engage a small talk though: “Where are you heading to?” If people are traveling to Rome, I would say to them: “When you are in Rome, make sure do as the Romans do.” (This, too, guarantees a laugh) “We’ll try.” “Do you know what the Romans do?” I ask. “Drink wine! Eat well!” “Have fun!” they reply cheerfully. “Check if it’s true that ‘Each road leads to Rome,” I tell them. “We will!” they answer.

If Canadian seniors travel to places like Tampa or Fort Myers in fall, I might ask: “Are you snowbirds?” They smile and answer, “Yes, we are.” If families with young children head to Orlando, I would ask, “Going to Disney World?” More often than not, I am right. They are on their way to see Mickey Mouse.


Read more