War Is Fragmentation, Art Is Construction

Vietnam photos by David Staniszewski, 213th Assault Support Helicopter Company

   War Is Fragmentation, Art Is Construction

By Tim Matakovich, June 2016

Some people say that the 20th century was the deadliest time in the history of humanity; indeed, this is arguable. What is not arguable is the amount of death during the American intervention in Vietnam. From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, Vietnam was in a civil war between pro-communists in the north and nationalists in the south. Civil wars occur when a country faces an identity crisis. The Hua family, from Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, was brought into the chaotic environment of the war. Sang Hua, the youngest son, was enlisted and sent off to fight alongside the other South Vietnamese. The North Vietnamese captured Sang after which he endured forced exile and horror for seven years. Some of the Huas moved to Germany in fear of the war, with attempts to save themselves from the bloodshed.  After the war, the remaining Hua’s would move to the country of their invaders: the United States. The American involvement in Vietnam, though attempting to aid the south, made things worse for people in South Vietnam, and Sang Hua would have to learn to accept this as he moved his family to America. Because of the war, the Huas wanted to find refuge and redefine their family as Americans. Ai Le, Sang’s daughter, would be forced to construct a new American identity, and would do this by embracing her culture and past. Even though the core of the Hua family was destroyed, and the family was coercively fragmented, as Vietnam broke into multiple identities, the Huas became whole again. Fragmentation can lead to the destruction of any household’s identity, and the Hua family understands this aspect of war; however, not all families are capable of rebuilding their relations and identity. The Hua family was coercively fragmented during the war, and Sang remembers his family’s traditions and art to maintain his old identity, and create a new one; Ai Le, Sang’s daughter, would also embrace her family’s past traditions and art while attempting to establish her new American identity in the United States.

While Vietnam underwent its first civil war, when the internationally recognized name of the country changed from French-Indochina to North and South Vietnam, the Hua family’s identity would be assaulted by the policies aimed at marginalizing Buddhist Vietnamese; however, Sang would use tradition to rebuild his identity. The Hua family is from the Bien Hoa region of Vietnam, the South Central area on the Vietnamese peninsula. They have a Taiwanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese background. Sang Hua’s struggle for his identity would come at a very young age because the national policies would fragment his family. He would grow up in an increasingly violent society, and would bear witness to horrid atrocities. After the French had left the country, Prime Minister Diem would kill an estimated 12,000 people for having pro-communist tendencies; these incidents would ultimately lead to civil unrest. Civil unrest, then, is caused by families questioning the identity of the nation, of its policies, and of its leaders.  Prime Minister Diem would start instituting pro-Catholic doctrines to appease the West, which would eventually cause even more loss of support by the majority Buddhist Vietnamese because it marginalized them. The Huas, being Buddhist themselves, would naturally feel isolated by the regime. While reminiscing on her family’s traditional background and practice, Ai Le says, “Not extreme but not a little: we’re vegetarian on Buddha’s birthday but not in our entire life. Or when someone in the family dies we have to be vegetarian for three months.” By stating this fact, she emphasizes that Buddhism, for the Huas, is mainly about tradition, not a conservative religious following. So, seemingly for the Hua’s, Diem’s measures were aimed at their identity as people. Israeli scholar of Jewish and trauma of Jewish World War 2 victims Gustav Dreifuss conducted an analytical study named “The Analyst and the Damaged Victim of Nazi Persecution.” He recalls a story of persecution under the Nazi regime. The story is about a boy named Tadek, and how he had to pretend to be Catholic to escape Nazi persecution. Dreifuss states, “The time in the monastery was catastrophic for the patient [Tadek] as he needed to keep his Jewishness a secret, and participation in the monasteries’ activities seemed to him to be a constant lie” (166). What was occurring to Tadek, as Driefus analyzes, is that he had ultimately begun to live a lie because he feared embracing his identity. During times of cultural and religious persecution, this alienation happens to people. Tadek’s story is similar to the Huas’ during the Diem regime, because national policies marginalized both due to religion. Sang would attempt to create his family’s identity by marrying his wife, Chi. Sang and Chi would then begin to find themselves, and try to construct a new identity in a desolated world. By engineering a new family, Sang Hua was able to find happiness in a time of death and destruction. Culturally, for the Vietnamese, marriage is a sacred tradition that dates back thousands of years, so Sang and Chi’s marriage allowed them to reconnect to the traditions that the violent world was destroying.

The evolving level of confusion with Vietnam’s sovereign identity would eventually erupt into a second civil war, which would be a destructive blow to the Hua family by forcing them into exile, by making some of the family move the Europe. During the Cold War, Vietnam would have factions armed and funded by both US and Soviet interests. These two factions would be the Northern communist, armed by Russia, and the Southern nationalists, armed by the United States. The multiple foreign interests caused the destruction of the country and the Vietnamese people. What made the national identity of Vietnam, even more, lost was the history of the country. Before World War 2: Vietnam was conquered by the French, then occupied by Japan, then re-colonized by the French, and then told it was its people’s country and parceled on the 16th parallel. For the Vietnamese, this brings in an identity crisis due to all of this flipping of political power within a fifteen-year time. Proxy conflicts would erupt as a response to this destruction of the Vietnamese identity, which eventually escalated to American military involvement. However, most Vietnamese did not even know why the Americans were there, which added to the confusion because some saw the Americans as invaders. This perceived invasion by America would have adverse effects on the Vietnamese psyche and ultimately lead to one of the deadliest wars in the 20th century. The Hua family was sucked into this conflict by living in Bien Hoa, near one of the largest air bases for the American military in the conflict.  Some Vietnamese saw this intervention as an occupation of their homeland, so the northern war effort became more extreme. In an engagement and analysis of American intervention by North Vietnamese political and war analysts, conducted by Le Duan, he states, “We know the U.S sabotaged the Geneva Agreement and encroached on South Vietnam in order to achieve three objectives….At present we fight the US in order to defeat…them from turning the south into a new-type colony” (Porter 1). This quote shows the North viewed the United States as invaders, and saw the Vietnam War not as a civil war, but an invasion; subsequently, the North saw the Southerners as traitors. The two factions symbolize the complete destruction of the national identity of the country. Seemingly, it suggests that the Northern Vietnamese viewed people, like the Huas, as traitors and US-bribed puppets because they were living in the southern region of Vietnam. For the Huas, they would feel isolated in their own country because foreigners were leading them, and their fellow citizens hated them, which aided in the destruction of their core identity as Vietnamese. This destruction of their core identity as Vietnamese would ultimately be the reason why most of the family would move to Germany, in an attempt to escape the war. As Ai Le says, when referring to her grandmother’s refuge in Germany, “They were able to escape the war.” In a sense, most of the Huas were not only surviving the brutality of the conflict, but also avoiding the destruction of their homeland. The fleeing from laying witness to their desolated country symbolizes that they were escaping everything they knew of as Vietnamese, and were willing to embrace change and foreign culture to not only save their lives but to run from the destruction of their identity. Some of the family stayed during this time, Sang being one of them, but the fact that others had to flee means that the entire family was ruined, their homeland was destroyed, and their core identity was fragmented into multiple pieces.

While Sang questioned the country’s identity–traditional background and culture–it would act as a coercive force fragmenting his identity into multiple pieces; however, he would use art to rebuild it. Sang would be forced to go to war and he would be captured and sent to a P.O.W camp for seven years, completely isolated from the family of his past, and the new one he had created. During this time, Sang would grasp on to his creativity by painting pictures of Chi. Ai Le, Sang’s future daughter, says, “While he [Sang] was in jail [POW Camp] he painted pictures of my mom [Chi].” She further states, “It [painting his wife] was a way for him to escape reality.” Initially, Sang used art as a way to remember his wife, and it suggests that he is himself remembering being whole by envisioning the person that brought him happiness. By using art to paint portraits of his wife, from memory, Sang traveled down a pathway of acceptance, a pathway of unity and tranquility. In a study on trauma conducted by Birgitt Gurr, a cognitive psychologist, titled “Rebuilding Identity After Brain Injury: Standard cognitive and music-evoked autobiographical training,” she found that music and memory can help patients rebuild memories after receiving brain injury. This rebuilding of memories came from playing music from the patient’s childhood and would then stimulate happiness and evoke higher levels of recovery from trauma. She states, “The patient in this report recovered benefited greatly from the combined intervention in terms of orientation within his past therapy environment, recall of his past life, subsequent construction of identity and emotional well-being” (295). Although this study was conducted on people who suffered physical injuries to the brain, similar effects can be concluded for those who suffer from torture and emotional harm. The interesting connection between the Gurr study and Sang is that both cases used a memory of times when they felt whole, from an earlier part of life, with an attempt to construct identity in a therapeutic manner. Sang would escape captivity through his painting; in captivity, Sang felt isolated, exiled, and fragmented. He reverted to his creative side to attempt to remember who he was and to embrace the times when he felt whole.

War has a way of destroying a family’s perception of themselves and each member’s individual role in the family; Sang lost his role in the family and attempted to feel reconnected to his family by painting his wife, Chi. Violently robbing family members, having them go off to fight and die for a vague notion of political power, stems from the confusion of the country’s identity and can only be reaffirmed with the confusion of each family’s identity. When Sang Hua went to fight the North Vietnamese, he was attempting to establish a national identity, yet tragically war erased his identity. Doctor and professor of psychiatry Patricia Lester explored this topic in her article titled “How Wartime Military Service Affects Children and Their Families.” Here, Lester is attempting to correlate the effects of war on the troops’ families, and how it can lead to psychological problems. Surprisingly, Lester found that the long-term absence of the family member at war is not always the most challenging aspect, it is the return of the veteran. As Lester says, “having come home from war, [one] must be reintegrated into families whose internal rhythms have changed and where children have taken on new roles” (1). Lester suggests that war causes the psychological response of the family to become worse because of the fragmentation of the household. Initially, as a soldier goes to fight in a war, the family reasserts new roles and new responsibilities; the family must find new ways of functioning without the soldier. This re-alignment is a response to wartime fragmentation of the family’s identity. Also, it suggests that the soldier is re-establishing his identity because the soldier no longer has that family influence with him. Sang experienced exile when he was in the military and captured by the North Vietnamese. Sang would use art as a tool to reconstruct his broken identity, to achieve happiness. As his daughter Ai Le recalls the story, she says, “It was a way for him to escape reality.” She is saying that while he was imprisoned he painted, and that the painting helped him forget about the hardships he was enduring. More importantly, he was painting pictures of his wife, as he wanted to see beauty in a time of chaos. The fact that he was painting his wife, though, shows that Sang felt like his concept of identity was lost, his core family was destroyed, and he needed it back to make him whole again. By painting his wife, Sang was able to briefly see the beauty of his reconnected identity; for that brief time in his captivity, he found unity in a world of destruction.

Exile is a term used to define the forced exclusion of one from a country or region; the Huas were exiled by the new state of Vietnam and forced to construct a new identity by adopting various aspects of American culture. Identity is full of a variety of micro-categories such as culture, family, and others. However, there exists a notion of a nation’s core identity, its core culture; if core culture does not reflect its people, they will use art to construct alternative customs to those of the national identity. As Edward Said, Oxford professor and author of Orientalism, says:

“The official culture is that of priests, academics, and the state. It provides definitions of patriotism, loyalty, boundaries and what I’ve called belonging. It is this official culture that speaks in the name of the whole… there are dissenting or alternative, unorthodox, heterodox, strands that contain many antiauthoritarian themes in them that compete with the official culture” (578).

Seemingly, Said is saying that exile causes people to identify with alternative cultures and construct new cultures as a way to express themselves. In a sense, when one feels forced to follow a national culture or a national identity that he or she doesn’t particularly like; his or her feelings of exile surface by adapting new cultures and constructing new identities. When Sang and Chi felt this way, felt exiled, they knew that they needed to find a new place create a new life for Ai Le. After the fall of Saigon, the new Vietnamese government had gone through draconian measures that marginalized the Huas. The Huas, who had been through so much brutality, knew they could not allow Ai Le to grow up in this environment. They felt discriminated against for their position in the war, and that position was because of the region they are from. Sang thought it was better to move to America to build a new family identity and to pursue happiness. As Ai Le recalls her family’s feelings of discrimination she states, “I guess it was discrimination because my parents were doing well and they made my parents sell all the land for cheap.” The Vietnamese regime targeted the Huas’ property due to their participation in the war. This discrimination would ultimately force the family to question the “official culture” of the newly established Vietnamese state. This questioning of the government’s new culture made Sang move to the country of his invaders, which forced him to learn American culture to build a new identity for Ai Le.

The Huas looked for a healthy community that they could relate to while moving into the United States’ Vietnamese community; therefore, they moved to San Jose and this decision would help Ai Le begin to construct an American identity because she was able to maintain her Vietnamese culture. As Ai Le says, “The easy thing about it was that there was a lot of Vietnamese people in San Jose. So it would probably be more difficult to move to South Carolina or Tennessee, you know?” The ability of the family to identify with community and culture helped them in their construction what is a community when one has been fragmented. Community, in this sense, is a term meaning common language, expression, and food. By embracing old phonic expressions, language affects one’s concept of community through similar vocabulary and linguistic thinking. In a study called “Does Language Effect Personality Perceptions? A Fundamental Approach to Testing the Whorfian Hypothesis,” conducted by Sylvia Chen, a professor of applied social sciences, she shows that language affects the way each person thinks. As Chen states, “In other words, language influences thought and behavior by evoking a culturally congruent cognitive mindset (e.g., individualism vs. collectivism)” (2).  This study suggests that having a similar language group affects the way people see themselves and see the world, which is the basis of a communities’ identity. By being able to identify with a common language, the Huas were able to find a similarity with the Vietnamese Americans. The fact that they were able to find this similarity expedited the process of construction because it reminded them of their homeland. For the Huas, South Vietnam will always be their home, yet, as the national identity of Vietnam transformed, their new community in San Jose would help them embrace the changes that they sought by allowing them to maintain their Vietnamese identity.

The Huas relied on vigorous education while they labored to build their identity because the family knew that education could solidify Ai Le as a well-defined member in the new society; however, Ai Le felt like she was being forced into the new American culture and she resorted to art, like her father, to maintain her identity. As Ai Le recalls the emphasis her parents placed on education, she says, “Education gives people the chance and opportunities to become more productive members of society; they can advance in their goals and achieve their dreams.” Considering the focus of the Hua family was to establish their new identity, education would come as a necessity for this. Ai Le, while growing up, would be forced to attend school as much as possible to enable the possibility of achieving this dream. However, Ai Le felt like she was being forced into this system that did not reflect her background; she wanted to embrace her past and experience her Vietnamese side. She states, “Because I always had to study when I didn’t want to. I wanted to go out and have fun. My parents would always put me in summer school so I could learn more.” It did not reflect her aspirations because she wanted to learn her family’s traditions, not the American traditions. However, she continued to excel in the creative traditions of her family, and remembering this she says, “I was the creative one in my whole class. Everyone just knew me as someone who could draw, creative like making stuff. I guess I wasn’t one of the outsider kids.” Ai Le initially utilizes art as a way to maintain her Vietnamese identity. She asserts that she uses art as a way to identify beauty and pursue happiness, and to seek happiness one must be able to have a high concept of herself. This family tradition of art is shown while evaluating what art has meant for her and her father. Ai Le says, “It was his form of happiness, and he wants that for me as well.” She is suggesting that her father used art to find happiness, and when he found out that Ai Le possessed the same interests, he encouraged her to be artistic as well. In a world of turmoil and animosity, one must understand that happiness for everyone is different. The trend that becomes clear is that happiness is found when people find a definition or a reason for themselves to be who they are, to be happy with themselves: to have a whole identity. “My dad emphasized it [art] growing up, and all of my siblings are artistic, it shows people are smart and well rounded…for me, it is a way to communicate your feelings without judgment.” By allowing art to be her form of happiness, Ai Le finds joy as she identifies herself through drawing without outside judgment. In a study to see how art affects one’s self-esteem, author and expert on mental health Theo Stickley found some results that show how art helps patients with mental disabilities; his article “Artistic Activities’ Can Improve Patients’ Self-Esteem” emphasizes this. According to the research’s findings:

“Many of the participants said that they could relax as they were drawing and painting. Others said that using Guidelines to Art gave them self-confidence and a sense of achievement that related to their abilities rather than disabilities or illnesses” (2).

Stickley shows that art can help people who are struggling with issues resulting from negative self-esteem, and also apply to some who are struggling with issues of self-identity. Meaning, as one is lost for a core identity, their self-esteem is attacked by making it much harder to find acceptance, and this is true with Ai Le when she feels forced to accept the American identity. Initially, art helps Ai Le find herself in times that she feels exiled, just as it helped her father while he was fragmented and exiled during the war.

Art can help in times of disaster and destruction by relieving oneself from traumatic situations; for the Huas, for whom art is beauty and tradition, art would be a way for them to express themselves and make it easier to find who they are. Ai Le was unable to figure out who she was as a person, and says, “Asian American, never really American and never really Vietnamese.”  She did not know what culture to identify with, which traditions to adopt or how to maintain her family’s identity while she grew up. Sang, however, would show her that by using art she could retain some of her family’s culture. While reminiscing on the family’s foundation with art, Ai Le says:

“Because life would be boring without color, and music. My dad was a musician too; he would always put me through school for viola, piano, singing lessons. He even tried to teach me how to play guitar. I guess he thinks it will bring more happiness to the family. It makes the household livelier.”

She is suggesting that for the family to feel complete in the United States, they feel it necessary to revert to the old traditions that they emplaced in Vietnam. This tradition, for the Huas, is a way to feel whole again. She was raised to understand this ritual because her father found it as his only happiness in horrendous circumstances. Caelan Kuban, a doctor of psychiatry at UC Irvine and the author of multiple articles referring to trauma, suggests that art helps children of trauma express themselves which is therapeutic in nature. In her journal article titled “Healing Trauma Through Art,” Kuban says, “Art also provides youth with a medium to express and explore images of self that are strength-based and resilience-focused” (3). Initially, Kuban is suggesting that art acts as a tool for children who have experienced negativity by helping identify who they are as a medium of self-expression and exploration. Art acts as a healing process for people who have undergone hardship, such as war and forced relocation. Ai Le, who was forced out of Vietnam, was searching for herself in the United States; through the tradition of art, she was able to find herself. Sang was looking for his own identity during his captivity and used art to reconstruct it. Sang encouraged Ai Le to utilize art as a way to help her transition into the newly found American culture. Thus, Sang and Ai Le both use art as a family ritual to maintain part of their Vietnamese tradition, to remind them of where they are from, while they focus on establishing a new identity.

Ai Le was torn between two cultures and had to come up with ways to integrate both of her sides to define herself as whole, this shows that Ai Le was able to incorporate different aspects of herself as a way to establish herself. Ai Le states, “I speak Vietnamese at home but I speak English everywhere else. Not only Vietnamese, I integrated Vietnamese and English with my parents. The only thing that reminds me that I am Vietnamese is because my family held on to part of the culture.” Her family’s holding on to her Vietnamese side is a way of saying that they are maintaining their culture to express themselves, the tradition of her family. Similarly, Vietnamese author Andrew Lam was also exiled from Vietnam and had difficulty finding balance within a fragmented sense of identity. Lam would create multiple identities to try to find balance in the conflicting cultures. As Lam says:

“Speaking English, I had a markedly different personality than when speaking Vietnamese. In English, I was a sunny, upbeat, silly, and sometimes wickedly sharp-tongued kid… A wild river full of possibilities flowed effortlessly from my tongue, connecting me to the New World…enamored by the discovery of a newly invented self” (7).

Lam is suggesting that by integrating a new language, he created a new sense of himself. Initially, he created multiple identities, unlike Ai Le, to juggle the conflicting layers and cultures in his life. He does not feel like an American: he was born Vietnamese, but has lived in America for most of his life. Lam continues to question his identity, even after creating a new self. These feelings of being lost and fragmented run through the core of Ai Le as well; however, she uses her creativity to find ways to incorporate both aspects of her identity together. Ai Le was finding unity by embracing both identities, and Lam was finding confusion while attempting to embrace either part of his identity.

The violence caused the Hua family to fragment into multiple identities and forced Sang to question who he was as a person, but by maintaining his traditions and painting he was able to find himself; Ai Le would also use tradition and art to create her identity in the time of exile. Using culture and creative arts was a way for the Huas not only to hold on to their old identity, but also to help create a new one. One might argue that family traditions do not create anything new, that it is only a way to remember the past. This argument is futile because it does not take into account the fact that people must remember where they come from to understand who they are. The beauty of culture, art, and tradition is that it allows people to express themselves in their way and learn new ways. It can draw an emotional connection across the globe, and bring a new way for people to establish themselves, and their families. War, on the other hand, comes from people questioning their identity or others’ identities, which leads to murder, destruction, and fragmentation. Luckily, as with the Huas, some families can escape and build new traditions. Others are not so lucky, as millions have died in the name of political and national confusion. Identity plays an important role in violence, because its definition symbolizes opposition. During a war, a group will identify themselves in response to perceived aggression. The United States’ and its involvement in Vietnam pushed the Northern Vietnamese to struggle as an opposite of the United States. The U.S. identified the Vietcong as the enemy, so the Vietcong identified the U.S. and its allies, the Huas, as its enemy. Amin Maalouf, writer and scholar of work relating with identity, discusses the concept of identity and its role on violence in his book In The Name of Identity Violence and the Need to Belong. He states:

“The identity a person lays claim to is often based, in reverse, on that of his enemy… One could find dozes of… other examples to show how complex is the mechanism of identity: a complexity sometimes benign and sometimes tragic” (14).

Maalouf is making the claim that identities can cause conflict and violence because it necessarily results in opposition to other identities. For the Huas, war forced them to construct a new identity; it forced them to find a place to belong. Interestingly enough, their Vietnamese American identity is one of opposition to the American involvement in Vietnam, and similarly it acts as their savior. War is the destruction of life, but through diligence, perseverance, and open-mindedness, people can conquer the devastation of war, and by achieving this feat people invent themselves in a more experienced and wholesome light.

Works Cited

Chen, Sylvia. “Does Language Affect Personality Perception? A Functional Approach to                          Testing the Whorfian Hypothesis.” Journal of Personality 82.2 (2014): 130-43. Print.Dreifuss, Gustav. “The Analyst And The Damaged Victim Of Nazi Persecution.” Journal of Analytical Psychology 14.2 (1969): 163-76. Print.

Gurr, Birgit. “Rebuilding Identity After Brain Injury: Standard cognitive and music-evoked autobiographical memory training.” International Journal of Therapy & Rehabilitation 21 (2014): 289-95. Print.

Kuban, Caelan. “Healing Trauma Through Art.” Reclaiming Children & Youth 24.2 (2015): 18-20. Print.

Lam, Andrew. Perfume Dreams. N.p.: Heyday Books, 2005. Print.

Lester, Patricia, and Flake Eric. “How Wartime Military Service Affects Children and Families.” Future of Children 23 (2013): 121-41. Print.

Hua Ai Le. Personal Interview. 19. March. 2016

Maalouf, Amin. In the Name of Identity Violence and the Need to Belong. N.p.: Penguin Books, 1998. Print.

Porter, Gareth. Vietnam: The Definitive Documentation of Human Decision. Vol. 2. Standfordville: Earl M. Coleman, 1979. N. pag. Print.

Said, Edward. “The Clash of Definitions.” Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. 569-80. Print.

Stickley, Theo. “Artistic Activites Can Improve Patients’ Self-esteem.” Mental Health Practice 14 (2010): 30-32. Print.

   Interview Transcripts

Interview Topic:                      Vietnam War and forced exile

Interviewee:                            Ai Le Hua

Interviewer:                             Timothy Matakovich

Interview Date:                       March 19th, 2016

Ai Le: I am doing good and nothing weird happened. I took a really long nap

Tim: What do you normally do during the day

A: First I wake up, get ready for work, walk to work, and then after work I go to the grocery store and buy food for the night, go home and heat up the food. I work on my career portfolio or I just surf around on the internet. Sometimes I go out with my friends. When my boyfriend isn’t busy with school we hang out.

T: When you go out what do you like to do?

A: you have to be more specific, by myself or with my friends?

T: Just whenever

A: I like to go out and explore new things, if there is an exhibition I will go there, if there is a sale I will go there, if there’s an event I will go there.

T: What kind of exhibitions do you like?

A: Art exhibition, fashion exhibition, history exhibition; if there’s a really cool science exhibition ill go there as well. But mostly art and fashion exhibitions are what intrigues me the most.

T: What intrigues you the most about art and fashion exhibitions.

A: I get to learn about new artists or new photographers. I just get to see new art. And in fashion exhibitions I get to see vintage pieces in real life, instead of art books and photographs because once it is tangible you get to see the details. In pictures its not always what it seems

T: Have you always been fascinated by art?

A: Yea, since my dad is really creative he always promoted me to draw when I was young. That is why I like animation.

T: Would you say that you can express yourself through art?

A: Yea because you can draw whatever you wants its like how singers can sing whatever they want. For me drawing is an easier way to communicate what you want than writing an essay. If someone is eating a pizza you can just draw it instead of writing about it.

T: Why do you think your father promoted your artwork or creative side?

A: Because life would be boring without color, and music. My dad was a musician too, he would always put me through school for viola, piano, singing lessons. He even tried to teach me how to play guitar. I guess he thinks it will bring more happiness to the family. It makes the household livelier.

T: So would you say your dad enjoys expressing himself through his creative side?

A: Yes

T: Im going to go a little off topic here, but how old were you when your family moved here?

A: I was 3

T: Where were you born?

A: Bien Hoa, Vietnam

T: Growing up have you always thought of yourself as an American, or a Vietnamese national?

A: Asian American, never really American and never really Vietnamese

T: Would you say this categorization of yourself led to confusion?

A: Not really, most households are like this now a-days. I speak Vietnamese at home but I speak English everywhere else. Not only Vietnamese, I integrated Vietnamese and English with my parents. The only thing that reminds me that I am Vietnamese is because my family held on to part of the culture. Such as celebrating new year’s, practicing Buddhism and taking off the shoes when you enter the house.

T: So it was a relatively easy transition for you to adapt to American culture?

A: Yes, very easy because my parents are very open minded. They raised me to always keep my options open.

T: For your parents it was also easy?

A: Ummm, yes but I think what was hard for my parents was raising me and my siblings who were younger. They were used to Vietnamese parenting tactics and ways. At first they were really strict but over time they realized they can’t control everything, and once they realized that, everything became really easy for them. They did try to demand at first that we had to get good grades etc. you know the normal Asian stereotype. But I think that most of it was that they were more concerned of our future. We get good grades we get a good job. They also didn’t want to be embarrassed by their relatives having more successful children. So I guess from that aspect they were pretty strict. The easy thing about it was that there was a lot of Vietnamese people in San Jose. So it would probably be more difficult to move to South Carolina or Tennessee ya know?

T: So because your family had a strong community to support them, it made their transition easier?

A: Yea because if there wasn’t a big Vietnamese community it would be harder.

T: When you are feeling upset or sad do you use your creative side to express your feelings?

A: Uhhhhhhhh sometimes, I mostly eat if im stressed. If im sad I mope around the house I clean to distract myself and if I am mad I listen to music. If I am not happy or if I have to do it I would use my creative side to do it. Because I wouldn’t have any motivation too, id be too pissed off. If I was mad at my boyfriend I wouldn’t be like oh yea im going to start drawing.

T: Have you ever thought about drawing as a therapeutic way

A: Ummm yes and no. I feel like if I talk to another person is better. If I am not motivated to draw my picture will be crummy.

T: How did you express yourself while you were growing up and upset.

A: By stomping my feet, slamming the door, not talking to someone. Basically throwing a tantrum

T: Would you ever spend alone time working on your art when you felt lonely?

A: Yea.

T: What would you do when had no deadlines or work to do?

A: I would go out and explore, hang out with people. After a week of doing that I’d get bored I guess I would start drawing and sketching and I feel like I have to update my work

T: Do you think your father exhibits his creative side when he is attempting to express himself?

A: Yes I guess he does it to kill time as well, like when he was in jail he drew portraits of my mom.

T: When was he in jail?

A: Not jail, but the concentration camp

T: Do you know how long he was in there?

A: Ummm 7 years.

T: So if he was painting pictures of your mom it seems like he was using it as a way to escape a horrible life experience, do you agree?

A: Yes

T: So do you think he learned that he could use this creative side to express his difficulties in life.

A: I don’t understand your question

T: Do you think that he learned that he could draw and do other things when he was in a bad situation and it would help him feel better

A: Yes, it was a way for him to escape reality.

T: Do you think that maybe he encouraged you to learn this creative way of expressing yourself as a way to escape bad situations like him?

A: He encouraged me when he found out I was creative and that I was interested in that area and he just pushed me in that area because I guess it was his form of happiness and he wants that for me as well.

T: When did you start realizing that you wanted to pursue a creative arts career?

A: Probably middle school

T: Can you explain how your life was while you were in middle school?

A: Ummmm, In middle school?

T: Yea

A: I was the creative one in my whole class. Everyone just knew me as someone who could draw and creative like making stuff. I guess I wasn’t one of the outsider kids. I had a really good time in middle school, but I regret being mean to some people.

T: Who were you mean to?

A: Ummm this really unpopular guy, a lot of people were mean to him. But I got caught making fun of him and I had to go to the principal’s office and write a letter as to why it was wrong making fun of people.

T: Why did everybody make fun of him?

A: Because he had a turban and he was just really weird and unpopular. I feel really bad I don’t want to be known as a mean girl. It was middle school, it’s like peer pressure.

T: What would you say the ethnic diversity was at your school?

A: Huge, massive. We had everybody.

T: What ethnicity was the majority

A: Asians and Latinos

T: Were there a lot of middle eastern and western Asian people?

A: What do you mean?

T: Such as Pakastani, Iranian, Iraqi, or Indian etc.

A: I didn’t really pay attention to that, all I knew was a lot of people were Asian and Latino. A lot of the Indian people stopped wearing their turbans once they went to high school, which is really sad. The kids just wanted to be popular and I think it is really sad. They just wanted to fit in and be popular.

T: Did you ever wear any traditional Vietnamese attire to school or out in the community?

A: Never to school, but for Chinese new year’s I wore a Chinese dress to go to the temple. To take pictures with my family.

T: So you only dressed traditionally Vietnamese when you were with your family on special cultural occasions.

A: Yea, only when I had to.

T: How about for your older siblings? Did they ever wear traditional clothing while in school?

A: No, same as me.

T: What about religious symbols.

A: What do you mean?

T: You know how Catholics might wear a rosary or cross, or how certain Muslim religions wear certain Turbans, or how maybe Jewish people wear yammacas on special occasions.

A: No not really, we mostly have statues at home. We have a little alter at the house and a little shrine.

T: Even on Chinese new year’s?

A: What do you mean?

T: Would you go to school in traditional dress during Chinese new year’?

A: No.

T: Did your mother and father ever express mixed feelings about you not wearing traditional clothing?

A: Never.

T: Do you think this shows that they were embracing the change into American culture?

A: Yea, they don’t dress up themselves. Unless they’re going to the temple and on Chinese new year’s, and my dad never wears it only my mom.

T: What do you think the hardest thing growing up was?

A: Getting good grades.

T: Why was that the hardest thing?

A: Because I always had to study when I didn’t want to. I wanted to go out and have fun. (Sighs) My parents would always put me in summer school so I could learn more.

