By Anna Gaskell Observer Staff Writer (Charlestown, Nevis) – The owners of Young’s Chinese Restaurant left a good life in China not because they wanted to spread the delights of Chinese food, but because they wanted to have more than one child. Ye Qian Ting and her husband Young Chan Lau now have four children – three daughters and one son. If they were still in China, their eldest daughter would be their only child. This is because the Chinese government strictly enforces its “One Child Policy”, a measure brought about to curb the growth of the already oversized population. Each couple is only allowed to have one child, and if they want another they have to pay dearly for it. If they try and keep it a secret, the child can’t get officially registered and will find it difficult to get into schools and jobs as he or she grows up. If a secret pregnancy is discovered, the woman is often given an alternative: have an abortion, or face joblessness and house arrest for you and all your family. Nevis is far away from all that. Anywhere is far away from that. Ting says no matter what other Chinese people tell you, we all leave for the same reason.” Ting and Lau are originally from Guangzhou, one of the biggest southern cities in China. Nevis would seem very small if you came from Guangzhou. Even the airport in Guangzhou is famous; it’s like a small city in itself. Ting and Lau opened the first Chinese restaurant in Nevis back in 1997. They had been living in Guyana a few years before that, when a friend told them about Nevis. He said there were no Chinese restaurants. Ting and Lau decided to come here and try their luck. “There was nothing here!” says Ting, remembering how she felt when they first arrived in Nevis. Nevis was startlingly different from the Chinese city where they grew up. Nevisian people weren’t used to Chinese food, so it was hard for the couple at the beginning. But soon Chinese food became popular here, as it is everywhere else in the world. Their first restaurant, the New and Thriving Chinese Restaurant, was opposite the old Bath Hotel building, and I remember getting takeout from there when I was about 15. When I look at Ting now, I can’t believe she’s the same person I might have caught a glimpse of those years ago: she still doesn’t look much over 30. The “nothing” that she saw in Nevis when she first arrived here has become a peace she’s grateful for. “It’s quiet and the air is clean, and you can be outside in the sun or on the beach whenever you like,” she says. “And my children are happy here.” There are no big problems, she says. She tells me that she and Lau were treated well by Nevisians from the beginning. And for now, Nevis is called “home.” Ting doesn’t want to make any big decisions about the future until their children are older. But she is concerned about the changes she’s seen in Nevis recently. The younger generation “don’t do anything” and have a bad attitude about life. Ting and Lau’s cash till at the restaurant was broken into a couple of months ago. Business is just too slow at the moment to not be heartbroken at such a setback. They are struggling financially. A horrified Ting tells me how even the basic commodities in Nevis are so expensive now. And looking around the restaurant room, I can see that this is a big space to keep air-conditioned. Many tables remain neatly laid up for guests who never appear. In the light of a less friendly Nevis and slower business, Ting is naturally worried about her children. Although Nevis is in many ways an ideal place to bring up children, she fears they could fall in with the wrong crowds at school. She tries to protect them by making sure they come straight home after school, and go to a trusted friend’s house on their lunch breaks. And when the time comes, Ting wants her children to go to university in China. In Ting’s eyes, because they are Chinese, China is their home. They need to go to China so they can understand where they”re from. She tells me, as if in serious confidence: “They don’t speak standard Chinese!” They speak their parent’s Guangzhou dialect of Chinese, and English with a Nevisian accent. There is another reason for wanting to introduce their children to China. Ting and Lau have plans to go back there to live eventually. Return to China seems so natural to them that I feel foolish for even asking. Ting and Lau will wait for their children to grow up and make their own decisions about where they want to be. It’s possible they won’t feel the same draw to China that their parents feel, having grown up in the Caribbean, far from the China of their parents” youth. But I”m sure Ting and Lau would be sad if their children didn’t want to go back to China. Family is the reason they left, and they would like to go back with it still intact.
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