Two Homes

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Two Homes

by Vanessa Tso, May 2017

Migration has been happening since life appeared on Earth and the reason is simply to find a better place for living. There are a lot of reasons that people move to other countries and those reasons become their own stories. The American Dream attracts people to America, which creates a country of immigrants with diversity. Most people come to America to seek for freedom and better life opportunities as their home countries might not be able to provide for them. However, one person didn’t come to America to seek a better life or freedom, but instead didn’t want to miss the chance and took it as an adventure. That person is my dad, who simply wanted to have an English learning environment for me. The time of submitting the paper to come to America was long; however, the time for making the decision to move was short. He viewed this as an adventure as he didn’t have any particular expectations, so he simply went with the flow. When he first submitted the paper, it was 21 years ago and there was no reason for him to move as he lived comfortably in Hong Kong. With the idea of deciding later, there appeared reasons for him to move with his family as the opportunity to move America came about. While before realizing that he was eligible he had never thought of moving to America as he had a stable life in Hong Kong, he took the opportunity as an adventure for himself as he wanted to provide an English environment for his family; nevertheless, the experiences that he has faced in America have shaped his two identities as an American and a Hong Kong citizen with two homes.

Hong Kong, a crowded modern city with many sky-high buildings, sounds a lot different than San Francisco and he believed it was his only home due to the love that he had had for Hong Kong during his childhood. Grew up and living in Hong Kong for more than half of his at that point, he considered himself a typical person who came from Hong Kong. As he describes them, Hong Kong people are aggressive, hardworking and adventurous. When I asked about his childhood, he said, “I think I’m lucky. I had enough food, I’m able to get into school and graduated after five years of middle school.” Hong Kong was already industrialized before he was born and this led to the increase of population. In the article “A Tale of Two Cities: Factor Accumulation and Technical Change in Hong Kong and Singapore,” by Alwyn Young, a professor of economics, he did a comparison between the economic growth in Hong Kong and Singapore. He stated, “A mass migration from Mainland China to Hong Kong in the immediate postwar era, which cumulatively raised Hong Kong’s population from 600,000 in 1945 to 2,237,000 by mid-1950” (Young 18). Many people from Mainland China moved to Hong Kong for job opportunities and better life as the economy in China during that time was unstable. Space in Hong Kong was small, and a family of six would have to crowd into a small apartment that was originally for two. Although he lived in a small apartment with his parents and siblings, he never felt uncomfortable or crowded. The educational system followed the British system and taught the English language. His parent was a construction worker and he started helping his parent in his early 20’s. He owned a small business and a home, so life was stable that he couldn’t ask for more.

Migration is always the hardest decision to make, as there is a lot to consider; however, he quickly decided to come for an English environment and saw a great opportunity to move as the economy was going downhill in America. After 14 years, the opportunity to come to America had finally come. After a few discussions with his family, he decided to leave everything behind and came to America along with his family. Although it was a short period to make a life-changing decision, he believed it wouldn’t be “too bad.” It was around 2009, which was the time after the Great Recession. He viewed this as a good chance to move. In the book Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, written by Nobel Prize-wining Joseph E. Stiglitz, an American economist and a professor at Columbia University, he discussed the causes of the Great Recession in 2008 and how it affected America and the world. He stated, “In the Great Recession that began in 2008, millions of people in America and all over the world lost their homes and jobs” (Stiglitz xi). Fortunately, his life in Hong Kong wasn’t affected by the recession, but he viewed this as a chance to move. With the knowledge that the economy is a cycle and the recovery eventually comes, he knew it would be easier for him to invest in his life in America during that time. Yet the main purpose for moving was to provide an English environment for his daughter. He said, “I grew up in a British colony environment and I felt having the English environment is good for my daughter.” The idea of moving to America was to provide an English learning environment for his daughter, which was mindset motivated him to move to America. Since he grew up in a British colony, he realizes the importance of English as he considers it a must-learn language.

Decisions are made in order to take action. He didn’t see a reason for him to move due to his stable life in Hong Kong. When he submitted the application for immigration to America with the help of his younger sister, he didn’t make any plan to move at that moment. He said, “When I did the application, I didn’t make any decision yet.” He had the idea to decide when the immigration department approved his application because he knew it would take a few years for the whole process. The time he submitted the application to obtain a visa mailed to him took “14 years of waiting,” as he said. It was 12 years after he had applied when the US started to process his application and another two years of processing the application, which was a total of 14 years. For the book Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective, by James Hollifield, a Professor of International Political Economy, he did a study on immigration policy in the European Union. He stated, “There is a structural element to employer demand for foreign workers, such as in agriculture, construction, health care, domestic help, and hospitality” (Hollifield 4). This means there are policies to control the flow of the immigrants into the counties. The time that the U.S. Immigration Department started to handle my dad’s application was late 2008, which was around the time of the Great Recession. With the idea of starting a new life, he was ready to accept America as his second home.

As a positive person, he believes any problems can be solved; however, the discrimination that he experienced at his second job made him question himself as American or Chinese. Although he was never discriminated due to his name, Wing, he was discriminated against because of where he was from. There was no problem finding a job in America as he described. In the article “After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gain Jobs; Native Born Lost Jobs,” by Rakesh Kochhar, a former senior economist at Joel Popkin and Co., he shared a report that analyzes the labor market during the Great Recession and how it affected the job rates in America. According to his report, “foreign – born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million” (Kochhar 1) after the Great Recession in the United States. This shows that the demand for foreign workers increased because of cheaper labor as the economy was slowly recovering and this made it easier for him to find a job. The second job that he worked was at a company that is owned by a Chinese-American businessman. The workers were all Chinese and the language was not the problem at all. He thinks the mistreatment that he experienced by his co-workers was based on where he was from. He said, “They were already in a group, which it was hard for me to join in and the uh…” I cut him off and asked, “Did you tried to?” He continued with an unpleasant look: “I think mainly because of the culture that I have as we grew up in a different world, where the cultures are different.” Although his ethnicity is Chinese, the city that he grew up in a British colony was different from Mainland China. The cultures might be similar; however, the differences are quite different as they can led to contradiction. For the book Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America, by Mary C. Waters, an American sociologist and a professor in Harvard University, she conducted research by looking through the immigration status data in the 1800s and 1900s in America, and about the discrimination against Europeans from different parts of Europe. Later, she looked at interviews of people whose descent was from Europe to see what ethnicity they would answer. She stated, “Sometimes I am tempted to just say American when people ask, especially when I think I might be lumped together with people I don’t necessarily consider to be authentically Irish” (Waters, xii). Just like how my dad simply tells others he is an American when asked. After this experience, his identity as a Hong Kong citizen grew stronger as he felt the culture that he knew was unique. On the other hand, he slowly settled down in San Francisco and this made him confident enough to identify himself as an American.

While most immigrants would compare their home countries to America in many different ways from their expectations that they had before the move, my dad doesn’t compare San Francisco and Hong Kong as he considers both are his home. From the crowdedness of Hong Kong to the lack of nice beaches to swim in in San Francisco, as he joked around, he restated, “Right now, I like, uh, San Francisco more than Hong Kong.” Although he spent more than half of his life in Hong Kong, he likes San Francisco more because he has his family, a job and, lastly “choose to live here.” He now considers San Francisco as his home, where his family is here and his life is as comfortable as his life was in Hong Kong. He never thinks of moving back to Hong Kong as he left everything behind and started a new life in San Francisco, so, “San Francisco is my first home and Hong Kong is second.” The time that he scarified and the efforts that he put into the move, made him fall in love with the place that he lives now as he tries his best. If he ever moved back to Hong Kong, he would have to start over again from scratch. It would not be practical for him as the physical and mental demands for moving are beyond imagination.

The American Dream has been attracting people from around the world, as they want to seek a better future. Funny enough, one person, who is my dad, didn’t seek a better life as he couldn’t imagine a much better life than he was having in Hong Kong. Still, he took the opportunity to come to America as an adventure. Before moving to America, he identified himself as Chinese, and Hong Kong was his only home. However, after moving to America he identifies himself as an American and a Hong Kong citizen: both America and Hong Kong are his homes. Most immigrants who have been in America for generations would identify themselves as American as they consider America their home. However, the identity of a person can never be defined, since the topic of identity is debatable. Only the person can define their own identity and their home as there are no model answers for it. Most people would argue that when people move to another country, they should assimilate to the culture and consider that place as their home, so they should identify themselves from there as well. Still, there is one thing to keep in mind, that identity can’t be defined by others and a person can identify with more than one identity. Also, the definitions of home vary since there is not a definite answer to it. Lastly, our identity and our home might not be important to others, but are something that we treasure as we believe in those, which can reflect on who we are.