T: If given the opportunity would you say your parents enjoy the united states or they would of rather not come.

A: I think they enjoy it because there’s more, I think after the adaption to the new culture they don’t want to go back. I mean in the beginning probably, but now no.

T: Do you think your parents focusing on your schooling so much represents the fact that maybe they did not have that opportunity back in Vietnam.

A: Yes, and my dad graduated from college here in the United States. However, my mom took English for 10 years and I did her homework for her so she wouldn’t learn anything. (Laughs)

T: Are there still non-religious cultural customs you and your family practice?

A: What do you mean?

T: Certain holidays, such as thanksgiving and fourth of July.

A: Lunar festival, Chinese new year’s

T: How much does your family practice Buddhism

A: Not extreme but not a little, we’re vegetarian on Buddha’s birthday but not in our entire life. Or when someone in the family dies we have to be vegetarian for three months.

T: But your sister is different right?

A: Yea she’s more devout.

T: Would you say that that is because of her husband, or has she always been more devout.

A: I guess because of her husband.

T: How old was your sister when the family moved?

A: She was 12 because I was 3 and she is 9 years older than me.

T: Do you think she had a harder time then you transitioning.

A: Yea because she was a teenager and had to learn the language quick, for me I was still learning Vietnamese so it was easy. She was in the ESL programs, and during that time ESL wasn’t very cool so she had to deal with that.

T: Does your sister dress more traditional then the rest of your family?

A: No, why would she dress more traditional.

T: Does your sister do any creative work such as art or poetry or music.

A: Yea she drew pictures a lot. She liked to scrapbook, and she likes photography and there was one point she would do photoshoots of me and my other sister.

T: How was your sister’s relationship with your parents compared to yours. Did she get into trouble a lot?

A: No she always tried to please them, once she started adapting to American culture she realized that her friends and everyone didn’t act the way that people acted in Vietnam. Once she adapted she changed my parents had to change. Now that they’ve all changed everything is all good. When they were adapting they weren’t adapting at the same pace so it was difficult for my parents and my sister and they would argue over things like being able to go out. My sister was the first to break down the barrier and when my brother was a teenager he broke it down more. When Thu and I became teenagers they weren’t able to control us and stopped trying.

T: Do you think age played in the different paces?

A: What do you mean?

T: Do you think that since your sister was so much younger than your parents she adapted quicker than your parents.

A: Yea and she was going to school.

T: So while you were in 8th grade, your parents had already experienced their children growing up with the American lifestyle and they were used to it

A: Yea they already understood the culture, so I was the lucky one.

T: Why were you lucky?

A: Because I didn’t have to go through the thing that she had to go through.

T: What do you mean go through?

A: First boyfriend, college, adapting to a new lifestyle. When I was a teenager my parents were already Americanized so it was much easier for me to go out with my friends have boyfriends stuff like that.

T: How old were your parents when the family moved here?

A: Ummm I don’t even know. Early 40’s maybe.

T: Did your parents feel like they were forced to move here due to what was going on in Vietnam

A: Yes and also because they had an opportunity to fly here. My parents were sponsored by the United States.

T: Did they see it as an opportunity to amass wealth and have access to more economic resources?

A: My parents were well off in Vietnam, I guess it is more of an education for us.

T: What do you mean they were well off.

A: My dad had a business and some houses. So my dad took over the family business. It wasn’t like we were poor or we were billionaires, we had money.

T: What kind of business was it?

A: A super-marketish store. Family owned business, a market. My grandma left him houses, but since Vietnam became communist they had to sell it. The government came to my parents place a week before we left and asked when they were leaving and my dad lied to them about the time. People told my parents later that the government came with a police force to stop my family from leaving. It was a good thing we had already left. They were trying to find a reason to stop us from going

T: How did the government treat your family considering your father’s prior role in the war?

A: I don’t know.

T: You don’t know if there was any discrimination?

A: My parents don’t talk about it. I guess it was discrimination because my parents were doing well and they made my parents sell all the land for cheap.

T: So it could be said that other factors besides your schooling drove your parents to move.

A: Yea.

T: Why did your parents choose USA instead of Germany like most of your family.

A: Because the USA sponsored my family to come, to get citizenship. You don’t get that very often.

T: Would your parents have chosen Germany or the United states.

aA: I don’t know, it’s hard to say because I have relatives in both countries.

T: Why did your grandma and aunt and uncle move to Germany?

A: Because they were able to escape the war.




A New Beginning


A New Beginning

by Jeffrey De Alba, May 2016

Jasper Hauch was born on October 24th, 1996 in a small town with a population of three hundred called Frederikshavn, which is a town in northern Denmark. Growing up, Jasper attended primary and secondary schools for his entire life before making the transition to deciding to move to the United States to further his education because he felt the education in Denmark was not as challenging due to the fact it was free, and also he feels that the education is just given to him, not earned. Before he moved to the United States, Jasper decided to take a gap year after high school because he wanted to travel the world with his friends due to the fact he was not going to see them for quite some time as he was only going to be able to talk to them via text message. Having family in the United States played an important role in Jasper’s decision to make the transition from Denmark to the US because it would allow him to assimilate to the American culture more easily. He looks to continue his education in the United States, hoping he will receive a soccer scholarship to a four-year university because it would help pay for his education; In addition, soccer is a sport that he has played his whole life and that he cannot live without.

The ability to leave home to study abroad is an opportunity of a lifetime that relatively few people have the chance to experience. Learning in a new country is a challenge, yet the benefits for some people outweigh the challenges because the person gets to experience what the new country has to offer while connecting him or her to new people. There are different education systems around the world; for instance, there are free, public education systems, some of which do not pose a challenge to their students and then there are educational systems in which students have to work hard in order to achieve success. As Denmark’s education system was free, Jasper did not feel it was challenging enough, so he decided to further his education in the United States because he knew he would be able to receive a better higher education. Even though Jasper will always call Denmark his permanent home because that is where his family and friends are, his immediate home is the United States because this is where he has the opportunity to grow as a person, such as the opportunity to receive a better education, and hopefully where he can start his career once he graduates from college.

One reason Jasper decided to begin a new chapter to his life in the United States was to build new connections with people in order to better his future. Connecting himself with new people will allow him to be able to build a stronger connection to himself; for example, if he makes a good first impression on someone, it may be a person that can help pay for his college tuition or a person that can help land him a job that can jump start his career. Although Jasper wants to meet new people during his time in the United States, he will always have a strong connection with his friends and family back in Denmark. As he states, “[I] spent the whole summer with my friends mostly and traveling and but it was surreal that I was going away for a year and that I wasn’t going to see my friends for a whole year.” Though Jasper has the ability to go back to Denmark, his dream was to come to the United States to further his education and the opportunity he has to connect with new people. Jasper says, “[I] guess that’s the part of growing up of seeing the friends and you get new ones, in some way, you’re not replacing your friends but finding new people to spend time with.” The nature of growing up more often than not includes seeing one’s friends coming and going from one’s life because everyone grows up and goes where life decides to take them and that is exactly what Jasper did, with his decision of starting a new beginning in the United States. Although making connections with new people in a new country can be difficult, Jasper wants to be able to meet as many people as possible in order to give himself an opportunity for a bright future to look forward too.

Having his grandparents and other family members here in the United States supporting him allows Jasper to assimilate easier and feel comfortable living here. Moving to a new country is hard enough on just about anyone, but Jasper is fortunate enough to have family members living in the United States that are willing to support him during his time here. As Jasper states, “[I] also have my grandparents over here, who I live with, so they were very helpful and are very knowledgeable of how the system works over here.” With the help of his grandparents, Jasper will not have to worry about finding a place to live, which allows him to not have to feel the stress of finding a place to live, especially in one of the most expensive cities in the world, San Francisco. In addition, Jasper had the support of his father, who was helping him get situated during the first couple of weeks in the United States, as he states, “[My dad] was staying with me for the first two weeks. Uhh, of my stay here and he helped me set up a bank account, setting up a phone, getting a car, he helped me with all the practical stuff.” Having the ability to have all the necessities to thrive in a new country is a major boost because it will allow Jasper to assimilate into the American culture much easier than a person who immigrates to the United States alone. As Jasper adjusts to life in the Unites States, he will hopefully put most of his focus on his education in order to achieve his ultimate goal, which is to transfer to a four-year university.

Although Jasper had the opportunity for a free education in Denmark, he decided to look for a challenge by furthering his education in the United States. Whereas many countries, such as Germany, Denmark and France, offer free education, sometimes this is not always a good thing because it causes people to feel they do not have to work as hard, whereas some students in the United States are doing anything they can to attend college and in some cases be the first person in their familes to attend college. As Jasper states, “[I] was always very obsessed with the States.” Many students from around the country come to the United States for a better education because the United States is home to many top tier universities, such as the prestigious Ivy League schools. One might say that paying for an education will leave a good percentage of students in debt for many years after they graduate; however, students with legal residence will be able to apply for financial aid and federal grants in order to relieve the stress of being able to afford college. When Jasper decides to transfer to a four year university, one way that he is hoping to pay for college is by getting a soccer scholarship. As he states, “[I] don’t have any money saved up because education is free in Denmark, so on that part I’m pretty screwed. The only opportunity that I have is to get a sports scholarship.” Receiving a full soccer scholarship is extremely difficult and rarely occurs, but since Jasper is a student who has outstanding grades, he will have a good chance of not having to worry paying for college. It seems Jasper has a plan on how he will be able to afford a four-year university due to the fact he has many options, such as receiving a soccer scholarship or the ability to apply for federal funding. However, because Jasper attends a community college, it does not guarantee him that he will receive his bachelor’s degree from a four year-university. In an article called “The Community College Option,” written by James Rosenbaum, a professor at Northwestern University, he says, “Only 20 percent of students who begin in community college complete bachelor’s degrees.” It will not be an easy challenge for Jasper to graduate from a four year university but ultimately this is why he came to the United States, to look for challenges, and now he has one! Although it is going to be a challenge to afford a four year university, let alone graduate from one, Jasper embraces these challenges because if he accomplishes this, he will be able to say that he achieved success in the United States.

Considering that relatively few people get the opportunity to study abroad, Jasper is fortunate enough to have the chance of a lifetime to study in the Unites States. Although students in the United States have to work hard to get where they want to go in life, Jasper embraces that challenge of working hard because this one of the main reasons he decided to study here. In addition, Jasper’s parents were excited that he was given the opportunity to attend college in the United States, as Jasper states, “[My parents] were just happy for me to get out in some way.” Few parents will allow their child to move away for a long period of time if they do not think that their child is mature enough, but Jasper’s parents knew that he was ready to make the move to the United States, which would allow Jasper to continue to grow as a young man while getting the opportunity to continue his education. Although Jasper might have been happy to get away from his parents because it would allow him to become more independent, it was difficult for him to leave his brothers because they did so much together and shared the same interests. As he states, “[I] think the worst people to say goodbye to was my little brothers definitely, it was super hard.” Leaving one’s little sibling(s) might be one of the hardest things to do because they are supposed to be the ones that look up to the older sibling and ask him or her questions that they do not feel comfortable asking their parents. Although Jasper is living the dream studying abroad in the United States, his family back in Denmark more than likely misses seeing him around; however, as his little brothers get older, they might decide to study abroad one day and can ask Jasper how his experience was in the United States.

Education in Denmark sounds tempting due to the fact it is free, but apparently it didn’t produce a challenge for Jasper because he felt he did not need to work hard and that the education was just given to him. According to Jasper, As soon as students are finished with high school in Denmark, they do not feel the pressure of whether or not attending college is a reality because the opportunity of getting an education is handed to them, whereas students in the United States are constantly stressed about whether or not their GPA or SAT scores are high enough in order to attend the college of their dreams. However, as many students in Denmark live a short distance away from school, some students in the Unites States live a great distance away, which causes their commutes to school to be over an hour long and requires them to wake up a lot earlier. As Jasper states, “people would think I was crazy if I told them I was driving from Oakland to San Francisco every morning to school, I leave at 7:30 to go to 9am class.” Because Jasper now goes to school in one of the most congested cities in the entire country, it requires him to leave his house much earlier; however, if he was going to school in Denmark, he would have the ability to leave to school later and the option to sleep in or not. Though Jasper’s commute to school is an hour long, he does not regret sitting in traffic every morning because he knows that this is the lifestyle of living in the Bay Area; in addition, he would rather commute to school, but only if it gives him the opportunity of a better education.

As Jasper attends a community college, it will allow him to save the money that he has while earning a quality education, which will allow him to transfer to a four-year university. City College of San Francisco not only offers students a wide range of classes to take, but is one of the best community colleges to attend, which shows up in enrollment because the college is the largest community college in the country. In the article called “The Student Debt Dilemma: Debt Aversion as a Barrier to College Access,” written by Pamela Burdman, who spent seven years as a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, she says, “Students who fear borrowing may not seriously consider the benefits of higher education, relegating themselves to lower-paying jobs and fewer opportunities.” As someone who decides to attend a community college, it will hopefully allow them to take advantage that they have in receiving a cheap education with the hope of transferring to a highly sought after four-year university; in addition, it will allow the to save thousands of dollars. In the article “Zero in on the True Cost of College,” written by Mark Kantrowitz, an analysist of government data, he says, “The average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000.” The decision for Jasper to attend a community college is a decision that will pay off in the long run because he will have the opportunity to receive financial aid; in addition, he might have the chance to receive a soccer scholarship, which will give him an even better opportunity of not having to pay for his college tuition. While some students are taking out loans in order to pay the tuition of a four-year university, some of them forget that attending a community college is just as good because many of them have small class sizes but most importantly it allows them to save thousands of dollars.

Being able to study abroad gives students a better opportunity for success in the future because it gives them exposure to multiple cultures and the ability to learn new languages, a quality that employers love to see. Not only can Jasper say that he has had the opportunity to study abroad on his resume, but it will look good to employers when looking for future jobs because he will be able to bring into his life the experience of what it is like to be able to live in multiple countries. In the article called “Studying Abroad in College helps graduates make more money and land jobs faster,” written by Gretchsen Anderson, the director of diversity recruiting at IES abroad, she states, “a 2012 survey of recent college graduates revealed that studying abroad may be one of the best ways for college students to find jobs sooner after graduation and at a higher salary.” Having a job after he graduates from a university will be crucial for Jasper because it will determine whether or not he will be able to stay in the United States or have to move back to Denmark, since he will not be able to afford an apartment in the Bay Area without a good job. Just as there are many international students who are studying in the United States, many of them are more than likely face numerous obstacles as they try to adjust to the American culture. In the article called “Japanese Exchange Students’ Academic and Social Struggles at an American University,” written by Takahiro Sato, an assistant Professor in School of Teaching, Learning, & Curriculum Studies at Kent State University, he states, in the 2013-14 academic year, “there were 886,052 international students enrolled in American colleges and universities.” Being an international student can be a daunting challenge because one will have to adjust to the native language of that country while adjusting to the difference in educational systems to hopefully have any type of success. Being an international student not only benefits one in the future, but gives him or her the opportunity of being exposed to a different part of the world, such as being able to try new types of food and to live in a new lifestyle.

As Jasper is looking for ways to afford his college tuition, one way in doing so will be receiving a soccer scholarship, a sport that he has been playing his entire life. If Jasper wants to land a soccer scholarship, he realizes that he will need to work a lot harder and knows that he will need to challenge himself to the point where he will be the fastest and most skilled player on the field. Jasper states, “[I] played soccer but in Denmark. I was considered at most an average player.” Because Jasper knows he has to improve his game in order to land a soccer scholarship, he will do everything it takes, such as staying after practice or going to the gym to get stronger. With the ability and talent to land a soccer scholarship, Jasper knows that his days will consist of waking up early to go to a full day of classes and then going to practice. Jasper states, “receiving a soccer scholarship is what I am trying to do right now, practicing a lot now compared to what I used to do.” The possibility of Jasper receiving a soccer scholarship will take much stress away from him thinking how he can afford college; in addition, if Jasper has exceptional grades, he will have a chance to get additional financial aid, which will hopefully pay for most of his tuition. With Jasper playing soccer all of his life and succeeding at it, it will play an important role in whether or not he lands a soccer scholarship to play at a four-year university. Although one might argue that Jasper’s true home is in the United States because this is where he plans to stay for the foreseeable future, Jasper will argue because Denmark is the country where he has spent his entire life before moving to the United States to pursue a better education, his true home will always be in Denmark because this is where his parents, brothers and longtime friends are at. Right now, Jasper’s immediate home is located here in the United States because this is where he believes he has the best opportunity for success, from receiving a degree at a prestigious university to hopefully getting a well-paying job. For people wanting to be able to call a new country home, it will always be a difficult thing to do so because they will always have the memories that they have made in their home country but will always have the opportunity to create new memories in the country that they are currently in, so to be able to call a new country their true home is a tough decision.

Works Cited

Anderson, Gretchen. “Studying Abroad in College Helps Graduates Make More Moneyand Land Jobs Faster.” Diversity Employers 2.1 Dec. 2012. Web. 8 May 2016.Burdman, Pamela. “The Student Debt Dilemma: Debt Aversion as a Barrier to CollegeAccess.” Center for Studies in Higher Education 13.5 1 Oct. 2005. Web. 4 Ma2016.

Hauch, Jasper. Personal Interview. 23 March 2016.

Kantrowitz, Mark. “Zero in on the True Cost of College.” Kiplinger’s Personal   Finance 4.8 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 4 May 2016.

Rosenbaum, James. “The Community College Option.” Educational Leadership 23.41 Mar. 2016. Web. 5 May 2016.

Sato, Takahiro. “Japanese Exchange Students’ Academic and Social Struggles at an American University.” Journal of International Students 5.3 July-Aug. 2015. Web. 12 May 2016.

Interview Transcript

J- I was born in Demark, in (Hometown), a northern town in Denmark, where I lived in a farm town with three hundred inhabitants. Uhm The nearest city was big city five miles away and had approximately sixty thousand in the whole county. So it is a very small place, compared to here and but other than that, my childhood was good.

Jeff – what year were you born and your birthday?

J – I was born July 24th, 1996

Jeff – What school did you go to?

J – I went to a middle school in the big city, which was three, approximately three miles from home, called (school), which was my primary and secondary school. It was at the same school and after ninth grade, which is, so in Denmark, we go from 1st grade to 9th grade and then you go to high school. And you can choose if you want to take tenth grade at a secondary school. And I went to a high school in the same city, which was called HTX, Frederick Sound, it was a technical school, with science classes and engineering, mostly focused on engineering and science. (pause) and I went there from ninth to twelve grade, 12th grade yeah. And it was a good experience, I learned a lot and it was very practical work. We did a lot of experiments, we did calculations and we tried to see if it worked. We didn’t just do it hypothetical things, we did practical, which was good.

Jeff –and you played soccer? Did you play soccer back in Denmark?

J – Yeah so, I forgot to mention that, I played soccer but in demark, I was considered at most a a average player. And I played for a couple of club teams, my whole life called (team), where we had two practices a week and a game in the weekend. I played for that club since I was 6 years old until I was 18.

Jeff – so 12 years, 12 and a half

J – So I played throughout u6, u7, until the mens team

Jeff – u20? U18?

J – I played u19 and then the men’s team was after, which was I also played at. I played at the mens team when I was 17. I played a little up. Uhm…yeah..But the final year of my high school, I played at another club in a smaller farm city, which was an hour from, from where I lived. And (pause) that was fun as well..trying something new. And after high school, I decided to come here. So I had a summer vacation and I came to the United States in August 2015 and yeah the rest is history. (pause)

Jeff – do you have any siblings or?

J – yeah I have a half of sister on my dads side, bigger sister, who lives in Guyana, ehh in South America and shes a tour guide. I have a. Her name is Sophia by the way. I have a two smaller brothers. The biggest of of my little brothers is called Yepa. He is 16 years old and he lives in Fredericksound. He goes to high school, the same high school I went to. HTX, Fredericksound. My smallest brother is Normant, goes to 5th grade, hes in the 5th grade at the same primary and secondary school I was in, Banglashdan and both of my brothers play soccer. Uhm and are both living at home. Still live at the same place when I moved. (pause)

Jeff – Was there a specific story that stood out to you?

J – Yeah, yeah. I have a lot of good memories when I was a child, which is why this is a weird story to remember for me but is actually somewhat a negative story in some way. It was when I was in Kindergarten. I went to Kindergarten in fairly close to our home. It was maybe a mile and a half away. And it was very concentrated about being outside all the time. So we were out in Forests a lot and it was great because it was in the middle of the forests. Uhm and one day I was down there and always the 1st kid to get picked up by my parents because my mom usually uhm. My mom usually had short work days while I was a kid and she had that with my brothers as well because she chose to. So uhm one day uhh (pause) I was one of the last kids to be there. It kinda pondered around me when all the other kids started to leave, but I was always the first one to leave. Uhm and it ended up in Denmark it gets dark fairly quick, so I was in kindergarten at, it was probably 4 in the afternoon, but it was pitch black outside and I was the only kid there and everyone in kindergarten was shutting off the lights and were putting away the toys and I was the only kid there (pause) and I just felt. I just felt left behind in someway but I knew my parents were going to get me and they. All the years that I have been there, I was always the first kid. I I I for some reason I remember that moment or that time the most, that one time where I didn’t get picked up as the first kid (pause)

Jeff – and uhm when did you find out you were moving here or immigrating here? (7:42)

J – uhm so when (pause) halfway through my senior year of high school

Jeff – so two years ago?

J – uh so that was last winter. Winter 2015, no Decemeber 2014.I started thinking about uhm what I was going to do after high school. And most of my friends were going to Universities but I didn’t feel like it, so I decided I would take a gap year, uhm, I had a girlfriend at that time, which was willing to go travel with me, so that was actually the plan, just to go and see stuff. But I was always very obsessed with the states because I like it here and my dad is from here. He is born and raised here and he moved when he was 16. I have always had a thing that I couldn’t uhm, it wasn’t really our plan to go to the United States, so I was a little disappointed, but I went along with it, uhm, but she goes on probably a couple weeks after we talked about it, she goes along to say that her parents doesn’t really think she should, she should travel, she should go to university and she said that she agreed with them and uhm she asked what we were going to do, so I said well I think you should go to university, and I’ll go by myself and I finally, finally, in some way I was happy because I can go off by myself and I could stay in the United States as long as I wanted because I have dual-citizenship, uhm so it was a huge opportunity for me and I was happy at that time and it eventually ending up with me breaking up with her, uhm, but yeah, December 2014, January 2015 was when I decided I was gonna go here, after summer.

Jeff – so what was it like on the airplane, packing your stuff, saying goodbye, what was it like, were you happy or?

J – I spent the whole summer with my friends mostly and traveling and but it was surreal that that I was going away for a year and that I wasn’t going to see my friends for a whole year. And uhm I and I just started to realize it when it was three days away when I came home from vacation and hanging out with my friends. I I started to realize it when I had to packed and its its weird. What do you pack when you go away for for long time and you don’t know when you are going back. Uhm, you can only be limited because you can’t have all the space in the world. Uhm but yeah, I just packed a couple of shirt, kinda knew what the weather was like, so I packed to the weather, I brought some stuff but I I planned that I was going to buy a lot of stuff when I came her. Ehh soccer clothes, new shoes, all that stuff, so I didn’t bring a lot of footwear or exercise clothes. Uhm but what I mean, it wasn’t bad saying goodbye to my friends because they were going to take off to university, they were going to move out uhm my mom and dad, they were just happy for me to get out in some way, eventhough my mom is a mom, she was balling for the first couple of times, but the worst, I think the worst people to say goodbye to was my little brothers, definitely, it was super hard. Uhm saying goodbye to those guys. (Pause)

Jeff – and then what was plane ride like, was it long, im guessing it was long?

J – Uhm yeah, so I was actually pretty fortunate uhm my dad went with me on the way over here. He was staying with me for the first two weeks. Uhh of my stay here and he helped me set up a bank account, setting up a phone, getting a car, he helped me with all the practical stuff, which was very helpful to me and I also have my grandparents over her, who I live with, so they were very helpful and are very knowledgeable of how the system works over here.

Jeff – So you have family over here too?

J – Yeah, I live with my grandparents

Jeff – in the city?

J – I live with my grandparents in Oakland, yeah up in the hills near Monclair and they been living here for 40 years. We have a view of Oakland and we cant see San Francisco from the house. I also have an aunt, who lives in San Francisco, and she lived here all her life. She graduated from university here and shes working here full time and so on. But the plane ride here was actually pretty short and as soon as I said goodbye to everyone, I was looking forward to get here, uhh I was just so happy. The three days before I was gonna take off I was almost backing out, I had to say goodbye. I told these people and and leave all this stuff behind and as soon I got on the plane, I was surready to get away from home

Jeff – What is the biggest difference from Denmark and here you think? (14:09)

J – Well I found to be the most significance is that in Denmark, there is aye, there’s not to many homeless people. Because we have a welfare state and uhm free healthcare and free school, so theres not really an excuse to be homeless in some way ehh because you will get helped by the state and you could generally live off of the financial aid you receive whereas here, you are kind of screwed as soon you get on the street because it is hard to get off it, uhm, that is the thing that hit me the hardest was how many people are homeless over here, its like the reality struck me uhm ain some way and its also its a lot bigger, the biggest city in Denmark has 1.5 million inhabitants and that was the city that was the furthest away from me. Big population difference, distance wise. People would think I was crazy if I told them I was driving from Oakland to San Francisco every morning to school.

Jeff – like 20 minutes?

J – I leave at 7:30 to go to a 9 am class.

Jeff – so about an hour?

J – yeah. In Denmark, you would never do that stuff, you would have to. If you were going to do a day trip to a city that was 50 miles away, you would have to plan a week ahead and everything would have to be planned out.

Jeff – What is the one thing that you miss from Denmark? Your food? Friends?

J – obviously I miss my friends but I have some contact with them and I guess that’s the part of growing up of seeing the friends and you get new ones, in some way, you’re not replacing your friends but finding new people to spend time with, uhm but. My mom was a very good baker, so that’s what I miss the most, her baking cakes and all that stuff, uhm, and there are some food that are very different from her. Chocolate, I think the chocolate is, I miss the chocolate from home.

Jeff – is it like richer, its just better?

J – I, its just taste better in some way and uhm and the water, clean water, we have clean tap water, in some places you have here

Jeff – its better overall, the food or ?

J – not necessarily, I mean my dad has restaurants, so I obviously miss that food as well. It was burgers, pizza but its, I feel like uhm, just being very detailed, the cheese on the pizza is different here from home I feel. And uhm the beer, I miss the beer from home but there are a lot of good beer over here. Too short it down, my moms cake and my dads pizza is what I miss the most

Jeff – and the drinking age in Denmark is 18?

J – to drink in Denmark, the legal age to buy beer at a supermarket is 16 uhm, the legal drinking age and to go to club is 18 and hard alcohol is 18 too.

Jeff – so you can buy alcohol at 16?

J – you can buy everything uhm under 12.3% alcohol, uhm you can buy that at a 16 year old, everything above, vodka whiskey, you name it, you have to be 18

Jeff – so above 12.3, you have to be 18 and below it, you have to be 16

Jeff – I guess you cant buy alcohol here unless you have a fake?

J – Yeah exactly, but my grandparents don’t mind me having a beer once in a while at home but its (pause) I haven’t really drinked heavily since uhm since I was in Denmark, maybe on one or two occasions,

Jeff – How do you like it here? Do you think you will stay here? Or move back?

J – yeah uhm I haven’t made up my mind to stay here uhm to get an education to stay here but the part is that I don’t have any money saved up because education is free in Denmark, so on that part im pretty screwed. And uhm the only opportunity that I have is to get a sports scholarship. Uhh more specific a soccer scholarship so that is what im trying to do right now, practicing a lot now compared to what I used to do and yeah? (20:05) and im trying to be more healthy and all that stuff but I definitely want to stay here. I don’t really want to go back to Denmark and I think if I did go back to Denmark, it would be weird uhm coming from such a big place and getting back to the smallest place. If I had to go back to Denmark, I would definitely go to the big city, Copenhagen, and go to university there uhm but ill try and see if I can, if I can make it work over here somehow with scholarships and grants

Jeff –and do you have any specific school you want to go to or try to attend?

J – well I. I want to be and engineer when I, I was about to say when I get older, when I come an adult and I want to become an engineer so I been looking at UC San Diego, Cal Poly, mostly engineering schools, I have a thing for the UC schools because I I think they are a good program, not just soccer but I academic. Basically a school that has a good engineer program and has a somewhat competitive soccer team, D2 would be fine for me, I think that would be very appropriate for me and UCSD fits that perfectly and Stanford is kinda outta reach and UC Berkeley

Jeff – yeah I wish

J – yeah, if I could pick, I would probably go to UCSD or UC Santa Barbara,

Jeff – yeah, take the JC route and thrive there and get offered and see what your options are. And whats your favorite activity to do besides soccer?

J – besides soccer that’s a hard one

Jeff – I mean what do you do on your free time?

J – yeah that’s, uhm well, I work, but I coach soccer, so that’s all I do right now, but I don’t know, I like to, I like to go see stuff, I like to go travel, I been to Vegas with a couple of friends and LA, I like to see new places, I like to go to restaurants, uhm at one point I was trying to surf, I would like to to get that done but I don’t really feel like I have the time for it, uhm but yeah I mean , surfing surf surfing and seeing new stuff, but most just experiencing how it is over here uhm but other then that, I I I mostly do soccer, that’s what my days consist of.

Jeff – and you said you coached a team? What team is it

J – So I coach uhm I coach u8, u9 here in the city, San Francisco, uhm its both outdoor and indoor soccer and I had a job in Berkely at a major soccer club where I coached as well in the fall but because I was gonna go here for school, I quit that job, so right now im only working days a week, 2 hours at a time, and im coaching these kids, im helping coaching these kids and I have a F license, which is the lowest coaching license you can have.

Jeff – then what is the name of the team?

J – its JJ United

Jeff – cause I played soccer for 10 years, when I was 4-14 years old.

J – yeah the team is an independent club, so I got into it because my dad met the guy uhm that im assisting for, he met him in Denmark at a soccer tournament, uhm, but yeah that are an independent club, only consisting of his teams he coaches

Jeff – and you go around and play tournaments?

J – yeah, so they play the big teams, Glems, Evolution, SF United. But they are just JJ United, theres only one team of that age group called JJ United, theres no other team.

Jeff – and you go to like Oakland, San Jose to play? (26:05)

J – There, They are mostly located here in the bay and last weekend, they were in Marin, I think that’s the farthest they go. Uhm but when I play for the club team, I play for the Glens, uhm, last weekend we played in Mountain View, down near San Jose and we played at Beach Chalet, so I think most, most of my games are in San Jose and in San Francisco

Jeff – And you drive there? Or do you take a team van?

J – uhm, I drive there myself, uhm usually we try to carpool as much as we can, theres a couple of guys attending Notre Dame De Namur in Belmont, so I take the San Mateo bridge and I pick those guys up. Uhm, I did that a couple of times or I can go to SF and pick some guys up from there. Usually I drive because I am the only person from east bay on the team

Jeff – and you said you have your grandparents and aunt here, is there any more family members?

J – Uhh there is actually my real grandmother lives in seattle, the women my grandfather is married to, I consider her more as my grandmother to me and she has a sister down in LA who she is living with but other than that, all my family is in Denmark, even my grandparents family, he is a Danish immigrant that came from Denmark, so his family is in Denmark as well, his sisters and brothers.

