大海和他的“加拿大华人文化俱乐部”

(《加拿大和世界报道》记者孟庆玲、Hanna Hong、《健康生活报道》记者马丽霞联合报道)在多伦多华人社区的许多社团活动中,经常出现一位身材高达、外形俊朗的男士,他有时是以主持人的身份出现,有时是以嘉宾的身份出现,有时又是以活动组织者的身份出现……..但,作为被我们的采访对象,他则是以“加拿大华人文化俱乐部”创始人的身份出现。他,就是一位对加拿大多元文化建设做出贡献并在华人社区荣获“艺术成就奖”的加拿大本土人——大海。

大海接受记者采访

“大海”的真实名字叫Curtis Struthers。Curtis Struthers的中文名“大海”让人联想起海外华人都熟悉的加拿大人“大山”。在2月29日下午采访之前简短的寒暄中,大海告诉记者,这里不少华人也的确经常把他与大山混淆。他和“大山”(Mark Rowswell)见过5次面,已是好友。他每次北上回去家乡的时候都要经过大山的家乡。他被冠以“大海”的名字,他玩笑地说,一是他身材比大山魁梧,二是“海洋”比“陆地”广阔。

大海出生在一个距离多伦多6个小时车程的农场里。2001年起他一直居住在多伦多市。大学里他主修金融会计专业。毕业后,曾帮助学生写自我介绍信和工作简历,以帮助他们申请工作。曾在大专教授金融、会计和数学等课程达15年之久,2017年亦开始在华人社区教授非母语英语课程(ESL),学生年龄段从5岁到65岁之间。

大海对自己的描述是乐于助人。他说他喜欢结交新朋友,一旦发现有需求,他会寻找方法帮助满足他们的需求或帮助他们解决问题。他说自己有过一些富有挑战性的生活经历,如果分享出来,就能让其他人遇到类似情况时有所借鉴,不至于进退失据。这些分享,会在他今年7月份打算出版的新书中呈现给读者。该书中,有自我完善的建议、也有对人生的反思,还有关于不同背景下的关系、社会、专业和浪漫的更复杂的概念。

去年,他在江苏省太湖边一个度假村的夏令营工作了近3周,对那段经历留下了美好的回忆。夏令营结束后,在苏州和上海度过了他的一些私人时间。

几年前,大海发现一些可以更好地提供大家沟通的机构平台,比如,亚洲人和加拿大人文化协会、亚洲人和加拿大人的商务协会,中加文化交流俱乐部、中加商务俱乐部等,他参与到这些机构平台的活动中,更多地融入了本地华人社区。

在热情帮助新移民融入加拿大文化的过程中,大海发现自己常常需要反复回答一些同样的问题,这激发了他成立一个专门的俱乐部的想法。“加拿大华人文化俱乐部”就在这个时候出现在他脑海,而这个名称的缩写“CCCC”也契合了他对首字母押韵的偏爱。俱乐部创立后,渐渐地,有些志同道合的人加入到大海的俱乐部,他们一起群策群力,共同帮助新移民融入加拿大的多元文化中。 他说他很感激其他人。他认为一个由许多人组成的团队的努力远比由许多单个个体的努力取得的成绩要大得多。他把这种情况称为“为社会服务的协同作用”。

“加拿大华人文化俱乐部”的成立与大海早先成立的“趣味商业俱乐部”不无关系。早在2013年,一次偶然的机会,大海参加了密西沙加市的一个文化节,中国展台和民族舞蹈深深地吸引了他,他在那里流连忘返,在新结识的华人朋友推荐下,他开始使用微信,积极参与华人社区的中国文化活动,成为一名活跃在华人社区的“积极分子”。

大海的“趣味商业俱乐部”由“致力教育”、“社区参与”以及大多伦多社区其他项目几个部分组成。宗旨在帮助人们提高英语水平,学生在商学院取得成功,帮助新来者适应加拿大的生活。

