When I was 11 years old we immigrated to Turtle Island. Right now I am on the traditional territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-waututh Peoples, where I currently am living, creating, learning, and unpacking what it means for me to be here now.
I am Le Fan
I am Ruǎn Lè Fán.
Right now I am somewhere so far away,
I’m not even sure if you can hear me.
Thank you for hundreds of years of hard work,
and for watching over me from birth until now,
so I can do what I want to do in this lifetime.
I am Lefan
My mother’s surname is Cheng,
she’s the Cheng family’s 7th generation in Shulin, Taiwan Our ancestors are Hé luò people,
who moved from Hénán, Xíngyáng to Fújiàn, Quánzhōu.
My father’s surname is Ruǎn,
my grandfather was from Hǎinán Island, Mù Táng village, and fled to Vietnam due to a war, then moved to Taiwan.
I grew up in Gān Yuán, surrounded by farmland
I remember being in the rice fields when I was young, watching tadpoles grow into frogs,
and growing vegetables with my grandmother in her garden. I also remember my mother telling me stories of her childhood, catching fish, shrimp, and clams in the stream next to our house.
When I was around 10 years old,
the surrounding fields slowly turned into factories, poured concrete, and sheet metal.
That once clear stream dyed to dark purple, lifeless.
我現在身在Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, 和Səl̓ílwətaʔ民族的傳統領土上，
Like most immigrant families, mine arrived to so-called-Canada with a vision of it being a land of freedom, sweeping natural landscapes, unpolluted air, clean water – an opportunity at a better life.
That’s what we were told by the government’s international PR team: the land of maple syrup, hockey, colorful maple leaves, evergreen trees, kayaking, snow capped mountains, bright blue glacial lakes, where friendly white folks always said “sorry” “please” and “thank you”.
In 2006, we packed up everything inside my childhood home built by my mother’s father and brothers, and left it all behind. I remember being at the airport holding my mother’s hand as she cried and cheerfully saying “為什麼要哭?我們很快就會回來 了!”(“Why cry? We’ll be back soon!”), I was too young to really understand what it meant to immigrate somewhere.
I remember how enamoured I was by this place when I first arrived, noticing the new shade of blue in the sky. When I started going to school and other kids would ask about Taiwan, I’d scowl, talk about the pollution, telephone wires, street dogs, competitive academic culture. I wanted to convince them (but really myself) that I belonged here. Even though my food was weird and I spent most of recess drawing in a corner alone, I was still convinced that leaving was the right choice. How could it not be?
Four years later I swore to the flag and Queen and became a citizen. I learned how to speak, dress, and act in a way that made me “Canadian”. In highschool history class I learned about British Canada, French Canada, and Indigenous People who traded fur with them. We talked about the World Wars, the Holocaust, events that happened far away, to other nations.
In my 20’s I heard the word Decolonization for the first time. I started to learn about the real history of the land that I am on – that it is stolen by colonialism, which brought ongoing genocide for the sake of capitalist resource extraction.
I learned about the Indigenous People that still don’t have access to clean running water, and thought about the creek by my home that turned purple. That the tall trees I see from a car window were only a thin row masking
entire mountains that have been clear cut, to one day be replaced by densely planted mono-crop tree farms.
I learned about residential schools and thought about my grandmothers forced into Japanese schools during their 50 year occupation. I learned about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. I learned about the militarized police with inflated budgets, deadly “wellness checks”, criminalization of poverty, disproportionate incarceration of Black and Indigenous People.
I learned that these atrocities are still happening everyday, right here, while people fly white and red flags proudly.
I learned that “Canada” is more of a corporation than a country – or more accurately – a lie,
and that the whiteness I tried so hard to become a part of, has no more right being here than I do.
More and more each day I question
What does it mean for me to be here?
Do I stay and try to help in whatever way I can?
Or should I listen to the voices that suggest I go back to where I came from?
What’s my relationship to THAT land after being away for 15 years?
As of right now I have more questions than answers, but what I do know is that when I remember my ancestors, where they came from, speak their languages, I remember who I am – and that guides me to love this place in
a way that doesn’t make me want to claim it as my own to feel a sense of belonging, but honor it as a place that has been cherished by its stewards for time immemorial.