Jeff – Do you plan on working in the summer or look for a full time job after you play soccer

J – So I, Im planning to stay here after summer and I want to move into a room in the city, I want to get a room in the city so I don’t have to commute all the time because my life is literally in here. I don’t do anything in Oakland at all. My school, my work, my soccer club, everything is here, So I plan on moving and I need to save a lot of money, uhm during the summer so my mom knows a guy from home, and he knows a guy, who is the CEO of a fishing company in Alaska, so I have applied for a job on the fishing boat in Alaska during the summer, its killer hard work but I can save, if I go on the trip, I can save enough money so I don’t have to work uhm the whole semester, the whole next fall semester. So that’s one of my opportunities, so that means ill be away from June to right before school starts, mid August. The other opportunity I have is I can go coach at soccer camps in Northern California, I am still in the developing face, I am still trying to see if it can work, if I am going to make money on it because all the commute and gas money and living expenses. (30:11)

I Left on My Birthday


I Left on My Birthday

by Oscar Garcia, February 2016

Poverty is a factor that forces many people around the world to leave their countries of origin to better their families’ economic outcomes. Some people risk the lives of their siblings and other members of their families. Today, many Central American children are forced to leave their countries of origin to help their families. Some parents know that their children might not make the journey, but still choose to let their children make the unpredictable journey to the US, and some of the consequences can be as bad as losing their lives–rape, exploitation, and/or possible deportation from Mexico or the US. A song by Rumel Fuentes, translated to English, sings, “through my [mother] I’m [Guatemalan] by destiny I’m American…both countries are home…” Although Henry states that he decided to make the journey, he is one those children who was forced to leave his family, to become a man at an early age, and his concept of home is his family.

The Salvadoran Civil War forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate to different countries throughout Central America. Guatemala was one of those countries to which Salvadorans fled. Guatemala had its own civil war beginning in the early 1980s and lasting through the late 1990s; members of Henry’s family were among the many Salvadorans who migrated to Guatemala. Henry’s father passed away when he was two, leaving his mother to raise him and his two siblings. His mother earned a living by buying and reselling bread. At fourteen, Henry began to feel guilty and noticed that his mother was getting tired because she was caring for them alone after his father had passed away. Henry’s aunt had promised that she would help bring him to the US, but Henry would have had to make the trip without her or any other member of his family. Although Henry claims he chose to make the journey through Mexico and into the US, in truth he was forced to make the journey to the US. With his aunt’s help, he began the journey through Mexico to the US. Henry was afraid and nervous to make the journey, but he had no choice if he was to improve his family’s economic situation in Guatemala. Now twenty-two, Henry lives in San Francisco, CA, and attends San Francisco State University; he is studying to become a schoolteacher.

Poverty was the push factor that forced Henry to leave Guatemala. Henry, who lost his father at the age of two, was left fatherless and felt that he should be the man who provided for his mother and siblings because his mother could no longer care for her three children. As Henry was getting older, he began to see that his mother needed help, and Guatemala was not going to be the place where he would be able to provide for his mother and siblings. Moser quoted the PNUO that 80 to 90 percent live in poverty and 75 percent live in extreme poverty, unable to afford the basic foods in Guatemala (46). Guatemalans who live in this condition have no better option than to leave their country of origin and look for a better place to migrate, like the US. Paul R. Amato, in “The Impact of Family Change on the Cognitive, Social and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generations,” concluded that single parents put their children at risk because of economic hardships, which can cause stress for the children. Henry was one those children and began to feel the impact of the economic hardship that his family faced; he stated that he wanted to come to the US to help his family. “I wanted to help my mother because it was [difficult] for my mother to support my sister, my brother and I,” said Henry. Economic hardship within his family began to accumulate more after they started to get older and Henry felt that it was his obligation to provide for his family.

Henry left his family and Guatemala; the arrangement to travel through Mexico was prepared and improvised. Smugglers need to be a few steps ahead of checkpoint agents so that immigrants could get to their final destination because Mexico can deport non-Mexican immigrants. “I left on my birthday,” said Henry. Henry did not know what the journey would be like and staying in Chiapas, Mexico for a few weeks helped him to pass through the checkpoints (Las Casetas); the plan was for him to stay in Mexico for a few weeks to learn the way Mexicans speak. In a book entitled Enrique’s Journey, journalist Sonia Nazario explains how checkpoint agents trick those they believe are immigrants from Central American by asking them questions and awaiting their response. Guatemalans use words like voz (you), sincho (belt) or chumpa (jacket), words of automatic deportation from Mexico, if they do not have the money to bribe them. Henry was picking up a few Mexican words, but was still afraid to speak because this might have made him forget what he needed to say when questioned. After a few weeks in Mexico, Henry’s smugglers got him a fake birth certificate with a name he does not remember anymore. Henry said that his skin complexion and facial characteristics made him appear as a Mexican from Chiapas and he resembled the person with whom he was traveling; he was advised that if caught he would have to say that he was traveling alone and wass going to visit his father. Audrey Singer and Douglas S. Massey have concluded that migrants “…on initial trips, crossing with either a paid (coyote) or unpaid (a friend or relative) guide dramatically lowers the odds of arrest; but on subsequent trips the mode of crossing has no effect on the odds of apprehension, which are determined primarily by the migrant’s own general and migration-specific human capital… (561-592). The odds of Henry crossing through Mexico with a coyote are improved, but there are coming checkpoints. After leaving Guatemala, Henry’s risks increased; most of Henry’s fears were cantered on what would happen if he was caught.

At the last caseta [checkpoint], thirty minutes into Sonora, the checkpoint agent called him out as Henry was boarding the bus. “I was the only one left behind,” Henry said. As he was re-boarding the bus, the checkpoint point agent called him out and asked him, “Donde vas?” [Where are you going?]. His fear was always about how to respond when questioned by any Mexican checkpoint agent. “Every thing went blank,” Henry thought. His mind went blank because he was afraid that he would speak like a Guatemalan and would be deported, although he was told that, if caught, he should give money to the checkpoint agent and maybe the bribe would buy his way from getting deported to Guatemala. “I remember the series of ‘El Chavo del Ocho’ [a Mexican TV show that began during the early 60s and still is played in Mexico]. I remember how the Chilindrina (one of the teen female actors of El Chavo del Ocho) called her dad ‘mi apa’ [my father], and Henry answered “Voy a ver a mi apa en Tijuana.” “I was afraid that my answer was not going to be enough, but the agent let me go,” Henry concluded. “We arrived around 2 AM in Sonara.” Henry said with pride that he had made it through the last Mexican checkpoint.

While in Sonora, the coyote begins to get him ready for the long walk. The smuggler lets Henry know that he needs to pack more water than food, and to mix the water with oatmeal: “it was nasty…but I won’t die, so I would be fine,” Henry said. Henry did not know how long the walk was going to take. To avoid migrants fearing dying in the desert, most times smugglers do not let them know the risks of the trip, especially crossing the Sonora Desert in Arizona. The average rate of walking depending on the terrain and people varies between three and four and a half miles per hour.   Henry claims he was walking about twelve hours per night with ten-minute breaks at times. The average hours at night in June were about twelve hours. “We did not know we [were] going to leave that day; [we] ate as much as we [could],” Henry added. Henry continues by saying that the smugglers fit twenty people into a Dodge Ram van. The van was going to take them as close as it could to the US boarder, and the rest of the journey was going to be on foot. They started to walk at nights through the desert. Some people argue that the reason the wall of the US boarder ends in part of the desert of Arizona is to deter migrants from crossing while others argue that only the strongest migrants might be able to make the journey “because of the utterly dangerous nature of trekking across the Sonoran Desert, especially in the summer months. Many of these unfortunate migrants succumb to the effects of heat-related illness and perish along the journey. The combined effects of a dry, hot environment and the remoteness of some of the trekking corridors can quickly render a deceased person unidentifiable by visual means,” Anderson concluded. Coyotes are known to let people die in the desert if they fall behind or lose their way. As soon their water runs out, so will their lives. Henry had this fear of dying in the desert and was the youngest in the group.

Henry says “my country” throughout the interview, but means his country of origin. His concept of home is not limited to Guatemala nor the US, though the US is giving him many opportunities for his upward mobility and here he has greater chances of improving than in Guatemala. He claims his home is his family. Henry left Guatemala because he was looking to better his home and to become a father, a father he did not have. Henry claims he might not go back to Guatemala and/or live in Guatemala even if he has the opportunity because his family is living in San Francisco with him. I can relate to Henry. We are both of us are from same trajectories; we left when we were fourteen years old. WWII veteran Irving Grover said, “It does not matter how old a man is, while dying (the wooden soldiers who were brought into the ship where he was a radioman) they called for their mothers.” A man’s mother is important no matter how old he is or what era they are living in. Henry makes that clear; even though at this time does not want to go back to Guatemala, he might change his point of view in the future. This happened to me because I felt anger towards Guatemala and its people. I went back a few times to Guatemala with my mother, but it does not feel like home anymore. Both Henry’s and my concept of home is our families, the identity where we live and how happy we are where we reside. If Henry or I, like any other migrants, would have the opportunities not to struggle with life basic needs in our country of origin and to able to live happily with our families, most of us would not have migrated to the US. My mother reminds me that she buried my umbilical cord in the corner of our home in Guatemala, but more than half of my life I have not lived in that house. At the same time, I am the only one who has lived with my mother of our family members. And maybe for many of us the concept of home might be the womb where we came from; after all, many of us make sacrifices so that we can be happy with our families. Henry missed his mother and felt he missed his country of origin as well, but since his mother arrived to San Francisco, he no longer misses her by being distant or Guatemala.

Many Central American parents, especially single parents, find it impossible to feed and shelter their families and often have no option but to allow their children make a journey that could bring them into the US or leave them in the desert to die. Once in another country where they might have a better chance, they can help their families. Poverty is of one the main factors that force many parents to let their children make this unknown journey to the US. If the journey is successful, the rest of the family will follow. An unaccompanied child who journeys to the US might face possible death, sex slavery, and exploitation, which are risks people in this situation take.

Works Cited

Amato, Paul R. “The Impact Of Family Formation Change On The Cognitive, Social, And Emotional Well-Being Of The Next Generation.” Future Of Children 15.2 (2005): 75-96. ERIC. Web. 17 Dec. 2015

Anderson, S. E. “Identifying the dead: methods utilized by the Pima County (Arizona) office of the medical examiner for undocumented border crossers: 2001-2006.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: n. pag. NCIB. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18279232&gt;.

Grover, Irving. Personal interview. 9 June 2015. A World War II merchant Marine, formal radio operator who was let know how his life was during the war.

Nolastname, Henry. Personal interview. 1 Dec. 20015. An interview with an accompany minor migrant from Guatemala. Push factor of living his country of origin –poverty.

Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother. New York: Random House, 2006.

Rogers, Ibram. “Deep Impact.” Diverse: Issues In Higher Education 27.8 (2010): 15-16. ERIC. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Home: Love, Acceptance and Commitment


Home: Love, Acceptance and Commitment

by Emily Schattenburg, January 2016

Growing up in Peru and then immigrating to the United States has made Daisy a diverse and worldly woman. Her childhood experiences in Peru shaped her concept of family and how she sees herself. The lack of a solid parental role model, an unstable childhood, as well as the bullying and marital hardships she endured have pushed her to create a desire for a family of her own, and consider the U.S her home. The challenges she has faced have molded her to who she is today, a successful student, a team member, a friend, a wife, and a soon-to-be U.S citizen. When interviewing her, the thing that stood out most, over her vibrant personality, was her desire for love, acceptance, and commitment. Upon looking at Daisy, a 24-year-old, married college student living in San Francisco, one would never see the struggles of her past. Extremely confident, with a larger-than-life personality, she never fails to brighten up a room with her feisty comments and loud presence. Prior to the interview, there was no notice of the stutter that had caused her so much pain and suffering as a child. Daisy and her sister grew up in Cusco, Peru. As a young girl, Daisy’s mother battled alcoholism. Her parents separated when she was a child. The bullying that she endured from her peers, because of her speech impediment and her dark skin tone, fueled a desire for her to attend college in the U.S. While attending college in Los Angeles, California, she met and fell in love with Alfonso. Daisy and Alfonso were quickly married and an unexpected pregnancy turned tragedy ended their relationship. She then moved to San Francisco, where she met Rick; they became friends, quickly fell in love and were married.

The lack of a supportive parental role model in Daisy’s life is a push factor in the desire to create a family of her own. During the separation of her mother and father, her mother was arrested for missing a probation meeting from an accident in which she hit a pedestrian with her vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Her mother’s arrest caused suspicion towards her father. Daisy stated, “for some reason they said that my Dad paid for her to go to jail.” The charges in her mother’s arrest were said to be from her mother missing a probation meeting, regarding her accident, although Daisy and her mother protested, saying that she had gone to every probation meeting. Daisy’s suspicion towards her father, involving her mother’s arrest, caused her to distant herself from her father. Daisy missed out on quality time with her father, because of her distrust of him. She was also deprived of valuable time with her mother, because of her mother’s arrest.

Daisy’s father’s remarriage to her stepmother affected her relationship with her father. Daisy stated, “My stepmother found out that my dad was helping my mom financially, she said if you keep helping her, I’m gonna divorce you. So then my Dad stopped helping her. Since that day, I don’t think she is a good woman and I never got along with her.” This negative reaction that her stepmother was expressing towards her father helping the mother of his children hurt Daisy’s feelings. Mavis Hetherington, Martha Cox, and Roger Cox, the authors of the article “Long-Tern Effects of Divorce and Remarriage on the adjustment of Children,” elaborate on a six-year-long study involving the effects of divorce on children. The study showed that, “the effects of remarriage was more disruptive for girls” (Hetherington, Martha and Roger Cox112). Her negative relationship with her stepmother and the remarriage of her father negatively affected her childhood. “Children in divorced families encounter more negative life changes than children in non-divorced families” (Hetherington, Martha and Roger Cox 115). Daisy’s relationship with her farther has been a major part of her life, and its negative impact has influenced her concept of family. It is hard not to wonder if her childhood would have benefitted from a more stable parental role model. Daisy needed someone to be there for her and provide her with unconditional love. The absence of unconditional love caused her to go looking for it on her own.

The negative reactions Daisy received from her father while telling him she was pregnant caused a rift between them and prohibited her from returning to Peru. Daisy’s unplanned pregnancy with her first husband, Alfonso, caused a roller coaster of emotions. She was overcome with the joy at possibly creating her own family and heartbroken to find out that neither Alfonso nor her father fully supported her pregnancy. Daisy spoke of when she met Alfonso and of her father’s reactions towards her pregnancy: “I met this guy, Alfonso, the Mexican, I had been with him for like a year, and the next thing I know, I’m pregnant and I called my Dad and he stopped talking to me, because of that and then we didn’t talk for another 2 years.” The response she received from her father and Alfonso created a feeling of abandonment and fueled a desire for supportive companionship. Daisy’s pregnancy led to her marriage with Alfonso. Daisy spoke about her marriage to Alfonso. She said, “When I met him I never felt like oh I want to marry him because of citizenship, it was when I got pregnant, that I thought we should get married. I don’t want a baby that is like from a boyfriend.” Daisy got married to provide the best life for her unborn child. Marrying Alfonso meant she would be able to work in the U.S., pay for things the child would need, and provide a stable family unit for her baby. In an unpleasant interaction with Alfonso’s father, he told Daisy that “she should abort the baby.” Upset, stressed, and scared, Daisy decided to move to San Francisco, to live with her aunt. Shortly after, she found out some devastating news: she had miscarried. With the loss of her baby, her dream of a family had vanished. The loss of her child and the unsupportive behavior of Alfonso and her father gave her a sense of emptiness, emptiness that only a family could fill.

The feeling of belonging that Daisy once experienced attending school in the U.S. created a pull factor in her decision to reside in Unites States. Once attending school in the U.S, as a college student, she felt welcomed by her professors. Daisy spoke about the benefits of her attending school in the U.S. versus going to school in Peru: “It was very different; nobody would really look at me bad. You know when I started school, I started stuttering, still, like I do now, but I feel the instructors wouldn’t make fun of me. So I, you know, I felt like I was a little bit more welcomed, you know, to learn.” A sense of belonging while attending school in the United States was a contributing factor in the choice to making the U.S. her home. Feeling comfortable with her professors and peers in school has provided Daisy with a sense of belonging. Heike C. Alberts and Helen D. Hazen, authors of the article “There are always two voices: International Students Intentions to Stay in the United States or Return to their Home Countries,” published in International Migration, Vol. 43, describe some of the deciding factors of why international students choose to reside in their host countries. A study was done at the University of Minnesota in which twenty-one diverse international students were observed and analyzed, while discussing why they had decided to stay in the United States. Students agreed upon multiple factors of what drew them to reside in U.S., and the scholars broke them into three categories: Professional, Societal, and Personal. In discussing a societal factor that made them stay in the U.S, one of the students stated, “I felt welcomed as international student and felt comfortable in the international academic community” (Alberts & Hazen 137). Daisy moved to the U.S. to pursue a comfortable and safe learning environment, free of ridicule, and found it, just as the students from the University of Minnesota had. Personal factors drew her to decide to stay in the U.S. upon graduation from school.

Daisy’s love for Rick also compels her to call the United Stated her home. When Daisy met him, she was provided with a friend and someone to love. Daisy and Rick’s relationship started as a friendship but quickly developed into more. Daisy knew Rick was the one for her when Rick went to L.A. to impersonate a cop, to get Alfonso to sign divorce papers. Alfonso had been reluctant to sign the divorce papers when Daisy asked him to. It wasn’t until Rick scared him into it that he agreed to sign the divorce papers. Daisy stated while giggling, “Rick told Alfonso, I can fuck you up, fuck your record up, and since Alfonso didn’t know anything, he was just signing the papers.” Rick went out of his way and committed a felony to do something nice for Daisy. This was the just one of the things she admired in him. Rick comes from a strict Chinese family; he was taught to always obey his elders and has a very different relationship with his father than Daisy does. Rick’s relationship with his father has been something Daisy has had to overcome. While talking about Rick in the interview, Daisy stated, “He’s a really good person, but you know the problem is, that he is his culture, it is just so strong on him.” Rick’s strong connection with his family is something she may secretly admire about him. Daisy has told me, “I married Rick for love, not for citizenship.” When I asked Daisy if she had always planned to move to the U.S. and make it her home once she graduated from school, she said, “I moved here in 2010; when I came I always wanted to go back to Peru, when I was done with my classes, but then I got pregnant with Alfonso’s baby and we thought that I should to stay. I moved to San Francisco and met Rick and fell in love and now I’m here to stay.” In Daisy’s case, home is where the heart is. She has built her concept of home around where she feels the most loved.

One could argue that if Daisy had had a solid parental role model, she may have a different feeling towards the concept of family. Or if Daisy was not bullied as a child, because of her stutter, she may have never moved to the U.S. to seek a ridicule-free learning environment. Regardless of how or why Daisy was looking for a sense of belonging, it is something we all do as humans. The basic need for love and acceptance is something we all desire in life; it is universal. If this basic need is not met, one will go to extraordinary measures to achieve it. The lack of a solid parental role model, an unstable childhood, as well as the bullying and marital hardships she endured, have pushed her to create desire for a family of her own and in making the United States her home. Daisy is a great addition as a citizen to this country. One could only hope to be as caring, kind, and loving as Daisy is.


Work Cited

“Tell Me about Your Life.” Personal interview. Daniella Wong. 4 Nov. 2015.

Hetherington, E. Mavis, Martha Cox, and Roger Cox. “Long-Term Effects of Divorce and Remarriage on the Adjustment of Children.” Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 5 Sept. 1995. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Alberts, Heike C., and Helen D. Hazen. “”There Are Always Two Voices…” International Students’ Intentions to Stay in the United States or Return to Their Home Countries.” International Migration 43.3 (2005): 131-54. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

The Freedom to Dream


The Freedom to Dream

by Anobel Khoushabeh, January 2016

As Max De la Costa began to approach adolescence, the Guatemalan Civil War was raging, resulting in a wide spread of fear, economic turmoil, forced drafting, persecution, and the killing of many people across the country. Without many opportunities left for the future, Max’s parents, Oscar and Lidia De la Costa, decided to leave the country and immigrate to the United States in order to provide a better life for themselves and their two children. During his time in the United States, Max has been exposed to a variety of different experiences that have enabled him to generate his own perspective on the meaning of home and self-identity as a Latino living in the United States.

Growing up in Guatemala, Max was very limited in the extent to which he could prosper as an individual. Even though neither of his parents received decent education, they both understood the fundamental importance of it. His father, Oscar, was a bartender at a community social club and a huge admirer of the American culture and lifestyle. Because Guatemala lacked the proper public school institutions, Max spent a lot of his time as a child playing with friends, and swimming in a variety of different rivers, lakes, creeks, and canals instead of being fully engaged in school. As Max grew older, and the Civil War continued to progress, his father feared that his only son would be drafted into the military and sent to fight a useless and unethical war. The severity of being drafted was a serious fear that lingered above everybody’s heads. When asked about the situation, Max explained that “people were afraid to go to dances, movies, or you could be walking outside in the market and they saw you, and they would just pick you up and put you in a truck and take you.” Fearing for his family, Max’s father left for the United States to help his family make the move, but in the process he was met with an unfortunate injury that left his kneecap broken, forcing him into six months of recovery. As his father was stranded in Guatemala, his mother made the tremendously hard decision to leave behind her son and daughter in order to work in the United States and raise enough money to bring her family north of the border to the States. After spending several years in the United States, Lidia was able to save enough dollars to bring her family over the border. Without much complication, Max and his family spent around two and half weeks crossing Mexico before finally arriving in Los Angeles, California in August of 1988, tucked in the back of a blue F-150 Ford. For Max, leaving home was never a problem because Guatemala never catered to Max, and Max never catered to Guatemala. Without much difficultly for Max, America was now his new home. Finally, after residing in Los Angeles for a while, Max and his family moved up north to the vibrantly diverse city of San Francisco, where he would grow up, assimilate, even greatly admire his new home and self developed identity.

In Guatemala, there are extreme barriers that prevent individuals from upward mobility and social status. Moreover, this lack of opportunities even deprives children of dreaming about a future they desire. Growing up in the United States, we always dreamed as children about whether to be an astronaut, a fireman, or even a super hero; we had the opportunity to dream because we were told that if we put our hearts and minds into something, it could become a reality. For Max, however, growing up in Guatemala could not have been further from this reality. When asked if he had any dreams as a child, Max replied, “As a kid I didn’t have that many dreams because we didn’t have that many aspects of dreams. For most of us, it was to just go to school and have fun, but there were no dreams.” Poverty, a lack of education, and a devastating Civil War growing by the day deprived Max of ever dreaming about a future in which he can see himself on a pedestal. Max never aspired to be anything because the road to his future was already paved without his consent. When reflecting on these social issues in Guatemala, and looking back at that time in his life, Max cannot help but feel a sense of disappointment with his home country. Guatemala was a home that deprived Max of a future, but more importantly, it took away his capability to dream as a child.

The Guatemalan Civil War lasted from 1960-1996, leaving behind decades of devastation and irreversible consequences. According to “Murder, Memory, and the Maya,” by Ashley Kistler, a professor of Latin American Anthropology at the University of Oregon, the Civil War began as a result of the CIA-backed coup that overthrew the democratic government of Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 (Kistler). Arbenz helped overthrow the “repressive dictator,” Jorge Ubico, who had for years ruled through intimidation and force. In hopes of bringing freedom and equality to the masses, Arbenz implemented an “agrarian reform legislation” that confiscated over four hundred thousand acres of unused agricultural land from the American fruit corporation United Fruit Company. Because of this threat to American investments, the CIA created a coup to overthrow Arbenz, replacing him with General Efrain Rios Montt, who later became personally responsible for the genocide of the Mayan indigenous population that left over 86,000 dead and many more missing (Kistler). The Reagan administration played a critical role in the conflict by implementing a disastrous foreign policy that devastated several nations in Central America. According to “Ronal Reagan: War Criminal,” by Emilio Horner, a political science senior at the California Polytechnic State University, the CIA under the Reagan administration helped smuggle Cocaine to fund the rebel insurgencies that fought for their beneficiaries in Central America (Horner). Horner makes the argument that,

“Post World War II, the United States has subjected millions of people worldwide to a lower quality of life, all because of the devastating impacts of a foreign policy that prefers corporate profit over human dignity. The nation’s ideological pretense of human rights further masks the fact that the United States sponsors state terrorism and a neo-colonial system ruled by fear, while serving the interest of business elites.”

Ironically, the Republicans, who are notorious for their devastating foreign policies that destroy the lives of millions of people around the world, are the loudest opponents of immigration into the United States.

Assimilation and exposure to diversity have allowed Max to see a variety of different cultures and ideas that have helped him shape his own perspective on culture. After his arrival to Newcomer High School in San Francisco in the year of 1991, Max for the first time was exposed to people from all different racial and cultural backgrounds. In Guatemala, Max states, “I never thought that I even had a culture, “ and when describing his experience in the United States he said, “it was just really cool that other cultures existed, and other languages, and people, and faces, features, body, skin color.” For Max, “American culture” means acceptance of other cultures: a unique collaboration of different beliefs that are fabricated together to form a unique belief. American diversity, for many immigrants, is shocking and hard to understand. In this case, however, Max embraced the diversity he witnessed at his new school and through it he has developed an appreciation for diversity and acceptance. By exposing himself to different cultures Max views himself beyond just being a Latino living in America, he is an American of Latino decent with a cultural interpretation that is unique to him.

Cultural differences between American-born and newcomers, immigrants from Central America, for example, are so severe that in many instances they formulate into prejudice, and blunt discrimination. Discrimination has always been a reality for immigrants in the United States; however, it hasn’t always been between from whites onto other ethnicities and races. This is something that many Latino immigrants do not expect or understand when they first arrive in the United States. Because of these repercussions, many will alienate themselves from their own community and culture. For Max, his relationship with the white community has been full of positive experiences; however, his relationship among Latinos has been much more complicated. I asked Max if he was ever exposed to any racial discrimination when he first arrived in the United States, and without surprise his answer was yes. For Max, the discrimination did not come from whites but instead from other Latinos. Without realizing this I asked Max what his perception was on whites, and he responded:

“white people which I didn’t have a problem with, actually I don’t ever remember being discriminated by them. But Latinos were discriminating between Latinos who were born or raised here. Uh, for me because I had a heavy accent, more than now, um, there was this guy who used to call me a wetback, mojito. A Latino himself, he would put his fingers on his tongue, lick them, and then hit his back. That was him letting me know that I’m a wetback.”

This tension between Latinos was very shocking to Max, and because of it his negative perception of his homeland and culture intensified. After witnessing this act of prejudice from his own community, Max eventually pulled himself away from the Latino community and motivated himself to improve his English to assimilate with other races and cultures more thoroughly.

Discrimination within the Latino community is extremely problematic and based on immigration status, language, and social class. According to the Los Angeles Times article by Michael Quintanillna “The Great Divide: They’ve Fled Poverty Even Wars in Their Homelands. Now, Immigrant Children Face Ridicule and Exclusion by Many of Their U.S.-born Latino Classmates,” many newcomer Latinos are subjected to harsh criticism and prejudice by American born Latinos who view themselves as “superior” because they have had the privilege of being born in the United States. The prejudice is at many times focused on indigenous Latinos who have different physical complexions in comparison with whiter toned Latinos. However, the tension also arises from “language barrier coupled with an unfamiliar teen culture (Quintanillna). Ironically, many immigrant children are ridiculed because of their shyness, clothing style, respectfulness to their parents and teachers, and as well as their dedication to academic achievement (Quintanillna). In many schools across the greater Los Angeles area and parts of San Jose California where Latinos are by far the majority, there is serious division between multiple groups such as “the recent lower-income Mexican immigrant; the middle-class Mexican immigrant; the acculturated Chicano kids and the cholo kids, lower-income Mexican Americans” (Quintanillna). This cycle of discrimination within the Latino community is the exact reason why Max felt alienated and eventually separated himself from his culture. Those who were unwilling to accept him as an American only motivated him even more to assimilate and adapt a new sense of identity.

Roman philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus once said, “home is where the heart it.” The definition of home isn’t one’s birth location; it is where one feels content and safe. For Max, Guatemala might have been where he was born; however, it never felt like home. Many opponents of immigration make the bold argument that newcomers will always feel a sense of attachment to their native country, which prohibits them from ever truly becoming, or feeling American. When hearing Max’s story, this argument is without doubt invalidated. An uncountable number of immigrants feel that the United States is their home, and have a sense of loyalty and patriotism that a native-born might even lack. Especially after witnessing the quality of life in the United States, and being rejected by his own Latino community, Max became hostile towards his own country and in many ways rejected it. After five years of residing in the United States, Max and his family applied for citizenship. During the naturalization interview, Max was asked the critical question: if the United States of America were to ever engage in a military conflict with Guatemala, would Max fight for Guatemala or the United States? His response was dramatic, but completely resonated his feelings at the time towards his home country. Max replied, “In my perspective, you can throw an atom bomb and make a parking out of it. I was uh, very disappointed from where I came from.” It was clear that Max had no intention of ever calling Guatemala home because for him the United States was the home that provided him with the content, security, and opportunities he desired. His heart defined his sense of home, and therefore Max was finally at home.

If home shackles you to confinement, takes away your opportunities and rights, it’s no longer in essence called home. For Max, the United States was a door to many opportunities that he would have never had access to back in Guatemala. From a young age, Max always had a fascination with mechanics and automobiles; however, he never aspired to pursuit this passion because he simply couldn’t. During his time at Newcomer High School, Max enrolled in a trade program that taught him hands on mechanics. From this point on, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and with this passion at hand he landed himself a job at a mechanic shop on Ocean in San Francisco. Max married, had a child, divorced, and even joined the Marines in 2001. His determination to continue to progress has never ended, and at this moment Max is currently enrolled at City College of San Francisco with his son Alberto to continue taking advantages of the opportunities given to. As the years went by his hostility towards Guatemala gradually decreased as he began to see the world in a much broader perspective, however, for Max Guatemala is still a place of memory, not a place he can call home. I asked him what his feeling was towards his birth country, and he responded back,

“I went back like almost ten years after, um yah, ten years I went back, things had changed. Um, but you know, as they say the more they change the more stay the same. That’s how it is now. There is more Democracy now, the Civil War has ended, but now there is more gang violence, uh more than the Civil War was. There is more Capitalism, freedom. It’s a good place to live in certain places, but uh, it is not some place that I would go die at. Yah, it was home, but it’s not home now.”

The United States had given Max what Guatemala had taken away: it had given him the opportunity to progress himself, to provide himself with a life that was not possible back in his birth county.

The meaning of home and identity are significantly difficult to understand for they vary among every individual. Through his immigration experience, Max has realized that home and culture aren’t confined within boundaries but are elastic and prone to change. Home is where one feels content and safe, and identity is what an individual defines it to be. Being an American Latino is beyond the literal phrase, it is a collaboration of experiences that create a unique identity. Those who spew anti-immigration rhetoric to defend the American identity are mistaken. To be an American is to be you, to be free beyond the borders of race, ethnicity, culture, or religion. This is the fundamental idea that brings millions to our shores. It is this very idea that Max cherishes and implements in his life. For Max, home is where there is opportunity to grow, safety for his family, and the comfort to be oneself regardless of what others label you. Like home, the identity we relate with is one that makes us feel content. If we can learn anything from Max is that people grow, learn, experience, and collaborate ideas to form their own way of life. We all come from different backgrounds, but in the end we are all humans seeking a life of fulfillment and purpose. 