Work Cited

Hollifield, James. Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. California. Stanford

University Press. 2014. Print.

Kochhar, Rakesh C. “After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gained Jobs; Native Born Lose

Jobs.” Pew Hispanic Center. Washington D.C. October 29, 2010.

Stiglitz, Joseph. Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. New

York. W. W. Norton & Company Inc. 2010. Print.

Tso, Wing. Personal Interview. 9 April. 2017.

Waters, Mary. Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America. London, England. The Regents

of the University of California. 1990. Print.

Young, Alwyn. “A Tale of Two Cities: Factor Accumulation and Technical Change in Hong

Kong and Singapore.”

First 10 min. of the interview – transcript

Where are you from?

I’m from Hong Kong.

Describe that place.

Modern city, there is a modern city, a lot of people there and the population is about 7 million and many sky-high buildings. Anyway a modern city, a big city.

What was it like when you were a child?

When I was a child, Hong Kong was a British colony. We have English subject and also Chinese subject. The educational system followed the British system. At that time, many Hong Kong people, their parents most were from China and at that time, most of their parents were hawkers and construction workers and… my parent are also construction workers.

How was your childhood?

I think I’m lucky, I had enough food, I’m able to get into school and I graduated after five years of middle school. The system is five years of middle school in Hog Kong. Maybe it is equivalence to high school in the US. So yeah, maybe graduated from high school.

When was your first time to America?

Around 20 to 25 years ago… 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to come to the US. That was the time when I participated my younger sister’s wedding ceremony. Oh yeah, attended the wedding ceremony along with the whole family.

What was the first impression?

Actually, we stayed for about… two weeks. (Uhum… mommy was it two weeks?) Yes, two weeks. Not much impression.

Did you have any impression?

I came here… and been to Yosemite but it was during winter time… I didn’t know too well. I have been to Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, but I felt like San Francisco was not much different than now… Yeah… not much different.

When was the whole thing started?

The beginning of the application?

No the first time…

Oh submit the application….

Yeah, when?

Ah, it was 21 years ago.

So it was before I was born

Yeah, my younger sister, who is already a, no when she became a citizen, she helped me to submit the form. This is 20 years ago

You didn’t even know I exist! Yes, I have to wait for 14 years, which the immigration department started to process my application and when the immigration department started to process, we have to wait for two.

Two years?

So the process was like that, so I submit the application it was 20 years ago and i have to wait 14 years, no, after 12 years, the United States became to process my application about two years. So 14 years of waiting.

So 14 years, really?

Yeah, the process has different categories, like parent and daughter would be shorter, brother and sister would be longer.

The wait? So different relationships are different…

Yeah, different relationships have different waiting.

And at that time, why do you…

Oh, at that time why did I take the action?

Yeah, like why you took the action. No, like what made you decide to move

When I was in Hong Kong, I grew up in a British colony environment and I felt having the English environment is good for my daughter.

But I was not even born yet!!

Ohhh, when I did the application, i didn’t make any decision yet. So, i just submit the application. After…

So, it just like the idea of submitting the application and decide later

Yes, when the United States starts to process my application, that will be the time…

That will be the time to start making the decision.

What are the difference between Hong Kong and America?

In America, there more races and in Hong Kong, there are mostly Chinese… Hong Kong is crowded. San Francisco has fresh air, which Hong Kong does not have. San Francisco doesn’t have good beach to swim.

Where do you like more? To live…

Right now, I like uh San Francisco more than Hong Kong.

Why?

I have my job, I have my family… oh no… why?… Because I choose to live here

Do you consider United States as your home?

Yes, because I’m United States citizen.

So…

My family is here

So you consider America your home, how about Hong Kong?

Eh… Hong Kong is my second home.

So America is your first and Hong Kong is your second home.

Yes

Okay, done!

A Journey of a Man Who Has Never Found an Ideal Home

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A Journey of a Man Who Has Never Found an Ideal Home

by Pui Man Stephanie Ho, December 2016

“To leave, or not to leave home?” This question is the major consideration of most immigrants. Home refers to the place where a person is born, the place where a person lives with his/her family, and the place where a person feels that he/she belongs. While living between two worlds, immigrants need to re-conceptualize the idea of identity and home inside their minds as well as acknowledge cultural differences when they step outside into the bigger world. From the research presented in “Where do US immigrants come from, and why?”, which aims at providing historical background of global migration and main reasons for migration from 1971 to 1998, the authors indicate that the source countries Mexico and Canada “form 82.5 percent of all US immigration over the entire period” (Ximena et al. 14). From these statistics, we can see that there are approximately 20,000,000 immigrants migrating to the US within the 28-year-period, just like Jackson Ho. Jackson Ho, an 83-year-old Chinese man who emigrates from Hong Kong to the United States, uses his own ways to integrate two distinct cultures and overcome major obstacles he encounters throughout his journey of life. This oral history project addresses the difficulties Jackson faces during his transition from childhood into adulthood and analyses how they change his sense and definition of home during the transition period between the moment he decides to move and now.

My interviewee, Jackson Ho, is a Chinese immigrant born in 1933 in Jiangmen City, Guangdong Province, China. Jackson experiences his first involuntary migration when he is two years old, due to the fact that he is forced by his family to go to Hong Kong by ferry through Macau, not only to reunite with his extended family, but also to strive for a better future in this international hub. However, the second Sino-Japanese War, which begins in Hong Kong in 1937, ruins Jackson’s childhood and creates a lifelong nightmare for him, which implies that he is born into chaos and suffering. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, and after the transfer of sovereignty in 1947, Jackson already foresees the shortcomings of living in Hong Kong; hence, he starts planning his second migration voluntarily in 1980s. After he arrives in the U.S. in1991, he works as an architectural assistant for ten years, while taking care of his grandchildren in his spare time. Until now, he reunites with his sons and daughters in San Francisco and enjoys his retired life. All the way through Jackson’s stay in the United States, he faces discrimination when his employer pays him less than the average wage, isolation based on language fluency when he works in the architecture company, and cultural clashes when he encounters the majority/minority religious shift of Buddhism; While he persists through all of these challenges, he finds life in the U.S. enjoyable and claims the U.S. is a better home.

While home is a place where a person satisfies his/her physiological needs, like the needs for food, water, and rest, Jackson does not view Hong Kong as his home because he cannot gain access to an adequate amount of resources during the second Sino-Japanese War. The most traumatic and appalling abuse Jackson faces during war period is the infringement upon his right to life. According to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which lays out the rights of every child, regardless of his/her race, religion or abilities, “Every child has the inherent right to life” (Article 6.1); besides, it emphasizes that all children have the right to a life more than physical survival, including a chance of development. Yet the second Sino-Japanese War is intruding on a child’s basic rights by reducing his/her amount of food intake and limiting his/her future potential. Food and other daily necessities are considered luxuries during the second Sin-Japanese War, so the Japanese army implements a quota system to limit the resources available in society. Jackson recalls his plight when he is experiencing food shortages:

“[I] have a large family with many siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, so we had a very hard time to find enough food for all people in the family. My mother told me that although we could be given a certain amount of food. They were usually rice and potatoes with little meat. So sometimes we needed to eat fruits and crops that grow in the field.”

This statement describes how Jackson is struggling in a dilemma between safeguarding his safety and upholding his right to life. If he wants to be safe, he needs to hide inside his family’s grocery store in the city center; if he wants to find extra food in the countryside, he needs to risk his life because he may be killed by the Japanese soldiers. During the second Sino-Japanese War, Jackson realizes his right to life is being violated and his physiological needs are not satisfied in Hong Kong due to the Japanese quota system, so he does not view Hong Kong as his home.

