The day had arrived for the Santa Parade, cold and grey. When I signed up to volunteer as a clown, I had been full of optimism. Everything in my life was going according to plan: I had received the promotion I was working so hard for; my offer for a place of my own had been accepted; and my relationship with Sam had been going well. My bubble had burst a couple of weeks ago. I still had a great position at work; and living in my new place was everything that I could wish for. My relationship with Sam, however, had derailed. No longer did I have someone in my life with whom I could share special moments. Instead there was an empty void in my life that left an ache in my heart.
I had made a promise many months ago and, no matter how I felt, I did not want to disappoint the many children and families who had waited out in the cold for so long to see the parade. I dressed and put on my makeup – the red clownish smile masking my sadness a little. Armed with my hand clappers and a vuvuzela, I journeyed to the start of the parade. Hopefully in giving joy to others, my sadness would be eased a little.
When the opportunity came for me to leave my village and travel to a country across the world, I jumped at it. I have spent my entire life living in the place I was born. The hills and the grasses are well-known to me. I have walked the paths through the fields many times over. The children I grew up with have, like me, married and have had children. Each day we toil to bring food into our homes. I am lucky – there is no reason for me to go out into the fields. Instead I work from home, using my skills to create the small sculptures and ornaments with which my people love to adorn their homes.
Now I find myself in Canada, showing people the work I love to do. They look on in interest as I roll and mold the modelling clay. The panda bear I am making takes shape in front of their eyes. To me, this skill is not at all unique – there are a number of us in China that create these little sculptures. It seems though, from the reaction I see, that this skill is not practised by many here. The young children look on in interest and I hope that they will go home and try to recreate the animals of their choice.
Roll, roll, smooth. The movement is soothing to me. The surrounding chatter in a foreign language could be overwhelming for me but I allow the calming nature of my art take over. I choose the colours I need from my tray, covering the clay afterwards to ensure it doesn’t dry. The panda is almost finished and I begin to think of what it is I can create next. Something that the children will enjoy seeing. Maybe another animal, a tiger perhaps. I have noticed that the young ones here enjoy seeing animals. They exclaim over the small depictions and many of them have taken one home.
As I work under this tent, I marvel at the fact that I am here in this country. I feel proud to have been chosen to represent our culture to those so far from home. Sitting here I have seen many whose ancestors were born in China. These people are unable to speak the language of my country and would have difficulty understanding my experiences. However, I can see that they are hungry to learn more about the culture of their forefathers. Hopefully I will be able to help them find that part of themselves.
After today’s work, the artisans will be taken on a small tour of this place we find ourselves in. I will enjoy the change and the new experiences. Then I will happily return to my people and my family. I will return home where I will be understood when I speak, and where I can eat the food I am used to. And as I return, I will leave behind small pieces of myself in the art I sold to the admirers I had this weekend.