Work Cited

Kistler, S. Ashley. “Murder, memory, and the Maya.” Latin American Research Review. 49.1   (2014): 251+. Academic OneFile. Tue. 15 Dec. 2015.

“Ronald Reagan: War Criminal.” UWIRE Text 27 Oct. 2015: 1. Academic OneFile. Tue. 15    Dec. 2015.

Quintanila, Michael. “The Great Divide: They’ve Fled Poverty Even Wars in Their Homelands. Now, Immigrant Children Face Ridicule and Exclusion by Many of Their U.S.-born Latino Classmates.” Los Angeles Times. 1995. Web. Tue. 15 Dec. 2015.

“De la Costa, Max.” (2015, November 9) Personal Interview.

Home and Horizon


Home and Horizon

by Siuzanna Arutiunova, January 2016

People immigrate in search of places with more opportunities and a better life. Kamila was ten when her mother left her and her brother in Uzbekistan with their relatives and came to the U.S. to start a new life and to bring her kids here when she settled down. Within almost a decade, Kamila and her brother came to the U.S. to live with their mother. After she immigrated, Kamila went through a lot of hardships, from the language barrier to creating a bond with her mother. Through various challenges and new experiences, Kamila has gained a comparative perspective on things around her that has changed her perception on the world and on herself, making her more independent and understanding of other people’s choices as well as her own.

Kamila and I have been friends for a long time. Our parents tell us that we were in the same grade in elementary school. Even though we don’t remember each other from then, we are good friends now. We, along with her best friend, Katie, met at the Rosenberg Library on the Ocean Campus of City College of San Francisco for the interview. She described to me how her mother, who was forced into marriage with her father, left Uzbekistan to find a better life for herself and her kids in the U.S. when Kamila was nine years old. During that time, Kamila lived with he grandparents and rarely got a chance to see her mother. After eight years of separation from their mother, Kamila and her brother came here and finally reunited with her. Because such a long time had been spent apart, Kamila and her mother had a hard time establishing a mother-daughter connection at first. Not having known English, Kamila had to overcome a language barrier when she first came here, which, as she admits, created various hardships at school and made her want to go back to Uzbekistan. Adapting to a new country and new norms was especially hard for her. For some time, she wanted to move back to her home country, but after all, she was able to adapt to her new life here. She constantly compares her home country, Uzbekistan, to her new home, the U.S.

Moving to the U.S. not only created various obstacles for Kamila, like learning English, but also caused her to miss her home country and reject her new home at first. It was hard for Kamila to adapt to the new country and system. She said that she rejected it at first: “I didn’t want to stay here; I didn’t want to do anything. And I just wanted to move back to my country because I missed all of my friends and family members.” When she came here, she had no one to communicate with but her mother and brother. She needed friends and new connections, which she was unable to make because of a few reasons. One of the things that was stopping Kamila from adapting was that she didn’t know English well enough to communicate with people. The language barrier was one of the hardest challenges she came across, and caused her to not be able to make new connections: “at first time it was really hard because I really didn’t have anybody here except my mom. And I couldn’t speak in their language; I couldn’t communicate with people.” Kamila is an extroverted person and for her to not be able to talk to people was hard. She couldn’t communicate and thus missed her friends and family back home. Studying the behaviors of Asian immigrant youth in the American society in her article “Xenophobia, ethnic community, and immigrant youths’ friendship network formation,” Jenny Hsin-Chun Tsai, an Associate Professor in Psychosocial & Community Health at the University of Washington, suggests:

“The label of ‘LEP’ and ‘ESL’ overtly signifies immigrant youths’ ‘outsider’ or ‘foreigner’ status and defines the social boundary between immigrant and American youth. Immigrant youth may choose to exclude Americans from their friendship networks for their own psychological well-being” (293).

The language barrier is one of the main reasons immigrants feel like they don’t belong to the new place. Difficulties in learning the new language hold immigrants back and make it hard for them to adapt to the new society and to feel accepted by the natives. Later, Kamila told me that she thought moving to a new country would be fun, but her expectations weren’t met: “I felt like I’m not belong here.” It is natural that when people immigrate, they feel out of place at first. Kamila wasn’t used to the system, language, and different norms and couldn’t adapt to the new lifestyle quickly. In their article “Racial Discrimination, Multiple Group Identities, And Civic Beliefs Among Immigrant Adolescents,” Writers Wing Yi Chan and Robert Latzman discuss how adolescent immigrants tend to assimilate into the new society after immigrating. They point out:

“Segmented assimilation suggests that many immigrant adolescents have limited access to resources because structural racial discrimination excludes them from participating in the mainstream society (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001). Civic contribution is a way for immigrant youth to break the cycle of exclusion” (531).

Racism from natives or citizens has a huge effect on immigrant youth and their adaptation to the new environment as it can prevent participation in the new society, which is one of the core ways to get used to a new home, develop an attachment to it, and feel a sense of belonging to the new society. Although it was hard in the beginning, as the time passed, Kamila started to adapt to the new place, and feel comfortable living in the U.S.

Her mother’s journey, including immigration, inspired Kamila to pursue her education and changed her perspective on marriage at early age, making her realize that in a lot of cases it is unfair to young women to be forced to marry before they have an opportunity to explore and find what they want to do with their lives. The story of Kamila’s mother is quite interesting: as Kamila told me, her mother was forced into marriage at a young age. Forced marriage is practiced quite a lot in Muslim countries. Australian scholar, theologian and human rights activist Mark Durie discusses the interpretations of roles of women in Islamic society according to the religion in his article “The Rising Sex Traffic In Forced Islamic Marriage”: “a forced marriage is an exercise of ‘therapeutic force’, which is considered to be good for the woman. Like setting a broken bone, a forced marriage at a father or grandfather’s behest ‘restores’ the woman to her rightful state” (8). Clearly, Durie, does not agree with such treatment towards women and argues against it. In his article, he shows that women are considered sinful and forced marriage is considered healthy for them. He also shows that women are in the constant possession of men, whether they are fathers, grandfathers, or, later, husbands. Even though women in such societies generally do not pursue education, Kamila’s mother was not as interested in marriage as in continuing her education: “My mom said she didn’t want to marry him [Kamila’s father] because she wanted to study; she wanted to get her diploma and master’s degree.” Even though her mother got married, she never stopped wanting to study: she finished her bachelor’s degree while raising Kamila and her master’s while taking care of both Kamila and her little brother. It is considered unusual or even savage for a woman in that society to want to study instead of following the established path of getting married early and being tied to the family, but that path was definitely not for her mother. Against all odds and societal norms, she moved to the U.S. as soon as she secured a Green Card: “she said that if she didn’t win green card and came here, she would not survive in our country because she wanted to do certain like things that out society didn’t accept, you know.” It seems as though the chance to come to the U.S. saved her life: she could finally make her own decisions, be independent and free to accomplish her goals. Through her mother’s rebellious nature, Kamila discovered that there is not just the one option of getting married and starting the family. There is another scenario, in which a young woman can pursue higher education and become successful and independent, like her mother. “I came here because my mom always wanted me to study to get my diploma and degree. And she wanted me to be independent because…she had not opportunity…to make her decisions and she wanted me to do it for me like for my life.” Kamila thought that her destiny had already been decided of her: she thought she was supposed to get married at a young age and pursue married life. Her mother showed her that that that wasn’t Kamila’s only option for future, which Kamila recognizes and appreciates. The way her mother fought for her life and changed her destiny inspired Kamila to pursue her education and made her see that she has a chance to make her own decisions and view forced marriage as an inequitable action toward women.

Eight years of separation resulted in an undeveloped connection between mother and daughter, which made Kamila feel alone and misunderstood by people around her both in the U.S. and in Uzbekistan, when she needed someone she could share everything with. Her mother left for the U.S. when Kamila was nine years old, so the strong mother-daughter bond hadn’t formed yet. Besides, throughout the period of separation, they did not see much of each other, so they couldn’t become very close. Another struggle for Kamila was that she couldn’t connect to her grandmother because she felt that she would be misunderstood. She felt the need to talk to her mother. During her teenage years, Kamila need her mother the most: “I needed a person I could talk to when I was a young woman, I was growing. I had a lot of questions that I couldn’t ask my grandmother because I felt like she couldn’t understand me in the way my mom does.” Even though a strong connection with her mother wasn’t established, Kamila couldn’t share her thoughts with her grandmother and needed her mother to be there for her. This separation did not only affect Kamila and her mother separately. Sahara Horton, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver studied this issue in her article “A Mother’s Heart is Weighed Down with Stones: A Phenomenological Approach to the Experience of Transnational Motherhood.” She acknowledges that “transnational separations cannot be viewed solely as affecting mothers and children as isolated individuals but, rather, as impacting the intimately experienced bond between them.” We can see this happen between Kamila and her mother. While after the reunion Kamila wanted to finally be close to her mother more than anything else, it turned out to be a lot more difficult than she expected: “when I was reunited with my mom, I felt like ‘Oh, you know, here is my mom, I can talk to her with, I don’t know, … with graceful feelings, you know, I could open with, I can talk to her about a lot of stuff!’ And when I was doing it I felt like, ‘Oh no, wait, I don’t know this person!’” Kamila was just a kid when her mother left to another country and while she was growing up, she didn’t have a chance to find out what kind of person her mother is. Her bond with her mother wasn’t strong enough. In her article “Those Easily Forgotten: The Impact Of Emigration On Those Left Behind,” a professor of human and community development, Maria Marchetti-Mercer, discusses and analyzes the psychological effects on the family members and friends left behind after the people that are close to them immigrated.

In particular, the increasing emigration of women has changed “the shape of the immigrant family” (Horton (2009, p. 23). Remittances can become a way of “mothering at a distance” (Hondagneu-Sotelo & Avila, 1997), but the absence of a mother figure may cause emotional problems for children who miss her nurture (Ukwatta, 2010). Children may experience feelings of loneliness and abandonment, despite the economic benefits associated with this type of emigration. Ultimately, the family unity is broken down because of insufficient communication between parents and children. In general, children seem to be deeply affected by the emigration of parental figures (Glick, 2010) (378).

The time spent apart causes the bonds to become less strong and people grow apart and none of the economic benefits of immigration can make up to that. This is an especially delicate issue when it comes to parent-child connection. When the separation between a child and a parent happens, the child feels left alone, misunderstood and lonely. Talking Kamila’s case into consideration, this is exactly how she felt all those years without her mother near her. After their reunion, Kamila didn’t know her own mother; she didn’t know what reactions to expect from her. She compares her relationship with her mother to meeting a new person and finding out about them. The distance from her mother made Kamila feel like she doesn’t belong to her new home, like she was alone and misunderstood for a while, but after Kamila’s immigration, they slowly strengthened a connection between each other.

The process of immigration and new society with the norms different from the ones she was used to were overwhelming for Kamila and finding a friend like Katie, who is now very close to her and has helped her through tough moments, makes Kamila feel understood and more comfortable in the school environment. When I asked Kamila if she would have been able to find her way through high school without her friend, I received a definite and absolute “no”: “I would not because my first two weeks was really bad and I couldn’t understand anything. I was lost. Completely lost, you know. And I wouldn’t make it through these days without my best friend. I would not make it.” Friendship is especially important for Kamila: it was the very thing that saved her from getting completely disappointed with moving to America and leaving her family and her closest friends behind. Kamila needed a person who would understand her struggles. Her bond with Katie started during their high school years and has only become stronger with time. One of the reasons for that could be that they both speak Russian, which made a communication for Kamila a lot easier, since she wasn’t advanced in English. When Kamila mentioned that her best friend wanted to transfer to Sacramento State University, she spoke with tears in her eyes: “I felt like I’m gonna be alone again. It’s like part of myself is leaving me… she helped me from my first day in high school and she’s still helping me to… overcome my struggles. And I feel like nobody does it for me except her. I will fell so bad when she is going to leave me.” From her responses, I realized that Kamila feels that she receives more support from her best friend than from her mother. Clearly, she has found support and understanding from her friend and received the help she needed so badly. As Kamila described, Katie guided her and was there for her when she needed help, which made her life easier and her high school experience more enjoyable. Because of her established friendship with Katie, Kamila enjoyed her high school years, got used to the system quickly, and felt understood and accepted.

Kamila’s perception of societal norms has changed since she moved to the U.S., and she has become more appreciative and open to the idea of independence and freedom of expression. As she described, norms in Uzbekistan are very strict. Essentially, after moving here, she started comparing social norms in her home country to those of her new home and noticed a lot of differences. “So, in my country we can’t kiss with a guy in the street. And here its so open and everyone, its like… its just nothing, its just simple.” She shared that it was odd for her to see such things as a couple kissing in the street and many other things, including the openness of homosexual couples, which seems no more than ordinary for us. It was all unusual for her because she had never seen those things while she was living in Uzbekistan. When she moved to the U.S., everything was new to her. While observing the norms that are socially accepted here, she started viewing the norms in Uzbekistan differently. “I feel like everybody should be independent, especially women, because we [are] all humans and we have rights to do things that we want to. And in Uzbekistan you don’t have rights to do what you want do.” She shared, she has far more freedom of choice and more opportunities here than she had in Uzbekistan. She admitted to having difficulties adapting to new norms at first, but later found that she prefers these norms to the ones in her home country: “I feel like in America people are more open and are more nicer than in my country because they don’t discriminate you.” Having lived here for a while, Kamila noticed that people in this society are more open-minded than in her home country, and started to become more open-minded herself. Now that she is able to compare the two counties’ norms, Kamila is more understanding and appreciative of freedom of choice and expression than she was before she moved to the U.S.

Kamila’s view of freedom changed after she moved here: as a young woman, she sees that she has far more freedom here as opposed to her home and recognizes that opportunities for women are generally limited in Uzbekistan. The society in Uzbekistan, in which women are very pressured and are limited in their rights, is known for being of a very conservative nature: “in our traditions like women and girls should stay home and should help your mother and do home stuff.” So the society doesn’t expect much from women and shows that their core responsibilities are within a household. In her book Women in the Republic of Uzbekistan, writer Wendy Mee states:

“In general, women are associated with the inner, family domain. Such attitudes have implications for young women’s opportunities to pursue work and higher education, and also encourage the practice of early marriage for young women. Many Uzbek women believe that family concerns outweigh individual desires to pursue education or professional activity. One study conducted in Namangan and Tashkent provinces found that the majority of teenage girls believed they should put aside professional pursuits after marriage to concentrate on their roles of wife and mother” (28).

Women are not expected nor encouraged to pursue education and are forced into marriage in a lot of cases. The basic role of women in Uzbekistan is to be faithful wives and a mothers. As shown in the quote, the majority of teenage girls think of early marriage as of the right thing that they should focus on. Kamila herself thought that she would get married at a young age, because that is what that society dictates. Nevertheless, as she got a chance to experience other norms, she changed her mind: “when I came here and I saw here’s culture and and here’s lifestyle, I really changed my mind. And I felt like ‘Oh my God, this is wrong: girls can’t marry when they are like 18 or 19 because they have not reached their goals.’” Clearly, only by comparing the norms here with the ones in her home country, she has been able to see that the norms in Uzbekistan are unfair. Kamila is now at City College of San Francisco. Although she is still not sure about the field of study she wants to pursue, she is willing to put her efforts toward getting an education. When I asked her about marriage, she clearly was against marring at a young age. She now sees that young women do have a lot of goals and potential that get shut down by the society that pushes them to create a family very early in their lives. Observing norms in the U.S. changed Kamila’s perspective on women’s rights: now she believes that women deserve to be independent and make their own decisions as well as sees the injustice of forced marriage at a young age.

Moving and meeting new people changed Kamila’s perspective on the traditions and religion that she followed while living in Uzbekistan to the point when she started questioning them and considering them limiting. Born in a Muslim country and household, Kamila was following some Muslim traditions. After immigrating, she found herself in a more diverse environment and got a chance to find out more about other religions. Through her best friend, she quickly learned about Christianity and compared it with Islam. She pointed out that she started questioning her religion after being exposed to another religious believes. “When you get to know other traditions and cultures, you think: ‘oh, this is right. But why can’t I do this in my religion? I want to, but I can’t’”, she says. “I wanted to try new things and new stuff and my religion is against it and I feel like it is against my choices and my life.” As she gained more freedom and became exposed to other traditions after immigrating from Uzbekistan, Kamila started to step away from her religion. According to an article in American Foreign Policy Interests: The Journal of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy:

“There is ‘something’ in the mainstream practice of Islam, not in its ideals, that is deeply opposed to women. The ‘madrassas’ (Koranic schools), for instance, spread two major messages about women. The first one is based on the pretense that women are ‘inferior’ to men. The second teaches that women should not be ‘trusted.’ These schools do not try to advance or elaborate on any justification of these assertions. In the same way in which they contend that Jews and Christians are conspiring against Islam, they contend that women cannot assume positions of leadership in any undertaking.”

Such unjust mainstream beliefs are unfair to women and thus limit their opportunities. Suggesting that a woman in less of a person than a man is completely unjustified and discriminative. This is why women are being treated as objects that cannot survive on their own and need men to belong to. Kamila must have felt that these religious beliefs were holding her back from achieving her goals and living an independent and full live. In the process of immigrating, Kamila discovered other religions, which, through comparisons with her own, made her think of Islam as a religion that limited her natural urge for experimentation and freedom of choice.

After she moved to the U.S. and observed and experienced the norms here, she gained a comparative perspective that allowed her to see how unfair and limiting the norms in Uzbekistan were. One doesn’t usually think about certain things like the norms of the society that one grows up in. They come as given, normal. And one doesn’t generally question them. When a person moves, he or she has something to compare his/her homeland to. When Kamila moved to the U.S., everything was new to her. While observing the socially accepted norms here, she started to compare the norms in Uzbekistan with the norms in the U.S., which caused her to view the norms in Uzbekistan differently. She started to see things differently and question the norms she had abided to not so long ago. She mentioned that homophobia is an issue in Uzbekistan: “our people will like hate you you or do something or even kill you because of this.” This hatred toward the members of the gay community is very common in Islamic counties. In an article about ties and understanding of homosexuality from religious perspectives, “Religious Affiliation And Attitudes Towards Gay Men: On The Mediating Role Of Masculinity Threat,” authors Gerhard Reese, a writer and psychologist, and Melanie Jones, analyze responses from representatives of different religions toward homosexuality. Through this research, they found that “With a sample of 155 male heterosexual university students (Muslims and Christians in Germany), we found that Muslims held more negative attitudes towards gay men than Christians did” and that “Previous research suggests that some subgroups of men from Muslim communities hold negative attitudes towards gay men” (340-341). It is pointed out, that Muslims tend to be very much against the gay community, more than representatives from other religions. One of the reasons for that is described by Doctor Achim Hildebrandt, professor at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. His article “Christianity, Islam And Modernity: Explaining Prohibitions On Homosexuality In UN Member States” analyses how Christianity and Islam respond to the homosexuality. Hildebrandt makes an interesting point, stating:

“According to this concept, same- sex acts are condemned ‘because they run counter to the antithetical harmony of the sexes; they violate the harmony of life; … they violate the very architectonics of the cosmos. … Sexual deviation is a revolt against God’ (Bouhdiba, 1985, p. 31). This disapproval refers to both male and female homosexuality” (855).

Many Muslims are against homosexuals because Islam presents it as a negative and unnatural behavior. Heterosexuality is shown to be the natural order of things and  a lack of compliance with that order is considered an anomaly. Kamila confessed that she did discriminate against homosexuals at first: “I would discriminate them the I came here but right now… I’m okay with this.” Living in the U.S., seeing that some things that were prohibited in Uzbekistan are allowed here changed her perspective on a lot of things. “I feel like in America people are more open and are more nicer than in my country because they don’t discriminate you cause you’re wearing like shorts or you’re wearing short skirt.” From what I understood, she prefers this society to the one she was living in in Uzbekistan because she finds people more open and easy-going. Although she disagrees with certain norms and traditions, Kamila still celebrates some of the Uzbek and Islamic holidays and follows certain rules. Exposure to new norms after immigrating to the U.S. allowed Kamila to compare and contrast society here and in Uzbekistan and come to the conclusion that the norms in her home country are limiting and discriminative.

By experiencing multiple cultures, Kamila has selected the norms that she found the most appealing for her from both cultures and incorporated them in her life, never completely rejecting the culture she grew up in. After all, she is a “child of two worlds.” A German philosopher and writer Hans-Georg Gadamer, introduces the concept of “fusion of horizons” in his book Truth or Method. This concept stresses out that no one can forget the way they grew up viewing the world and themselves and replace it with another way after they immigrate. Each way of seeing things is a “horizon.” “The horizon is the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point… A person who has no horizon is a man who does not see far enough and hence overvalues what is nearest to him” (302). Horizon describes how one can see the situation: broadly or only form one angle. “Fusion of horizons,” according to Gadamer, means that after being exposed to another culture, one starts seeing things differently, incorporating the horizon they just acquired with the one they grew up with. This gives a person an opportunity to evaluate things from different perspectives and have a broader view of the world. As we can see, Kamila’s horizons have been broadened and she can now recognize a lot more things, like injustice than she could before. By comparing and observing norms in her new home, Kamila was able to identify how unjust some of the social norms are in her home country. Her experience with the american society significantly broadened her view of the world and allowed her to see situations from different perspectives.

The process of immigration with all its consequences has broadened Kamila’s horizons and allowed her to gain a comparative perspective on everything around her, which has caused her to start questioning the norms and traditions in her home country, and made her more aware of her own freedom, and freedom of others. Although some people might argue that she shouldn’t question her culture and traditions and abide the norms regardless, people should have a choice of whether or not they want to follow certain traditions. It is natural for immigrants to feel out of place in the new country as they face a lot of changes and challenges, that transform their lives, and make them view their own traditions in new ways. By going through all these changes, Kamila has gained a lot of experience in dealing with numerous challenges and now has finally restored her life back into balance.

Works Cited

Chan, Wing Yi, and Robert D. Latzman. “Racial Discrimination, Multiple Group Identities, And Civic Beliefs Among Immigrant Adolescents.” Cultural Diversity And Ethnic Minority Psychology 21.4 (2015): 527-532. PsycARTICLES. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Democratic Reform And The Role Of Women In The Muslim World.” American Foreign Policy Interests 33.5 (2011): 241-255. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

DURIE, MARK. “The Rising Sex Traffic In Forced Islamic Marriage.” Quadrant Magazine 58.3 (2014): 7-11. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Gadamer, Hans. Truth and Method. 2nd ed. New York: Continuum Group, 2006. Print.

Hildebrandt, Achim. “Christianity, Islam And Modernity: Explaining Prohibitions On Homosexuality In UN Member States.” Political Studies 63.4 (2015): 852-869. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

Horton, Sarah. “A Mother’s Heart Is Weighed Down with Stones: A Phenomenological Approach to the Experience of Transnational Motherhood.” Cult Med Psychiatry Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry (2008): 21-40. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Marchetti-Mercer, Maria C. “Those Easily Forgotten: The Impact Of Emigration On Those Left Behind.” Family Process 51.3 (2012): 376-390. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Mee, Wendy. “Women in the Republic of Uzbekistan.” 1 Feb. 2001. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.

Reese, Gerhard Steffens, Melanie C.Jonas, Kai J. “Religious Affiliation And Attitudes Towards Gay Men: On The Mediating Role Of Masculinity Threat.” Journal Of Community & Applied Social Psychology 24.4 (2014): 340-355. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

Safayeva, Kamila. Personal interview. 1 Oct. 2015.

Tsai, JH. “Xenophobia, Ethnic Community, And Immigrant Youths’ Friendship Network Formation.” Adolescence 41.162 (2006): 285-298 14p. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Interview Transcription

 Siuzanna Arutiunova: So the first question would be: When did you move to the U.S.?

Kamila Halilova: I moved to the United states in October 1st 2013

SA: why did you move? was it your own decision or did you follow somebody here, like parents?

KH: So in my case it was kinda different because my mom moved here 8 months, no, 8 years ago and she won green card so after 8 years we just reunited with her. It was just the only thing I was following at that time

SA: Oh, so you spend 8 years apart from her?

KH: Yes

SA: How was that for you? Was it a hard period? Who did you stay with?

KH: Um, I was staying with my grandparents, my mom’s parents. It was kinda difficult because when I was like 13-14 years, I needed like a person who I can trust and I needed a mom like … and … crap! I can’t say it… its like really deep. [In Russian:] ask me something else, I don’t want to talk about this

SA: Alright, so what was moving to the U.S. like? Did you have any expectations about it?

KH: Um, of course I did because I was watching like American movies and I thought high school its like college for me but it was kinda different. High school its like its another life – you go there, you spend time with your friends and its like your family, but another family. That was a really good experience for me – high school.

SA: Did you face any obstacles that you would point out especially?

KH: Of course I did. First of all was communication. I didn’t know any like word in English. I couldn’t speak anything like, you know. It was kinda hard because when people talk to you and you don’t understand and you just smile like an idiot (laughs) you don’t understand anything and you’re like: “Oh God, what do you want from me?”. That was like really struggle for me at first time.

SA: But did you overcome that obstacle?

KH: Not yet. But like still I can’t understand sometimes when people talk really fast, but as I get like I practice a lot and it gets better and better every time.

SA: How did you feel about leaving your home country, leaving your grandparents behind?

KH: So first like 3-4 months I missed all of my friends and my family members and I felt like I’m not belong here. You know, when you come to another country and you feel like “Oh, everything is gonna change”, and its not and you miss your country and your old life and it’s kinda sad because you felt you’re gonna do something new and its gonna be fun but its not.

SA: So it was more of the harder period that the fun one?

KH: Like at first time it was really hard because I really didn’t have anybody here except my mom. And I couldn’t speak in their language, I couldn’t communicate with people. One thing I could do was just like enjoy the new place and that’s it. I couldn’t talk to anybody, I couldn’t like, I don’t know, I couldn’t say or do anything that I wanted to do with my friends and stuff and other things.

SA: What would you say was the hardest thing you came across while you where immigrating?

KH: Um, I thing it’s more like adaptation. I mean, USA its like it’s a place where immigrants come from a lot of countries and they have their own traditions and you have yours. And in San Francisco its like more popular, so it was kinda hard for me to adapt with people that are different from me because their like thoughts are different than my thoughts, you know. And it was kinda struggle.

SA: Would you say that you had a cultural shock when you came here? Like a lot of different races all mixed together.

KH: The other thing is that everything was different from my country, from my traditions and in my religion we don’t have a lot of things that in America people do.

SA: Can you give me examples?

KH: So, in my country we can’t kiss with a guy in the street. And here its so open and everyone its like… its just nothing, its just simple. But in our country we can not do this because a lot of people would discriminate you. Its just religion, you can’t do this. So it was kinda shocking. Also, that when you see same sex couples walking, and hugging and kissing. It was kinda shocking because I’ve never seen such a thing in my life. We can’t do it in out country because our religion is against it and people just kinda… I don’t know just… and our people will like hate you you or do something or even kill you because of this, so… It was kinda hard for me to adapt for this life.

SA: Umm, would you say that… I mean, how long did it take you just to get used to it?

KH: Um, probably a year because I feel like the first 3 months I didn’t want to take things that this country gave to me because I didn’t want to stay here, I didn’t want to do anything. And I just wanted to move back to my country because I missed all of my friends and family members and all of other people, but after like maybe 6 months I started to like here because I felt like I belong here because I chose to be with people who was not going to discriminate you because you go work or you go to a date with somebody, you know, because in our country women don’t work usually. They just sit at home with their children and are just being a homemade wife. And that’s it.

SA: So, you mentioned that the standards and gender roles in Uzbekistan are different from those in the U.S. Which standards do you prefer. For now, which standards do you think are more right for you?

KH: I feel like everybody should be independent, especially women, because we all humans and we have rights to do things that we want to. And in Uzbekistan you don’t have rights to do what you want do. And I feel like in America people are more open and are more nicer than in my country because they don’t discriminate you cause you’re wearing like shorts or short skirt or something else. I feel like I changed a lot when I came here and I started to adapt here and I started to following traditions that people doing here and not in my country. And I feel like in America there is a lot of benefits, especially for my study. In our country, you can’t study if you’re poor because nobody’s gonna look at you because of your brain. Its just money and that’s it.

SA: Did you notice all these limitations when you were there or did you start noticing that when you moved here and saw how it is here?

KH: Yeah, I just noticed it here because I didn’t really know… When I was in my country I didn’t pay attention to these things because in our traditions like women and girls should stay home and should help your mother and do home stuff, and I didn’t notice until I can here, when you’re an independent person and you do whatever you want. You go study, you go work, do work, you go whatever you want to do. You do it if you want it. In our country you don’t have a right to do it. So, I just noticed it when I was here.

SA: You mentioned that your mother came here 8 years ago. And you also mentioned that women are very limited in their rights. Why did she move here?

KH: My mom wanted to mover here from her childhood because she felt there is no right, in our country there is no right for a woman in our country to do like work stuff and to be independent and she always wanted to move here because she knew in America you can be whatever you want and you can reach it if you do your best and you just want it. You can do it because you have a passion to do it. And in the United States you can do it because their doors are open even for poor people.

SA: More opportunities.

KH: Uhu

SA: Do you regret coming to the United States? And if you had a choice right now, would you rather stay here or go back to Uzbekistan?

KH: If you ask me this question like maybe a 1.5 ago, I would say that I would leave because I just missed it and at that time I couldn’t adapt to American lifestyle and it was struggle for me to know other people, other traditions and other culture. I would leave because I just felt that I don’t belong here, but right now I feel like America is like a really good place for me to be because I can reach whatever goals I have. I mean, I can do more things here than I can do in my country. Especially when you’re a girl and you just have a lot of goals in your life and you want to reach them but you can’t because you’re a girl. And I feel like in America I can do it than in my country.

SA: So you moved here for high school or college?

KH: I moved here when I was a junior in high school and I just had 2 years to graduate from high school and go to college. It was kinda fun but it’s a lot of work because you have to finish high school in 2 years, when other people does in 4. And I feel like my high school years was really great, because I met my best friend and she’s really supportive. She helped me from my first day. She was like a person, who I always wanted to be. Like she was smart and she also … she’s my friend…(cries) and I’m gonna miss her…

SA: Why? Are you going to be separated?

KH: (cries) Cause she’s gonna move to another college and I feel like when she’s gonna leave me, I’m gonna be like , you know, again alone. And she is like my sister. (to Katie) I wish you’d be my sister!

SA: (to Katie) When are you moving?

Katie: In 2 years.

KH: (cries) When we were in a senior class I remember she said she wanted to move to Sacramento State and I felt so bad because in my heart, in my deep heart, I felt like I’m gonna be alone again. It’s like part of myself is leaving me. She is the only one person who tried to make me better, make my personality better than I was before. Like she helped me from my first day in high school and she’s still helping me to, I don’t know, to struggle… overcome my struggles. And I feel like nobody does it for me except her. I will fell so bad when she is going to leave me. (to Katie) I really don’t want you to leave me. (to me) Its like… she’s like my angel.

SA: So she guided you though everything?

Y: We guided each other.

KH: Yes, she was my really best best person in my entire life.

SA: Do you think that you wouldn’t be able to handle all of this on your own?

