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How to Know Hong Kong and Macau

Roberto Ignacio Diaz, Dominic Cheung, Ana Paulina Lee, Authors

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My parents' stories

My father was born in Hong Kong in 1956; my mother was born in Hong Kong in 1958. Their families had just recently left the villages of Toisan in Guangdong Province.

My mother's family was luckier than my father's (or unluckier, depending on which maternal family members you choose to focus on - which ones got away in time) because they had been wealthier. They lived in a few different places, one being apartment building on the west side of Kowloon, which still stands today. Across the street was a candy store where she and her younger sister would buy sweets. When she would descend the stairs of her building (there was no elevator), she would walk down two stairs and jump down the rest of the way.

My father lived in the government-built resettlement houses out by the Chai Wan area, which Hong Kong built in response to the massive number of squatter settlements and the fires that devastated those communities. They were seven-story concrete buildings shaped like an H, with one communal bathroom in the center of each floor. Each family lived in one apartment, squeezing my father, his four siblings, and his parents into a small room. These resettlement buildings no longer exist.

Hong Kong in the 1960s, my mother has told me, was a scary place. There was a curfew, she said, and sometimes bombs went off in the streets - the Communists. But when I walked down the street to the school where my mother used to go, passing by the barracks of the British military with their guns in arms, all I see today is construction.

In 1973, both my mother and my father's families moved from Hong Kong to the same neighborhood in San Francisco, where, by sheer coincidence of movement and timing, they would attend the same school.
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