At Home with May Wong

A Note from the publisher

We’re living in an unprecedented moment in history, and it’s been amazing to see how people are pulling together to support one another. Here at TouchWood we’ve decided to ask our authors what has been keeping them busy during a time when we’ve all been asked to stay home to Flatten the Curve.

Meet May

Hi, my name is May Q Wong and I write non-fiction and creative non-fiction. I grew up in Montreal, but have lived most of my life in Victoria with my husband of thirty-nine years. This is how we stay busy during this time of social distancing:

May Wong’s style evolution from before and during COVID-19


My writing during the pandemic:

  • copying down recipes;
  • grocery lists for once-a-week frantic forays;
  • chattier-than-ever emails to long lost friends;
  • lists for housecleaning TBD (’cause really, who will see what it actually looks like?);
  • daily record of workouts like distance walked (longest was 15.3 km in brand-new hiking boots—who knew they had to be broken in?); plank record: 3 minutes (so far)—hooray for small accomplishments!

Daily walks around the neighbourhood, trying our best to maintain physical distancing. If you see me extend my walking stick to the side, seriously, I am not waving at you! If I don’t respond to your passing hellos, it’s because my audio-book is getting really exciting!

Zooming (another new verb!) with my writing (not really my writing) critique group and our karate group (trying for our 3rd degree Black Belt).

Using up my knitting and sewing stash to make “Welcome baby” gifts for six new members in our family. Beading (yes, of course!) fabric for facemasks —if we have to hide behind face coverings, might as well look colourful!

Oops, almost forgot Netflix—a great way to pass the time while knitting or beading.


Ah Thloo: China, 1930–1934

Excerpted: Cowherd in Paradise

“You must remember what I tell you, even if you do not understand it now,” said Ah Ngange. “A woman’s purpose is to create and nurture a ga hieng, a family and a home. This requires a special kind of kien lake, strength, to help her protect what she has created. It comes from deep within. It shows itself during time of greatest foo, bitter suffering. It can carry a woman through the loneliness of separation, mistreatment by a husband, the pain of childbirth, even the death of a loved one.”

“But Ah Ngange, how would I build those strengths?” Ah Thloo asked.

“Ah Nui, you already have them!” her grandmother said. “In here, here, and here.” Her work-hardened hands gently touched Ah Thloo’s head, heart, and belly.


With a hand on either side of Ah Thloo’s head, Ah Ngange explained. “You are liak, intelligent. Some people, still too old fashioned, say intelligence is not required in a girl. But don’t you believe it! Girls have to be smart to survive. You are curious, you learn quickly, and you know how to apply your knowledge. All these qualities will help make your life better. Stay true to yourself – never deny your intelligence. 

Moving her right hand to press Ah Thloo’s chest, Ah Ngange continued, “You have courage and compassion. You know right from wrong. You help others in need. You have the courage to put your beliefs into motion and to protect the ones you love. From time to time, you may witness things, unjust acts that will anger you. But if you react with anger, you may choose the wrong path. Let your anger pass before you do anything. Always act from compassion and you will never go astray.” 

Finally, with her right hand on the girl’s belly and her left hand directly behind, on her back, Ah Ngange made a prediction. In Traditional Chinese medicine, this location on the body is a person’s thlem-goyne, heart-liver, meaning her core. “You have a great capacity for love. Your love will sustain you, give you greater courage in times of need, and will be returned a thousandfold.”


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