KH: (cries) I would not. I would not because my first two weeks was really bad and I couldn’t understand anything. I was lost. Completely lost, you know. And I wouldn’t make it through these days without my best friend. I would not make it. Cause she was helping me for like, I don’t know, two almost two years because we know already each other for two years. And, you know, I never felt … how do you say it…I never felt like … I need somebody in my life like her in my life and its kinda funny because she’s not calling me in the evening when she walks with her dog I feel like where is my phone, where is she, you know, … I don’t know, I feel like she’s the only one who did support me for my whole entire journey from the very beginning till the end. And she’s still helping me. I don’t know what would I do without her.

SA: Do you feel that kind of support from you parents or from your mother?

KH: Um, I would say no, because my mom wasn’t with me when I was in high school during my whole day and she didn’t know what kinds of struggles I had and she didn’t know like, you know, what I needed. She thought I’m okay because I didn’t tell her anything that happened in school or outside of school. And she though I’m okay, you know. And, I don’t know, I just think that your best friends only knows your weaknesses and your struggles and you’re trying to help her because best friends does it for each other.

SA: Do you have any siblings that moved with you?

KH: Yes, I have one brother, who’s 13.

SA: So, did he move the same time you did?

KH: Yes, we moved here the same time.

SA: How was it for him?

KH: Oh, for him it was really ease because he adapt like quick, from the first day. And he never thought to go back to our country because he felt like he belongs here and he felt like “oh, it’s a really good country to be in”. I feel like because he was in middle school, he had less struggle than me, you know. Because he has less um responsibility to do things and I feel like it was more easier for him than for me.

SA: Would you say that is because of the age? Because he wasn’t that attached?

KH: I would say that, because he was only twelve or eleven. I think he was eleven when he moved here.

SA: Ant you were?…

KH: I was sixteen. When you’re eleven and you move here you have new friends that are cool and you’re also a boy, you have like more like adaptation skills than sixteen years old girl. And he even said that he would not move to our country from the first day because he saw this city and he said“I would stay here cause I like it here”. And I don’t think he had any struggles with communication … with communication and other. Like he adapt really fast. He adapt really quickly than me.

SA: Umm, so what do you think was the hardest part for your mom when she was moving?

KH: For her I think it’s just new place. I think language was like the first thing she had to overcome, you know. And he other thing, she was alone, all by herself, where she doesn’t know anybody, she didn’t have a job, she didn’t have a place to leave. But she, she had her friend from the first grade. She was living with them and I remember she said if Angela would not help her, she would, she would leave because she couldn’t afford living in San Francisco and she still, you know, thankful to her because if Angel would not help to do it, she wouldn’t reach it to stay here, you know. And I think we have a same like… same situation because when she moved here, she had a friend to help her, and when I moved here, I met a friend that helping me still. I think this is part that we were like in the same situation.

SA: Was she happy when you moved back with her?

KH: She was really happy because, you know, 8 years without your children in new country… I mean, I think she had more difficulties than me because she was alone and she didn’t have anyone here and she also missed us, her children. And she like tried a lot of times to bring us here but she couldn’t until 2013. And I remember when we got out green cards and our visas, she was so happy and she almost cried because she did it, she finally did it and we were gonna to move in with her and live with her. I think it was a good part of our lives.

SA: Did you see each other throughout those 8 years?

KH: We did. She was coming like once a year, maybe, or twice in two-three years to see us. And sometimes she couldn’t, because you can’t leave your job when you go to another country. It usually takes a month to come in our country and come back. And a lot of jobs don’t give you that time that you need. And sometimes she was really sad because she couldn’t see us for a really long time.

SA: Do you feel like it was harder for you as a girl to be without your mom at that age. Because like you have questions and you’re growing us and you really need a role model to be there next to you. Did you feel like you missed here because of that?

KH: Definitely yes because I needed a person I could talk to when I was a young woman, I was growing. I had a lot of questions that I couldn’t ask my grandmother because I felt like she couldn’t understand me in the way my mom does. And still, you know, when I was reunited with my mom, I felt like “Oh, you know, here is my mom, I can talk to her with, I don’t know, … with graceful feelings, you know, I could open with, I can talk to her about a lot of stuff!”. And when I was doing it I felt like “Oh no, wait, I don’t know this person!” because when she was leaving, I was eleven, no, I was nine years old and we never talked about things that you talk with your mom when you’re growing. And I was 16 and I wanted to talk to my mom, like for first three months, I felt like “Oh my god, I don’t know this person.” I’ve never felt like I’m gonna to be so different from my mom and me like , you know. When you live with the person who you didn’t live with 8 years, and it is weird because you know its your mom and you can talk to her, but at the same time you’re feeling like “Oh my God, I can’t talk to her because I don’t know what’s gonna to happen”. It was a struggle a little bit in the beginning for me.

SA: Do you think she felt the same way to you?

KH: I think so, because haha in 3 months we spend each other, she was like “Oh, so you don’t this one, oh ”. It was like a new chapter when you get to know other person. Like, when you see, like…Let’s pretend you met a person and started to know about his life and his personality. This was the same thing with my mom because I didn’t know what kind of, what kind of umm personality she had. At the same time, she didn’t know anything about me, my feelings, my personality and other things.

SA: Do you feel reconnected now? Like, it’s been two years…

KH: Sometimes it feels like she doesn’t understand me the way I want to her like understand me. And sometimes when we talk I feel like “Oh, yeah, this is my mom”. She gives me good like advice and I fell like “Oh, yes, this is what I wanted”. But sometimes I feel like no, we’re still not connected the way I want. I think it is because of the age. Because I’m eighteen and I want move freedom and she feels like I’m still sixteen or fifteen. She treats me like a child.

SA: Parents!

KH: I know…

SA: Um, do you feel like you have more freedom right now than you would have had if you were back in Uzbekistan, even with your mom there?

KH: Actually, yes. I feel more freedom here than I would like feel in my country because I have ability to go to school, to go out with my friends, to make my life better here than I would do in my country because to look back from like where I’m now, I never went out with my friends if I wanted because girls not supposed to, they’re not supposed to go out with friends or just hang out with like people they know. They’re not supposed to do that. And I feel like I have freedom now because I can do it, I can go out with my friends. Not every day or every week, but still… sometimes. You know, I feel like here I have more freedom than I had in my country.

SA: Is there any kind of specific situation that you would like to talk about? Like, you know, something happened that absolutely changed your view on life throughout your immigration period.

KH: Actually, it was a lot of things that changed me when I came here. As I said, my friend and I… So my friend, she’s from Ukraine and she is Christian. I am Muslim. We have completely different traditions, we have completely different thoughts about life, actually we HAD, we HAD different thoughts about thoughts about life and traditions and stuff, but right now, I feel like we have same like same thoughts and same feelings about certain things and I think she is the reason I change my thoughts about life. When you’re growing in the Muslim country and in the Muslim family it’s really struggle because a lot of things that people do here, it’s against our religion. And when you get to know like other traditions and cultures, you feel like: “Oh, thin is right, you know. But why in my religion I can’t of this? I mean, I want to, but I can’t”. And I feel like for my entire journey, when I was like getting to know my friend, who was my friend those days, but now my best friend, um, when you get to know her and you listen to her and try to understand her culture and traditions and her thought about certain things, you feel like “Oh God, yes, that’s right!” or “no no no I’m never gonna do it because I’m not Christian, or I’m not Muslim, or other things” … But like, she changed me really really like a lot and right now I’m getting shock of myself because I wasn’t that kind of person what kind of person I’m am now. It is weird because if you ask me when I first moved here if I would do the kind of stuff I am doing now, I would say “Oh my God, NO!”, you know. And I feel like she changed me in a good way and because of her, I wanna stay here and be with her. And just to get to know a lot of other stuff that can happening. And be a good person here.

SA: So, you said that you’ve changed a lot. Can you give me one or two examples of things you would have never thought of doing that you are doing now?

KH: I would say that, … so I changed because when I came here, I discriminated umm… I mean, how do you say it…

SA: Discriminated against someone?

KH: Um, so, I discriminated people, who had like same sex connection and right now …

SA: Homosexual

KH: Yeah, homosexuals. I would discriminate them the I came here but right now, I’m kinda, you know, don’t like it, but I’m okay with this. I mean, in my country, we really don’t like people who chose to be with the same sex with another person. And right now, I feel like, when I see somebody gay or lesbian, I feel the same way because they’re humans like me and I don’t discriminate them. I don’t know, I changed my view in their choice, in their live choice. I feel like this was the biggest part of my life that changed.

SA: Would you mind me asking about your religion?

KH: Yeah, I’m a Muslim.

SA: No, I mean were you very religious when you were there?

KH: Oh, so when I was there, I was like a religious girl. And not like really into religion. I would follow certain things that my religion is against and I would not follow some of the rules that it says. So, I’m not… Yeah , so in my religion, there are certain that you have to follow and certain things that you need to follow. So I was following that I should follow and I didn’t follow things that I needed to follow. Like as a Muslim, you have to pray every day five times, I didn’t do it. And as a Muslim, you have no right to talk with a guy that is a strange guy. And I didn’t follow this rule. And right now I feel like I’m not follow ing any rules that my religion says because I mean, it’s I mean, in my view, how do you explain that, … in my view, I feel like these rules are not for me because this are against my life, my life.

SA: Do you feel those boundaries?

KH: As a girl, I wanted to try new things and new stuff and my religion is against it and I feel like it is against my choices and my life and my …

SA: So, do you feel like you stepped away from your religion when you moved here?

KH: I feel like it because my choice is different than my religion rules. And I fell like would do things that I want to do and not what my religion says. I can follow some of them, but not all of them.

SA: Would you say that was more of a society than the religion itself? Or was that the religion specifically?

KH: Um, I would say that was religion specifically, because our society follows like religious…

SA: So its based on religion?

KH: Yes.

SA: That’s interesting. Did you connect with anyone from your culture here?

KH: I did, actually, with a lot of people. But they’re kinda really old people and they like move here at the same time as I me and you know, old people, they don’t here adapt really fast. They still following their traditions and they don’t want be, like, they don’t wanna open to another. And I fell like when they come to our house for, I don’t know, for just tea or just talk to, and I feel like they discriminate me because I adapt here and I wanna adapt here and wight now I don’t wanna follow any ruled that I have followed and I feel they really discriminate me. They don’t say anything to me like personally, but I feel like in their thoughts they really discriminate me because I can see it when they talk to me or when they look at me. And I feel like, um, I don’t know, I cant do things like I want to do with people who still follows those rules that was In my country because i feel like they really discriminate me.

SA: Do you feel like your family does that as well or you they want more freedom for you, but again, limited kind of freedom?

KH: Definitely limited kind of freedom.

SA: Like just don’t go crazy but in the same time, don’t sit in the house.

KH: Yes, definitely, so the good thing is my mom’s boyfriend, or future husband, its like this way, I don’t know (laughs), he’s a Jewish and he was from Ukraine also. He moved here when he was, I believe, ten years old or seven years old. And he adapt really quick. and because of him, I feel I have more freedom than I would have had with my mom only because he supports like my feelings and he supports umm my decisions to do some kind of stuff. And Sometimes when me and my mom argue about something, he takes my place and my mom’s put, but the same time he tells my mom to like to give me a chance to do what I want to do because he says that I am pretty, I mean, I’m pretty adult enough to make my own decisions. And I feel like he was kinda like teacher for me when I was here at the first time. He is like the person who tries to help me and tries to help my mom and tries to help everybody, you know! (laughs)

SA: Would you mind me asking how did you take that when you came here and your mother was involved with someone else? How did you adapt to that?

KH: It was kinda funny (laughs). So, I knew my mom had a person who she’s in love with. And but I didn’t met him when I was in my country and I didn’t really know who the person was and what kind of persons he. But I did it against her with because my mom had a lot of struggles in her life. And I knew it because my parents were the worst. And when I looked at them, I knew they don’t like each other. They spent ten years of their life living with each other and just living, you know, without love, without like happiness. They were living together because they had to.

SA: Was that an arranged marriage?

KH: It was… I really don’t know what kind was it. According to what my mom, her mother forced her to marry my dad because it’s part of our religion, and traditions: your parents like your parents are finding you a husband that you will live with your whole entire life and you have NO RIGHT to choose your own husband, or to choose a guy who you’re gonna marry. And it was the kinda thing that my grandmother did: she just found the guy who she liked and she just forced my mom to marry him. And it was kinda this. And I feel, when my mom said she didn’t want to marry him because she wanted to study, she wanted to get her diploma and master’s degree, you know, but my grandmother forced her to marry because in our culture girls should marry in early age, 18, 19 or 20. After that …

SA: You’re dead to the society (laughs)!!

KH: I know, right! (laughs) You’re dead to the society. And when I was in my country I always thought I’m gonna marry when I’m gonna be 18 or 19, you know because its like our culture and you don’t have a choice to like to do your things or your decisions. And I always thought that I’m gonna marry at young age. But when I came here and I saw here’s culture and and here’s lifestyle, I really changed my mind. And I felt like “Oh my God, this is wrong: girls can’t marry when they are like 18 or 19 because they have not reached their goals. What if your husband’s gonna leave? What are you going to do without a diploma or a degree or anything else?”. And this is the thing that changes really fast, when I came here because my mom always wanted me to study to get my diploma and degree. And she wanted me to be independent because she hasn’t… she had not have a chance to like…she had not opportunity do her like decisions, to make her decisions and she wanted me to do it for me like for my life. So I have a chance to change my like, to have a better life. Yeah, I think it was kinda this, so… My parents were forced to marry to each other.

SA: Did your mom get a degree?

KH: Actually, my mom did. She finished a university.

SA: Here?

KH: No, no, no, in our country. She pushed herself to study and …

SA: While she was married?

KH: While she had me. She was pregnant and she was, she had um… no, she was I think freshman in university and she got married and when she was sophomore, she was pregnant with me, like. and after that, when she was getting her Master’s degree, she was pregnant with my brother (laugh). So for her it was kinda really big struggle for her because I was a baby and she had to pay attention to me because I’m a baby an I need to be feed and … At the same time, she had to do her homework and her study. When she was telling me about her life when I was like a baby, I noticed when I was a baby that she wants me to study right now and THEN get pregnant and THEN get married because when you’re pregnant and you’re studying, there is a lot of stress. And she was very stressful when she had those days. But right now she’s really happy. She has 2 children, she has her significant other that supports her and I think like she, she just…

SA: Has everything that she always wanted?

KH: yeah, yes, has everything that she always wanted

SA: So basically her lifelong dream came true

KH: When she moved here. She said it to me. When we were talking to each other, she said that if she didn’t win green card and came here, she would not survive in our country because she wanted to do certain like things that out society didn’t accept, you know. And when she came here, she felt the freedom, she started to making her decisions like and reach her goals. She said that was pretty awesome to be like, you know, mature or responsible for her life.

SA: Guess you both feel pretty good about doing here, don’t you?

KH: Hahah, I guess. I do. And she does too.

SA: Is there anything else in particular that you would like to share?

KH: I guess, one thing that I would share is that when you move to a new place and you don’t speak in their language, you don’t know about the culture and traditions, you just need to…you just need to, you know, relax and don’t stress and … [asked me in Russian how to say “go with the flow” in english] go with the flow and everything is going to be fine because when I came here, I had a lot of stress and it just pushed me back than forward. You just need to be like relaxed like my brother. He was like… he was like living life and that’s it. He didn’t have any stressful days in his life. I feel like he’s not gonna have any, but still, you know.

SA: Do you keep in contact with your family?

KH: Yeah, of course! My grandmother came here a year and a half ago. She comes and goes back to my country every year. She stays here for 4-5 months, she helps us and she goes back to our country. And even when she comes here, she feels the difference between America and our country because in America it’s so simple to do things you want if you follow rules that are… I mean…how do you say it…when you come here and you want to do certain things and you know that its not prohibited and you can do it. In our country everything is prohibited!everything!! And she feels the difference. And she says she would live here than in our country but she can’t.

SA: So she prefers more freedom?

KH: She is really strict. She is more into religious things. But when she came here, she changed her mind. Like completely changed her mind. Not completely completely, but …

SA: On a certain scale.

KH: Yes, and it’s kinda great because when I was young, she was like really strict with my mother and she didn’t allow me to do things that I wanted to do. And, you know, when you see a person who changed his mind to certain things, you’ll be like “Oh God, wow”, you now.

SA: What is your legal status right now? Are you a permanent resident?

KH: I’m a permanent resident. Currently my mom applied for citizenship, but I am not gonna get citizenship with her because I am 18 already. And government says I have to live here for five, four six years to get citizenship. But my brother does with her because he’s fourteen, he’s a minor, I don’t know. So he’s gonna to get citizenship with her and I’ll have to wait for mine.

SA: Well, I hope everything plays out just the was you want to.

KH: I hope so too.

SA: Thank you so much for doing this!

KH: No more questions?

SA: Nope! Thank you, thank you!


Twas Africa


Twas Africa

by Tiffany Brown, January 2016

       A continent known for its most outstanding scenery and land that is “richly endowed with natural resources,” according to Michael M. Ogbeidi, an Associate Professor in the department of History and Strategic Studies at the University of Lagos, Africa, has experienced what Michael describes as a “phenomenon of corruption.” Ogbeidi captures the fact that the fundamental geological features that would benefit a continent so rich in soil as Africa should give it the opportunity to thrive. The cause of this economic plummet, which he describes as a “phenomenon of corruption,” concludes that the permanent effect of corruption has demised and depleted the country’s value and worth in the world economic race and in political prominence. On the soil of Africa is where a timeline of bloodshed and colonization has taken place. Like many continents, there will be rises and falls, but one like Africa often catches onlookers and outsiders’ attention. In an interview with Donald Yawube, an immigrant of Lagos, Nigeria, he conceptualizes his personal views of his home country and the regimen of colonization that changed Africa, and his views of America, where he now resides. One of the main themes that arose constantly in this interview was the world corruption and pollution that exists in society, school systems and politics. Not only is this a global epidemic, but also the root problem and illness that infects Africa’s success is also a key factor through which some countries thrive. Donald understands from his migration from Africa to America that there is much more corruption that has been dispersed throughout other countries, beginning in Africa. His knowledge from being a native inhabitant and scholar leads him to his point that Africa has been lead to be distorted and reframed. However, though Africa has become a “third world” continent, the values and beliefs of the African culture still thrive through its people. Donald’s beliefs, ethics and values have given him a prominent view when looking at society and its downfalls. In an arrangement of three poems, I have conceptualized and intertwined the themes and clear points that Donald made throughout our interview. His driven purpose for coming to the United States was to succeed and venture through the diversified communities we have to offer, which he was already accustomed to in Africa. When first settling in the Bay Area, Donald faced inhumane scenes that disappointed him and forms of racism that stemmed from corruption in the history of Africa. Now settled in San Francisco, he foresees the world corruption that exists and has formed and affected not only his continent, Africa, but the United States as well. The poems that I have created incorporate the feelings and emotions that the people of Africa, American society and Donald posses; speaking for the voices that are unheard and would stand out if only they were spoken.

Africa has been history’s most prominent example for a continent experiencing such social, cultural, and political strain. It is through Donald’s interview that I truly understood the political corruption and cultural disvalue that would eventually collaborate in the title, “phenomenon of corruption,” which Ogbeidi was talking about. Africa has gone through many hardships because of colonial powers rising up and capitalizing on the land. This period is what The National Academies Press describes as a time when “colonialism had destroyed indigenous democratic values and institutions.” In Africa to this present day, its past values have become sacred and a way of living. Donald felt that this was a time “to root out the corruption that was seriously seeping into society.” Moreover, the corruption did set into society and made its way into politics. Donald says, “the culture of the past history that polluted after the independence of my country and things that led to the civil war led to so many um, ‘racism.’” Colonialism in Africa not only hurt the traditions that Africa thrived on, but also divided its people by color, culture and language. There are a series of situations that polluted Africa’s existence and future, socially and economically. Breaking values and former ways driven by native people of Africa, “colonialism had disrupted these traditional African practices” (The National Academies Press). Some of the values in African society are “based on equality, freedom, and unity, was overshadowed by authoritarian and centralized nature of colonialism” (The National Academies Press). Donald explains that Africa continues to acknowledge the traditional values that were under attack by external factors saying, “We [are] humble with the way we are, yes.” He went on to say that Africa embraced its true way and being. Donald activated this value, to stay humble, from his home country upon arriving to the Bay Area, when confronted by trials and errors that America had. For instance, when Donald began seeking employment and ventured into the retail and customer service fields, he saw that he was depicted by employers because of his accent and place of origin. “Unfortunately, where I came from has a history of financial crime,” Donald explains; “it was kind of hard. It was difficult to try to make people see I am not one of those people.” Employers were taken back by people from Africa because of their history and showed less interest in immigrants from there. “I went to interviews and they say, ‘oh I hear an accent, where are you from?’ And I tell them ‘I’m African or Nigerian,’ and there is always this…this split second look, little twist…or twinkle in the eye like, ‘oooh nooo.’” Donald stated. It was in America that Donald saw how corruption in Africa, which seeped into the societies of his native people, developed a form of racism, signaling him out as he tried to achieve career goals here in America.

They did not want the “modernized world” to interfere their indigenous ways, though later they would be pinned as a “third world” country. This term Donald did not take lightly. “If it is based on history, Africa should be placed as number one! First world, let’s put it this way, Africa had the first civilization before the rest of the world had it.”

America gives an illusory image of its opportunities before immigrants arrive and actually experience the true venture living in America. This too was a situation that Donald encountered after first arriving to America. Although he felt that the United States was a perfect place for him to adapt and transition in, he sought out the well-known “American Dream” and all of its riches that came with it. After asking Donald what would he tell his family and friends in order to encourage them to move to America, he replied, “You can have your dreams come true.” He was also aware that with hard work and dedication, you can make more goals possible to achieve. In a Washington Post article by Senate Representative of Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, she gives transparency to where the “American Dream” stemmed from: “Across generations, Americans shared the belief that hard work would bring opportunity and a better life.” Even though this statement excluded a number of ethnic groups including African Americans in the beginning stages of its development, it is now evident that in the 21st century, people are globally inclusive for the opportunity to live the “American Dream.” Many immigrants have this perception that all will be fine once arriving and that they will be able to financially support their families. But America is able to convey an image that can be deceiving. Upon arriving to America Donald did catch surprising and shocking scenery, which was unexpected almost to a point of disbelief; instead, he was truly disappointed. This was distasteful, to say the least, for him to witness. Donald believed America would be “all living in one unity,” as he had experienced in Africa. There was more about the San Francisco Bay Area to experience than he perceived prior to his arrival. Donald was amazed by how many homeless people were in the end of city.  One of the trials Donald faced assimilating into American culture was “the ability of physical humanities, from water to good health to the road.” This was his own personal issue, which was important to him, but alongside of this he was introduced to the epidemic of homelessness rates the United States faces. After arriving to Oakland, Donald was quite disappointed explaining that he “saw beggars…homeless people on the street.” One would be amazed that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found in its 2013 Annual Report of Homelessness that in California there were 113,952 people that fell in that population. “That was what threw me off,” he added. One might ask that if Donald did not take in positively what America offered, why would he not leave and go home? But when asked about his driven purpose for traveling to live in America, Donald replied, “I’ve heard so much about America.”  It is again the illusory image that media is guilty of. Donald went on to explain how he loved the late Californian rap artist Tupac Shakur’s song “California Love.” “I used to be a big fan of Tupac,” he said as a large grin spread across his face. Donald was not new to the hip hop culture that ventured throughout the West and East coast of the United States, through radios and televisions. Besides, though the culture was nature to him, there was more to be experienced upon arriving to America.  It is evident that throughout history the United States has been the nation-state that holds opportunity indescribably in close proximity, which also is stapled the “American Dream,” a place where one can move from an outside country and choose his or her own destiny: actually achieve the possibilities that their countries do not offer because of political boundaries. Donald, too, was another.

Politics have become the gateway for countries to enter the global race of independence and modernization. It has been Africa’s undeniable history of corruption that has caused disadvantage for them in striving in this competitive trial to successes. The article “The movement Toward Democracy in Africa,” by the National Academies Press, explains that many African leaders and authoritative figures are bitter from the “corruption, repression human rights abuses, and gross economic mismanagement under one-party rule.” During the Cold War, Africa underwent a lot of authoritarian rule over its people and tribes. This in result began the era of neo-colonization, which began the change in cultural, social and economic structure of Africa’s future. “During the cold war, some countries capitalized on superpower competition, seeking military and development assistance” (The National Academies Press) Ogbeidi agrees. The existing world corruption that is identified in school and politics represents one’s country in many territories. It is transparent in politics, which has the largest influence on a country’s stability, how one is able to strive. In response to my question “What are some trials you faced assimilating into American culture?” Donald expresses some of the products from these trials, “like the ability of physical humanities, from water to good health to good roads.”

This is Africa on its way to new heights the world has never seen; after all this is the land of untold richness. Since the days of corruption began in Africa, its people of intelligence strive to take the rightful place it truly deserves in this competitive global race. My poem titled “What is Third World?” conceptualizes this argument of what Africa was, is and will be in the world race of economic and social strength. “If it is based on history, Africa should be placed as number one! First world, let’s put it this way, Africa had the first civilization before the rest of the world had it,” Donald stated in our recent interview. It was because of his strong statement that I developed the foundation of my poem, which truly commemorates Africa’s uprising and rich soil that brought the beginning of life to be.

“Twas it us


where civilization began

where the treetops glanced

over God’s graceful land?”

In this stanza I have brought a rhetorical question to assess the history that Africa holds. Its presence now in today’s society does not hold the same prominence it once did thousands of years ago, before civilization in America even began. Even though it has lost its place of virtue and substance in the national race, it is still the epicenter of life today: known as “The Mother Land.” Through memoir I have brought readers to understand the bloodshed and sorrow the land of Africa has gone through. It has been tormented by external factors only to be capitalized and colonized.

“was thousands of years ago where man came forth?

Then thrown into plight

After birthing new life”

Donald’s interview contributed to this creative poem and the following stanza. “From the culture of the past history that polluted after the independence of my country,” he stated, Africa was the leading example of rich soils and life, but as Donald stated, it went through a catastrophe of situations that did pollute its soil, only to tear away the pride and ownership of the rich land it once was. The corruption set in Africa separated its value from its own people.

“Twas Africa

The first leading land

Now known as a third world

For it has not


Enough since then

Since the time of colonization

Which was counterpart

To deprivation


Critiquing the history of Africa was quite difficult and simplistic all at once. The driving forces that flooded Africa and interceded their traditions and values, led them to be disrupted by corruption and hate for one another. Apartheid is just one of the most violent and tragic results due to colonial forces interfering—when Africans were separated amongst each other by segregating one another by complexion and language. In the poem I conclude that the “plight” was in fact apartheid. It is the corruption that polluted Africa’s well-known name, value and worth. Because of numerous colonies Africa was thrown in a whirlwind that is present today, but finally moving forward still catching up to its own strength.

In conclusion, Donald anticipated America to be the way most imagine—a world of dreams, success, and diversity with respect to each individual’s life. He did understand that there were pros and cons to each country, but the disposition that he was put in upon his arrival made him dissatisfied and disappointed. One would argue that Donald should have never come if he was not ready for the unexpected. But to each his own. Everyone is able to venture under their own risk. Donald has handled his disappointments quite well. In fact, he is the excellent example of a resilient successor that puts forth the diligent hard work to achieve his limitless opportunities. It was not that Africa pushed Donald out like many immigrants are facing at this moment, but that he took a chance to venture and see a whole new world. “I came; I saw; I conquered,” Donald stated during the interview. This he did do even after facing trials of racism and a taste of humanity gone wrong. Each immigrant holds experiences and past relations that help and mold their own perspective. Donald is one that originated from a great place that was torn down by corruption that exists amongst all nations today; he was able to use his country’s values and well-taught lessons that would help him embody and counsel the way to his dreams. When you see an immigrant, please understand that there is a story deep down and there are morals that follow too. We do not all come from the same place, but we are in the same space. What would it take the world to make it a better place? What would the world look like without corruption?

Works Cited

“Political Corruption: Before and After Apartheid.” Jonathan Hyslop. Academia. Web Article. December 2005.

“The Movement Toward Democracy in Africa.” National Research Council. Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1992. Doi:10.17226/2041

“Political Leadership and Corruption in Nigeria Since 1960: A Socio-economic Analysis.” Michael M. Ogbeidi. Journal of Nigeria Studies. Vol. 1, Number 2, Fall 2012.

“Third World.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2015): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

“How to revive the American Dream.” The Washington Post. Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio. May 6.

Donald Yawube. Interviewee

            Sample Transcripts


T: Okay, What is your name?

S: My name is Steven America___ or Donald Yawube

T: How long, let’s see…how old are you?

S: I’m 38

T: Okay and where are you from?

S:I am from Nigeria. West coast Afr–, of Africa

T: Okay, ow long have you been in the United States?

S: I’ve been in the United States nine years now.

T: And how old were you?

S:I was like twenty-nine when I got here.

T: What are some trials you faced assimilating into American culture?

S: Wow, trials…hm…like the ability of physical humanities, from water to good health to good roads. Uh, from the culture of the past history that polluted after the independence of my country and things that lead to the civil war led to so many quote unquote uhm, “racism”. There’s so many factors.

T: Alright. Uhm, would you feel that you faced many of these trials early on when you first arrived.

S: Uh, no. No, I did experience a bit of a difficulty in terms of uhm, ev-ev-even though there is the fact I am coming from Africa, I had one experience…no, two experiences where I observed some form of racism. I know said given the fact uhm, the nature of where I am coming there was a look of this thing that was cut across eyes when not another African as well or not another immigrant so yea.

T: Okay, I want to go back onto your experiences, but let’s go to your childhood memories.

Uhm, what would be your favorite place in your home country?

S: So I grew up in Lagos, which is which was then the capitol but where I am originally from. It’s a village, I love going to the farm with my grandparents and my cousins. I love going hunting. Those were to childhood memories I hold very dear to my heart.

T: So, a lot of farming hunting

S: You could say a lot more of farming.

T: Okay, So back to your childhood, Is there any place in America that reminds you of home?

S: Yes, uh

T: Or where?

S: Huah, San Francisco, that’s why I chose San Francisco, because before I got here I wanted to choose a place where there is so much diversity that reminded me of home. And San Francisco just kind of crossed as that. California actually kind of cross as that. It’s funny really cause there is so much diversity coming out of California SF or the bay area, there is no, I call it the melting pot of the whole world.

T: Yes, it definitely is. So when you say a lot of diversity, in what aspect, would it be culture, would it be music, fashion?

S: All of the above.

T: All of the above?

S: All of the above. There has been an intricate connection between all of that. You know there is Asians, there’s uhm you know there is Persians, there is Africans as well. you know there is African Americans and Caucasians. And they are all these different…they all living in one unity. They are all living in oneness. disregard the skin color, personalities, or background in terms of ethnicity. you know San Francisco is for me or really bay area is more who are you and what are you bringing to make this, you know state or make this place a better place. so yea, uh, that’s the reason why i, i really love San Fancisco or the bay area.

T: Okay, so in…speaking in general…what was your sole driven purpose to coming to America? think back 9 years ago, what was it about America that made you think I have to go there?

S: Well, you, I, uh…I’ve heard so much about America.

T: I have heard so much about Africa!

(both laugh)

S: I’ve heard so much about America, of course, I’ve heard bad things about America, but I believe there is always a good thing about some place. uh, and i wanted to go, you know for me it was more…more of a journey. For me, it was more of an accomplishment. I wanted to say “I’ve been there” and wanted to see what it was all about. I use to be a big fan of Tupac and I remember, I use to jump up to the song “California Love”.