Home is a place where a person feels safe and secure; while Jackson experiences physical and psychological maltreatment under the Japanese army when he is living under continuous bombing in Hong Kong, he cannot consider Hong Kong as his home. During wartime, Jackson’s family needs to flee from their home in Central to their grocery store in Wan Chai so as to avoid attack from the Japanese soldiers. Jackson recalls, “No, I did not see the bombs, but the bombing happened near me. So we needed to find places to hide. I really heard bom, bom, bom!” In the daytime, Jackson and his relatives will sit on the staircases of concrete buildings to avoid being bombing targets; at nighttime, he and his grandmother will hug together and seek protection under the hard wooden bed frame to prevent debris from falling on them. One morning after a series of bombings throughout the night, Jackson wakes up and notices a young man who is covered with blood lying next to him. Although Jackson is not seriously hurt or injured physically, witnessing a human being dead next to him as a child will certainly leave a deep mark in his memory. In the article “Children and war: current understandings and future directions,” Dr. Helene Berman, Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario, examines the long-term physical and emotional disorders of children after witnessing death or murder incidents. She claims, “a small but growing number of investigators have documented the occurrence of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in refugee youth…one survey reported that almost 94% of their sample met the criteria for PTSD” (2). She states that children are easily exposed to PTSD because they have limited cognitive comprehension of the world and have fewer mental skills to cope with the trauma; hence, even teenagers should particularly not experience or witness violence, like torture or murder of relatives during wartime. Luckily, Jackson does not seem to suffer from PTSD after witnessing the death of an individual, but the incident definitely depresses him and leaves a profound imprint on him. Despite the fact that he suffers from sad memories of that time, he is able to say, “I was already used to it, and there was no use for us to fear.” Jackson feels hopeless because there is no way for a child to escape from the harsh conditions under the second Sino-Japanese War. Fear does not help solve any problem. So in order to keep alive, there is no time to fear. Jackson spends most of his childhood running for his life during the second Sino-Japanese War, which leaves him with both physical and mental scars, and does not feel secure living under these conditions; therefore, he thinks that Hong Kong, a place without stability, cannot be his home.

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, while the economy of Hong Kong is starting to surge with the influx of Chinese workers, corruption also plays a role in society throughout 1950s, which makes Jackson think that Hong Kong, without chances of prosperity and success, cannot be his home in his lifetime. In the 1950s, Hong Kong undergoes massive changes politically and socially: for instance, the change of the Superior Court judge, the amendment of The Laws of Hong Kong, and the influx of Chinese labor and the increase in Hong Kong population. The new governmental officials not only change their ways of dealing with social issues, but also abuse their power by giving and receiving bribes. It is obvious that the behavior and policy of the government organizations will directly affect the daily lives of citizens. Jackson recalls, “So if they affect our lives, it is dangerous for us to stay in Hong Kong.” He claims that if Hong Kong is ruled by corrupted officials, citizens will live in misery, and he thinks he is correct looking at the news about the polluted environment and the high cost of living in Hong Kong nowadays. He believes that in a corrupted system, he has not only a limited potential, but also a smaller chance in achieving personal success. Under corrupted government officials, Jackson feels hopeless about his future and believes that his hope cannot blossom and fulfill itself in his homeland; hence, he does not deem Hong Kong his home.

After all the sufferings Jackson faces in Hong Kong, China, he decides to migrate to the United States with his brother’s petition in order to strive for a better future in late 1980s. Jackson believes that he can gain equal access to food and safety, foster hopes of prosperity and success, and avoid human rights abuses in the US. After twelve hours of direct flight from Hong Kong, he feels the breeze of San Francisco, which seems to remind him of his arrival to the Land of Hope once he steps out of the airport. While Jackson starts his life and career in the US, he realizes that he is still suffering from human abuses and discrimination when he receives unequal salary from his coworkers, when he speaks Chinese-accented English with simple vocabularies and when he put his belief in a religion minority; yet in a less intense way compare with his experiences in Hong Kong.

Working as an assistant in an architecture company is the first job Jackson lands when he arrives in the U.S.; however, his manager just takes advantage of his strong work ethic and pays him less than other local workers. America, without the full respect of human rights, changes his sense of home. According to the UDHR, “Everyone, without discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work” (Article, 23.2). When Jackson is working as an assistant, he receives pay that is lower than that of other architect assistants in the same company. He recalls, “Others are receiving around $20 per hour, and I am just getting about $10 per hour. But we are all assistants and we all draw drafts.” He thinks that he earns an unreasonable wage from the company because the company discriminates against his identity as an immigrant. Although Jackson realizes that his right to equal pay is being intruded upon, he is desperate to make money in order to maintain his living and does not know any other methods of finding a better job. Hence, he keeps working for the architecture company for ten years until he retires. Obviously, most U.S. citizens will have some degree of discrimination against immigrants in general, so they tend to take advantage of them by paying a salary that is lower than the average wage, which is an intentional violation of their human rights. Although Jackson receives unequal pay, the salary he receives does not have a great impact on his living conditions because he can still afford his basic necessities like food and rent; thus, his situation actually improves a lot compares with his life in Hong Kongm, when he did not have enough food to eat. Yet he probably thinks that the US is not his ideal home without the total respect of basic human rights.

While Jackson is working for the architecture company, he encounters some degree of language barriers and isolation when he tries to communicate with his coworkers; hence, Jackson thinks that without full acceptance and harmonious relationships America is not his perfect home. In Hong Kong, Jackson has a college degree of architecture, but he is just equipped with a junior level of English, so he barely speaks English and understands English grammar; therefore, this language barrier becomes the first obstacle in his new life in the US. At the architecture company, Jackson can understand his colleagues on architecture-related topics in English without difficulties, but whenever his colleagues try to talk about their daily lives or leisure activities, he feels totally lost and cannot comprehend what they are talking about. Jackson remembers, “Sometimes I cannot fully express what I mean, so I dare not to speak up. Then less and less coworkers talk to me, and I am alone all the time”; this statement describes how Jackson is being alienated and feels depressed due to the fact that he does not know much English and speaks English with heavy Chinese accent, so no one can truly understand him and talk to him in the company as he is the only Chinese in his department. Jackson worries that he will be discriminated against not only by his coworkers, but also by other English-speaking people. Jackson is once full of confidence and a sense of achievement upon arriving to the US, but now this is replaced by feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. In the article “Stress-Associated Poor Health Among Adult Immigrants with a Language Barrier in the United States,” which attempts to examine the stress-associated health status of adult immigrants with a language barrier in the USA, Dr. Hongliu Ding, Commissioner’s Fellow at the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center, and Dr. Hargraves Lee, Research Associate Professor in Family Medicine and Community Health at UMass Medical School, claim, “immigrants with a language barrier were of low socioeconomic status and they reported a higher percentage of unhappiness (32.42% vs. 8.84%), depression (19.29% vs. 6.27%), and anxiety (12.29% vs. 4.04%)” (3). Even when immigration is a personal choice, the processes of immigration and assimilation are very stressful, especially at the beginning of people’s lives as immigrants, like facing difficulties in employment, financial problems, cultural conflicts and lifestyles changes. Obviously, Jackson experiences unhappiness, depression, and anxiety in his first few years of immigration, but luckily he overcomes these emotions and does not let them affect his life as he realizes that life must go on. He still needs to learn English despite the fact that he is in his sixties, so he applies for nighttime college courses determinedly. Even though Jackson can only understand a little English and uses short sentences after learning English for several years, he already believes that “English grants opportunities.” With his limited knowledge in English, he travels to the New York on his own, and this eye-opening experience grants Jackson inspirations for his future plans, which lead to personal success in later years. It is clear that Jackson has a greater chance of prosperity and intellectual growth in the US than in Hong Kong because he has more opportunities to broaden his horizons and learn new things. Although Jackson faces discrimination because of his English speaking-style and usage during the first few years in the US, he later gets the chance to improve his English, which enables him to travel and to look at the world from multiple perspectives; however, he thinks that if everyone can respect others by showing love and acceptance in all aspects, America will be a perfect home for him.

To Jackson, a perfect home should have equality between religious groups, no matter whether it is for major or minor religion. While Jackson is living in the US, he faces discrimination based on his religious belief in Buddhism when he tries to assimilate to society in the 1990s. He trusts that America, with its relatively high degree of freedom, should accept all minorities and treat each religious group equally. Jackson recalls, “Although people discriminated against me because of Buddhism, I will keep my faith in Buddha. Although not much people believe in Buddhism in the US, I will keep my faith in Buddha.” Jackson has a strong faith in Buddhism not only because he believes in the words spoken by Buddha, but also due to the fact that he comes from a traditional Chinese family, which has roots their faith in Buddhism. However, it is common that new immigrants will be persuaded to put their faith in Christ, rather than Buddha, in order to become more Americanized. Some Christian Americans will think that Christ is more powerful, so they may say something that insults the believers of Buddha. Jackson remembers, “When I was buying food at the market, people would laugh at me because a smell of incense was coming out from me”; this incident makes him feel depressed as he thinks that he can never fit in. Dr. Fenggang Yang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern Maine and Dr. Helen Rose Ebaugh, Professor of Sociology at the University of Houston, assert the idea that “religion continues to serve both ethnic reproduction and assimilation functions ” in the study entitled “Religion and Ethnicity Among New Immigrants: The Impact of Majority/Minority Sates in Home and Host Countries,” which aims to examine the changes of immigrants’ religious group throughout their adaptation to US society (2). It is evident that regular religious group meetings and strong religious belief can help new immigrants to assimilate successfully and expand their social circles by providing a social space for them to express opinions and meet new people. Buddhism is the religion of the majority of immigrants living in Hong Kong, but when Jackson moves to the US, it becomes a minority status. While shifts in majority/minority status of religious groups make up a part of the migration process, if immigrants can continue seeking strength in their religion, they can have a greater sense of belonging in the new country. Fortunately, Jackson can overcome the negative feelings of being discriminated against based on his religion and find his own way to assimilate into society, yet he thinks that if everyone can treat each religion equally, he will have a greater sense of belonging in America.

