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三层楼 大陆移民的心酸移民史
Honest Ed’s is reflection on immigrant financial struggles

2016年12月31日,多伦多地标性廉价百货店Honest Ed’s关门歇业, 正式退出了历史舞台。物价低廉的Honest Ed’s一度成为包括来自大陆的新移民购物之必经之地,为他们在加国定居提供必不可少的生活日常用品。在几十年漫长历程中,大批新移民在加国落地生根,而这座老百货店则一直为省吃俭用的新移民们不辞劳苦地提供着服务。在华裔社区,Honest Ed’s 也被昵称为“三层楼”。

On Dec. 31, Honest Ed’s, the landmark discount store in Toronto closed its doors for good. Providing life starting necessities at a deep discount, it became a rite of passage for newcomers at the time, including many new arrivals from China.  Different waves of newcomers from China landed in Toronto, as the store embarked a decades-long journey catering for the hustle and thrift of immigrants. In the Chinese community, the store was given a nick name as the House of Three Floors. 

作为在1990年代抵埠加拿大的移民,三层楼在我的早期移民生活中占据了重要的一席之地,常常会勾起我对往昔岁月的回忆。它还一度成为我与那些在痛苦与挣扎中生存,但却仍然心存希望和梦想的新移民们建立联系之场所。

As an immigrant arriving in Canada in 1990s, Honest Ed’s was a big part of my early immigrant life, and brings a flood of nostalgia memories. At one point, it became a place where I connected with others who shared similar pains and struggles, hopes and dreams. 

在多伦多的大陆移民寥寥可数的年代里,我在三层楼遇到了我在多伦多的第一个朋友Tracy。穿梭在迷宫一般的货台间浏览廉价商品的我,一眼看到了一位身穿红色上衣的华裔年轻女士。经短暂的目光接触后的一声中文“你好”,让我们彼此相识并随即聊起了各自的背景家常。而相似的经历很快拉近了我们之间的距离,当时我们都是将近30岁,都在大学攻读学位的新移民,并且在加国的生活中面临着重重艰巨的挑战。

I met my first friend Tracy in Toronto at Honest Ed’s at a time when immigrants from China were scarce and few.  I spotted a Chinese looking young lady in a red jacket, as I walked through the labyrinth of the isles browsing for cheap items.  A simple word of “Hello” in Chinese following a brief eye contact triggered a conversation over backgrounds about our own. We found each other to be a great companion, as we were both in our late twenties, pursuing an academic degree at universities and facing numerous daunting challenges in the life of the adopted country.
 
在我买下一个价格极其低廉的平底锅时,Tracy告诉我她住在一间合租房里,5名租客公用一个厨房。自此Tracy便成为了我家的常客。当时我和先生住在市中心贫民区的一个廉价公寓中,其间蟑螂横行,而从牙膏到床上用品,家居所用大都是从三层楼购置。在以廉价的原料烹饪的晚饭间,我们便谈天说地,抒发彼此的痛苦和情感,共同追忆家乡、父母和朋友。但是在悲伤与绝望中,总包含着希望与期待。

As I checked out a frying pan with a heavy discount price, Tracy told me she was renting a room in a shared house where kitchen time was split among 5 renters. Since then, she became the frequent guest in my “home” shared with my husband – a cheap apartment full of roaches in a poor downtown neighbourhood.  Most of the household items – from toothpastes to beddings were bought from Honest Ed’s. We would chat over dinner, with food cooked from groceries bought at the lowest prices. We shared pains and tears, chasing memories about hometown, parents and friends.  But amid sadness and despair, there were always hopes and expectations.

时光飞逝,很快我们都从大学毕了业。我在位于市中心的一家公司找到一份专业工作,Tracy也结了婚并在芝加哥开始了新生活。随着收入稳定及财务状况的好转,我和先生也搬离了市中心那间“蟑螂横行的公寓”,并在多伦多近郊购置了房产,且为其布置了体面的家具和电器。Tracy渐渐从我的生活中消失,三层楼也变成了遥远的记忆。

Time quickly passed, and we both graduated from university. I landed a professional job in a downtown company and Tracy married a husband and started a new life in Chicago. With a stable income and improved financial situation, we moved out from downtown’s “cockroach infested apartment” and bought a property in the Toronto inner suburb, equipping the home with decent furniture and appliances. Tracy gradually disappeared from my life and Honest Ed’s became distant memories. 

与此同时,大批的中国移民纷纷涌入了多伦多。随着中国逐渐发展为世界第二大经济体,新移民的财务状况也发生了翻天覆地的改变。和我们当年在多伦多挣扎求生所不同的是,他们带着大量现金来到加拿大,购高端房产置豪车轿车,着高级服装持名牌手袋。曼哈顿的购物中心和纽约的时装店是他们理想的购物之地。很显然,廉价百货店早已无法满足他们的奢华需求,而像三层楼这类服务于低收入人士的购物场所更是让他们不屑一顾。

Waves of immigrants from China have come to Toronto over the time period. As China has grown into the world’s second largest economy, the financial situation of new arrivals has changed dramatically. Comparing to our early years in Toronto struggling afloat, they came to Canada with a large amounts of cash, buying high end properties and luxury cars, wearing designer clothes and carrying name brand bags.  They crave for deals at shopping malls in Manhattan or fashion boutiques in New York. Apparently, discount stores would no longer satisfy their desires for luxury, and they never bother to give a look at store serving low-income people like Honest Ed’s. 

但三层楼却永远留在我的记忆里。当这家老百货店在三年前宣布将要永久停业时,一种难言的失落和怅惘不禁涌上心头。去年,我带着18岁的女儿到即将关闭的三层楼旧地重游,以悼念其濒临死亡的厄运,并慰籍我对早年移民生活的怀念。在对这家老百货店的眷恋之余,我与女儿分享了当年作为其忠实客户的购物经历。在廉价商品货台之间,并在怪异的灯泡串和马戏团风格的装饰物环绕之下,第一次踏足这家百货店的女儿语带嘲弄地说道:“啊哈!妈妈, 我知道你为什么总是要买便宜货了!原来你的廉价购物癖都是从这儿来的啊!”

But Honest Ed’s will forever be kept in my memories. Three years ago when it announced the fate of its demise, I was gripped by a sense of loss and disappointment. I brought my 18-year-old daughter to the store last year, to mourn its impending death and to chase memories of my early immigrant life. With a few fond and parting glances, I shared with her my past shopping experiences as a devoted client. Amid isles of cheap items and surrounded by wired lights and circus styled decorations, my daughter a first time shopper at the store, quipped: “Aha! That explains why you’ve become such a penny hoarder mom, because you’ve come from this bargain hunter’s paradise!”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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