T: (sings) California love.

S: (giggles) yeah, I use to sing it everyday. Everyday. In fact, me and my friends would try to imitate Dr. Dre and Tupac. For me it was being at home and that’s what coming out here was for me. Home.

T: Okay, so it sounds like assimilation was not a hard thing for you to do. Sounds like the least of your-

S: No..

T: worries I would say?

S: No, it wasn’t. There weren’t any worries at all because, uh, it was…I would say there hasn’t been trials or setbacks, no…there will always be a setback, there will always be some set…well I wouldn’t say setback I’d say a drawback, yes. uhm..

T: uhm, so, how did your family feel or how did they feel about you assimilating into American culture?

S: ahahaha…haha…uhh, my fam-…well…they happy for me. They happy I am here. Though they do wish I would come back home, but uhm..as long as I’m happy and they trust my ability and my sense of judgment. They’re content, they know I am happy, they want me to be here. they’d love for me to be there, you know, I tell them it would be nice for me to expand the family name. come out here, you know and make,,,and put our family flag, like okay…i was here. “I came, I saw, I conquered”…so to speak.

T: Let’s see I want you to kind of go a little deeper into that if that’s okay. So what do you mean exactly when you say “I came, I saw, I conquered”? What is your objective of that- well no… What would you tell your family to encourage them to get here, the land that you love so much, what would they be able to look forward to in America other than what is in Africa?

S: You can have your dreams come true.

T: Okay…

S: With hard work, dedication in this country you definitely could have your dreams come true. It’s against the…you know it’s against the bad job in my country where if you do not have someone in a higher place; and I’m speaking about corruption, in highest level as far as from as high as the top to as well as the bottom, yes. But here your hard work will definitely pay out. Your hard work, your dedication, your faith yeah your dream will definitely come true.

T: So do you feel like in Africa your very limited based on your socio-economic status?

S: yes. yeah, yes, your very…uh..there is a very huge limitation in Africa. you know if you’re rich you’re rich and if you’re poor you’re poor.

T: That also seems to be the case here in America, “if you’re rich you’re rich, if you’re poor you’re poor”. So how does one even move up or try to put faith in being in a higher class?

S: You know somebody once said, “if you’re not born into a rich family then you can never be rich”.

T: mhm…do you know who said that?

S: uh…I can’t remember who exactly, uhm…but..uhm..in other countries or unless you want to play unless you don’t want to play. In a sense where you have to do the things they do to move up or you don’t. You know, the choice is yours. So it’s…it’s two ways, either you were born into a rich family or you were made rich. you can make yourself rich. you know, you can either do the things that those other people are doing in order to be rich or, you know that’s if you are born into a rich family or a rich status.

T: right, so what would you say would improve the conditions at home, in your home country?

S: you know, i do believe it will take time, but only if there- only if there’s seriousness based on everybody who’s very, very much determined to want to make a change. But um…corruption has to be rooted out. even for the men…even for the men-mentality of…of everybody. because it is so imbedded into everybody’s mind and it’s the right thing, it’s okay to be corrupt and it’s not…it is not okay to be corrupt because…because then you’re not looking in the longevity of the upcoming future which is kids and what are we planning for them. And I seen it time and time again where government officials, when their in office, yeah everything is peachy and everything is nice and good for him and the family and them and the family or the family members but soon as they step out of office; the next person who comes in who wants, you know, a better life for their family. but that’s not what it’s supposed to be it’s about, you know, serving your country. I believe uhm…uhm John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what a country can do for you but what you can do for a country”. that, so…that person that man has always been, for me, an inspiration like, okay.

T: (Asks to speak last few sentences a little louder)

S: He’s a..he…John F. Kennedy has been you know, about what he said has always stuck with me…about what he said a country can do for you. that for me, as you know…there is no good to honor when you’re doing right for your country. so what can i do for my country you know in fact corruption is at its highest level. you know say if you want to start something, you start from the very top you don’t start from the bottom. uh, proper election, free and fair election…uhh proper education on the highest level. even if their raised, yah people want to go to school, but free and fair election and electing those with the right mentality. about what can take the country far and beyond.

T: you know speaking about corruption, uuhm, that Africa goes thru what about the corruption in America, we see it in politics, we see it in school. Our school systems. We see the majority, well this is my opinion, and from what history has shown, that we are facing as Americans and Africans, that we face a…a diversion between races, power and wealth. uhm, so how do you feel about that? its. did that…from history in America which stemmed from corruption how do you feel about that. and the comparison with the corruption in Africa to here?

D: now, in comparison…uhm in Africa…let’s start with Africa for instance, so you go to school you graduate with flying color, honors and all. and because of the fact that maybe you’re from a certain race you won’t get a very competitive job. Or say you want to join the army after a certain rank you can not get promoted. okay, when I first got here. When I first got to United States, all I had absorbed, yes I did absorb that there was a difference, but one way to really fight, the one way to really fight corruption is education. education, one way to….educated enough to know what right is and fight for a rights legitimately because it’s right there in the constitution. there is no way you can not say the constitution is put in place to deny certain people, some people try to you know, no some people try to twist the constitution was aligned for so it’s for you so if you know what your right is and you know your right…its that you educated yourself. Go to school ask questions. Education is the fundamentals of defeating what other may come your way. They say that “education is light” It is light. Corruption is only darkness. The only way to gravel with that darkness is with education. Time and time again, and I’ll use an example for instance, Obama is president he is an educated man, he went to school, he went…he lead…he went by the book. He became a lawyer…what more can one ask for? He became a lawyer…he became an argumentative lawyer because, you know……where other people are a lawyer…………………he embedded himself into the system. The proper way and fought the system. on the outside. You know they say in my country, amongst my people, they say that um it s the bug that eats the leaf. It lives inside the leaf. And it say the enemy within, it is that kind of mentality. And the good, one of my greatest idols…he used education to fight the British…he used education to fight the British to stand still to give India their liberty, education you know…they ask him, ya know, “why can’t we go over there and fight”. But their bloodshed would lead to more bloodshed. But the way, the truth and the light is education. Uhh,

T: Alright, I believe that…so, what if you were to put. basically…what we generally do in America….or what we all do to fight most the corruption in society and in politics, would you be able to do those things in Africa?

D: yes.

T: to what extent? are there any limitations? are there any consequences?

D: officials would come forth by the uh…

T:for educating yourself and advocating…

D: the limitation…would probably be, first and foremost capital….where the fund is necessary to pursue such goal given the limitation of employment for that obvious reason, yes capital would probably number one. Two, uhm, once one has a capitalist and support in general…to fight it all the way then yes its possible. to fight it all the way to the very top, you know all the way up to the presidency then it is possible…and all the way up to the supreme court in order to change the whole general government mentality as to what corruption is…the evil of what corruption is.

T: would you be faith based? are you faith based?

D: yes.

T:one of my friends from Nigeria says that you can’t speak up as much as you can in America, that there are consequences …would you say that as bias, or would you agree or is there a certain class order that has the given rights or opportunities to do so?

D: you can speak up! you can definitely speak up in Africa, you can definitely speak up in Nigeria, you know there is towards the government you definitely can…it’s about are you saying the right things that need to be said? …that’s not bias, because a lot of the time people come up and that’s the problem with Africa. In 19…uhm…prior to…some of the incidents that led to the civil war was corruption. Corruption that…you know corruption that they wanted to root out for once and for all that was led into being…into being a tribal thing. being a racist thing. but that was not the context of what it was supposed to be…it was to root out the corruption that was seriously seeping into society. yes, you can speak up, just have to say…it has to be an unbiased like you want to say. speak your mind, say the truth. not no…regardless of whatever is going on or…or maybe…even if it’s your brother. see that’s the funny thing people have family in politics and don’t want to speak up. because either or they’re benefiting some way some how. it is in africa, it’s also it’s everywhere in the whole world. but yes, you know…when you see a spade, call a spade a spade. yes you definitely can speak up, people don’t want to speak up against their own brother. would rather speak against somebody else. it’s gone from what’s right, what we do. what’s right, okay i should speak up the truth okay what should we do, okay i don’t want to speak up because that’s my brother in office. or that’s my cousin, that’s a friend of mine we both have gone to school together so i don’t want to….NO…you can speak up, speak up and say what is the truth. do not contest with tribalism or waste or a certain section. when you speak up and speak up as one in general in actuality….as Nigeria, as one then yes, it can be done. I do not think….

T: okay, i think you should run for mayor (both laugh) perfect candidate. So, I want to hear more about your mindset before America and your mindset after. are there any thoughts or perceptions of America that changed when you got here?

D: I was, i would say i was a bit disappointed when i got here. Yes, a little bit I was disappointed…a little bit. Simply because the fact I was, uhmm…I was totally taken aback when I found out, I saw beggars, homeless people on the street. that was what threw me off completely, yes I was totally….

T: And what was the first state or city that you arrived to?

D: uhm…San Francisco…oh…Oakland.

T: Oakland? okay, so you saw this in Oakland?

D: i saw that in sf , and I was surprised at first, then my surprisement turned into disappointment.

T: yea

D: i remember…i remember one day and i saw forgive me for using this word…I saw some streetwalkers it was on the international boulevard in Oakland…

T: that is what they are, they are prostitutes…

D: and I was…I was shocked…I was very shocked.

T: that they were…was it the fact that they were so boisterous or just out there? what was it?

D: that it was so obvious. that’s why i was kind of…it wasn’t the promiscuity…it was just that it was so obvious. it was and country to believe…what everybody believes back home…i know things are not as the way it always is. but i was not expecting that. i was not expecting to be hit that much. so yes

T: in America…there are a series of thing. people take pride in a lot of things here, but was this perception of America given from media in Africa ?….

D: yes…

T: is that what it was?

D: yes! uhh, you know the media portrays Africa as third world and I always…I find that whether..

T: and can you define that?…

D: I would see…see I’m currently trying to find out what third world is, and in my book how can you define the word third world….are you basing it on socialism or on capitalism? if it is based on history, Africa should be placed as number one! first world, let’s put it this way, Africa had the first civilization before the rest of the world had it. so you say third world, if it’s a country like United States that is less than 200 years old. every country in Africa is more than a thousand years old. more than ten thousand years old, more than twenty thousand years old! There are just set in their ways, other countries are modernized, that is “modernized world”….yes. but we love walking, we humble with the way we are, yes. we dress for the climate, I’m not going to wear pants and jacket you know in 120 degrees. no! if i want to walk around in my loin…hahaaahaa

T: say that again, what was it?

D: if I want to walk around in my loincloth ,ahaha, and go hunting then…

T: what’s another word…so to speak an American word for loincloth…

D: uhhm…walking around naked, so to speak. but, you know the truth is uhh…

T: so, okay, so i got off track…there is so much, running in my mind about things…now we are in this phase that you’re here in your early years…

D: yes…

T: age 29…right?…were you caught by America’s culture? Were you brought in to the…cuz what do you…let’s se…how about this…what do you see that was America’s culture when you first got here? For your generation or trends?

D: you know for my generation…uhm..for my generation i’d say it’s much easier as compared to those that are compared to the generations before me. One is..i guess it wasn’t hard for me to blend in you know, because of my open mindedness, uhm…because my father use to say that, “when you’re in Rome behave like the romans.” So for that mentality or that mindset already there I…when I…as soon as I got on the plane I said okay whatever is the culture is in America I will try to i will do my best to pick out the best of the good ones…and learn from the bad ones. take a few lessons so i would not get caught up in the bad ones and get better with the good ones and get better with the good ones. Go to the best of the best. So it wasn’t very hard for me, you know, to try and blend in…let’s use that word…now for some people …I’ve had friend who came to the United States prior and all ran back two years in the world…some were disappointed…they were all uhh…shocked. I guess because, you know, they were not open minded about the situation in which they found themselves in so it was more a culture shock.

T: So since you came here with such an open mind….was there anything besides the…the…the women, the prostitution…

D: the homelessness…

T: the homelessness…was there any situations that you were put in for the American culture that you saw yourself…that changed your aspect of Africa or what you did in Africa that you kept? Did I say that right? Maybe I should rephrase it.

D: Rephrase it.

T: Were there ways, values…and beliefs that you left behind to assimilate into American culture? Once you got here…and what would those be?

D: Okay…uh..some cultures that have laid behind…Id say…cultural oneness. culture of family.

T: Can you give me…can you give me a story or a situation that you went through or that happened prior to coming to America or one that changed? Like how was oneness was so effective in Africa…whereas in America it is…maybe divided…

D: The mentality, the people…when I say oneness uh…if…if we grew up in the same neighborhood or we grew up…we don’t need to necessarily grow up in the same neighborhood for me to treat you like my own brother…In Africa, I don’t need to know you to give you my last meal. Or i don’t need to know you to give you the shirt off of my back, but that was something that was totally different here…very different.

T: People tend to be very selfish.

D: Selfish…self centered…you know, uhm…inconsiderate. It all towards another person…towards the less fortunate. You know, you see someone on the street, you know this person is hungry…why not take out all that you have in your wallet. why not give him your twenty bucks, yeah. And or take out ten and say, “hey take this, go buy some food, and here you go.” What about a shirt that you’re not wearing anymore, or you know, some stuff that you don’t make use of anymore… give to the person and say, “here it is yours.” Why give America– why give and you say your giving and at the end of the year you claim your taxes and claim as though as tax deductible…you know that means you’re not giving freely. you know, I grew up in a culture where for me it was, i can go to a total stranger and ask you if you have not eaten anything and i could…or would even give you my food…give you food to eat as compared to you just come to steal it from me. No, stealing is forbidden. Here i know it is, you know, the reason why people steal is because nobody will give them…nobody is willing to share with them. Nobody is going to ask somebody, “have you eaten?”. Nobody is willing to look at their fellow human being and say, “that this is a human being”

T: would you say that humanity is losing…uhm..

D: humanity is losing face.

T: in America or in the world as a whole?

D: from Africa to America i will say, yes. In America, it is losing its face. they are no longer being our brother’s keeper. that is against to what is supposed to be. Yes, we are diversified, yes we are uh uh culturized…but still even amongst people here…it’s…it’s different. you know you can really tell there’s a big difference and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

T: i agree….I believe that America is very prideful everything is for “me, me, me”…for the better, for my pride in how i do things…and i am an American although i do have ways that are faith based…and related that drive me to be uh an outsider of American society so would you say that, you have been..are…would you say that you’re on the outside looking in? so would you say you have fully assimilated to the American culture, the ways…the beliefs?

D: no…

T: trends, food…

D: no i will say…i wont say i have assimilated with it, i’d say i have taken the best of it…i’ve taken the best of it…that i’m taken the best of it uhm…i speak up against it…i can try…i can try to speak up against it. and hope for the best that people would listen and maybe just try to be you know, be oneness..be you know be what they ought be…not what they think they should because who am i? i am nothing if you have been poor.

T: okay so we talked about that, let’s talk a little bit about your work…how much time do you have?

D: about five minutes…

T: okay let’s talk about your area of work, your career field…so when uhm…what do you do now?

D: okay uh, everything…even right now i’m actually seeing if i can get a job as a security guard. see if I like it..a nonlethal security guard. i have a job interview set up Friday i think…if it comes…well i consider myself a um…an entrepreneur.

T: are there any uhm…anything that you run other than looking for a security job? or was there a particular field that you went into when you first arrived to America?

D: retail.

T: retail.

D: and i loved it.

T: did you face any challenges?

D: uh yes…yes i did…unfortunately where i came from has a history of financial crimes so it was…you know they have a negative history of financial crimes. so, it was …it was kind of hard. it was difficult…try to make people see I am not one of those people…I’m not one of those perpetrators of that kind of crime, I’m a different person…

T: so you see that this was an appearance that society…or businesses saw Africans…

D: yeah…society, went to interviews and they say oh i hear an accent, where are you from? and I’ll tell them I’m African or Nigerian, and there is always this ..this split second look, little twist…or twinkle in the eye…like ooh no

T: so you portray those thoughts to be related to financial issues that Africa has

D: no, it’s not financial issues, in the past my country had some..some uh some people felt it was okay to be involved in financial crime and it really made a very, a not very pleasant look or perspective of my country or my fellow countrymen who were perceived as financial criminals….so it was kind of difficult. but i was lucky enough to get a job in retail…customer service. and it was something i always liked, and what i do…i do act as a consultant for businesses or startup. consultant/research analyst to help them research and help them find…you know they have an idea but they don’t know how to go up on it…or look and see what they have to say about what they want and what they think their goals are and i try to be frontal as to what is achievable because it is one to know one’s achievements but another to know what to achieve.




Impact of Immigration on a First Generation Immigrant


Impact of Immigration on a First Generation Immigrant

by Fiona Fong, January 2016

Home is one’s birthplace, formalized by memory. Home to billions of people is China. The Chinese civilization is the world’s oldest and today its largest. China is home to more than fifty distinct ethnics groups and a wide range of traditional lifestyles, often in close partnership with nature. China is home to the world’s largest mountains, vast deserts ranging from the searing hot to the mind-numbing cold. China is known not only for its beauty but also for its immense social and environmental problems. China has an unfair distribution of wealth that has caused poverty, social outcasts, and civil unrest. People move to other countries for many reasons, but for undocumented migrants it is usually because they need to escape from poverty, natural disasters, violence, armed conflict or persecution. My grandfather, Moon Fong, is one of the many people who have immigrated from China to America, where it is more accommodating to his standard of living. Moon’s decision to move to America was provoked by the suppression of speech, which the Chinese government enforced, and the opportunity for economic security, which he now feels was worth leaving his family for.

Moon, an immigrant from Taishan, was exiled from his home on the year of 1951 at the age of twenty-nine. He was forced to leave his family and move to America because he had bad-mouthed the government during a meeting. Moon illegally immigrated to America by filing documents with his auntie’s friend as his fake father. Moon obtained valid documentation to come to America but wasn’t immediately released until the Angel Island Detention Center permitted him to be. In America, he worked as a janitor at a hotel and as a produce transporter for Safeway; he made just enough money to send to his family in China and saved a little to spend on himself. When Moon was separated from his family, he met a Caucasian man named John Smith in the U.S. who forever impacted his life on the night of Thanksgiving. Through John’s help, after around fifteen years of living in America, Moon was able to learn English and bring his family over to America through The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, which established a new immigration policy based on reuniting immigrant families. After Moon’s ninety-three years of living in America, he has finally been able to share his story of coming to America with his granddaughter, Fiona.

I, Fiona Fong, have had the honor of interviewing my grandpa through my English 96-1A class at City College of San Francisco, facilitated by Professor Mayers. If I had not taken this class, I might have never fully gotten to know my grandpa’s story. Throughout the semester, we analyzed excerpts of oral histories published by Voice of Witness, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to make the unheard voices of individuals heard. In our class, we read insightful books that show different viewpoints about immigration. They Take Our Jobs!: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration, by Aviva Chomsky, covers how immigration plays a part in the economy, the law, race and government policies. Underground America, the third book in the Voice of Witness series, presents individual oral histories of men and women struggling to sculpt lives for themselves in the U.S. For our last project of the semester, each student will interview one person who has experienced moving from one place to another. The significance of our fourth and last project is to introduce a more intimate and realistic perspective of immigration by asking questions and evaluating our interviewee across a table, face to face, with only a recorder between us.

Moon’s choice of words caused his exile from Taishan, China; he believes that illegally coming to America was worth carrying out because he has found his freedom of expression even if he had missed the occasion of seeing his family for fifteen years. Freedom of expression was a political factor that drew Moon to America for the benefit of himself and his family. During a meeting, he pondered on a thought and shared it with the group. Moon said, “There has been a huge increase in population.” “Should we immigrate to America?” In this statement, Moon realizes that China’s system of government cannot comprehend the increase of population effectively. His family and village were starving. He was indicating that America was more capable than China in handling the issues of overpopulation. China is increasingly responsive to special interests and not to the public interest. The government eventually found out what Moon had shared. The next day, government officials came to Moon’s house with intentions of arresting him and forcing him to take back what he said about the government. “In China, you aren’t allowed to say whatever you like.” Moon had to filter what his true feelings were for the sake of the government. He was threatened the moment he expressed his true feelings. He felt he couldn’t benefit from the government’s views, which enhanced his longing to go to America—the land of the free.

Moon’s aunt was able to convince her American friend to acknowledge Moon as his son so Moon could come to America. Moon and his imitation father underwent a trial with a jury. Throughout the trial, the judge asked Moon’s fake father questions like, “How old is your son? What is your son’s favorite food?” To Moon, the judge asked what was in front of his father’s house. “What kind of tree is outside of your house? “What is in front of your doorstep?” The judge asked the same questions and if both of them did not answer correctly, Moon would have never been able to stay in America. During the interview, he said, “The reason why I came to America was because America protects the freedom of speech and this right belongs to everyone in America. You can even bad mouth the president. So that is why I came to America.” America was the place for Moon where he knew he didn’t have to refrain from voicing his true feelings. Moon was attracted to America more than China because America protected his rights as a human that China oppressed.

After successfully obtaining the proper documents to come to America, Moon left his family in China for fifteen years and worked two jobs, a sacrifice he now feels was worth regaining his family. Angel Island was an immigration station where immigrants entering the United States were detained and interrogated. “By the time I arrived in San Francisco, California, I was not immediately released from the custody of the Angel Island Immigration Detention Center.” The detention center did not permit any immigrant to leave the island until they had gone through proper the procedures of being “decontaminated.” The only two jobs Moon ever worked in America was as a janitor at a hotel and a produce transporter for Safeway. He made just enough money to send money back to his family in China and pay his own bills in America. Until his day, he has been working and sending money back to China. “During the time when I was not a citizen, I felt really lonely. I came to America all alone. My family was all in China. My wife, my son that was 13 years old and my 14-year-old daughter were in Hong Kong. Because of the fact that I wasn’t a citizen, I couldn’t bring my wife and my two children, Anton and Helen, at the time. ” Coming to America came with consequences, Moon came to earn more money in America and gave up his time with his family in exchange. Family was the reason why he moved to America but his support from his family wasn’t reachable. He had Newton, his third child at the age of 50. His fifteen years of separation from his family caused a 30-year gap between Helen and Newton. “ I have missed the chance to be there to witness the peak of my children’s growth. When I saw my wife when she arrived to America, I noticed signs of aging on her features. These fifteen years without my family was very hard to bear.” This shows that his opportunity of coming America came with a price. To earn more money and human rights, Moon left everything in China. Moon felt that obtaining proper documents to come to America and working two jobs was a sacrifice that was worth enduring for his family.

The article “Assessing Immigrant Assimilation: New Empirical and Theoretical Challenges,” by Mary C. Waters and Tomás R. Jiménez, was published in the Annual Review of Sociology in 2005. The contributing authors are professors at Harvard University’s Department of Sociology. The research article focuses primarily on how immigrant assimilation is changing. Waters and Jiménez examine the change in immigrant assimilation through quantitative studies using four indicators of assimilation: “socioeconomic status, language assimilation, geography of immigrant settlement to measure immigrant assimilation.” The many experiences of European Immigrants during the Great Depression and the restrictive laws of the 1920s created historical geological movement as an independent variable predicting the degree of assimilation. Waters was able to analyze immigration through political and economic lenses. Through political and economic forces, Waters and Jiménez were able to measure migration and support Moon’s actions of moving to America to become economically stable. Through this article Mary C. Waters and Tomás R. Jiménez dissected immigration looking at immigrants’ socioeconomic status, language assimilation and the geography of settlement to measure immigrant assimilation, which also shows that Moon’s decision to come into America mirrors those of many.

On the night of Thanksgiving, Moon was expecting to spend the evening alone, for his family was in China, but he spent it with John Smith, the man who finally gave my grandfather the ability to bring his wife and two children to America, to learn English as his second language and to believe that migrating to America was worth it. Living in Chinatown helped him endure his sense of loneliness. Chinatown was a little taste of home he found in America. “Well, living near Chinatown made me feel like the aspect of China was present: fumes of lit cigarettes and buckets of stale water thrown out of fish markets.” Moon’s description of his sense of smelling and seeing showed that the Chinese culture and customs in San Francisco’s Chinatown weren’t that different from China’s. Even though he was away from home, San Francisco Chinatown gave him a piece of home he longed for. The year he came to America he expected to spend Thanksgiving alone. On the night of Thanksgiving, my grandpa was sitting in his dimly lit apartment alone with tears dripping down his face. He heard a knock on the door; he quickly wiped his tears and opened the door. Standing outside was his friend, John Smith. “Would you like to come and live upstairs with me?” John asked. From that day on, Moon promised himself to never isolate himself to the verge of tears. John provided the sense of family that Moon had longed for in America. John saw the ethic of hard work in my grandpa. John never asked my grandpa to pay for the monthly rent for the apartment they shared together. One night, John noticed that if Moon was able to speak English, it would help alleviate an anxiety that Moon experienced in America. John said, “You don’t know English. I will teach you English.” By helping Moon diminish the language barrier, John was able to give him a sense of belonging in America. After mastering English, Moon as able to apply for citizenship for himself and his family. From the night of that one Thanksgiving, John was able to help Moon feel it was worth it to come to America by helping my grandpa overcome his language barrier, his habitual living conditions and his longing for his family and become a citizen of the U.S.

Moon’s decision to move to America was provoked by the suppression of speech that the Chinese government enforced. Although he missed being a part of his children’s childhood, he believes immigrating to America was worth it because he has found his freedom of expression; moreover, it was here he met the man he feels forever indebted to for helping him learn English as his second language, reunite with his family in America, and achieve economic security.

Works Cited

Foner, Nancy. “The Immigrant Family: Cultural Legacies and Cultural Changes”. International Migration Review 31.4 (1997): 961–974. Web.

Waters, Mary C., and Tomás R. Jiménez. “Assessing Immigrant Assimilation: New Empirical and Theoretical Challenges”. Annual Review of Sociology 31 (2005): 105–125. Web.


Sample Transcripts

Fiona: What is your name?

Sarah: I will be translating for Mr.Fong. My name is Sarah.

Fiona: How old are you?

Moon: I am 93 years old.

Fiona: What country did you immigrate from to America?

Moon: I immigrated from Taishan, China.

Fiona:Do you currently live in The U.S?

Moon: I currently live in San Francisco , California.

Fiona: Did you immigrate during a historic event?

Moon:Yes, I did immigrate during a historic event. There wasn’t any food to eat.

Fiona: Why did you leave Taishan?

Moon: I was forced to leave because I had spoken against the government. In China, you aren’t allowed to say whatever you like.

Fiona: What did you say that caused the government to exile you from Taishan?

Moon:When I outspokenly said. “There are too many people the population. Do you think we should immigrate?” And the people began to think I was rebelling against the government.

Fiona: How did they force you to leave?

Moon: The government said they were going to catch me and imprison me if I didn’t take back what I had said.

Fiona: Is there a reason why you chose America as your asylum?

Moon:Yes, the reason why I came to America was because America believe in the freedom of speech and this right belongs to everyone in America. You can even bad mouth the president. So that is why I came to America.

Fiona: Did you come to America illegally?

Moon: Yes, there was no choice.

Fiona: How did you come to America?

Moon: My father’s sister knew someone from America who was willing to sign papers as my father so that I can come to America. We began to recognize each other as father and son only on the paperwork.

Fiona: Was it a long process to get into America?

Moon: Yes, I couldn’t have immediately gone to America after the paperworks were processed. When I came to America I was imprisoned on Angel Island. They kept us immigrants on Angel Island because they believed that we were contaminated with germs and diseases. The Imprisoners disrespected and invaded my privacy.

Fiona: May you please specify on what happened during your process of coming over to America?

Moon: In order for me to come to America I had to go through a trial before a judge. The trial involved the judge, my father and I. But the judge individually interviewed me and then my father. Throughout the trial the judge asked my fake father questions like, “How old is your son? What was my favorite food? And as for me, judged asked what was in front of the house. “What kind of tree was outside your house?”” What was in front of your doorstep?” The judge asked the same questions and if both of us did not answer correctly then I wouldn’t have been able to come over to America. That’s what before we went to see the jury we prepared ahead of time for the questions he was going to ask. And our objective was to answer the questions or I couldn’t have come to America.

Fiona: Did you pass the first trial?

Moon: Yes I did pass.

Fiona: In America, what struggles did you go through that the citizens wouldn’t have?

Moon: During the time when I was not a citizen, I felt really lonely. I came to America all alone. My family were all in China. My wife, son that was 13 years old and my 14 year old daughter were in Hong Kong. The fact that I wasn’t a citizen, I couldn’t bring my wife and my two children at the time.

Fiona: What jobs did you work in America?

Moon: I had to work two jobs so I can send money back to China and pay off the rent in America. I was working at Safeway as service clerk and a janitor at a hotel. If I didn’t work both jobs I wouldn’t have been able to support my family and myself.

Fiona: Did you family eventually come over to America? If yes()ask how long

Moon: It took 20 years to bring my wife and two children to the U.S. When I left China my children were still around 10 years old. By the time they came to America, my children were already 30.

Fiona: What complications had the missing time period of 20 years with your family affect you in what ways?

Moon: I have missed the chance to be there to witness the peak of my children’s growth. When I saw my wife when she arrived to America, I had noticed signs of aging on her features. These 20 years without my family was very hard to bear and heartbreaking. Because I couldn’t see my lover. But without these experiences I wouldn’t have met the man I am greatly in debt to.

Fiona: Did this man help you cope with the feelings of immigration and loneliness?

Moon: This caucasian man is older than by 20 years. The man knew that My whole family was in Hong Kong. Thanksgiving was the hardest night for me to go through. Thanksgiving is the time to gather with family members and have a meal. On the night of Thanksgiving I was all alone in my room crying and missing my family. The caucasian man came down to invite upstairs to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. I will never forgive those words he said that made me forever in debt to him. He said to me, ”You don’t know English. I will teach you English. “He shared the comfort of his home to me. He never asked me to pay for rent. He also helped me send money over to my family. He is the biggest contributor to all my success in life. Now every Thanksgiving after the one the caucasian man invited me to, I do not eat alone anymore. I have someone to spend it with now.

Fiona: So that answers the questions: What struggle did you face that a citizen wouldn’t have? As in he wasn’t able to see his family and the other question, which was How did you assimilate to the customs and culture of America? So because of that man, grandpa was able to learn english and able to mediate some of the stress he had.

Moon: Thinking back to those experiences it’s really hard to think of without feeling sad.

Fiona: What did you experience in China that you did not experience in America?

Moon: The Statue of Liberty is a symbol I would represents America the place of freedom where you wouldn’t be under arrested for bad mouthing the government or political figures.

Fiona: How did you bring your wife over?

Moon: After twenty years of waiting, I was able to bring her to America because of the Democratic party. The president during that time signed a bill that granted immigrants citizenship if they admitted to being undocumented.

Fiona: How did the political experience affect you?

Moon: Through this experience, I will be forever rooting for the democrats. If it wasn’t for democrats, I would have never seen my family again.

Fiona: Are you or were you limited to health care?

Moon: I am currently with CCHP because I do not qualify for a white card. Because I am considered middle class I, a 93-year old man have to paying around $300 dollars for simple medications such as eye drops, ear drops, vitamins and cough syrup. Whereas a person with a white card doesn’t have to pay a penny.

Fiona: Did you move to other countries?

Moon: No, I really like America?

Fiona: If you could sum up one reason why you like America what would that be?