Jackson faces numerous difficulties and abuses to his human rights in Hong Kong, which include physical and psychological maltreatment during the second Sino-Japanese War and serious corruption that begins in the 1980s. Even though Jackson migrates to the US in his sixties in hopes of a better future, he still thinks that America is only a home with improved situations for his physical and psychological needs; the US is not an ideal home. After Jackson moves to the United States, he continues to suffer from discrimination at his workplace due to his language fluency and in society because of his religious belief. While Hong Kong can be considered Jackson’s natural home because he spends his childhood there, the traumatic incidents he experiences definitely leave profound impacts on him physically and psychologically, which do not let him consider Hong Kong as his home. An ideal home is where human rights are respected: sustenance is guaranteed, safety is safeguard, and intellectual growth is promoted. Actually, due to recent rapid development and globalization in the US, the misery of human rights abuses and discrimination based on identity and cultural background have been significantly reduced as people are educated to respect others’ rights. Jackson reflects, “I believe the decision I made back in 1980s was correct and I do not regret even after forty years.” Although he faces obstacles in the first few years of migration, he can see that America has been a great step forward in providing resources to new immigrants and transforming the US as their new ideal homes. So he does not regret his decision of migrating to the US, and he hopes one day the US can become his ideal home.

Works Cited

Berman, H. “Children And War: Current Understandings And Future Directions.” Public Health Nursing 18.4 (2001): 243-252. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

Clark, Ximena, Timothy J. Hatton, and Jeffrey G. Williamson. Where do US immigrants come from, and why?. No. w8998. National bureau of economic research, 2002.

Ding, Hongliu, and Lee Hargraves. “Stress-associated poor health among adult immigrants with a language barrier in the United States.” Journal of immigrant and minority health 11.6 (2009): 446-452.

Ebaugh, Helen Rose. “Religion and the new immigrants.” Handbook of the Sociology of Religion (2003): 225-39.

The United Nations. “Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Treaty Series 1577 (1989): 3. Print.UN General Assembly. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, 217 (III) A, 1948, Paris, art.

 

Sample Transcript

Pui Man Stephanie Ho: Where did you born?

Jackson Ho: Umm, I was born in Xinhui, which is a city district in the City of Jiangmen in the province of Guangdong in China. But actually I considered myself born in Hong Kong; however, I did not have a Hong Kong birth certificate, so I cannot claim that.

SH: So you do not have Hong Kong birth certificate, but you have China birth certificate?

JH: Yes. In the past, most of my family members moved to Hong Kong during the Japan-China War, but my mother and I stayed in Xinhui because she needed to take seniors at her home. My grandparents, father has moved to Hong Kong earlier. When I have the chance to go to Hong Kong, I was about two-year-old and being carried by my mother, arriving Hong Kong by ferry through Macau. This incident was so memorable because during the trip to Hong Kong, my mother told me to be silenced because we are afraid of the Indians who wore head accessories, called “mo luo cha” in Cantonese.

SH: So, it is your own decision to come to the US, but why do you want to come to the US?

JH: Umm, during that time, in the 1980s and I was born in 1933, I realized that Hong Kong needs to return to China in 1997. I grew up in a Hong-Kong-rooted family. At that time, my brother was preparing to immigrant to the US, so he was qualified to bring his siblings to the US. It is not a must for me to immigrant to the US, but based on my sophisticated friends’ and my judgments. I can foresee that the development of HK society will be affected by China because things have changed completely even after Japan’s surrender. From my memory, I can remember many things, even the establishment of The People of Republic in 1949. So with the chance of immigrating to the US, I definitely try to apply. So I already made up my mind to immigrant in 1980s. To exaggerate, I believed the decision I made back in 1980s was correct and not regret even after forty years. The things happened in the 21st century, were actually in my expectations. My family, which had three generations, already starts their lives in the US.

SH: So you start your life in the US in 1980s?

JH: No, I decided to come in 1980s, but arrive in the US in 1991.

SH: So when you arrived in the US, you were approximately sixty years old?

JH: That time, I was around fifty years old

SH: Did you bring any family members with you?

JH: Yes, I brought my daughter, Jessica, with me. Due to the fact that she was seventeen which was under eighteen or twenty-one, she can follow her parents to the US according to the immigration law. However, my other sons, Keith and Frank, cannot immigrate with me in 1990s. But I still apply for their immigration status after I have arrived in the US and have the qualifications to be the applicants. I hope that they can have a chance to come to the US immediately or anytime in their lives. So today, my dreams have come true.

SH: When you decided to come to the US, what would you expect from here?

JH: Personally…umm… You know the seniors in my family had moved to Hong Kong even before the Sino-Japanese War, but that time, Hong Kong did not have much development. I applied to the Hong Kong Technical College after I finished middle school and major in interior design and architecture. With this profession, I knew more people than are more sophisticated and educated than me. And they predicted, if I immigrate to the US, I will have a comfortable life than in HK. Throughout the past 10 years, I have participated in 9 out of 10 famous architecture projects as an architecture assistant. But you ask me why I come to the US and have what kind of plan in my mind, I can answer you. I have no plan in my mind when I come. I think the Chinese living in HK are comparable to the Chinese living in elsewhere, because in HK, we are already exposed to international culture, values and living styles. So when I arrived, I just have one relative in San Francisco. Besides, my relatives in HK has introduced me to a female Chinese designer, who is around 30 year-old and later introduced me to a Chinese architecture company with around twenty employees. And that’s suits me. But the architecture’s style is still different from HK, so I need to join some government subsided vocational courses in order to learn American’s style and the techniques of using computers. Later, some architecture companies seek new employees in our college, and then the principle has introduced some students for the positions, including me. I got the job in EQE which is in charge of preventing earthquake in architecture. Its head quarter is located at the downtown of San Francisco. I worked in EQE for 10 years. However, others are receiving around $20 per hour, and I am just getting about $10 per hour. I drew diagrams by hand and computers. As the job is easier than HK, I do not feel unsure or lost. I also do not think life styles or living in the US is an obstacle because as a HK people, we already exposed to similar situation in HK.

SH: So you did not feel scared or not comfortable?

JH: So I think I am a lucky person. No matter relatives in HK or the US, we both live comfortable lives. (12:33)

JH: I do not think there is a difference between what I expected before coming to the US and after I have arrived here. Everything is smooth. (13:15)

JH: I did not intentionally learn English after I arrived in the US because I already use English as medium when I was working in HK. I know almost all English technical terms about architecture, so it does not contribute to a barrier when I work. Besides, I can listen and speak simple English which is not a major obstacle in my daily life. Yet, sometimes I cannot fully express what I mean, so I dare not to speak up. Then less and less coworkers talk to me and I am alone all the time. But later after I learnt English, I can communicate with Westerners freely, although sometimes I still cannot fully express what I mean. I think westerners here are very friendly, so I am not afraid when I make mistakes in English. English is not a barrier to me. English grants opportunities. With understanding of English, I can travel to New York two times. I admit that my English grammar is poor, but with English vocabularies, I can live in the US without big problems. However, English only applies to my normal social circle, once I stepped outside my comfort zone, I cannot fit in and do not understand what other people are talking about.

(20:46)

SH: Do you think there is a difference between the life style in HK and the US, like eating habit?

JH: Yes. When I just arrived in the US, I am not very used to eating American food every meal. So I mainly just eat Chinese food. Actually in Hong Kong, I was exposed to different many kinds of cuisines, so I have a basic understanding about Western food. In the US, I also have simple American style lunch, like pasta, bagel, bacon, clam chowder and etc. But mostly I would prefer dinner in Chinese style because as a Chinese, I think it is important for us to have rice in our meals.

SH: Have you been influenced by the American culture?

JH: Yes. For example, I have been introduced to pot luck party, western style wedding, and buffet. However I do not understand American opera and drama due to my limitation in English. I can only understand American movies with Chinese subtitles.