大海对于俱乐部的基本构想就是搭建平台,以传统的“结对子”方式,搭建平台,让新移民和“已扎根”居民结识。这些结对的家庭往往会在某些方面有些共同点,比如说两个家庭孩子年龄相仿,或住处临近。随着俱乐部的日渐壮大,在一位华人地产经纪的启发下,他又成立了一个针对新移民的商业企业家的俱乐部,这个俱乐部与之前的俱乐部理念大同小异,即搭建平台,让新企业家与老企业家配对。

在与新移民交流的过程中,大海发现他们并非无法学习新语言,而是害怕说话出错,这使得他们害怕和加拿大本地人交谈。随着加拿大华人社区的日益壮大,新移民可以在这个安全场所自由使用中文交流,而不必太费心学习英语和克服文化障碍。大海说他曾遇到一位女士,在加拿大生活了十年还是担心自己英语说不好。她说大海是她的第一个加拿大本地朋友。震惊之余,大海意识到许多新来者都是和相同文化背景的人呆在一起,却不结交当地人。他说:“ ……只呆在家里或只与具有相同文化背景的朋友一起外出,以及只在那些用母语就可以应付日常生活的营业场所活动,几乎不可能学习和提高自己的语言能力。如果想学习一种新的语言,就需要将自己置身于讲英语的环境中,并与不会说中文的人交朋友,不要因为害怕犯错误而退缩。 错误是经验的一部分”。为了帮助更多的新移民开口说英语,大海还坚持每月组织聚会。他们每月都会安排某个晚上在不同餐馆享受不同的文化美食,参加聚会的人可以在小范围内聊天。

大海表示“加拿大华人文化俱乐部”的活动基本上是免费,某些活动也只收取成本费。他组织的活动对周围的人产生了积极的影响,他说自己在情感和精神上获得的丰富享受和感觉远比获得几块钱要好得多。

对于新移民来说,大海这个“老外”的中文仅局限在“你好”、“谢谢”等简单对话中,但新科技“谷歌翻译”(他称之为手机翻译)变成了他们的沟通钥匙。随着规模与日俱增,“加拿大华人文化俱乐部”的未来可期。

A tall, handsome man is frequently seen at many events organized in the Chinese community, sometimes as a master of ceremonies, sometimes as a guest, and sometimes as an organizer of the event. ……. He is Dahai, a native Canadian who contributes to Canada’s multicultural diversity and occasionally gets recognized for his efforts. Most recently, he received the “Artist Achievement Award” from a well-recognized service organization in the Chinese community.

His proper name is Curtis Struthers. His Chinese name Dahai is inevitably reminiscent of a very popular Canadian who is very well-known among the Chinese.

In a brief greeting prior to the interview on February 29, 2020, Dahai described how he was given the Chinese name of Dahai because he was taller (bigger) than Dashan in a photo. That lead to the comparison of how there is more ‘Water’ than ‘Land’. Many Chinese often mistake him for Dashan. Dahai also told reporters that he and Dashan, whose proper name is Mark Rowswell, have met many times over the years since their first meeting in 2015 backstage at a Chinese Spring Festival Gala. Because of Dahai’s resemblance to Dashan, he is often asked if they are brothers. He jokes about how they do share the same mother country of Canada. Now, Dashan and Dahai are friends.

Dahai was born on a farm in Northern Ontario, a 6-hours drive from Toronto. He has been living in the Greater Toronto Area since 2001. In university, he majored in accounting and finance. After graduation, he has helped new graduates and experienced workers with their cover letters and resumes in efforts to help them find better jobs. He has been teaching business courses of finance, accounting, mathematics, and technology to post-secondary students for over 15 years. Since 2017, he has been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the Chinese community to a broad range of students, from as young as 5 to as old as 65.

Dahai described himself as someone who is passionate about helping people any way that he can. He likes to meet new people and whenever he discovers any needs, he will look for ways to help fulfill that need or solve that problem. He also has gone through some challenging life experiences and would like to share the lessons he has learned with people who are struggling in similar situations. By this way, he hopes that they can better understand their own situation and find a way to overcome it.

Last year, Dahai worked for nearly 3 weeks at a Summer Camp that was at a resort located within talking distance of the beautiful Taihu Lake in Jiangsu Province. He also spent some personal time in Suzhou and Shanghai after the program. He summarized this as fond memories with hopes to return one day.