Moon: The freedom of speech that is exhibited throughout America.

Fiona: What perspective of immigration have changed or remained the same?

Moon: Back then, if you were a real citizen, you can document your family as citizens within half a year. Now, the process is even more extensive. Another perspective of immigration that has changed is that back then you can become a citizen if your sibling was but now the reforms have changed.

Fiona: Why do you think Immigration in America changed?

Moon: Immigration in America changed because of the increased levels of poverty and immigrants.

Fiona: What kind of culture and traditions that still stuck to you from China?

Moon: Well living near Chinatown made me feel like the aspect of China was present; fumes of lit cigarettes and buckets of stale water thrown out of fish markets.

How much did you pay for rent?

who was john smith

in a way did you pay him back?

Fiona: Thank Moon for sharing your story.

Moon: You are welcome.

The First Japanese Immigrants to America


The First Japanese Immigrants to America: A Story of the Lost Samurais in California

by Sean Yoshikawa, January 2016

The early history of Japanese immigrants in the United States is above all, a history of a racial minority struggling to survive in a hostile land prevailed with white supremacy concept.  (Ichioka 1) However, the account of the first official Japanese immigration to the U.S. is quite unique compared to the standard immigration patterns from Europe or from any other parts of Asia, which were dominated by common people (Daniel 12). In fact, those first Japanese immigrants to America were ex-Samurai warriors who were equivalent to the knights of medieval Europe (Reischaur 129). In 1869, they came to the American mainland and established a short-lived agricultural colony in California (Daniels 250). Considering their short stay compared to the massive amount of Chinese mining laborers in the same area, their existence and its details have been unrecognized and hidden in the shadow of American immigration history today.  By tracing some of the valuable information preserved in both English and Japanese texts, this research paper explores and discusses the details of this first immigration event in Japanese and American immigration histories. Additionally, this essay shares a story of a young Japanese woman named Ito, Okei , who came along with this historical immigration, eventually became the first Japanese individual to die and to be buried in this foreign land (See appendix).

The main motive for their emigration starts and goes back to 1853 when an American Navy Commodore, Mathew Calbraith Perry and his fleets of steam-warships came to Japan, forced the Japanese government to open up its ports to Western nations, and demanded to enter into trade agreements called the “Treaty of Kanagawa” in the following year. This unexpected sudden event marked the end of the isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate, and resulted in the emergence of the Meiji Restoration that allowed a Japanese emperor to regain absolute power. (Reischauer 228-230)  At the same time, this political transition caused sporadic civil war between the ruling emperor and the various samurai lords along with the uncountable numbers of samurai warriors all over Japan. Consequently, samurai warriors and their families of Aizu Wakamatsu who devotedly served the Lord of Aizu were forced to leave their homeland and became political refugees. In the middle of turmoil, there was John Henry Schnell of Dutch extraction and German arm-dealer who supplied fire arms and also was a military advisor to the Lord of Aizu during the revolution: Japanese name; Buhyoue Hiramatsu (O’Brien & Fujita 10).

After Aizu’s defeat, Schnell came up with a plan for relocation of those refugees to the New World called America. His initial plan was first to bring three disgruntled samurais and their families, along with himself, a doctor, his Japanese wife, their two daughters, and a nursemaid, which made up a total of twenty one people. Afterwards, he planned to bring forty families, and lastly eighty families. This would total four hundred colonial members, who would produce high quality silk products and tea. Schnell named the place “Wakamatu Tea and Silk Farm Colony,” and what is nowadays called Gold Hill, California (Herman 2) (Japan-US Encounters Website 1) (Takaki 43)

Gold Hill where they established their colony is located at an elevation of 1621 feet, in El Dorado County, California. From San Francisco, it is about on hundred fifty miles away and takes about three hours to get there by car today. Gold Hill is historically well-famous for the site of the first discoveries of quartz gold by James Marshal in 1848 that led to the Gold Rush. By March 1851, there were one hundred fifty buildings in the area, including hotels, saloons, stores, and even the first school.  However, it “pinched out” by 1864 and mines were closed, thousands of people had moved to Grass Valley and neighboring area, and only farmers and a small Chinese settlement remained in the area. (El Dorado 8-9)

On the 30th of April, 1869, the first batch of Japanese immigrants left Yokohama, Japan for the New World by an American Oceanic mail steamer called “China.”  After twenty-two days at sea, they arrived in San Francisco on the 20th of May. Following a search within the central Sierra Nevada foothills by placing an advertisement on the newspaper Daily Alta California, they purchased the one hundred sixty acre of vineyard for five thousand dollars, which included orchard trees, more than thirty thousand grape vines, vast grain field, brick houses with furniture, barns, wine cellars, agricultural equipment, horse-drawn buggies, cattle such as horses, cows, pigs, and chickens. They settled in. (Herman 2) After all, they spent over two weeks in San Francisco before moving into the farm. By encountering diversity of ethnicity and the Western culture shocks, their temporal stay in San Francisco must have been the most exciting moments with full of prospective and hopes then. (Daily Alta California)

Their arrival in California was sensational. Daily Alta California had newspaper coverage for the arrival of a new industry as a brand-new business opportunity from the Far East, which attracted American businessmen who were eager to invest in a pioneering industry.  According to the article from the newspaper, their arrival was, in a way, considered to be more a “delegation” than an “immigration.” Obviously, the details of their arrival and intention suggest that Schell was interviewed by journalists and Schell fairly represented their project well. The newspaper correspondent wrote: “They were not slaves but are free-men, and are sophisticated people. They shall respect and accept our laws and regulations. Therefore, we shall not treat them as Chinese.”  As a matter of fact, there already were more than 100,000 Chinese on American soil at that time which caused racial hysteria all over California. However, most importantly, unlike Chinese immigrants, Schell and his entourage came with their families, brought their fund to make investment, and had definitive purpose and plan to establish their self-sustainable community. These facts made a distinctive difference from Chinese sojourners and immigrants. Moreover, after their arrival, the newspaper Daily Alta California continued scooping their progress for their articles, which still provides us the details of Wakamatsu colony today (Daily Alta California).

As soon as they settled in Gold Hill, they wasted no time in establishing their colony. They brought with them thousands of tea plants, mulberry trees, silk worms and other traditional crops to start a tea and silk operation. The Wakamatsu colonists successfully displayed silk cocoons, tea and oil plants at the 1869 California State Agricultural Fair in Sacrament and at the 1870 Horticultural Fair in San Francisco. For their future expansion, Schnell also purchased an additional farm in the town of Auburn for one thousand and eight hundred dollars (El Dorado 7).

However, one and a half years later, in the summer of 1870, they suffered from a drought problem, and to make it worse, their misjudgment led them to use irrigation water containing iron and sulfurs from the old gold mines critically damaging most of their plants and crops. It was devastating. In the beginning they experienced much success but this drought, irrigation problems, and disinvestment led to the colony’s collapse.  Consequently, the Wakamatsu colony was not economically viable, mainly because the samurai lacked the necessary skills as well as social skills to work the foreign land. Crucially, due to “the prohibition orders of embarkation” for samurai refugees by the imperial government in Japan, the initial planned colonial members who were supposed to chain-migrate did not come to reinforce them. The final blow came when their Lord Matsudaira in Japan was released from captivity by the Japanese government, under the terms that he gives up his wealth and power, which meant the termination of further financial support from Japan. As a result, the colony miserably bankrupted.  Two articles from two newspapers report the details of their predicaments and their final phase of this historical event. (Daily Alta California 1) (Pacific Rural Press 1). 

After two short years of settlement, the colony had disbanded. One by one, colonial members started to leave the colony in search of better pay elsewhere in California.  Evidently, at least three of them found agricultural job opportunities and remained in the area. One of them was Masumizu Kuninosuke; “Kuni” who spoke five languages moved to Coloma and became a farmer and miner. In 1877, He married Carrie Wilson, a woman of African and Native American descent and moved to Sacramento to raise a family. Kuni died at the age of sixty-six in 1915 and was buried in the Colusa cemetery. Notably, his children were interrogated by American officials after the Pearl Harbor incident in 1941. Matsunosuke Sakurai and Keiko Ito were employed by a neighboring farmer of German descent named the Veerkamp family. Matsunosuke’s tomb stone can be found near the Veerkamp family cemetery plot in the pioneer cemetery of Coloma and Okei’s tomb stone still sits within the property of the Wakamatsu colony.  The rest of colonial members went back to Japan and one of them became very successful in the dried fruits business there, which was totally brand new venture business then. Later, the Japanese government ironically sponsored this individual to come back to California to learn further industrial techniques and advanced knowledge of the dried fruits business. Moreover, this person also operated a restaurant business in San Francisco that made him a fortune.  As a consequence, he sent his daughter to the University in California and she became the first female doctor in the Wild West. However, due to gender and racial discriminations, she never found opportunities for her medical practice in America.

Finally, John Henry Schnell with his wife and their daughters were the last people to leave the colony in the summer of 1871. They claimed to return to Japan with the intention of securing funds. But nobody ever heard from them again. As a matter of fact, there are no evidences for their return to Japan at all and no one really knows where they left for. Schnell completely disappeared without further trace, which still remains as the biggest mystery of the Wakamatsu colony even today (Guglieri, Wendy Personal interview. 28 Nov. 2015).

What is left now?  In 1969, as a focal event in the celebration of the centennial year of Japanese immigration to America, Japanese Consul General Seiichi Shima and then Governor Ronald Reagan dedicated a commemorative plaque and memorial garden as the National Register of Historic Landmark No. 815 at the site of the former Wakamatsu Colony, where Gold Trail Union Elementary School is currently located. This school has maintained a 27year sister school friendship with Higashiyama Elementary School in Aizu Wakamatsu. In 2010, the American River Conservancy purchased the land in order to protect the Colony’s extensive natural and cultural history. Today, they lead “Wakamatsu Farm Restoration” that also offers “Volunteer Opportunity for Restoration” and monthly public tours. For more information: www.arconservancy.org (A.R.C.10)

Last but not least, the story of the first Japanese immigration to America was a story of broken hearts and faded dreams. However, the most remarkable facts are that they were well assimilated to American culture by speaking English, wearing Western clothes instead of Kimonos, and adopting local culture and traditions, which made a clear distinction from other Asian immigrants at that time, the Chinese. As a result, they were respectably accepted by local community. Extraordinarily, some Wakamatsu colonists utilized their severe American immigration experience to create the dried fruits industry in Japan, which has proved the resilience and diligence of Japanese immigrants for ever after.


A Story of Okei  Ito:

No Wakamatsu-related story, perhaps, captures the imagination and spirit of the immigrant dream than that of Okei, who embarked from her home country at age 17 and became a nursemaid to Mrs. Schnell and the two Schnell children, Frances and Mary.  She died in 1871 at the age of 19, and is believed to be the first Japanese to die on American soil.  Although very little is known about what eventually happened to the Japanese colonists, Okei-san’s grave site with the marker – “In Memory of Okei, Died 1871, Age 19 Years, a Japanese Girl” – still sits on top of Gold Hill. It is rumored that Okei-san would often go to this area to watch the setting sun and look towards her homeland.   Although Okei-san’s story had long been lost until after World War I, details have slowly emerged about her life. During this time, the grave of Okei-san was quietly maintained by the Veerkamp family and Veerkamp elders told their grandchildren about a “Japanese princess” who had died on the ranch. We now know she was a part of a group of 22 colonists who made the long journey from their home in Aizu Wakamatsu, Japan in the late 1860s to become the first Japanese colonists to settle in America ( Aoyagi-Stom, Caroline 6).


                           Picture of Okei            


The National Register of Historic Landmark No. 815              


The Hallmarks of Japanese Immigrants:

  • Men and women are equally educated at the higher levels compared to other immigrants. This contributed to keep their higher standard of living even under the harsh condition and environment.
  • Especially good at mathematics: which allowed them wisely manage their financial / economic aspects and succeed them in investment. (O’Brien and Fugita 19)
  • They were individually well-disciplined and well organized as a group, which benefitted to manage mutual aid systems.
  • The Japanese Government encouraged them assimilation by speaking English, wearing western attire instead of traditional Kimono, and acculturation by acquiring American education for their new born generation in America.
  • Traditionally, Japanese people were well skilled in agriculture, fishery, and carpentries with long history of development, which are well planned and managed. For example, Japanese farmers carefully chose what kind of crops to grow and sell among other ethnic groups who were already in America. They chose specific varieties of crops that would not compete with others. As a result, it contributed to reduce not only the competition but racial antagonism as well.
  • Social niche: agricultural industry in California; During the rapid expansion of industrial capitalism after the Civil War, non-English speaking immigrants from eastern and southern-European origin, filled the ranks of the unskilled labor force required by American industry and society. (Ichioka2) As a result, what is left is a “social niche,” which implied an opportunity for Japanese immigrants.  In case of western states, it meant the urban service trades, railroad, mining, lumber, and most of all, agriculture and fishing industries.    
  • Technological aspect: irrigation system. Invention of new agricultural tools for efficient productions. As a result, Japanese immigrants advanced the whole agricultural technology in America, and they eventually dominated the agriculture market in California.
  • Intelligence, resilience, and diligence; all of these factors contributed Japanese immigrants to achieve relatively rapid success in America.


Daily Alta California


Sacramento Daily Union


Pacific Rural Press


Image credit: © Courtesy of CDNC, hosted in the University of California Riverside.

Work Cited

American River Conservancy (a.k.a A.R.C) The Wakamatsu Tea & Silk Colony Farm-

America’s First Issei: The Original Japanese Settlers” Coloma, CA American River Conservancy 2014 Print.

Aoyagi-Stom, Caroline “Wakamatsu Colony centennial: 100 years of Japanese in America, 1869-1969” Sacrament, CA Japanese American Citizens’ League. 1969 Print.

Daily Alta California: California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 21, Number

6988 ARRIVAL OF JAPANESE IMMIGRANTS 27 May.1869: 1. Web 4 Dec. 2015

Daily Alta California: California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 21, Number

7087 Editorial Notes 15 August 1869: 1 Web 4 Dec 2015

Daily Alta California: California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 23, Number

78100 THE CENSUS OF JAPAN 10 Aug. 1871: 1 Web 4 Dec

Daily Alta California: California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 21, Number

7028 THE JAPANESE SETTLEMENT 16 June 1869:1. Web 4 Dec 2015

Daily Alta California: California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 21, Number

7045 THE JAPANESE COLONY AND TEA CULTURE 3 July 1869:1. Web 4 Dec 2015

Daily Alta California: California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 21, Number

7071 THE JAPANESE COLONY 30 July 1869:1 Web 4 Dec 2015

Daily Alta California: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 21, Number 7156 THE

JAPANESE COLONY 24 Oct. 1869: 1 Web 4 Dec 20015

Daniels, Roger “Coming to America” New York, NY. Harper Perennial Press 2002 Print.

El Dorado County Visitors Authority “El Dorado: Farm Trails and Visitors Guide”

Mountain Democrat Sacramento, CA 2010 Print.

Guglieri, Wendy  / Wakamatu Docent Personal interview, 28 Nov. 2015

Herman, Masako “The Japanese in America 1843- 1973” Dobbs Ferry, NY. Oceana 

  Publications, Inc. 1974 Print.

Japan-US Encounters Website History of Japan-US Relations in the period of late 1700s

and 1900s Sept. 2008: 4 Web Dec 2015

Nichi-BeiTimes Where It All Began 26 April, 2007: 4 Web 4 Dec 2015      

O’Brien, David J and Fugita, Stephen S.  “The Japanese American Experience”

Indianapolis, Indiana. Indiana University Press 1991 Print.

Pacific Rural Press: Digital Newspaper Collection Volume 1, Number 20 Fact About

Irrigation 20 May 1871: 1 Web 4 Dec 2015

Sacramento Daily Union: Digital Newspaper Collection Number 5765 LETTER FROM

PLACERVILLE 18 Sep. 1869:2 Web 4 Dec 2015

Takaki, Ronald “Strangers from A Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans.”

Boston, MA. Little, Brown and Company 1989 Print.

Reischauer, Edwin O “The Japanese” Cambridge, MA. Belkinap Press of Harvard

University Press. 1981 Print.


Home Is Where the Family Is



Home Is Where the Family Is

By Yunxian Tan, December 2015

“To be a Chinese or to be an American?” This question has puzzled most Chinese immigrants in America. It is not a simple question, for behind it is a chain of other questions—how to understand the new meaning of “home” after immigration, how to reidentify oneself, and how to recognize and accept different nations and cultures. For an essay about an immigration story, the final assignment of my English 961A class, I decided to interview a Chinese immigrant, May Tan, who uses her own ways to combine the two different cultures together from the two different worlds, which are the world inside her home in America, where Chinese culture is one hundred percent kept alive, and the other world outside her home in America, where the American culture is wholly presented. As a Chinese woman, May is of medium height and is well-featured. With bright piercing eyes and a clearly cut bob haircut, she shows herself as capable, confident, optimistic and straightforward. May immigrated to the United States in her thirties with her other four brothers and sisters. Unlike other Chinese immigrants who immigrate to the U.S. for a better life, she immigrated to the U.S. to reunite with her family and to broaden her horizons. Compared with other Chinese immigrants’ long and hard immigration procedures, May’s immigration road has been, in her own words, “lucky and smooth.” From the application process to the interview with an immigration officer, May smoothly goes through all the formalities, and this gives her quite a good first impression of America. However, in her past twenty years’ life in the U.S., May has experienced a lot: hope and confusion, freedom and discrimination, and the collision of the American and Chinese cultures. May has persisted through all of these challenges and her persistence rewards her with a happy family reunion and much broader horizons; furthermore, she has also reidentified herself in the U.S. and has refreshed her idea of home: Home is where the family is. Now, May has totally merged with the America public society while staying in her own private Chinese circle, which is a very old and strict system that cannot be broken easily by any force from the outside. She lives to her own goals happily and confidently and has her own lifestyle in the U.S. How has immigration changed her views of what a home is? Having lived here for over two decades, how has she negotiated between the Chinese and American cultures? With these questions, we started our interview in a jolly tone at May’s home with the topic of the purpose and the way of immigration.

Unlike most of the Chinese immigrants, who have difficulties in finding ways to assimilate into western culture and who have limited choices in the matter of immigration, May has luxury of choosing to decide whether and how to immigrate to America. May was born in the city of Guangzhou (Canton), China. As the capital city of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou has long been regarded as the south gate of China, for it is located in the center of the Delta of the Pearl River, nears Hong Kong and Macao, and serves the role as the most important economic and cultural center and the hub of communications in the South of China. Before immigrating, May had spent all her life living, studying and working there. Growing up under the nurture of Chinese traditional culture, May immersed herself in Chinese Martial Arts, studying and practicing Tai Chi (a kind of traditional Chinese shadow boxing) from her early twenties. As the champion of Guangzhou Tai Chi Competition, May had a decent job and a happy life with lots of friends and Tai Chi students in Guangzhou. However, May had been taught since she was a child that, in traditional Chinese culture, a real home is where all the family members live under the same roof to support each other, so when her mother and her elder brother asked her and her other brothers and sisters to come to the U.S. to reunite with them, she readily agreed. In the interview, May mentions that in the immigration rush from the 1970s to the 1980s’ from China to the U.S., for example, in Guangzhou and other cities in the Delta of the Pearl River, most of the Chinese with overseas’ connections all tried their best to go abroad. The United States, especially San Francisco, a place that used to be called “Old Gold Mountain” in China, is described as “a place full of gold, full of opportunities and full of freedom.” Therefore, it has become the top choice immigration destination for Chinese immigrants who really wanted to have a rich and happy life. When I ask May whether she had the thought in mind to have a better life in the U.S. before the immigration, she says:

“For me, immigrating to America and having chance to see the outside world is good, but I don’t have much interest on that. I don’t count on it, or maybe you can say that. I just want to see what the outside world looks like, to open my eyes, to expand my knowledge and fulfill my life experience, that’s it.”

As a traditional Chinese woman who used to be taught to put family as the first priority, and who has had a comfortable life in China, May’s purpose of immigration is quite different from other Chinese immigrants in America.

May says that her main purpose for immigrating to America is to reunite with her family and to broaden her horizon, but she believes that people immigrate to America with many other purposes, for example, to pursue better lives, better education, and freedom. To those people who come from developing countries, America is like a heaven, full of freedom, full of chances, and full of treasure. That’s why people from all over the world are willing to pay whatever it costs to try to find a way to immigrate to America. Then, May tells us a story about her friend and schoolmate Sharan. In order to immigrate into America, Sharan was willing to sacrifice her lifetime happiness for a fake marriage with an American just to give her whole family a chance to immigrate to America and have better lives. May also mentions that, in other cases, people immigrate to America to pursue freedom. As everybody knows, in some developing countries, people are still living with no rights to speak out. Even though they have their own opinions, the governments will not allow them to express themselves, especially in public. For those people who live in countries without liberty of speech, America, as the symbol of freedom, is no doubt their first choice to seek freedom. With regard to the ways of immigration, especially the way of immigrating via fake marriages, May says she is not for it, and not against it, for everyone has the right to choose the way for his or her future life.

Our interview moves on, and I ask May how she immigrated to America. While there are many ways for people to immigrate to America, what May chooses is the most common and general one, family-based immigration. According to data from the American Immigration Council (AIC)’s official website, generally, there are five basic immigration types: family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, refugees and asylees, the diversity visa program, and other forms of humanitarian relief. Besides, the AIC also finds that “Immigration to the United States is based upon the following principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity.” That is why people who want to immigrate to America try their best to find a way out. For those who have family members in the U.S., what they need to do is to follow the family-based immigration process, and wait patiently, as May did. May stated in the interview:

“My application of immigration belongs to the second priority according to America’s immigration law, so that, the process was not as difficult as it is at present. That’s why I just waited two years before I got the visa.”

But not all the people have the luck May has. For those who have no family relations in the U.S., they have to seek other ways, such as paying large amounts of money to intermediate agencies to apply for an employment-based immigration; or paying a large amount of money to people who can arrange them to get married with America citizens or residents in order to apply for family-based immigration, as the case of Sharan; in addition, asking for political protection is also another way to fulfill people’s immigration dreams. If people can prove they have been abused by the government in their counties for political reasons, they may have chance to ask for protection from America, for America is the country that always puts human rights as the first importance. Moreover, crossing the border to come into America without documents is also a way to immigrate to America, even though that is illegal.

Our next topic is May’s difficulties in her early days in America. After arriving in San Francisco, May found her first job at a local Chinese restaurant with the help of her relatives. At the restaurant, May could communicate with her Chinese colleagues very well; however, when she was with the staff from other countries who spoke English or Spanish, she felt totally lost and had no idea what they were talking about. After a few weeks of 24/7 hard work at the restaurant, the original feeling of novelty, smoothness and happiness faded away. In China, May only had a middle school education and could not speak English; therefore, the language problem became the first obstacle in her new life in America. May was worried about her communication with others for she was over thirty and really had much difficulty in learning English. Besides that, as Chinese, she was also worried about being discriminated by others, such as her coworkers from other countries, native English-speaking customers, and even passers-by on the street. The once full confidence and pride in her was by then replaced by worries and confusions. May even began to blur the line between the outside world, “the real America” and the inside world, “the home in America” with Chinese culture standing stably. The pressure on May was so intense that one day when she saw the stars and stripes on the flag, she could not help crying out: “America, would you accept me?” Though facing so many questions and difficulties, May at last found the answer: she would rather actively go and face the new world than passively wait to be accepted by others.

In order to find out the difference between Chinese and American cultures, May makes the brave decision to move out of her home in San Francisco to live alone in Oregon. For May and most Chinese immigrants in America, no matter how long they have lived here, there is a common perplexing question: should Chinese immigrants adapt to the America society and assimilate into the America culture, should they keep staying in their own Chinese circle and maintain the traditional Chinese culture as they used do in China, or both? In May’s opinion, in traditional Chinese culture is a unique system, which has more than a five-thousand-year history in the human world. When one cultural system can be testified by thousands of years and still exists in present day, it must have its shining points and eminent elements. Like May saying in the interview:

“Chinese culture is broad and profound. Nowadays, people or you may say experts from all over the world are showing more and more interested in China’s traditional culture, such as Chinese culture in eating and drinking, traditional Chinese medicine theory, Chinese martial arts, and Chinese painting and calligraphy, etc.”

But at the same time, May also realizes that when one decides to spend a long time or even his/her lifetime in another country, he/she should accept and try to know about the culture, customs, and habits of this country, and try to merge him/herself into the society. As the proverb goes, “Survival of the fittest.” Everyone should find his/her way, try his/her best to be a part of the community where he/she lives. That’s why May decides to move away from her family in Chinatown of San Francisco to go to Oregon alone. What she wants to experience in Oregon is living inside the American circle, so she tries to understand what the American life looks like, and what the true American culture is.

When May starts her life in Oregon, there is no one she can rely on but herself; she lives with an American family, eats American foods, and speaks English all day long, forcing herself to completely dive into the American culture. She rents a room from an American family, and shares the kitchen, dining room and living room with them on the second floor. As she tells me in the interview, her landlord, Mathew, and his family are very kind and nice to her. But the different lifestyles and habits of different cultures make her feel a little bit unaccustomed. Answering my question further of what exactly the difference is, she explains:

“Well, first, the living style is different. I don’t like people to interrupt me during my lunch or dinner time, but they like to talk much and loudly while they are sitting at the table. Then, they like to put a key under the carpet in front of the door in case they forgot to bring the key with them; however, it makes me feel very uncomfortable and unsafely.”

As a cautious person, May is quite uncomfortable in the lax American attitude on safety. Raised on safety in the Chinese traditional education, May will never put a key outside the door; on the contrary, she always double checks whether the door has been well locked before she leaves the house.

“Secondly, the habits of eating and drinking are different. You know, Chinese people like cooking. So, when I cook, I have different ways to make the dishes, such as frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, stewing, simmering, baking, and scalding, etc. But, what they like is raw foods, such as, raw vegetables, even raw meat, which makes me feel a little bit nauseated.”

May says Mathew and his family like her cooking skills and enormously enjoy the foods she shares with them, so, as a reward, they also share their foods with her. May says that at first she did not like American food, but she forces herself to eat it for no matter how the food tastes, it is the true American taste. After living with them for months, she accepts American food and begins to like to cook and enjoy it. That means May’s lifestyle has changed. While putting her legs out of the Chinese circle, she steps into the America society. According to Alberto Grandi in his article “Pizza, rice and kebabs: migration and restaurants,” “Along with language, food is one of the strongest elements of identity binding migrant groups.” Grandi believes that food plays a major role in communication and connection in a migrant community. Just as May mentions, lots of Chinese immigrants here do not accept the western food and are not willing to step into the America society. They tie themselves closely in the Chinese circle, speaking in Chinese, eating in Chinese restaurants, and keeping all the customs that their ancients did to show their loyalty to the Chinese tradition. May says that it is not easy for her to make such a change, to walk out the Chinese circle and step into the America society.

It is hard to mix two different worlds together in one’s life, but May does it and does it well by absorbing the American culture and habits from the public outside world, and meanwhile reserving the traditional Chinese culture and habits for her private inside world. While May is talking about two different worlds, it reminds me of the article “Child of Two Worlds” in Andrew Lam’s book Perfume Dreams. Lam presents his mother’s view of the outside and inside world: “One cannot be both this and that. She sees herself simply as a Vietnamese living in exile” (8). Lam’s mother believes that one cannot have two different worlds at the same time. The question of whether to keep oneself in the inside world in the outside world, if put into May’s story, is whether May should keep herself in the Chinese circle and act as a Chinese, or keep herself in the outside world, adapt to the American circle and society, and act as an American. From her original confusion to her peaceful mentality between the two different cultures, May has spent more than twenty years in America, and has effectively negotiated between the Chinese and America cultures. Since she insists on living in the American circle, May accepts the American culture, follows the rules in America, and communicates with her coworkers in their way; therefore, all the ideas of the western world are not problems to her anymore. In the outside world, she is definitely an American. However, when May goes back to her home in America, and gets together with her family, she can also exercise the traditional Chinese culture pretty well, such as preparing and cooking the Reunion Dinner for the whole family on the eve of the Chinese New Year, visiting her elder brothers and sisters with traditional Chinese gifts at major Chinese festivals, like the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Spring Festival, and the Dragon Boat Festival. This means that her thoughts and actions are still totally Chinese when she goes back to her home and stays with her family. So when she noticed her mom was unhappy because she went to Oregon alone, she decided to go back home to accompany her and to stay with the whole family. From her childhood, May was taught that the most important thing in a family is family members staying together. Though it is not easy for May to mix these two different worlds together and to shift these two entirely different cultures form one to another in her daily life, she does it successfully.

May has been through the transition from one world to another, from one culture to another during her 20-odd years living in the United States. She witnesses that in America, a renowned multi-cultural country and a “melting- pot,” nothing is impossible. From rice, noodles and porridge to hamburgers, hotdogs and fried chips; from shirts, pans, and high-heels to jeans, baseball caps and boots; from the traditional Chinese ways of celebrating the Spring Festival to the purely western ways of celebrating Christmas, May has finally found the balance between the two different worlds. She also believes that, in such a “melting-pot,” lifestyles can be merged, eating and drinking habits can be merged, and different cultures can also be combined. As a Chinese immigrant, May experiences all this merging and combining, and it gives her a more clear view that Chinese immigrants should go outside the Chinese circle and step into the America society, accept the new concept from the outside world, while reserving the traditional Chinese culture for the inside world. In May’s thoughts, facing life bravely, accepting life’s challenges, and trying to be a part of the society can help people achieve their goals in the new living environment easily and successfully. Just as the well-known author Isabel Allende writes in her memoir My Invented Country: a person living in a new environment is similar to a relocated tree:

“The image of those trees from the home of my ancestors often comes to mind when I think of my destiny as an expatriate. It is my fate to wander from place to place, and to adapt to new soils. I believe I will be able to do that because handfuls of Chilean soil are caught in my roots; I carry them with me always” (Allende 30).

Although it seems impossible to live in two different worlds and to shift from one to another so smoothly, May uses her own ways to illustrate that cultures can be combined, worlds can be merged. Being an American Chinese, after all the experience of moving from one country to another, from living with the family to living alone, and then to living with the family together again, it becomes more and more clear to May that no matter where one goes, no matter how long one stays in one place, home is just where the family is.

Works Cited

American Immigration Council. “How the United States Immigration System Works: A Fact Sheet.” immigrationpolicy.org. 16 Oct. 2009. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

Lam, Andrew. “Child of Two Worlds.” Perfume Dreams. Berkeley: Heyday, 2005. Print.

Allende, Isabel. A memoir My Invented Country. New York: Perennial, 2003. Print.

Grandi, Alberto. “Pizza, rice and kebabs: migration and restaurants.” World History Bulletin Spring 2014: 27+. Academic OneFile. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Tan, May. Personal interview. 25 Oct. 2015.

Interview Transcripts

Interview Topic:         May’s Immigration Story

Interviewee:                May Tan

Interviewer:                 Anny Yunxian Tan

Interview Date:           October 25, 2015

Interview Location:     May’s Home


Anny: Hi, this is Anny. Today, I’m going to interview May Tan. Thank you very much, May, to be my interviewee.

May:   You’re welcome.

Anny:  What we are going to talk about is May’s immigration story. And the purpose of this interview is that I am going to write an essay for my English 961A class, which topic is “Home Is Where the Family Is”. I believe that everybody has his/her own life story. People come to the United States from different countries, and I think that everybody’s immigration experience is unique. So, let’s start from this question:

Anny:  May, can you tell me where are you come from?