(28:44)

(28:56)SH: Did you notice the cultural difference in the US? Like American usually eat slowly? Certain waiters/waitresses are responsible for certain tables? Tips are encouraged after dinning?

JH: I have answered this question before. I think as an immigrant from Hong Kong, I already exposed to western culture. Besides, I know that we need to adjust ourselves in order to fit into the new environment, we need to follow the US customs. For example, if you see a salesperson is talking to anther customers in grocery stores, you will wait in line due to politeness. For example, you will automatically give tips after meals because it is a custom in the US. In Hong Kong, we are used to give service fee at around 10%, but in the US, we need to pay about 10-20%.

(32:02)

SH: How about any differences in religion?

JH: There is of course a difference. At first when I came, people here put their faith in Christ rather than Buddha. This makes me sad because some people even look down on me. Although people discriminated against me because of Buddhism, I will keep my faith in Buddha. Although not much people believe in Buddhism in the US, I will keep my faith in Buddha. Of course in theses few years, the situation improved. But there is one incident I encountered in early years that I can still remember. When I was buying food at the market, people would laugh at me because a smell of incense was coming out from me.

 

(36:00)JH: I can tell how Hong Kong changes from good to bad because I experienced the transformation myself. I have participated in the project of demolishing the old HSBC building and constructing the new building. I am responsible for drawing part of the design. Um…um…The project was in-charged by a British architect. So the design was finished and edited in Britain, then passed to Hong Kong and implemented here. In Hong Kong, our company needed to revise a bit so as to fit the rules here. I took part in projects like the University of Science and Technology, horse racing valley in Shatin, Kowloon Park, and Ocean Park. So you know…uh… Hong Kong has so many main buildings that I have participated in. But suddenly 1997 reached, and many foreigners came to Hong Kong and disturbed our pattern of life. Also, the political structure, in my opinion, would change in the near future. Now, it proved that I have a correct prediction. Talking about the feelings when I returned back to Hong Kong nowadays. I realized that the buildings I took part in were still here, but the buildings that were built later were scattered all around the place without organization. The entrepreneurs know the law well, so they tried to construct buildings as much as they could without considering places for rest area and playground. So the difference is that there are no green leisure areas in Hong Kong anymore. Besides, the country side of Hong Kong is also being commercialized in order to cater the needs of citizens. At that time, I predict that Chinese would just walk from Luowu and Shenzhen to Hong Kong on foot. They have the right to cross the broader, so we could not stop them. But we need to consider the consequences ourselves.

(39:21)JH: The judge has changed, so their ways in dealing with the environment have changed also. I have seen that many people would abuse their power by giving and receiving bribe which contribute to corruption. The behavior and policy of the powerful people would directly affect the daily lives of citizens. So if they affect our lives, is it dangerous for us to stay in Hong Kong. The air maybe polluted, the environment maybe damaged, and the pregnant women needed to be careful when they go out and buy formula milk. But we do not need to face these situations in the past. Maybe we need to compete for water next week despite the fact that the water is polluted. In the near future, the price may increase due to monopoly. So educated people could think of the consequences in the future. So you have a feeling…wow…when you go back to Hong Kong, some people would carry a lot of luggage. They come and visit Hong Kong, so it is no right or wrong for the behavior of shopping. Sometimes they would hurt you with their luggage in crowded environment, but they would not say sorry, instead you need to say sorry to them. I know I am old, so my memory is limited. Although the one who is at the same age as me and also a Hong Konger, not many people can remember as much as I do.

(42:17)JH: In 1947 during the peaceful time after the Sino-Japanese War, you guess how many people are living in Hong Kong. I think at most around a few hundred thousand. Now with population increase to over 1,000,000people, the proportion of survivors of the war is very little. At that time, I was only eight or ten years old. Can you imagine how many people can speak freely and record interviews just like me.

(50:47)JH: Now let’s talk about the Second Sino-Japanese war. At that time, I have a big family with all my uncles and aunties. But my relatives were very smart because they separated our family into small groups then arranged places for us to hide from the Japanese. My grandmother cares me very much, so she hugged me and we both hide under the bed inside our store. Because that time, the bed frame is made from wood, so it is very hard. At the same time, my aunt accompanied me and my cousins and walked them to Lockhart Road in Central because there is no public transport during war time. They went to the concrete buildings and sat on the stairways in order to avoid bomb.

SH: So you see the bomb in person?

JH: No, I did not see the bomb, but the bombing happened near me. So we need to find places to hide. I really heard “bom, bom, bom”. Umm..umm.. ok…My grandmother hugged me and hide under the bed frame as usual. The Japanese soldiers will throw bombs from Kowloon side to Hong Kong side at night. “Weeeeeeee, bom”! But I am already used to it, and there is no use for us to fear. Then the next morning when we woke up, “wow”, we can see a young man. That time, the internal structure of our store is very simple as it was made of wood for most of the parts. The young man died and lay next to us, very near to my shoulder. He is dead and covered with blood. Then the British soldiers came to pick the bodies up at around 11am. OK. Talking about the general days during the war. My aunt brought us to Admiralty during the day and let us sit on the stairways in front of the concrete buildings. My aunt said did not sit on the first two or three steps because the Japanese soldiers could see us up in the sky, and do not sit on the last two or three steps because we would be trapped inside the house if it was bombed. Talking about my mother. The corner on Cochrane Street was surrounded by bricks walls so as to prevent bombing from the Japanese. Umm…one day, my mother walked passed that corner, and heard “bom” from bombing. Luckily she passed it quickly, so she was not hurt by the bomb. But the lady behind her was hurt because of the bomb. Also tell you this thing. My mother needs to go out to buy rice and necessities during war period with quotas. When she came back home, she told us that in Kennedy Town pier a Japanese soldier killed an old man ,who jumped the line for rice, with a gun and pushed the dead body into the sea. So when you are talking about the war. At time, my grandfather was buried in Waterfall Bay, South of Hong Kong Island. Many other people who passed away also buried in that cemetery, so many relatives would come and give a salute. For Chinese customs, we need to burn incents and money for dead people. However, if any Japanese soldiers saw any one who practices the traditional way, they would beat them up until half dead. So Japanese are very bad and I do not like them. Ai…ai… I am really mad at them. I just stood in front of my grandfather’s grave, and the Japanese soldier in suit would spy on you and keep an eye on you. He did not have any facial expressions. I was so sacred. But during Japanese invasion, he has the right to treat you in any way. So I am so lucky that I did not die. Talking about how lucky I am to be alive. (57:42) You know that the Central Police station is in Central and on the corner right opposite to it is a secondary school. I was studying in the primary school organized by the same organization. During summer holiday, no one wish to walk passes the Central Police Station because two Japanese soldiers will guard the door. So people tend to walk another way to reach their destination. If you walk pass them, you need to bow in order to show your respect. If you do not bow, they have the right to beat you up. During summer time with the invasion of Japan, my classroom which I used to learn in was bombed by the Japanese. You know bombs do not have eyes, so they will not care where they bomb. Luckily, I was not at school that time, so I can be safe. After I heard that my school was destroyed by a bomb, I quickly went back and take a look. But all I saw was just debris.

Referring back to the war. When the bombing stopped, my aunt needed to go back to Central. You know that there are railroads in Central. It was normal when I walked from Central to Wanchai before the bombing, but all I could saw were dead bodies lying on the railroad when I walked from Wanchai back to Central after bombing. The dead bodies were just covered by white cloth, and when I needed to walk across the street, I need to walk like I was dancing because the bodies are lying around irregularly. If you do not walk like you were dancing, you would be tripped by the bodies of citizens or soldiers. Some were dead, but some were just badly injured.

SH: So did you saw any people dead in front of you in person?

JH: It was so lucky for me because I have never seen any people died in front of me. But the experiences developed have contributed to a new self, including new personalities and new perspectives to the world.

SH: Is there anything you typically remember from the war?

JH: Ah…I think hunger. I have a large family with many siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, so we had very hard time to find enough food for all people in the family. My mother told me that although we can be given a certain amount of food, they are usually rice and potatoes with little meat. So sometimes we need to eat fruits and crops that grow in the field. I do not like the feelings of hunger, but I do not have a choice.

SH: You experienced three years and eight months of the Japanese war?

JH: Such a good question you have asked. I just experienced two years and eight months of the second Sino-Japanese War. In the last year of the second Sino-Japanese war, my mother noticed that the prices of daily necessities, like rice, are rocketing. For example, rice cost $10 per 10 pound, but during that time the price increases every day. So my mother brought me and her two other children with her and travelled to her hometown in China. Her hometown was just a small village with farmlands. Then we came back to Hong Kong one year after the Japanese government surrender, which is 1946. You know that my mother needed to support the expenses of our family back in her hometown, so she needed to go to work from morning until midnight. So from that time onwards, I was responsible for preparing the dinner for my family, which includes my sister of age 2. Every night after dinner, we would wait for our mother in front of the bus stop with tears on our face. But it is useless for us to cry, so I became more independent and brave.

