Memoirs

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Mrs Cheung, my friend and tutor

Filed in General, Memoirs

In 1987, I arrived in Hong Kong to stay, to become a pop singer if possible, without any clue as to how I was going to do that. By pure accident or perhaps fate, I discovered that teaching English was a good way to make money for foreigners staying in Hong Kong and I ended up with a teaching job at a commercial English school called 育城 which literally means "Education City". It was while I was working at this school that a coworker notified me of an opportunity to act for television and I became one of Hong Kong's few television foreign actors.

At the time, I had two jobs; my teaching job and the new acting job. Working for television was not a steady job. How many days you worked at television depended on how much your character involved, and you were never sure when you'd be asked to work until one or two days before the shoot. That remains true even today.

It was at this time that I met a new friend, a wonderful lady who we referred to as 張師母 or Mrs Cheung, the wife of Reverend Cheung. Mrs Cheung's husband was working for a bible college and they had rented class rooms from the school I was working for. It was therefore by chance that I met and became friends with her.

Mrs Cheung was my first tutor after arriving in Hong Kong. In fact, as far as Cantonese goes, she was my only tutor. While her husband was teaching in the class rooms, Mrs Cheung and I were outside in the reception/corridor area seated at a table reading over my television script. She would teach me the characters I didn't know, and also taught me a few of the basics of writing in Chinese. Eighteen years ago and I still remember it quite well.

That tutoring relationship didn't last long. Because television could not be scheduled and would often collide with my teaching work, I had to leave the school. That meant no more lessons with Mrs Cheung but I was already well on my way to learning the language, and we would be friends for life.

Over the years, my wife and I have met with Reverend Cheung, Mrs Cheung and family at least once a year. Mrs Cheung's daughter was born on exactly the same date as I, and we would often calculate the difference in hours taking into account that Queensland Australia is two hours ahead of Hong Kong. As a result, we would at the very least celebrate our birthdays together at lunch or dinner each year. It's curious but we are great friends even though we only see each other once or twice a year and don't really know much about what each other is doing.

Today, I phoned Mrs Cheung's daughter to see if our families could meet again for dinner sometime. It's been a long time since we've gathered together and I wanted to see them again. That was when I discovered that Mrs Cheung has passed away. She had been sick for a long time, probably with cancer, but kept it secret from everyone; even her own children. She never wanted anyone to worry. In fact, she passed away two days before the Chinese New Year and many of her friends were not notified because the family didn't want to affect the holidays for their friends. That's how considerate they are of other people.

Mrs Cheung was my tutor and my friend. I will miss her dearly.