My Proud Father
Most people who know my dad will immediately think of a genius. A walking encyclopedia who can name any capital of any country with a blink of an eye; a man devoted to spreading knowledge on Chinese literature and poetry as his life mission to which he was awarded an honorary doctorate; a man who pursued a degree at McGill University even at retirement. My dad keeps piling one accomplishment after another and acts as an inspiration to all of us, near and far, young and old.
The man I know and who raised me has so many more layers to discover, each of them will make you realize how formidable he is. Growing up, he always made education a priority for my sister and for myself. No matter how much it costs, how much overtime he had to do, how far he had to drive us, he and my mom were more than willing to make sacrifices to give us the best future there is. He made his research to sign us up for the best reputable schools to guarantee us not only proper learning but also the best social circle to grow up in. Even with less than a few hours of sleep in his body, he will always take the time to help us with our homework, teach us how to exceed the expectations of our teachers and have fun while doing it. It was incredible how he always added a twist to our learnings to make it memorable with a long lasting effect.
We grew up amongst thousands and thousands of books around our house. Every time we had a question, he would point us to the encyclopedia so we could look up the answers ourselves. We will always go to the bookstore instead of the toy store as kids and we loved it. We loved spending hours on the floor of libraries flipping through pages and collecting all the books we wanted to borrow and made it a weekly rendez-vous. My dad would always buy and show us the value of reference books and how we can use them over and over again. As much as we love a good novel, most of my books at home are reference books to understand the underlying theory and information for flavour pairing, methods of cooking and origins of ingredients rather than recipe books. This way of teaching allowed me to develop more of a scientific approach in my cooking and eventually influenced my whole career direction.
He taught us through his creative and artistic lens. He would have the ability to listen to a song and play it back out on the piano for us. He will translate the music notes into an easy way for us to learn and play back our favourite songs ourselves. We would have handmade songbooks that we could follow and play along. He would teach us coloring inside the lines as soon as we knew how to hold a pencil in our hands. We would colour not only to fill the void of the image, but to create a gradient of colour with different pressure from our pencil. Inspired by the portraits that dad drew of us, we would take it upon ourselves to create our own drawings letting our imagination and creativity flow free. This practice allowed me to unleash an important side of me that shaped me as I grew up - creativity. I exploit it highly in my work as a food product developer and in my free time when I develop recipes or when I am doing arts and crafts for gifts.
One of the gifts that I have grown to love making is scrapbooking. Gathering happy memories from pictures to tell a story and to express our love for one would be one of the most gratifying gifts I have learned to do. Again, my dad has always shown us the great value of creating memories and experiences rather than focusing on the materialistic part of things. He writes down a summary of his day in his diary not skipping a single day of the year and has been doing so for many decades. It not only helps him have a great memory of past activities, restaurants, prices of items across the years, but it also gives him a great tool to jog back through memorable moments. We also have the same kodak kid enthusiasm when it comes to taking pictures to immortalize everything from our meals, to family bonding to our travel adventures. We share that same obsession of documenting our lives through photos so we can relive these moments and share them easily with our loved ones.
During our family dinners, he would start plunging into stories from his past that would keep us captivated and we stayed to listen to him for hours around the table. He has such an incredible talent to hypnotize the listeners with details that makes you think you were there with him. Through his story-telling, he would add in snippets of history so we learned so much as we were hanging at his every word. From growing up in Cambodia through the war to living in Vietnam and Thailand as a teenager to moving to Gaspésie as an immigrant to writing 700 of letters to sway and marry his high school crush (my mom!) over to Canada, his life seemed like a movie that would win an award.
He stays humble even with his fascinating life and accomplishments and always treats everyone with respect. He is beyond generous with his love, his time and his wise words to any lucky person that encounters him. He is the very definition of perseverance and chasing your dreams no matter what challenges are thrown at him. This series of books will allow you into his world, exploring his mind and hopefully inspire you like he inspired me and so many more individuals. I am forever thankful for the lessons he taught me, for the time he has spent with me and for the cherishable memories we have created. He has shaped and guided me to be the person I am and I consider myself to be the luckiest person in the world. Thank you, Dad.
June 17, 2021 Montreal