SH: So you do not fear about the future in the US because your experiences during war time have trained you in a certain way?

JH: Yes. Now I can even drive to Canada myself. But I admit that as I grew older, I have some health issue, like eye problem and sensitive skin. But these are common health problems faced by most senior. I say that as Hong Kong people, we have different degree of adaptation due to our living environment and standard.

 

 

 

Home and Horizon

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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!

 

Myth 13: Today’s Immigrants Are Not Learning English

Myth 13: Today’s Immigrants Are Not Learning English, and Bilingual Education Adds to the Problem

by Chris Plunkett

The notion that “If you live in America you need to speak English” is commonly raised by citizens upset by the influx of immigrants, undocumented and documented alike. With these mass migrations originating in countries the world over, numerous “English-only” initiatives seek to eliminate bilingual education programs for the claimed purpose that immigrants should speak only English in America. This informal movement creates obstacles blocking many immigrants who learn best through bilingual instruction from acquiring English skills. Yet these same Americans critical of bilingual instruction are skeptical as well of these foreigners’ motivation to attend English as a Second Language (ESL) classes or even attempt to learn English at all, revealing apparent anti-immigrant bias. Ignorance among some of the American public allows this xenophobic myth to persist, despite the demonstrated fact that most immigrants strongly desire to learn the English language, most effectively through bilingual instruction, though they are fully aware of the terrific challenges they confront in this learning task.

Although immigrants have long been perceived in stereotypical ways for generations, these new arrivals consistently contradict the common view that “immigrants don’t want to learn English.” The jam-packed ESL classes that foreign immigrants populate as well as long waiting lists to enter these classrooms belie the common belief that immigrants want to remain in their own cocooned ethnic communities. Aviva Chomsky, in her book “They Take Our Jobs!,” details that “92 percent of Hispanics, 87 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 83 percent of non-Hispanic blacks believe that immigrants have to speak English to be a part of American society, and English should be taught to the children of immigrants” (114). Chomsky’s research shows that Hispanic immigrants are committed to the necessity of learning English even more than are white and black nonimmigrants. Perhaps the challenges of life as an immigrant make clear to these new residents the imperative to speak English in order to survive in America in ways that citizens do not commonly appreciate. Long-time Americans may believe that the new arrivals don’t wish to learn English, but this belief is incorrect.

While America is a melting pot comprised of multiple cultures and languages, approximately 80% of its residents are fluent English speakers, helping explain why immigrants wish to speak the language. Yet English-only language instruction hinders optimal progress towards full systematic assimilation. One highly effective approach to teaching English is bilingual classes since many immigrants learn best through reference to their native tongues. The National Association for Bilingual Education states that “a vast number of studies have shown that bilingual education is effective, with children in well-designed programs acquiring academic English at least as well and often better than children in all-English programs” (1). Just as English-speaking Americans are effectively taught foreign languages utilizing English instruction, foreign immigrants to our nation should be given opportunities to learn English in their native languages to maximize learning.

Immigrants who arrive in America at very young ages have much less difficulty picking up English than do their older relatives. Even young teens begin to have more trouble learning their new language. The British Council observed in teaching language to children that “When monolingual children reach puberty and become more self-conscious, their ability to pick up language diminishes” (1). Most first-generation immigrants to America, who are beyond early childhood, experience great difficulty in learning English, and it is typically the second generation born in this country that easily assimilates the language, mastering its subtleties as they grow up immersed in the culture.

However, these highly useful bilingual programs are at risk as critics have characterized them as “modern day segregation.” Although statistics demonstrate the positive results produced through bilingual education, many prominent figures call for the abolition of these programs. U.S. English, Inc., an organization promoting English as the national language, and politician Linda Chavez have both campaigned, along with numerous other groups, to eliminate bilingual classes from all American schools. The legitimacy of their claims are unsupported by research, though they do succeed in persuading many poorly informed Americans that English Only is the best course for our nation. By inundating Americans with “xenophobia and misinformation, the anti-bilingual-education movement has brought both conservatives and liberals into its English-only folds” (Chomsky 116). Proponents of bilingual education, stalwart in their conviction of its necessity in aiding immigrants’ assimilation into American society, continue to struggle against the onslaught of misinformation to convince Americans of these programs’ rightness.

Another basis for popular misconceptions about immigrants speaking foreign tongues has its roots in our nation’s historical migratory trends. Many Americans today mistakenly believe that their countrymen have been continually speaking English since the trip from mother England. This misapprehension ignores the countless waves of immigrants from all over the globe coming to America for freedom and better lives throughout the past two centuries. These new Americans have constantly strengthened their new homeland by contributing their varied perspectives interwoven into the nation’s diverse cultural fabric, also considered to be a robust “melting pot.” But naysayers have not always appreciated immigrants’ offerings to the nation. Chomsky explains why some have opposed society’s diversification through embracing foreign languages, writing “during World War One, anti-foreign propaganda and Americanization campaigns created further pressure for immigrants to abandon their native languages” (111). As a result of these campaigns, English as America’s sole language overcame multilingualism’s advantages to a diverse nation.

However, these campaigns failed to discourage American citizens from countries America conquered, such as Puerto Rico and Mexico, from maintaining their native tongues along with national pride. Due to America’s close proximity to these two countries, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans have felt even more desirous of speaking the mother tongue with relatives back home. Many Americans’ views are significantly shaped by the great numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the country. According to the Migration Policy Institute “in 2012, Mexican-born immigrants accounted for approximately 28 percent of the nearly 40.8 million foreign born in the United States, making them by far the largest immigrant group in the country” (1). But these perceptions are largely inaccurate. Many Spanish-speaking immigrants have learned English with exemplary accomplishment, picking up the language better than have other immigrants. Chomsky writes “while today’s Spanish-speaking immigrants are learning English just as quickly as the earlier generations of Europe did, they also seem to be retaining their native language at much higher levels than the Europeans” (113). If more Americans were aware of Hispanics’ perseverance in learning English while also speaking their native language, perhaps this myth of Spanish speakers refusing to learn English would finally cease.

In contradiction of the common stereotype that immigrants do not learn English in favor of exclusively speaking their native languages, most of these new arrivals in fact do succeed in learning English, often through bilingual education, in order to thrive in their new homeland. For over two centuries, innumerable immigrants have traveled to this land and declared it their home whether for refuge from persecution, to better their financial condition, or in pursuit of the myriad other advantages availed by American citizenship. Our country, in fact, was founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution, and to this day is widely viewed as a welcoming “melting pot” based on America’s history and culture inextricably connected to its immigrant roots. With its incredibly diverse immigrant population, America cannot possibly mandate a national language nor do the nation’s values permit such state-imposed homogeneity of expression. Some may argue for an English Only country pointing to immigrants who maintain insular existences within ethnically homogeneous communities, such as Chinatowns, never uttering a single word of English in their lifetimes. But this condition is irrefutably the exception, as Chomsky documents. America stands for the proposition that its residents enjoy free lives. We should allow, and even encourage, our newest members to assimilate into our country in optimal ways, including bilingual education for immigrants striving to master the English language.

Works Cited

“Bilingual Education.” NABE –. NABE, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.

Chomsky, Aviva. “They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration. Boston, MA: Beacon, 2007. Print.

“Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” Migrationpolicy.org. N.p., 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2015.

