It used to be so easy in the good old days before the pandemic. A bunch of old school friends would get together regularly for Dim Sum. Tasty food, casual camaraderie, and a few good laughs were in store at the social gatherings.
The simple joys of Yum Cha 飲茶, it turns out, are precious and precarious. Such happiness is to be cherished while we have them in hand.
COVID-19 came along this year and changed everything.
Social-distancing rules and restaurant closures meant the Dim Sum gatherings could no longer take place in Toronto. Everyone was hunkering down, going out as little as possible to avoid getting sick.
By April, though, people were getting restless at home.
“I miss our 飲茶 gatherings!” Tom Wong 黃廣德 (1969-Toronto) said on WhatsApp.
Other Yum Cha regulars agreed.
Undeterred by the Coronavirus, they wanted to resume socializing even if it took on a different form. A few of them began exploring ways to do that safely while social restrictions were still in effect.
Peter See Ping Wu 胡思平 (1969-Toronto) said he and Tom Wong both wanted to try out Zoom, an online video-conferencing platform.
Tom, a telecommunications whiz, served as “technical director” for the project. Peter acted as co-ordinator, liaising with interested Raimondians regarding their preferences in timing and content.
The good news came on April 22 with an announcement from Leo Lau 劉偉鏗 (1969-Toronto/China): “Yumcha Zoom” was born!
There would be a virtual chat on Zoom every Wednesday. Since it is an online video event, former schoolmates can join in from anywhere in the world.
This outcome came as a delightful surprise, as the original intention was just to “reconnect with our Yum Cha buddies,” Peter Wu said.
“The turnout was an international deal instead. I think we are all quite pleased with it.”
Peter wrote proudly on WhatsApp: “高記寰宇衛生茶叙欢迎你👏👏👏👏.”
Tom Wong said it’s quite easy to host a virtual meeting.
“All I have to do is open the Zoom meeting room on time and admit the signed in members. It can be done very quickly, no problem.”
Pretty soon, the casual chats and more structured talks on topics selected by participants proved to be big hits.
“The Wednesdays zoom meet with Raimondians is something that I look forward to every week,” said Joseph Lynn 連浩煊 (1969-Boston). “It gives me a chance to chat with old friends from 50 years ago and is particularly precious in this period when the pandemic has robbed me of my social life.”
“Yes, I love that a lot,” said Patrick Tse 謝潤森 (1969-New York). “This is particularly special for me as I do not have the chance to meet most of you.”
“Most of us almost grew up together. There is certain bonding … amongst us despite the years and the distance separating us. We can more or less say what we want to say or ask questions in a straight-forward manner without giving or taking offence.”
Peter Wu echoed Patrick’s sentiments about chatting freely, which is something “hard to come by. Sharing with similar adolescent upbringing is priceless.”
Lawrence Lee 李彥鴻 (1969-Hong Kong) said: “I’m enjoying seeing every face each time. I learned new things every time, things only people who engaged in that line of business for a long period of time can tell.”
Eddie Chiu 趙善普 (1969-Hong Kong) also likes the “free chatting on different topics. This is like our grandpas doing the same gatherings 50 years ago at 蓮香大茶樓.Let’s keep it up as long as we can.”
The 21st century format, of course, is different from the era of 蓮香.
“Being able to use the latest technology to reconnect with fellow Raimondians all over the world and especially with ‘69 classmates is a heart warming experience,” said Humphrey Chiu 趙榮富 (1969-Toronto) “Always looking forward to this weekly meeting. We collectively have so much experience to share.”
James Wong 黄漢根 (1969-Edmonton), who is dedicated to reconnecting Raimondians and teachers around the globe, pointed out the Zoom meetings offer “the benefits of physical reunion but do away with the expense and planning of big reunion events.”
“I truly believe that our Zoom meeting is a very valuable tool for all Raimondians alike, not just our ’69 Old Boys,” he said.
Benjamin Cheung 張士聰 (1965-Toronto) is a good example. He left Hong Kong in 1966 and has been “away so long that I sometimes don’t feel I belong. Your 1969 group makes me feel at home,” he said.
Terence Wing Chung Leung 梁榮錝 (1978-Hong Kong) said he appreciates the opportunity to chat with senior Raimondians around the world, especially those who emigrated so long ago. “What an amazing connect!”
Richard Yuan 原瑜人(1969 L.A.) observed that YumCha Zoom “will give us a good memory with Raimondians from all over of the world 😃.”