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Centre for Stories

Trần Thị Nga

"He say, ‘How long do you want me to do for?’ But I said, ‘I never give up the shop! I never give up the shop!’"

A Few Of My Favourite Things follows five individuals and the personal anecdotes behind their wonderful collections. With each telling, the knick-knacks and memorabilia are brought to life with many a laugh to be had. It’s true what they say—one person’s rubbish may be another’s treasure.Trần Thị Nga shares with us her story of moving from Vietnam and setting up shop in Perth. Her store Golden Gate Asian Gifts is on 314 William Street in Perth, and sells special Chinese giftwares such as lanterns, lucky charms, waving cat statues and scenery scrolls, as well as traditional costumes for men, women and children in all sizes. She will be eager to welcome you into her eclectic store!

Click play to hear Nga’s story, or read a written version below.My name is Trần Thị Nga, I love to travel and I love to collect interesting and rare things. Often, my customer they order—they ask me to buy something like for decorate wedding, and for Feng shui things like the lucky cat and lanterns and some little hanging—something like that.

Photo of Chinese New Year paraphernalia shopfront

Nga then shared her story on when she opened up her shop, Golden Gate Asian Gifts, which sells traditional Asian decorations, clothing and food items, with a large focus on Chinese New Year paraphernalia.

About ten years—but started about five, and we moved here about five, six years—more than ten years. With my husband and got someone, a few people helping [with the shop]. I love—I really interesting do all buying things, when they look nice, I just order and bring back home, you know. Very interesting. I love to collect lanterns with the light on, waving cat, lantern–a lot, a lot of things you know! The most popular item is the waving cats because the people they say, that brings luck and possibility. My favourite item is—you know the lights with the lotus?—when they changing the petal they close shut and close. When they close you see so many with the lights—I still can’t say that word!—shimmering, with the light. That’s my favourite item in the shop.

Photo of Chinese New Year memorabilia

Nga holding up two parasols, one white, one red

A white, blue and red fan displayed on a rack

Chinese New Year is a major festival celebrated all over the world, which commemorates the first day of the traditional Chinese calendar. It’s a time for all families to gather together to honour their ancestors, and to spend time with each other.

Normally they celebrate the first day of the New Year. First, second, third—some people they go for dinner with their family and they give to their kids the red packet, so they all very happy. Some people put a hundred, fifty, five, ten, twenty [dollars]! Give to the grandchildren or some older people—older kids. They got the dress, the Chinese traditional—man, husband, wife, kids, all do traditional costume. They bring out for dinner, you know, bring family out for dinner, only family. But friends is on another day. It’s special, only for family. People who have grandchildren, they go together. Sometimes they book two or three tables at the Chinese restaurant. On the fifth of February. Next year is the rat year, so pig year this year. Go pig! They start again, they start the rat next year, because of the twelve year [cycle].

You know the other day, I told you Thursday, but I forgot my stock coming! My stock coming, my god–! [phone lights up] Oh, I show you. [shows photos of stock]

So three pallets. Big pallets. And so I have to go see quarantine, you know the trade store, and say, ‘Okay,’ we pass, then to driver, pick up whatever I saw on the form with my customer, then drive, drive, drive, because we can’t pick up all. He’s only got a van, not like truck. So we pick whatever I want to give to customer, and what we got left, we bring back. That’s why I can’t send in one day. One pallet—one day.

Photo of Chinese New Year paraphernalia such as parasols, lanterns and statues

Photo of a yellow Chinese lion head

You know my cool room how big—is only small. The first day, the second day, the third day, one time send only one pallet. So when the stock coming on Thursday I forgot—I ring you and say I can’t [do this interview]! You see, Thursdays and Fridays.  It depends, sometimes morning, they come have a look, ‘Is it open?’ They want to come in, and they ring me to say, ‘I’m coming!’ We don’t know you see. At night time when we’re shut we can’t open for them, we’ve gone home already!

I got a few more order but I do later, it’s okay. But a few days before—busy. I try to organise stock and send to customer behind one hour ago for customer, because we know we going Friday [for a holiday] and next week we got to tell customer you got the order. Whatever we got one week we got more, more, more. I’m really tired! I just sit there, ring up the customer, ring up and take order. Some people they come—I show you—one day about forty calls!

Yeah [I start work at] six, seven. Because there are a lot of order. I got more because they don’t come in one day. Today some, tomorrow some, and Thursday some. Friday we’re not going, still send on Friday, but sometimes too busy ‘cause we got Saturday as well. I enjoy it. But I wish I’m healthy, you know? Healthy. Sometimes my legs are, ‘Ooh! Don’t keep me so long!’ You know? Working too long hours.

Nga moved from Vietnam to Australia forty years ago, where she eventually opened up her own shop.

Have a guess. 1979. About forty years. Yes, my brother, sister [are here]. My brother, he open the lucky shop (Lucky Import & Export) on the other side—have you been there? Before when I come, I work there! Lucky. You know on Brisbane Street? And then after that, I work there before. I just do my business before. Same shop, but I moved here six, seven years, so more than ten years.

I been [back] fifteen, eighteen years ago. I’ve been to Vietnam a couple of times. But now, I not go. Too busy. But I will! Yes, all my family [are here in Perth]. My parent come here but they die about ten, fifteen years ago so all here, but my father passed away about fifteen years and my mum about ten years ago. So I still got aunty, cousins, something.

Hallway of Golden Gates shop with scenery painted scrolls lining the walls

Photo of large Chinese New Year drum

Nga met her husband when she moved to Perth, and they have been married for twenty years. As well as enjoying running their business together, they also love travelling, especially around Australia.

Oh yeah, [I met my husband] in here! When I work in Lucky, he work for a seafood company and he come do the sale. Yeah, he cheeky-cheeky, so we fall in love. [We’ve been married] about twenty years. Eighteen, twenty years.

[On Friday we’re going] for holiday. We’ve been to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, not Gold Coast. But this time we’re going to Gold Coast and then we go to Brisbane, because they’re close. Maybe we go by taxi or plane, or something, I still don’t know! When we get there, we ask them. Go Thursday night come back next Thursday—only one week.

I like the food in Singapore too. Singapore, Vietnam—but not in China, I don’t like the food in China. China food I can’t eat you know. And Japanese food, but I haven’t been to Japan. Sushi, sometimes I can’t eat! But my husband like—sometimes we just go and he say, ‘You want Japanese?’ and I say, ‘Ah, no, no, no—you go!’ I show you [shows wedding photo]—my wedding. So slim isn’t it? More slim than this one. Now I’m getting old! You know my husband he sometimes unloading and he’s tired now, ask some other help, you know? He say, ‘How long do you want me to do for?’ But I said, ‘I never give up the shop! I never give up the shop!’

Photo of lanterns in Golden Gates shop, with a head mask displayed on top

Miscellaneous Chinese New Year paraphernalia

 Copyright © 2019 Trần Thị Nga

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.

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