“How Young Children Learn English as Another Language.” LearnEnglish KidsLearnEnglishKids, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Memories of an Émigré

Memories of an Émigré
by Levan Tortladze, May, 2014

The United States plays many roles in an émigré’s life: it is a roof, an umbrella for protection and safety over the heads of people who come from all over the world; it is an opportunity for financial success; for some, including but not limited to activists and people with marginalized social identities, coming to America is the only way to survive. But successfully immigrating into the United States and then maintaining a life here isn’t as easy as most immigrants like to believe. Adriana, a 34-year-old wife, mother, student, immigrant from Brazil, and a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area for thirteen years, with a pending U.S. citizenship, she shares in a two-part interview what living – struggling and eventually succeeding – in America was like after 4-month-long bureaucratic process of applying for a visa and leaving all she knew, her family, and her language, behind. “My perception before coming here was that this country was very developed in the sense that there was no homelessness, no poverty, and, most of all, the streets and environment were very clean. California has carried the myth of easy success and vast opportunity. For centuries, immigrants have followed this myth. However, when I moved here, I was shocked by the poverty. I believed that the American Dream was real and easy.” Minot State University’s Andy Bertsch states in his study “The Melting Pot vs. the Salad Bowl: A Call to Explore Regional Cross-Cultural Differences and Similarities within the U.S.A.,” that “each nation has a distinct prism through which it views the world” (Bertsch 132). Just as Adriana’s narrative illustrates, the belief that all would be immediately well once reaching American soil is common in most countries around the world. Adriana continues to explain in her interview that her time in the United States has been far from easy. Yet, now she considers her plight a success story and pays tribute to the years she struggled as a new immigrant for her current happiness, her community, her family, her education, and general sense of accomplishment. Though Adriana’s personal journey to this place, both physically and emotionally, was full of “challenging times, loneliness and disappointment,” it is the process that made her successful, and it is people like her that make this country a success. Adriana’s story challenges the myth that all who come here are successful and wealthy, and are treated fairly, otherwise known as the American Dream. It can be said that the hardships an émigré experiences in his/her process of achieving citizenship are what actually help us realize that dream and achieve success.

After obtaining a visa, the funds to travel and move, and the courage to leave all that is familiar behind, surviving in America is full of difficulties: anxiety, pressure, depression, fear and stress. It takes a lot of time and effort to land a job that can support one’s basic needs in the host country while also supporting family at home. And as if that weren’t enough, one of the biggest difficulties in assimilating to a new culture is attaining the knowledge of the language so that one can adapt to both professional and casual society. Moreover, not too many people are fortunate enough to come to this country with proper documents and those who are undocumented, the constant fear of deportation haunts them. Even when a person gets sick and needs medical attention, his or only option is to stay indoors and self-diagnose, medicate, and treat via non-traditional methods, because medical care is not consistently awarded to those without papers. Adriana tells of times she was taken advantage of by employers, looked down on by social peers, discriminated against at every turn, frustrated with the language, and paralyzed by the constant fear of authority and deportation. She describes this 8-year period in her life as “really exhausting and lonely, living on survivor mode.” “The culmination of stressors associated with constantly having to adapt to unfamiliar environments, work-related stress, and lack of social and emotional support may take a psychological and physical toll on many transmigrants” (Furman, et. al. 168). It is difficult to move from one’s natural habitat, one’s home, to an environment that is completely different, with a different language, different rules, different social expectations, and even different food. Adriana explains that the sheer differences in her culture and this new American way were almost the most anxiety-producing. “Thanksgiving celebrations or other holidays were hardest for me. During these events, I felt like an outsider, like it was obvious I didn’t belong, like I didn’t belong at the party or at the grocery store near the frozen turkeys. Maybe, because I didn’t quite understand the meaning of the celebration, I just couldn’t get as excited as everybody else around me. I didn’t get it, and I didn’t even know how to begin to get it without announcing that I was that girl who didn’t know what Labor Day is.” But Adriana would soon realize that most people were more than happy to explain the history of the holidays, once she got over feeling nervous about asking. “I realized I’d only get out what I put in. My point is, it’s so important to learn about the new culture one is immigrating to. I just needed to get over myself, to let go of my own culture in order to embrace this new one.”

Furthermore, isolation becomes a major side-effect of the émigré. Lost and alone, one struggles to adapt even beyond job searching and money earning when he or she doesn’t have a community on which to rely. The fact that one’s closest kin is many miles away is often enough to make that person give up, regardless of his or her sacrifices, and go back home. “This lack of social and emotional support may force transmigrants to rely solely on themselves” (Furman, et. al. 168), which is probably the biggest culture shock for many émigrés such as Adriana. She tells of a time in which all these differences converged in a single dinner filled with her good intentions: “Some years ago, I remember, me and my husband moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. Just as is the custom in both our cultures, we wanted to get to know our neighbors and so [we] invited our next-door neighbors over for dinner. I prepared everything. After good food and a lot of wine, both my husband and me were satisfied, even proud of our progress in adapting to this new society. We called it a night, still laughing together and toasting one another. In my husband’s culture [Georgian], after a good feast shared with new friends, the next day is followed by eating more to help get over last night’s fiesta.” Basically, as Adriana would further explain, it is customary in Georgian culture for the partiers to reunite the next morning, hung-over, and eat comfort food while they continue to bond and get to know each other. But what happened next truly solidified for Adriana and her husband, who had felt so proud of their assimilation, just how far from home they were and just how different they were. “When we invited the same people back over, we were alarmed when police officers arrived at our front door, with a statement from our neighbors accusing us of having some kind of agenda, an evil ulterior motive to be inviting them two days in a row,” says Adriana, with disappointment in her voice. Her attempt to share her own culture in this new and foreign place had backfired. She states, “It was then we were convinced that some things are meant to be left alone.” What she felt needed to be left alone, as she would clarify, is her need for community, for belonging. She came to learn that that is not so natural here in the United States, at least not as it is in her hometown of Rio de Janeiro. Not only did she already feel isolated from her family and her culture, but she now had bad blood between her and her new neighbors. But even in this sad situation, Adriana feels something positive came of it when she says, “I became more independent. I trusted people less. But I was better able to weed out the people who would be my greatest friends from everybody else. It was from moments like those that I now have this amazing, strong, solid community that my husband, son and I have now.” As Adriana elaborated about her community, she can now rely on them and speaks of them as if they are more family than friends. Truly, just as Adriana’s isolation and disappointment led to her current support system, an émigré’s hardships do shape the person and, thus, the country.
Furthermore, America is a more individualistic society, meaning that individuals generally focus on his/her own goals and successes before those of his/her community or country. People come from all over the world to achieve their goals and at the end it ties into discovering their sole identity. On the contrary, countries like Brazil, where Adriana is from, are more collectivistic, meaning that people have a sense of common wealth and togetherness. They feel that they are merely small pieces of a bigger picture. Adriana claims she is very family-orientated, whether those family members are immediate and extended. She knows what it means to be a part of a bigger picture in which people have solid support system anywhere there is family. At first she experienced a culture shock. Being raised in such a manner, she recalls working at a restaurant as a waiter, where it is known to have lots of undocumented immigrants working under the table.

“I was always picking up slack for other workers as well and helping them out, but once people started noticing my behavior, they started to take advantage of that situation. Whether it was my job responsibility or not, I was always the first person to be asked to stay longer hours. It started becoming a routine, which sometimes caused me to quit the job because I was overwhelmed with extra responsibilities. Slowly, as time went by and I acquired some experience and knowledge on how to deal with such situations, I became cold and immune to such demands. Once I started to notice that people were slacking due to their personal lack of will in completing the task that they had been hired to do, I was unwilling to pick up their slack. Me, coming from a nurturing environment, where it was not a question whether I was going to step up to the plate, but a mandatory obligation. Which is unusual in my culture, and made me feel guilty and ashamed. This could have been the beginning of my assimilating to this country and its culture.”

It was against Adriana’s nature to think only of herself, but she had to in order to succeed. She had to not feel and be selfish to self-preserve. “A ruthless individualism, expressed primarily through a market mentality, has invaded every sphere of our lives, undermining those institutions, such as the family or the university, that have traditionally functioned as foci of collective purposes, history, and culture. This lack of common purpose and concern for the common good bodes ill for a people claiming to be a democracy. Caught up in our private pursuits, we allow the workings of our major institutions—the economy and government—to go on “over our heads” (Andre Velasquez). Instead of feeling like she was a smaller piece in the larger picture, in America’s individualistic society, Adriana felt like she was more of a pawn in the game of people more important and successful than her. But even this she credits for her current happiness.

“I created a community and family that I really care about and that are closer to me than my own family at this point. After years of challenges and obstacles due to my illegal status, I finally got to work on my education and be a mom, wife and productive member of the society that I once resented. I would say that if I never got to legalize my situation in America, if I never overcame all those obstacles, I would always feel a lack of purpose or accomplishment. I think I would have always felt more disappointed in myself.”

America is filled with immigrants who hold the same mindset. These people, who come from all over, endure their struggles, and can and do end up successful. Sometimes one’s definition of success evolves over time, but America is made up of strong, dedicated immigrants, and that is why the American Dream is still alive in the minds of people everywhere.

It is true that immigrating to the United States is challenging as many émigrés are forced either by oppression, discrimination, financial struggles, or just the difficult search for a much-dreamed-about American identity. A country that is well known for standing up for its people and providing basic human rights tends to be inviting for many immigrants. Adriana tolerated being pushed around at jobs and her life was in the hands of her superiors, who didn’t care a bit for her well-being. After living in conditions that were barely tolerable and constantly being exploited, she still contributed so much to support her family back home. After all her hardships she still claims that those very hardships made her an even stronger person today.

