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People of Ryde presents Chris Yee

Published on 23 June 2020

My name is Chris Yee and I’m a Chinese-Australian creative raised in East Ryde. I grew up in a family of four, consisting of my twin brother, older brother and my mother. Our father sadly passed away when I was eight, so our formative years revolved around a Peter Pan-like Lost Boys experience of boys raising boys. Our mother was stressfully thrown back into the deep-end of the late 90s workforce, spending most of her time busily supporting our household and playing sole salary-provider.

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East Ryde in the 90s was a really great suburb to grow up in. Its smaller scale developments made it a gem hidden under the shadow cast by the great ‘North’ and ‘West’ Rydes. Afternoons were spent freely running around and riding bikes with other kids from East Ryde Primary School. Between waiting for our Mum to come home and cook dinner and avoiding homework entirely, my twin Andrew and I would spend hours watching cartoons and drawing. We became obsessed – in a strange ‘competitive-not-competitive’ type of way – with sharing our imagined stories, inspirations and slowly seeing our drawing skills improve. Unlike other Asian families growing up in our area, we were never tutored or were never super academically gifted. However, it was this time spent drawing and having fun that kept us busily occupied at home by ourselves, and ultimately led to what we do today working in the creative industry of illustration and animation.

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Following the lead of our older brother (and former ’99 REPS School Captain, Michael) we were enrolled in Epping Boys High School, which couldn’t have been more different from the comforts of our beloved East Ryde Primary School. While not at all a bad school by any means, Epping was tough. I have a soft spot for Epping Boys High School because to me it felt like the definition of ‘public school’. A diamond in the rough, making the most of what it had. Epping was known mostly for rugby, like most of the boys schools in the neighbouring areas. Coming from a home where creativity was self-motivated and taught, it was disappointing to find that the visual art facilities were a bit slim. However, the teachers were really supportive, and the freedom afforded due to the relative looseness let us hone our passion for what we liked best, without ever really making us feel pressured.

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Epping Boys High School was really important because it was extremely multicultural and had a diverse array of family structures. Many kids we grew up with came from single parent families, giving us common ground that we could relate to. This led to many long-lasting relationships with real people we could identify and share our similar experiences with.

Because the majority of our high school friends at the time were from Asian immigrant families, so many of our days after school were spent in the Crown Jewel of Ryde— Eastwood. Eastwood holds a special place in my heart because historically it's the only place where McDonald’s, KFC, multiple pizza chains and Red Rooster can close down, yet a local Chinese noodle joint – which closes at 2am – can thrive for over two decades.

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My fondest memories come from hanging with Korean and Chinese kids at the infamous- somewhat Greek themed- all rounder, Homer’s Cafe, followed by ungodly hours spent at late night internet cafes. To me, it felt like Homer’s was the go-to spot because of its diverse frozen-western-food menu. As a kid, it was as far removed from the food we’d usually eat at home. It was in a twist of irony that most of our time away from home was spent with other ‘lost boys’ in the most culturally similar suburb in the area. In a strange way, I like to think these friendships forged through this period of hanging out with no responsibility or sense of urgency helped us all understand each other’s growing pains and lifestyles. In a way learning and sharing through these natural relationships felt comfortably similar to my personal experience of organically learning how to draw and be creative as kids.

For me, it makes me really proud to see a suburb like Eastwood, one that defines itself and has a clear identity in Ryde. A place where locals support all the ‘mum and pop’ businesses – some new and old – from self-taught cultural practices and skills. It’s the way I grew up and it’s what I believe makes Ryde so special.

Written by Chris Yee

Last updated on 24 June 2020