May:   Yeah, I came from Guangzhou (Canton), China.

Anny:  Are you born in Guangzhou, or you move to Guangzhou afterward?

May:   I was born in Guangzhou, and lived there about 30 years before I come to America.


Anny:  Wow, 30 years is not a short time, right? So, why do you immigrate to America?

May:   Well, I immigrate to America because I wanted to reunite with my family. For my mom and my elder brother are in here, I don’t want the whole family be separated by the sea, and two parts of the family even don’t know how’s other member’s life in the other side. As a family, everybody should live together, right?

Anny:  Yeah, of course. So, you said you were born in Guangzhou, and also grew up in Guangzhou. Then, could you tell me what Guangzhou looked like in your eyes while you were living there.

May:   At that time, en, Guangzhou was in the process of, en, including technique, city construction, living environment, which were in the process of development. But, as the common people, people still lived in the general level, not very rich, but also not really bad. However, everyone in that time were happy, I can say that.

Anny:  Why? Why everybody were happy? They happy for what?

May:   Well, you know, even though people were not rich enough to have whatever they want in that time, en, but you know, the relationship of the family, neighbors, coworkers, or you can say the big environment in the community was good. You know, there were not too much pressures to people, and also, people had not demand too much in their living status, what they wanted was very simple: had a place to stay in during the night time, and had food to eat during the day time, haha~ you know what I mean, right?

Anny:  Yeah, totally got it. That’s just the basically demands for human being to live in the world, and family reunion is the most important thing for some people, let’s say, like you, willing to move no matter how far, or whatever country is to stay together. But in that time, did any friends, neighbors and coworkers around you have any other reasons, or did they have any purposes to move to another country for, en, such like a better life, a better future, and a good opportunity, etc.

May:   En, normally, I didn’t chat with my neighbors about this kind of question. You know, it’s quite complicated and personal, right? For me, the purposes to immigrate, one is for family reunion; another one is that I want to go outside to take a look of this world. Everybody says that the world is big, then, I really want to know how big it is. If I have chance to see what the outside world look likes, it’s good for me in my life, en, it’s a good experience, en… or I should say that, it would be a good turning point in my life. Or, from another view point, en, when you get into another country, when you start your new life in an unknown world, that’s really a kind of challenge. You think so?

Anny:  Yeah, It sure is! Now, I totally understand your purpose of immigration. But how about the people around you? What did they think about your decision to immigrate to America? En, I heard that, in the 1980s, there was an immigration wave in mainland China, especially in southern China. So, did any of your friends or relatives immigrated to another country for chasing the wave?

May:   Oh, yeah. There was really a huge immigration wave in that time. Lots of people wanted to immigrate to another country, you know, especially to America. For me, immigrate to America, have chance to see the outside world is good, but I don’t put much exceptive on that. En, I don’t count on it, or maybe you can say that. I just want to see what the outside world looks like, open my eyes, expand my knowledge and fulfill my life experience, that’s it.

Anny:  Sounds good!

May:   Yeah. But, you know what, lots of my friends, who wanted to immigrate to another country, have their own ideas and purposes. In their eyes, the moon in the outside world is much rounder and brighter than that in China; everything in the outside world is better than that in China. That’s common view for people who were chasing the immigration wave in that time.

Anny:  Really? Well, could you tell me more about that, or do you have any specific stories of your friends in this situation?

May:   Sure! I have a friend, whose name is Sharan. Actually she’s one of my schoolmates. She lived in a family who put all their hopes in the immigration. However, in that time, they don’t have any direct relationships for applying immigration to America, she just has an aunt (her father’s sister) living in New York. So, when she was in her 20th, Sharan’s mother try her best to ask her sister-in-law to find someone in NY to marry with Sharan, then, can bring her to America.

Anny:  What? Just find someone, no matter who he is, no matter how old he is? Even though they had never met before? Then get marry for just having a chance to immigrate to America?

May:   Yeap! Can’t believable, right?

Anny:  absolutely! Can’t imagine!

May:   But, that’s the truth.

Anny:  Then, what’s reaction of Sharan, did she agree with her mother’s arrangement for her future life?

May:   Uh, at the very beginning, she was quite disagree with that. But later, under the pressure of that she was the only one who can bring her whole family to the America, then, she accepted that.

Anny:  Wait, why do you say so? Well, I’m quit confuse of that? I mean, how could she bring her whole family to the United States?

May:   Well, it’s not as complicate as you imagine. Another word, it’s simple to see the route: first, she gets married with an America resident who has the legal identity in America, or it would be better if she can marry with an America citizen.

Anny:  Yes? And then?

May:   Then, she can apply for immigrating to the United States in a short time. I mean, en, what I say it’s a shot time is compared with other immigration types, such as the time that parents apply for their children, and brothers and sisters apply for their siblings, etc.

Anny:  I see… ok, if Sharan married with an America citizen, there’s no doubt that she can apply to immigrate to America for reunion with her husband, but how come her family can move with her?

May:   Nope. Of course her family can’t move with her at the same time. But, think about it. Since she gets a legal identity in America, let’s say, a green card, you know, then she has rights to apply her parents to come to America for family reunion in the coming future; And, if her parents can immigrant to America, let’s say, within five years, then, they can apply for Sharan’s brother to come too.

Anny:  Wow, it looks like an interlocking link.

May:   Yeah, isn’t it? One immigrate benefits a whole family. You know, that’s the way… that’s the way that a whole family can have chance to go outside in that age. You see? So, en, I want to say that people would do whatever they can to send the first one to move outside, then, later, one by one, until the whole family move out of the country.

Anny:  Oh, now I see what you mean. En, but as I know that you’re not in this line, right? You immigrate for family get together, and also for giving yourself more chances to see the world, to accept the challenges from the life, right?

May:   Yeah, of course. My purpose to immigrate is quite simple and clear.

Anny:  Well, do you remember the process of applying for immigration to America? Or I may ask more details, en, like, how long it takes from you apply for the immigration to you finally get the visa?

May:   Well, let me see. En, in that time, I think it was acceptable, as I remember… it just took me about two years.

Anny:  Just two years? Wow, that’s quite fast, I must say.

May:   Yeah, if you compare with nowadays, it is. For that age, it was still not so much people to have chance to apply for immigration. Well, even though, the immigration wave started at that time, but in my case, my mother apply me to immigrate America was belongs to the second priority according to the immigration law, so that, the process is not as difficult as it is in present. That’s why I just waited two years, then got the visa.

Anny:  How did you feel in this two waiting years? Everything went smoothly?

May:   Yeah, I’m quite lucky. In the process of the immigration was going quit smoothly.

Anny:  Do you still remember that the detail of the immigration process? Was it just go through like what it does in nowadays? I mean, starts from your mom summit the applying forms and data to the immigration department, then, you follow…

May:   Wow, it’s been a long time. You know, honestly, I don’t remember all the details right now. Uh, but generally, I think the process of immigration doesn’t change too much, or you can say, it is quiet similar with it in present. What I remember is that, I did not need to do too much paper work in that time, for that mostly were done in the America side, which means, uh, my mom asked for help to a Chinese community organization who are volunteer for helping Chinese people, their folks, to deal with such kind of immigration issues. They are very helpful and enthusiasm; they filled out all the forms for my mom, prepared and checked all the data what immigration department need for my mom. So, there were no more left for me to do in my side.

Anny:  They are so great! What a wonderful organization!

May:   Yeah, they really are! I am so appreciate for their help. You know, without them, I think, my process could not go through so smoothly. I remember that, I did nothing but just waiting for the notification of the immigration interview in Guangzhou US Consulate General in China, and then, took the physical exam and the notarization of no criminal record after we received the interview notification, that’s it.

Anny:  Sounds quite simple. Well, about the interview, that’s part I’m also interested in. Could you tell me more about your immigration interview? Is it hard to communicate with the consular officer? What language did the officer using to talk with you during the interview?

May:   Haha~ it was really interesting. You know what? As I remember, the consular officer was a white lady, and she talked to us with Mandarin, which surprised us quite a bit?

Anny:  Us? What do you mean? You took to interview with other people else?

May:   Oh, yes! I should tell you first. Xixi~ I forgot! My mom apply me and my other four siblings to immigrate to America in the same case.

Anny:  Wow, which means, five of you were in the same immigration case. So, when you got the notification of the immigration interview, five of you came together, to take the interview in the same time, right?

May:   Yes! You are right.

Anny:  Hey, that’s quite a big team, isn’t it? I’m just imagine what it looks like while 5 siblings standing together in an interview window, which designed for maybe just one or two people. It must fun and crowded, right?

May:   Haha~ it sure is. We really had fun during the interview. Especially when the officer saw five of us showed up in front of her, and told her how excited we were for having a chance to reunion with our mom and brother who living in America and we didn’t see for a long time, she was so happy for us.

Anny:  Really? Wow, she’s so nice!

May:   Yeah, she is a very nice officer, I must say that!

Anny:  So, you say that she was very happy for you all, what did she happy for? What questions did she ask you guys during the interview?

May:   Not too many questions she asked. But what I remember clearly is that, she said, “Good, it seems that you guys are the new blood for America society. You are all in the prime of life, so you guys are going to work after you arriving in the United States, right?”

Anny:  Good question! And your answer is?

May:   Well, I said, “Of course we will! We’re going to find a better work as soon as possible, and we also want to go to school to learn more knowledge too.” I also told her that we have confidence to make lives by our own. We will not be the burden to our mom and our brother, also to the society at all, and the fact is that we haven’t go back on our words.

Anny:  Excellent! I’m so proud of you all!

May:   Thank you!

Anny:  So, after the officer got your answer, what did she say?

May:   She was very happy for our answer, and said very loudly to us, “Very good! I hope you guys enjoy your new life in the United States.”

Anny:  Wow, everything was going smoothly, right?

May:   Yeah, you can say that. For the office was really happy that the main purpose that we want to immigrate to America is for family reunion. Before that, I had no idea of that American also put the family as the first place in their life. But in China, especially in the southern China, mostly people think that family is very important in their lives. So, they will do whatever they do to stay with the family. And if the family can stay together, no matter how hard the life is, they can go over it and feel happiness.

Anny:  I agree! That’s a part of Chinese tradition to have all the family members stay together, help each other, care each other, that’s the meaning of what a family is, right?

May:   absolutely! So, when the officer knew that a big family would be reunion in the United States, and all of us willing to work hard, study hard, and make no burden to the family and also to the society, she was really, really happy for that, and I am sure that we gave a good impression to her, as well as she did give a good impression to us and the America during this interview.

Anny:  I think so too! So, let’s go back to your story, when the officer said that words to you guys, was that means she approved your applications and gave you all the visa?

May:   Yeah! She did! After she said that, she sign her name on the form and asked us to pick up our visa in that afternoon.

Anny:  So fast? You can get your visa in the same day of the interview day?

May:   Yeah. It’s normal in that time to get your visa in the afternoon if you have an interview in the morning. But if your interview is in the afternoon, you also can get your visa in the next morning, I mean, if you can pass the interview.

Anny:  I see. Did you pick up your visa by yourselves, or sent by the consulate department?

May:   We picked up the visa by ourselves. For just waiting half day, you know. There’s no need to use snail mail, especially you don’t want to take the risk of losing the visa while in the way of mailing, right?

Anny:  That’s true! But, that’s quite different between this days. As I know, nowadays, people just can get a visa within a week by mail. They don’t have choice to pick up the visa by themselves as well as they don’t have way to chase the process of mailing. What you can do is just wait, wait, and wait; what you need is be patient!

May:   Hahaha~ time changed! You know…

Anny: Yeah, isn’t it? Haha~ so, since you got your visa at the same day of the interview, had there any limits on time to leave your county to move to America?

May:   I am not quite sure about that, for we just moved to America within a month after we got our visas. You know, when I thought about that my mom was lingering for seeing us in the other side of the ocean, I could not wait longer to fly to her. You understand it?

Anny:  Yeah, of course, that kind of feeling is hard to express by words, right?

May:   Exactly! That’s why when we got our visas, we got all the stuffs in Guangzhou done as soon as possible, and packed our packages as simple as we can, then, bought the ticket to fly to America through Hong Kong.

Anny:  Why you guys needed to fly to America through Hong Kong?

May:   Well, firstly, there is the only airport nearby Guangzhou, which has the direct flight to San Francisco, the city where my mom and my brother lived. Secondly, we do have some relatives living in Hong Kong, so we want to visit them before we leave China.

Anny:  How often you guys come to Hong Kong to visit your relatives in that time?

May:   Actually, we never did before that time. For we didn’t have visa to go outside the country in that age, so, normally, it was them who often came back to Guangzhou to visit us instead.

Anny:  What? Outside the country? Are you saying Hong Kong is the outside world, or another country?

May:   Well, you should know that, before 1997, Hong Kong was still the colony of England, people who lived in mainland China needed to apply for a visa if they wanted to go to Hong Kong.

Anny:  Got it. I just suddenly forgot that, xixi~

May:   It’s ok. People sometime forget, haha~

Anny:  Yeah, sometimes. So, was there a good experience to step on the ground of Hong Kong, the so called “outside world” of you guys? Was everything going smoothly in there?

May:   Oh, that experience! I must say that, it was a hard and difficult time for us during our visit in Hong Kong.

Anny:  Hard and difficult? How come?

May:   Well, you know, it was the first time for us to step out of the country, and walk into another world, which we called it the “outside world”. Everything in there was new for us, or I can say that everything in there was quite differents from our own country, which made us feeling uncomfortable.

Anny:  For example?

May:   For example, the traffic direction on the road is totally opposite. In Hong Kong, the traffic rules are following by England system, so, they use left side going up, right side going down, but in China, we have our own system, which use right side going up, and left side going down.

Anny:  Yeah, that’s really completely opposite. Anything else?

May:   Yeah, of course. There were so many sky malls in the city, which gave you a feeling like you were living in a stone forest; and the roads in the city were so narrow and tortuous, up and down, and sudden turn round, which made you totally dizzy if you were sitting in a bus or a car; moreover, the city was so crowded, and people who living there looked so busy, they walked liked they were running… uh, there were many, many things, which made us feel pressure and uncomfortable during the time we were there.

Anny:  Wow, it sounds that you were really had a hard time there. So, how long did you stayed in Hong Kong before you flied to America?

May:   In that time, people who took an international flight from Hong Kong international airport could stay there seven days, after that, you must left. That’s why we felt time was not enough for us in Hong Kong, for we had too much things want to do in there.

Anny:  Like what?

May:   Liked, we wanted to visit some of our relatives; we wanted to sacrifice our grandpa who buried in Hong Kong; we wanted to take a quick look of Hong Kong, etc. All in all, we just felt time was flying, and we still had many, many things want to do, but finally had no time to do. For we needed to step on the way to our destination, America.

Anny:  What you guys felt in that moment while you arrived at the San Francisco international airport? Excited?

May:   Well, kind of, if you ask. But honestly, my brain was suddenly empty at that moment. I just followed my siblings and went to the line for new immigrants, I mean, the custom counter. I knew we need to pass the custom, and signed some documents before we went outside the airport. Because, my mom told me about that through a long-distance phone call before we started our journey.

Anny:  That means you knew what you need to go through when you arrived at the airport, even though you didn’t know the whole thing, but at least, you knew the general process for new immigrant inside the terminal, right?

May:   Yeah, I generally understood what would happened, and what we needed to do before we met our families who were waiting outside the door in the terminal.

Anny:  By the way, when you went through the custom, did you understand what the officer said to you? How you guys communicated with the custom officer?

May:   That’s funny. Actually, we didn’t talked much in front of the custom desk, for we really didn’t know what he said. What we did was just keep smiling to him, and “yeah, yeah, oh, oh…” you know, we just guessed what he asked, and then, responded by facial and body language, haha~

Anny:  What? Was he ok with that?

May:   Yeah, as what I mentioned that I was lucky, I mean, we were lucky. The custom officer was also a nice old man, he knew what new immigrants look like, or maybe he had lots of experience to deal with such cases daily in his position, so after he checked all of our documents, he asked us to sign. For this part, my mom told me several times before head, and asked us to practice our signature months before.

Anny:  What did her said?

May:   She told us, “You guys are better to practice your signature seriously, you can sign in Chinese, and also can sign in Pinyin (Mandarin). But, since you sign your name in the forms in the airport custom, it will show in all of your later legally documents, you cannot change it until you are at the moment to become an America citizen. So, no matter what, just practice you signature as well as you can.”

Anny:  That was a very clearly guidance, and did you guys following by your mom’s direction?

May:   Yeah, of course we did. So, when the officer asked us to sign, we did have a good sign on the form, haha~ After all of us signed, the officer said, “Ok, you can go now, welcome to America.”

Anny:  Yeah! You did it!

May:   Yeah! But when we heard the officer said about that, we felt quite surprise, we looked at each other and thought, “What? That’s it? We are in the America right now?”

Anny:  Hahaha~ for you didn’t expect that would be so easy to pass from the custom, right? You must prepared lots of information for answering questions, which you thought the custom officer would ask you, right?

May:   How did you know that? Hahaha~ yes, that’s what we felt in that moment. You know what, the much funny thing was, when we got to the packages picking area, we saw our families were waving to us outside the glass wall.

Anny:  Wow, I think that must be the very exciting, and emotional moment, when you saw your families waving outside the glass wall, right?

May:   It sure was. All of us were cheering and waving back inside the window, I mean the glass wall. Laughing, just couldn’t stop, haha~ one of our relatives drove to pick us up, my mom, of course, was there, for she was the one who was longing to see us for a long time. For that relative who drove to pick us up also serial years no see, so we really had a good time to get together that night, and of course, to have a wonderful dinner together after we got to our home in here, San Francisco.

Anny: How did you feel your home here? I mean the first impression.

May:   Believe it or not, I didn’t put lots of attention to the “home”, but to my family members, such as, my brother who was the one first settled down in San Francisco, and applied my mom to immigrate to here. I was so happy to see him at that night, because we had not seen each other for more than ten years. So, when we saw each other at the dining room, we just kept chatting, even forgot to eat. Haha~

Anny:  So, it seems that you had a very good first impression to America at that time, right? From the very beginning to the end, all the processes of immigration were going smoothly; you had a happy experience of immigration interview; you met a nice immigration officer; furthermore, you had your mom, your brother, and several relatives in San Francisco who can take care of you since you arrived.

May:   Yeah, I must say that I am very lucky. Everything was so smoothly, which made me a little bit surprise. You see, from the interview, I noticed that all the staffs in the immigration department were so nice; even the officers of the custom in the airport were also very nice to us.

Anny:  Their attitude were good, right? Even though there would be some language battle between you guys and them, but, you could understand what he means, and also he could understand you, right?

May:   Exactly! So, we did have a very happy experience in the process of immigration. However, when I went over the flight sick and time jet a week later; when I looked at the Stars and the Stripes on the flag, I felt myself like in the dream, I also asked myself, “What? That’s it? I am in America now, am I in the dream?” then, I started to think.

Anny:  What did you think? Finally you got to America, finally you could get together with you mom and brother, a family reunion in here, what did you feel? Did you feel hope to your future life or a little bit lost for far from your hometown?

May:   En~~~ It’s hard to say. At that moment, I even didn’t think so deep, like you say, feeling hope to the future, or feeling lost for leaving my hometown. I just felt I had no idea where and how to start my life here. I gave up my life in my hometown, which was no bad and you know, China was on her way to development, everything were going well at that time. I gave up all of my life, my relationships in my hometown to America for family reunion and open my eyes, but I didn’t know how to start, at least, at that moment, a week after I reached here, I had no idea how, so when I saw the Stars and the Stripes, I even asked, “America, will you accept me?” (Emotional, like a lump in the throat). Sorry, I have a little bit emotive.

Anny:  It is ok, I know what you feel! So, any decision did you make after you took time to think about your future?

May:   Yeah, I did have a plan at that time, but not a completed one.

Anny:  What was it?

May:   I decided to find a job first, for I didn’t want to be a burden of my mom and my brother. I need to live on my own. Then, one of my relatives introduced me to work in a Chinese restaurant. More than ten hours per day, six days or even seven days a week working in the restaurant didn’t let me down, oppositely, I worked harder and harder without any complaint, for I had a clearly goal.

Anny:  Wow, more than 10 hours a day, seven days a week, that’s too much, I think. What’s your purpose?

May:   According to my plan, first step was to make money for living. When I got my salary two weeks a time, then, I could pay the rent by myself and had no problem in living. After that, I started to save extra money. I seldom spent money except that was necessary to used. So, several months later after I arrived San Francisco, I had enough money in my pocket, then, I started to travel around, from the western America, to the Eastern America, then, Canada.

Anny:  Wow, work hard, save money for travel, in just few month later. You really have difference thinking with other new immigrants.

May:   Yeah, lots of people, especially my relatives say so. They were so surprise that I spent all my saving money for travelling, some of them even thought I was crazy. You know, in their minds, as a new immigrant, I should work as hard as I could, saved money as much as I could for my better live in the future.

Anny:  Yeah, that’s a common sense. Now, I am quite interested in your motive of travelling America around in such a short time after immigrated to here.

May:   If you still remember one of my aim to immigrate to America is to go outside and see what the outside world likes like, right? So, since I had enough money, why shouldn’t I go around and take a look of this world? I wanted to open my eyes, and knew more about the local people’s life style and customers.

Anny:  You have an open mind, and really want to merge into this society. So, did you travel by yourself?

May:   Nope. I travel with my mom. You know, she had been America for more than ten years before we reunion here, but seldom had chance to go around, for my brother was busying for making more money to support the whole family. All my mom did in the days in America was so hard and boring, but she didn’t say a word, and didn’t ask for anything. (A little bit swallow, emotional) So, when I saved enough money; when I decided to travel around, I brought her to go with me. That’s one of my dream, to go around the world and see what it looks like, and broaden my horizons by travelling. And also, I think my mom deserved to enjoy the life and go outside to see the world too. I wanted to give her a good reward, because she did satisfy for the whole family so much for a long time.

Anny:  You mean, your mom didn’t go anywhere before you brought her out of the city, even though she had been here more than 10 years?

May:   That’s the truth. You know what, most of the senior Chinese here, just kept working every day, the daily routine is very simple: home-work place-home. That’s it, nothing more! Day after day, year after year, they just lived in Chinatown, speak in Taishanese, or Cantonese, until they turn old. That’s why some of this senior Chinese people recognize Oakland Bridge is Golden Gate Bridge.

Anny:  What?

May:   Surprise, ha~ But that’s the truth. For they even didn’t have chance to go closer to see and recognize them. Since they arrived here, most of them would spent 10-15 hours to work in the restaurants, laundries, and clothing factories. They worked very hard. Compared with them, I was quite soft, after few months, I just worked eight hours a day, and then, I spent four hours in study.

Anny:  What classes did you take at that time?

May:   I started from English 50A, the very basic and simple class for new immigrants. Started from ABC, very simple class, but it was not easy for me to learn for it was my first time to take English class formally. However, I told myself, no matter how hard it is, I must finish it, and I must learn as much as I can for I need it to find a better job in my future.

Anny:  So, did you find it? A better job latter.

May:   Yeah, after two years of full time work in the Chinese restaurant and part time study in the CCSF, I finally found my first job working for an English speaking company. And then, two years after that, I jumped into another America company, which is bigger than the former one. From then on, I stepped into the America society step by step, even though that was not the upper class society, ha-ha~

Anny:  Wow, That’s amazing! What a big progress! I am so proud of you!

May:   Thank you! I also proud of myself too, and I feel myself can merge into the America society very well. Ha-ha ~

Anny:  Do you accept the America culture?

May:   Eh~ at the very beginning, honestly, no! I didn’t accept that, and I always made troubles and misunderstood with people too. Thinking back right now, it was so funny. However, for I had learned how to say sorry, excuse me in the school, even though made a mistake or misunderstood, I still could fix it soon and pass that gap quickly.

Anny:  As I know, lots of Chinese immigrants in Chinatown of San Francisco are willing to stay around in the Chinese cycle, which they don’t need to speak English; which they can communicate with each other in their own way and without any misunderstanding, so, most of them will not and also cannot leave the Chinese cycle, and will not accept and even don’t want to know about the America culture, such as, the America life style, social behavior, and custom, etc. What do you think about this?

May:   I think, since someone decide to immigrate to a new country, and he/she is willing to stay there for a life time or a long time, he/she should try his/her best to find out and know their culture as much as he/she can, and try to merge into this society as soon as possible; be a part of them but not always isolate himself/herself from the society.

Anny:  But there’s some saying that Chinese people should not abandon their own traditional culture; even though they are living in other country, they should keep the traditional Chinese culture and expand it more to the outside world. You think so?

May:   I am not saying we should abandon our traditional culture. As the “descendants of the dragon”, I am proud of Chinese traditional culture, and willing to expand it widely as much as I can. That’s why I teach Tai Ji (a kind of traditional Chinese martial art) in here. But, what I want to say is that every countries have their own unique cultures, we should not so extremely in accepting one country’s culture then you must abandon another one. I mean, culture can be combined. We should learn from other’s strong points to offset one’s weakness, right?

Anny:  Totally agree! We should make the best of the both worlds. Yeah, nowadays, lots of foreigners are interested in Chinese traditional culture, such as Martial Arts, Yi Jing, Chinese Painting and   Calligraphy, etc. Many people around the world are learning Chinese too.

May:   Exactly. Chinese culture has thousand years history, it must have its shinning point, which worth to study. But, western culture, say, American Culture, it also has its own shinning point too, which worth Chinese people to learn and study as well. For example, following the setting rules, respecting to everyone but not just the nobles, having chance to speak out and express your idea, etc.

Anny:  You’re right! America is a multi-culture country, we can have chance to know and learn more other cultures in here.

Anny:  By the way, since you immigrated to America, are you just staying in San Francisco without any moving?

May:   At the first ten years, yes! I worked here, studied here, and also lived here with my whole family in San Francisco. But, after that, I made a big decision in my life.

Anny:  Really? What’s that?

May:   I decided to move to Oregon alone. The reason for me to move out from the family is that I want to take more challenge; I want to be more independent; I want to know more and experience the local American life. You know, living with the whole family is happiness.

Anny:  Yeah, always many people around you and give you their hands whatever you want, right?

May:   Yeah, in that time, being taken care by my mom and brothers and sisters, I need to worry about nothing. But, I know, there must be one day that I need to face the world by myself. So, I decided to take this challenge as early as I can, that’s why I made such a decision in that time. I really want to know, what the local American’s life looks like; what would my life turn to be if I leave the Chinese cycle, as well as I leave my whole family.

Anny:  That’s really a big decision, I must say. You’re so brave. Then, how’s your days in Oregon?

May:   Well, I have no idea about there’s a big gap between Chinese and American’s culture unless I rent a room and lived with an American family in Oregon.

Anny:  What’s the biggest difference between the two country’s cultures in your experience?

May:   Well, first, the living style is different. I don’t like people to interrupt me during my lunch or dinner time, but they like to talk much and loudly while they are sitting at the table; they like to put a key under the carpet in front of the door for in case they forgot to bring the key with them outside, which makes me feel very uncomfortable and unsafely. Secondly, the habits of eating and drinking is different. You know, Chinese people like cooking, so when I cook, I have different ways to make the dishes, such as, frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, stewing, simmering, baking, and scalding, etc. But what they like is raw foods, such as, raw vegetables, even raw meats, which makes me feel a little bit nauseated.

Anny:  Yeah, Chinese food is well known in cooking. Do your landlord like you cooking in their home?

May:   Yeah, they are no problem with that. Actually, they are very enjoy when I share my cooking Chinese foods with them. They said, “Yummy, yummy, Chinese food!” Ha-ha~

Anny:  Wow, seems you are a god chief, right?

May:   Ha-ha, not good enough la~. But I am very appreciate of myself, who made a smart decision to learn how to cook, and got a certificate of Chinese and western cooking, which gives me a good chance to work for any kinds of restaurants, not just limited in Chinese cuisine. You know what, when you command a skill that can make you live on, you don’t need to worry too much of your life.

Anny:  I do think so. So, you start your life in Oregon, everything is just depends on yourself, nobody can help you, and you are totally involve a new environment, and experience the American life, how do you feel the Oregon? Have you ever had any experiences of discrimination during your life time?

May:   In California, I must say, there is less race discrimination to Chinese people than in other White people living states. Maybe because there are so many Chinese people living in California. You know, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown in the world. And LA’s Chinatown also well known in the world. So, as a Chinese, you will seldom feel being discriminate in California. But in Oregon, I witness how those local American see the minority people as the second class residents. When they look at you, you can see the sardonic smile on their face. They look down Chinese, and think we are stupid, we are lazy, and we can do nothing big, etc.

Anny:  Why do they have such a thought in Chinese people?

May:   I don’t know. But as I know, Oregon is a state of forestry. There aren’t have so many immigrants living there. So, you may say there is a little bit reservation in there. Anyway, in my case, I would not let them to look me down. I can turn them around in the view of Chinese people, who is not as what they think, like, stupid, uncivilized, weakness, and lazy. I can prof myself as a Chinese, I can do whatever they can do, and even do it better than them, except speaking English. Ha-ha~

Anny:  That’s not a problem, right? For English is their native language, just like, your Chinese absolutely is better than anyone of them, right? As an ESL, you can communicate with the native English speaker without any problem in such a short time since you immigrate to here, you are so great!

May:   Oh~ thank you! You know what, what I am so proud of myself in those days living in Oregon is I am not just turn around what their view on Chinese people, I also bring Chinese traditional culture to them. Chinese culture is broad and profound. Nowadays, people or you may say experts from all over the world are showing more and more interested in China’s traditional culture, such as Chinese culture in eating and drinking, traditional Chinese medicine theory, Chinese martial arts, and Chinese painting and calligraphy, etc. They are so interested and feel amazing of Chinese traditional culture, especially the theory of Yin Yang, which we called it Yi Jing, they called it “the book of change”.

Anny:  Wow, amazing! So, since you far away from your family to Oregon, how long did you go back home during that time?

May:   I had worked and lived in Oregon alone in almost one year. During this time, I flied back to San Francisco frequently, say, like a month a time. Usually, I would take airbus to travel back and fore in the weekend, and the ticket was not so expensive in that time, at lease I could afford it.

Anny:  You enjoy to live there alone?

May:   Yeah, pretty comfortable and enjoy the life there, I must say.

Anny:  Then, why did you move back to San Francisco later? Any pressures there?

May:   Nope. I feel no pressure to live alone in Oregon. All the pressures are come from my family, especially from my mom. She always call me and say that she’s worrying about my safety, and my healthy. If I got sick, there’s nobody can take care of me, she feel so sad that I go so far away from her, which make me upset too. When I think of her, think back what she had done for me and my whole family, now, what she need is the family get together, how could I keep letting her down; how could I so selfish just care about my feeling, my own will? So, after a second thought, I decided to move back to San Francisco to accompany with my mom and reunion with the family again.

Anny:  And that also your purpose to immigrate to America too, right?

May:   Exactly! Through this experience, what I learn is no matter where you go, you can’t just go alone, because your family is always a link of you, which you can’t just put it down; which you will always miss them from your bottom of your heart. So, the conclusion of my experience is that I finally figure out that: home is where the family is!

Anny:  What a conclusion, which full of philosophy! Thank you very much for sharing your story to me! Wish you have a wonderful time with your family here!

May:   Thank you!