Astrid Chan Chi Ching has a very busy work schedule. In 1994, she returned from Toronto, Canada to participate in the Miss Hong Kong pageant. That year, she hosted over three hundred programs for TVB. Due to her fluency in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, Astrid is often in demand as a Master of Ceremonies (MC), allowing her to earn side income on a daily basis.
There are only twenty-four hours in a day. If a woman worked a nine to five job, she still has to take care of her family after returning home, which is a demanding schedule. An artist’s schedule is unstable, with day and night hours often reversed. Astrid is married and also a good mother of a 6-year-old daughter. How is it possible for Astrid to allocate her time? Perhaps many working mothers would love to learn from Astrid!
Astrid was very excited in sharing her experience, “Compared to working for the ATV news department in the past, I have more free time now. No matter what time I return home, I always wake up at 7 AM to eat breakfast with my daughter. She is attending an international school. I will read the children’s newspaper with her and then drive her to school.” Astrid emphasized, “I do not have any private time for myself. For example, if I accepted a MC job and there are three hours before the start of the show, I will first pick up my daughter from school. We live in Tai Po. After dropping her off at home, I will then go to my designated location for the MC event.”
Tai Po is located far away [from the heart of Hong Kong]. Isn’t the commute tiring? “I quite enjoy it.” Astrid said that if you enjoy the things you do in life, you will have more motivation to do it and not consider it to be a pain. Astrid believes in pursuing this perspective.
“Aside from my work, I spend the rest of my time at home. Before my husband and daughter return from work and school, I will finish all my work and not take any business calls nor chit-chat with friends on the phone.” Astrid normally refuses to attend friends’ invitation to dimsum and tea outings. “That is unless they have emotional problems and need to find someone to talk to.” Astrid understands that family time should focus on quality, not quantity. “I will wait for my daughter to fall asleep before going online and preparing my notes for work the next day.”
Mother Willing to Sacrifice Twenty Years of Her Life
Although only 6-years-old, Astrid’s daughter is already her best friend. “She will go clothes shopping with me and give me advice. She will tell me the latest gossip among her friends. She’s precocious for her age and asked me why Grandma recently got re-married.”
Astrid is able to display her talent at work due to her husband, Cheung Kam Wing’s, sensibility and support. “My husband said that it would be a waste for a woman to not work after so many years of schooling.” Astrid studied at Toronto University and majored in Film Studies. “He said that when a woman does not work and has too much free time, she will spend her time drinking tea at the restaurant and gossiping.”
Cherishing her husband’s remarks, Astrid added, “When society needs you, you should do your job well. When no one hires you, then you should not complain about it. My husband offered his full support for me to work. He promised to help out if anything comes up at home.”
A Near-Death Experience
As a young girl, Astrid realized the importance of not wasting a moment of her time. When Astrid was four or five years old, she was on the verge of death. “At the time, I possessed a lingering flu that did not clear. My mother took me to a variety of doctors, who prescribed many different drug medications. My white blood cell count dropped significantly and symptoms of leukemia appeared. One doctor said, ‘Mrs. Chan, I have already tried my best.’” Astrid’s mother prayed and said, ‘If Astrid gains back her health, I am willing to shorten my life span by twenty years.’” Perhaps a mother’s love for her daughter moved Heaven. Mrs. Chan frequently prepared pig liver soup for Astrid to drink and she miraculously recovered.
Astrid said emphatically, “Heaven allowed me to collect my life again for a reason. My mother was willing to shorten her life in order to extend mine. I can not waste my life.”
Preparing for a Rainy Day
After growing up, Astrid had a strong love for learning. There are many lawyers in her family. Astrid’s husband and younger brother are both lawyers. Astrid also took a law course at London University because she felt that she did not understand the legal jargon spoken by her husband and brother. She attended the classes four nights during the week. Afterwards, Astrid felt that the classes were taking away from her time with her daughter, so she discontinued the class.
