-by Chingchu Zoo Yuen
Carrying her 3-month baby, Mary Peiris landed on the airplane from Sri Lanka to Hong Kong. Waiting for her in Hong Kong is her husband, a human right lawyer who was chased by the government.
“It was a dark night, very dark,” said Mary, “very hard especially for a woman”
Mary is one of those Sri Lankan immigrants in Hong Kong after the civil war. Actually Mary is not her real name. She refused to give her real name and her photo because that will give the government an opportunity to find her. Now all the family members, Mary and her husband and daughter, have got their permanent residency in Hong Kong. Life seems to go back on track, but unlike those immigrants who made their own decisions to go to Hong Kong for a better life, Mary lives here with a little bit reluctance.
Mary came to Hong Kong in 1990 at the age of 39. During that time, the Sri Lanka government is suffering from a civil war. Mary’s husband, who is a human rights lawyer, tried to rescue the criminal in the jail. This action offended the government, so he immigrated to Hong Kong in 1989. Mary came here one year after, with her 3-month baby Jessica. Life was hard at first. Unlike her husband who has social network here and easy to find a job, Mary has no friends and no work here. All she can do is raising her baby at home. She always missed her hometown, wandering she might live happily with her parents and brothers. “Life would be totally different if I did not make the decision to go with him,” said Mary, “but finally I came here. That’s life.”
Living a life like this is like having a battle, but Mary won with her optimistic character. She first served as a volunteer at her daughter’s primary school in the primary one classes for a year. Then she got jobs as a lunch mum and bus mum at the same school. After leaving at 6 and coming home at 9 in the morning, Mary will have a lunch and take the afternoon bus duty. The work finished around 4 pm. No matter how busy the life is, Mary will always go to the church on Sunday morning and pray. It is a place she finds her friends from Sri Lanka. She still likes to communicate with people from her hometown.
When asked about the future, Mary said her main worry is on her daughter Jessica. Jessica has just got her bachelor degree of law in City University, and now applying for a further education in London. “Girls in my hometown are more ‘lady’ like, but Jessica has grown up more and more western like,” said Mary. Sometimes Jessica goes to some parties, drinking and dancing for the whole night. Besides, her attitude towards sex is more open, while in Sri Lanka, woman who is found not a virgin on the wedding night will be throw out of the room. But Mary has also changed a lot herself, seen from her dressing and way of talking. Change is inevitable to everybody, but it may mean something more to Mary. It is a strong signal of being isolated with her family, her hometown, and her origin.
“I am still not regret,” said Mary, “My husband treats me very well, and I hope Jessica can also find a good man and have her own sweet life here.”