Conversational Chinese

By Nina Mingya Powles

[Please fill in the blanks by choosing the correct word from the list below.]

 

She was born in _____ in _____. She escaped to the Malaysian peninsula when she was _____ years old, with her mother. Her father _____ _____. From a young age she helped her mother farm the land. She began learning a little English _____ _____. In _____ she married a handsome marine biology student. She had three children, two daughters and one son, all of whom attended the local Christian Chinese school in Kota Kinabalu. In the evenings she sat under the _____ tree in her backyard, rinsing and peeling ginger into a blue enamel bowl, watching her youngest son chase her eldest daughter around the grass with a cicada tied to the end of a piece of string. Some years later, when the _____ started up in the streets, she looked at the sea and longed to send her children across it, far away, where they would be _____, where she would one day visit them. 

 

Hong Kong / Guangzhou / Xiamen     

1923 / 1928 / 1929                  five / six / nine 

died shortly after / disappeared / did not join them / fell ill on board 

in high school / from a stranger / by teaching herself 

1953 / 1954 / 1956                  mango / breadfruit / yellow flame

sirens / shouting / loudspeakers / fires              

 safe / happy / in her prayers

 

 

[Please answer the following questions in full sentences.]

 

你的外婆在哪里出生?                

Mum says it isn’t really clear where she was born, but most likely Hong Kong. 

 

你的外婆什么时候来到马来西亚?      

We think she came by boat along with her mother and father, but we think her father may have died on the journey, or somehow didn’t make it. 

 

你的外婆在哪里入土为安?            

We scattered her ashes over the sea off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, within sight of the blue mountain made of clouds.

© 2019 harana poetry

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