Astrid explained her yearning to learn, “Since I am not smart enough, I have to work harder.” When Astrid was pregnant, she took some classes on game therapy for children. This would help her in understanding her daughter’s personality when growing up. She even has a fitness trainer’s certification, in case her career in the entertainment industry is not sustainable in the long-term. Astrid often makes advance preparations for a “rainy day” in life.
She also studied a program in Taiwan involving human innate intelligence, face and fingerprint reading. “Everyone has different talents. I reduced unreasonable demands towards other people and accepted their shortcomings.” Astrid also studied physiognomy. In the future if she were to become a business owner, she will choose to hire good-hearted and hardworking people and would rather give them additional time to learn on the job. In March, a friend gave Astrid some investment money to open a beauty salon. Astrid took a course on skin-caring techniques. “If I do not know myself, it’s hard to teach other people beauty techniques.”
A Cheating Father
Astrid appears to be a cheerful and happy person. But when she was growing up, her childhood was not happy at all. “My father was a very handsome man. After marrying my mother, he continued to flirt and have affairs with other women. My mother was very upset by my father’s behavior and they argued for many years.” When adults argued, children suffered in pain too. “My parents continued this way and did not divorce until I was eighteen years old.”
Astrid’s father owned an electronic watch business. At one point, the business grew into a very profitable operation. But he also filed for bankruptcy two to three times as well. Despite the tough financial times, Astrid’s father continued to have affairs with other women. Her mother had to assemble jewelry necklaces to make ends meet.
Since Astrid’s grandfather was the Mayor of Keelung City in Taiwan, the entire Chan family moved there. While in Taiwan, Astrid learned to speak fluent Mandarin, which became a valuable business skill later in her life. Afterwards, Mrs. Chan moved to Singapore to work and met her second husband there.
The detail oriented yet sensitive young Astrid was very upset by her parents’ constant fighting. Due to the stress, she started having migraine attacks. “My hair reeked of safflower oil [applied to mitigate the migraines].” Finally Astrid could not withstand the family environment anymore and asked to attend school in Toronto at the age of fourteen. Looking back now, the pain has passed. Astrid said, “I have to thank Heaven for my past experiences. I learned how to love other people, to find happiness amidst despair, and to save money.”
Witnessing Her Mother’s Attempted Suicide
Astrid’s mother was frustrated with her husband and apologized to the children for their frequent quarrels. Astrid comforted her mother, “From watching your pain, I learned from your experience and know that love can not be forced.” A Buddhist monk once told Mrs. Chan, “You owed Mr. Chan a debt in your previous life. Thus in this life, you are destined to settle the debts before you are free.”
It took many years of pain and suffering before Mrs. Chan freed herself. When Astrid was sixteen years old, Astrid’s mother attempted suicide. Unable to let go of the despair in the relationship, Mrs. Chan swallowed some sleeping pills. Astrid, her younger brother, and younger sister called the ambulance and took her to the hospital. “At that moment, I was very upset with my mother. Why did she have to give up on herself? She gave my father so many chances, but he continued to give those chances to other women.” At the hospital, the nurses said harshly, “It must have been you children tormenting your mother towards suicide.” The truth remained unspoken.
Despite witnessing her mother’s suffering in her marriage, this did not make Astrid afraid of marriage. Since Astrid was born under the Cancer sign, she has a strong love for family. Astrid learned a valuable lesson from her mother: when the relationship is over, there is no need to hang on and force matters. Currently, Mrs. Chan still works at her second husband’s law firm, processing documents. Mrs. Chan often tells her children, “I did not give you many things in life.” Mrs. Chan continues to be self-reliant today and told her children not to worry about herself. She bought several insurance policies and designated her children as beneficiaries.
Husband is a Smart Man
Despite her loving relationship with her husband, Astrid explained that she worked hard to be self-sustainable. “If one day, due to certain circumstances, I have to raise my daughter on my own, I will have the savings and the ability to do so. I want my daughter to continue her studies under a worry-free environment.”