A few years ago, Dahai founded several platforms to facilitate communication between new and settled immigrants, such as the Asian Canadian Cultural Association, the Asian Canadian Commerce Association, the Chinese Canadian Cultural Club, and the Chinese Canadian Commerce Club. His involvement in the local Chinese community increased gradually.

Earlier in 2013, Dahai attended a Multicultural Festival in Mississauga. There, he spent the majority of his time at the expansive display within the China Pavilion. There, he saw some interesting information booths as well as some entertaining cultural performances while meeting new people. His new friends invited him to a couple upcoming Chinese cultural events. From those first events, he was invited to more and more events. His involvement spiraled from there. Since 2014, Dahai has also been the master of ceremonies of many events, further expediting his involvement.

With his passion for helping people and while he was helping newcomers with their integration into the Canadian culture, Dahai found himself answering the same questions again and again. This inspired him to create something that could help more newcomers more efficiently. Because of his love for alliterations, the group called Chinese Canadian Cultural Club was formed. The basic idea of the club was to pair newcomers with Chinese immigrants who considered themselves “established” and settled into life in Canada. The pairs would have something in common, such as children of the same age or living in the same community. Slowly, people with similar interests in helping newcomers to integrate with the Canadian culture also collaborated and started helping the club. As the club grew, a Chinese realtor had inspired him to make a similar club, but for the new entrepreneurs. Thus, the Chinese Canadian Commerce Club was inspired, with the same concept of pairing the established businessperson with the new entrepreneurs.

The inspiration to create the Chinese Canadian Cultural Club and Commerce Club were solely by his own efforts in the beginning.  Since establishing these clubs, he has found some other people with the shared interest of helping people and then they have been able to collaborate and help more people. He said he was so thankful for these other people.  As they say, the efforts of a team of many people can achieve greater results than many individuals working for themselves.  He’d like to think of this alliteratively as “Synergies Serving Society”.

Through the meetings with newcomers, Dahai found that rather than being unable to learn the new language, they were more afraid of making mistakes. This made them afraid of talking to local Canadians. With the Chinese community in Canada growing larger by the day, the community became a safe place for the newcomers to speak in Chinese freely, without having to care much to learn the new English language and overcome the cultural barrier. Dahai told a story of how he met a lady who had been living in Canada for around a decade and was concerned about her English skills. She told him that he was her first local Canadian friend. Shocked, Dahai realized that many newcomers were staying around people of the same culture and not meeting nor becoming friends with any locals. He said “… it is nearly impossible to learn and improve one’s language ability by only staying at home or going out with friends of the same cultural background and taking care of daily life activities at places of business which can take care of the transactions in the native language. If you want to learn a new language, you need to put yourself out there and go to the English-speaking places and make friends with people who don’t speak Chinese so that you must speak in English since the others you’re meeting cannot understand Chinese … the need to practice and not hold back out of fear about making mistakes. Errors are part of the experience!”

Wanting to help more newcomers open up and speak in English, Dahai also formed monthly in-person meetings. These monthly meetings involve dinners at different restaurants with different cultural foods every month, and everyone attending having small side conversations. Alliteratively, he referred to this activity as “Monthly Meal Meet-Ups”.

The service of helping the newcomers and partnering them up with the established Chinese-Canadian is free.  If there are any fees for events or other things, it is only a cost-covering fee.  Organizing and administering these clubs does not profit Dahai financially. He feels richer emotionally and spiritually as a result of the positive impacts made on the people around him.  He says that is a far better benefit than a few dollars.

As a “foreigner” for the Chinese newcomers, Dahai’s Chinese speaking in the beginning was pretty much just limited to Ni Hao (Hello) and Xie Xie (Thank You).  But, thanks to the new smartphone technology, Google Translate, which he refers as “ShouJi Fan Yi”, communication became so much easier. Regardless of their language differences, communication is key.

With its ongoing expansion, the bright future of the Chinese Canadian Cultural Club is very much something to look forward to.


 

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