A Strange Nostalgia: Short Vignettes
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
When my family moved into our newly built home in the Philippines
my Lola hung red charms at the top of our bedroom door frames
deep red with long strands
hung on a small metal nail hammered into dark wood
I asked her why
we aren’t Chinese, Lola, why would we need them?
she told me it would keep mumu away
herself walking away
to hang another on my sister’s door
I wonder if there are ghosts who linger by our doors to welcome us back
As a child in the U.K.
I have vivid memories of Loon Fung
a large Chinese supermarket
a few minutes from our home
I see it so clearly in my mind:
right across from a large Sainsbury’s
passing by stone lions at the entrance
I enter, my parents take a shopping trolley
we cross the low shelves of various Asian goods
walk past smells of fresh fish and seafood
toward the storage of bulk items at the back
to pick up a big bag of jasmine rice
Sometimes, after my dad finishes work
He would take me to downtown London for my favourite treat:
roast duck on rice
at the restaurant with meats hanging at its store front window
Always, it beckoned me to come closer, to sit
have a steaming bowl of rice
tell me about your day, how was school
how are you?
In the absence of Filipinotowns
Chinatowns are a familiar space
a strange nostalgia
My vision is covered with vivid recollections of other spaces I existed in
every place a patchwork of others
My mind struggles to ask
Am I allowed here?
Is it okay to feel a sort of relief here?
Am I allowed to carry nostalgia for a place that is meant for someone else?
The questions follow my steps like ghosts
Phebe M. Ferrer is a researcher and poet living in Vancouver, on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Phebe recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. She is currently exploring and studying poetry as a medium of writing and expression. You can find her growing collection of work at phebemferrer.wordpress.com
Phebe on her poem's meaning: “I wrote this poem to convey my feelings about feeling an attachment to chinatowns in places where I've lived growing up, in the absence of filipinotowns. I thought it might fit since there is a sense of blurring and liminality in those feelings, given the similarities and shared histories of Chinese and Filipino migrants.”