Witnessing recent financial recessions, Astrid understood that the economy could deteriorate at any time. “Fortunately, I still have work offers. This relieves my husband’s financial pressure.” Since Astrid spent her teenage years in Toronto, her views are very independent. She maintains separate finances from her husband, Cheung Kam Wing. She shares the household bills, including the maids’ salaries and their daughter’s school tuition fees.
Following this arrangement in finances, Astrid hopes that her husband is happier. “I intend to grow old with him; he will be my life-long partner. I want us to enjoy the fruits of our hard efforts together. From his earnings, he can buy a few more computers and video games. Using my own money makes me especially happy. I don’t have to watch my husband’s feelings when I buy a shirt or purse.” Astrid’s husband, Mr. Cheung, recently bought her a two carat diamond ring. Astrid said, “But I do not wear these things!” He said, “It is worth buying.”
Meeting people from many walks of life, Astrid considered her husband to be a smart man. “He is three months younger than I am. He frequently thinks ten steps ahead of me. If you give him a few hints, he will be able to assess the entire situation. He is very detail-oriented, has strong analytical skills, and is usually right 90% of the time. He gives me a great sense of security.”
Sheila Chan Suk Lan was the matchmaker for Astrid and Mr. Cheung. “Sheila organized a group gathering. When I met him, I knew he was the one.” After dating for two weeks, they moved in with each other. “Our love is fated by Heaven. When two people get along well, they do not necessarily need to get married.”
No Emotional Games
With her straightforward character, Astrid does not like to play guessing games. If she likes someone, she will be clear about it. “I support a couple to live together. When a couple initially date, they will be very polite with each other. But after living together, then their true selves and weaknesses will emerge.” Due to uterus complications, it is extremely difficult for Astrid to get pregnant. After co-habiting for over a year, Astrid suggested, “Let’s live together for another three months. If I get pregnant, then we can get married.” Heaven gave Astrid with a daughter. While pregnant, Astrid and Mr. Cheung got married in the United Kingdom.
After giving birth to her daughter, Astrid witnessed the attentiveness of Mr. Cheung. When Astrid was resting in the hospital after her daughter was born, Mr. Cheung still had to go to trial in court everyday. In the evening, he would carry a large pot of ginger water to the hospital, for her post-partum use. He brought pork patty with rice for her to eat. “For the rest of my life, I will never forget his attentiveness and thoughtfulness.”
Astrid is a Tibetan Buddhist, but Mr. Cheung does not share the same religious faith. Sometimes when they argue, Astrid will put a halt to the fighting by saying, “Let’s not fight. It takes a certain destiny to get married. It may have taken eight past lives before we were able to be together in this life time.” At this stage, Mr. Cheung would usually stop arguing. Trust between a couple is very important. He has complete confidence in Astrid when she travels for work and meets other people. “His trust in me is my blessing.”
When Astrid was young, her mother trusted and allowed her to go study abroad. Astrid’s mother said, “Astrid, you are going to study by yourself at such a young age. But I trust you, you are my daughter. You will turn out good.” Due to Astrid’s mother’s trust, this was the belief Astrid lived by for the rest of her life. “At that time, many of my friends took drugs. Even if they offered me drugs, I resisted the temptation. My mother trusted me so much, how can I hurt her?” Astrid’s strong will and principles stemmed from her mother’s trust.
Currently, Astrid will talk with her mother on the phone for half an hour every day. If her mother is having emotional problems and needs her help, Astrid will fly to Canada and console her. Astrid will also give her some of her personal savings to increase her sense of security. In Astrid’s mind, she is the best mother in the world.
Source: Ming Pao Weekly # 2157
Jayne: Astrid Chan has always come across as an eloquent, intelligent, and principled woman. After reading this powerful interview, I admire her even more. Astrid had an extremely emotionally tormenting childhood and even witnessed her mother’s attempted suicide (reading about the incident moved me to tears), but she became a stronger and wiser person.
Whew, this interview took me 3 hours to translate. But well worth the effort! I hope that you have gained a different perspective in life by reading Astrid’s inspiring story!