Works Cited

Bertsch, Andy. “The Melting Pot vs. the Salad Bowl: A Call to Explore Regional Cross-Cultural Differences And Similarities Within The U.S.A.” Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict Volume 17 (2013): 131-148. Print.

Furman, Rich. “Social Work Practice with Latinos: Key Issues for Social Workers.” National Association of Social Workers Volume 54 (2009): 167-172. Print.

Andre, Claire and Manuel Valasquez. “American Society and Individualism.” American Society and Individualism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1991. Web.

 Transcript

Levan T: What is your name?

Adriana: Adriana.

Levan T: What year were you born and where?

Adriana: I was born in 1979, in Rio de Janeiro.

Levan T: Could you describe a little about your household?

Adriana: I lived with my mom and grandmother, for a while I had my uncle and his family living with us.

Levan T: Can you tell me a little about your living situation in your country at that time?
Adriana: Growing up in Brazil was fun. Spend a lot of time in the beach and was blessed with lots of sunny days. However in my situation I always felt that there was something else for me to: “I always dreamed what it would be to live in a different country and because of American culture being very popular in Brazil through music”. I thought about America most.

Levan T: Has it ever crossed your mind that one day you would immigrate to U.S?

Adriana: I always dreamed about.

Levan T: How old were you when u came to U.S?Adriana: I was 21 years old

Levan T: Could you describe a little about how did you manage to get a visa or how was the traveling to this country?

Adriana: First I asked my mom, if she would be willing to not paying my college tuition for one semester and instead pay for my travels in California.

Levan T: What was her reaction?

Adriana: As a mother, it was only natural for her to be concerned about my postponement of education, but it was obvious to her that I’ve wanted to do this for a while.

Levan T: have you heard about the immigration in California?

Adriana: California has carried the myth of easy success and vast opportunity since nineteen century, when gold rush took place. For centuries immigrants follow this myth, as gold brought explorers form all over the world. California attracts immigrants looking opportunities to express their ideas more openly. California inspired many movements that iconize the hippies form Height Asbury, gay community of Castro Street and Sexy tan bodies from Los Angeles Beaches. Now Californians continue to witness a wave of immigrants who come to the golden State looking for freedom to express their minds, sexuality and politics views making California an exciting state, motivating ambitious young minds looking for freedom and success.

Levan T: what was your perception about U.S prior to coming here and after being here?

Adriana: My perception before coming here was that this country was very developed in the sense that there was no homelessness. No poverty and most of all street and environment were very clean. However after I moved to San Francisco, I was shocked by the poverty I witnessed among the Market area. But also fell in love with the beauty of this city and cultural diversity I found in the mission district.

Levan T: Have you heard about other immigrants?

Adriana: it is the big issue of conversation, here in California there are the huge amount of Illegal immigrants. The bed economy in Mexico motivates Mexicans to cross dark, cold and dangerous trails to cross the San Diego border. In Mexico it is extremely difficult to obtain an American Visa, and crossing the broad becomes the only chance to arrive in the USA and possibly build something better then what they left behind.

Levan T: what steps did you have to follow to apply for a visa?

Adriana: I had to pay some application fees, schedule an interview at an American embassy and prove financial status and reasons that would not keep you away from home.

Levan T: How long was the process?

Adriana: About 4 months

Levan T: What kind of visa and how long was the permit.

Adriana: I received a 10 year visa tourist visa, but I could only stay for 6 months legally.

Levan T: How long have you been here?

Adriana: Overall I’ve been living in California for 13 years.

Levan T: How has living in California impacted your identity?

Adriana: California reminds a bit of home because of its warm climate and more flexible and open minded community. But after all it is still an American culture and it was difficult to adapt to individualism way that is predominant. Therefore I felt that I was becoming a little bit selfish. On a positive note I learned and started to admire how the system worked if you were privileged to have legal status.
Levan T: what was u hoping for in California? Could you please be more specific?
Adriana: Many immigrants choose to come to the United States for better quality of life and more work opportunities. This was the dream country for lots of emigrants looking for opportunities to express their ideas more openly. When I got here we some help from government side, lot of agencies were working, and lots of people were also trained to help emigrants.

Levan T: Tell me about some moments where u felt isolated? Or when someone made u feel isolated.

Adriana: Thanksgiving celebrations or other holidays. During some of these events I felt being an outsider. Maybe because I didn’t quite understood the meaning of the celebration. Which brings me to the point of how important is to learn about the new culture one is immigrating to.

Levan T: Could you tell me of a time where u felt confusion at work?

Adriana: I was always picking up slack for other workers as well and helping them out, but once people started noticing my behavior, they started to take advantage of that situation. Whether it was my job responsibility or not, I was always the first person to be asked to stay longer hours. It started becoming a routine, which sometimes caused me to quit the job because I was overwhelmed with extra responsibilities.

Levan T: How did your struggles and fears, helped shape you?

Adriana: I think that all the challenges I had during my first years as a new immigrant helped me to appreciate what I have today. It made me an open – minded person to except other culture and their costume (even if I don’t like)

Levan T: What good came of this hardships?

Adriana: A great family, friends, education, quality life and a full life experience.

Levan T: how is your relationship with other Americans?
Adriana: It was quite difficult at first, but after sometimes I realized that in order to understand American’s, I had to assimilate into their culture. However I did have some challenging times due to our differences.

Levan T: Your greatest accomplishment?

Adriana: I became more independent. I trusted people less. But I was better able to weed out the people who would be my greatest friends from everybody else. It was from moments like those that I now have this amazing, strong, solid community that my husband, son and I have now.

Levan T: Did you believe that you would succeed in this country?Adriana: yes. I believed that American dream was real and easy.

Levan T: Did you feel any discrimination from people because of your legal status?

Adriana: yes. In the work environment and even in social scene.

Levan T: Do you think every immigrant who came to US find what they looking for?

Adriana: Not every immigrant will find what they looking for. Loneliness and disappointment take over excitement and high expectations.

Levan T: When moving to California does everyone become rich and successful?

Adriana: California continues to receive immigrants from all over the word in search of the dream to pursue wealth and happiness. Nothing will happen easily and to achieve success an immigrant need to apply hard work and discipline. The myth hides the reality of what California has to offer , which comes from the supple plea rues offered by nature, the progressive community than protects the state and set examples to the rest of the country, always looking for better and healthier ways to enjoy life. When moving to California, not everyone will become rich and succeed, but for sure everyone will experience the beauty and uniqueness of the state.

Levan T: do you consider yourself as a successful immigrant?

Adriana: I think I am. I created a community and family that I really care about and that are closer to me than my own family at this point. After years of challenges and obstacles due to my illegal status, I finally got to work on my education and be a mom, wife and productive member of the society. I would say that if I never got to legalize my situation in America, I would always feel an lack of purpose or accomplishment as my core goals , i.e.: education , family , career were out of site for me due to my status . I have to admit that moving to America and live here for 8 years without legality was one of the hardest thing I have done in my life. Been here alone and without rights, had me living on survivor mode for a while, which was really exhausting and lonely.
Levan T: what advice would you give to another person whose trying to immigrate here?
Adriana: If there anything I could tell another young individual that wish to adventure to America as I did. I would say, learn the language as fast as possible, be open mind to understand and act respectfully to the country’s costumes.

 

 

Disproving Myths, One Immigrant at a Time

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Disproving Myths, One Immigrant at a Time

by Jessica Hart, December 2013

Maurizio, as an undocumented child, was brought to the United States from Lima, Peru by his parents, for a better quality of life. Now, as a man and a good friend of mine, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maurizio and learning more about him. I have known him for eight years but never on a personal level. When Maurizio and his siblings were young, his father wanted a better life for his family so he decided to move to the United States. His mother, like most wives, waited for her husband to send money back home so they could reunite in the future. Through a travel visa with his mother and sibling, he made it to the United States and began his life as an American. Maurizio experienced gains and losses through assimilation, but he found more, and he even acknowledges that if he had a choice today he would not move back to Peru. As I interviewed him it seemed as though I was on a journey through his timeline of events and interesting stories. There are myths believed by some people that immigrants do not pay taxes or assimilate to United States culture. Through his story, Maurizio disproves these myths and shows us that he is more than political stereotypes.

While a lot of people think that the immigrants who are in the United States as adults made the choice to be here illegally, Maurizio shows that not all immigrants have that choice. I was surprised when he explained that his family was not very poor as I had assumed. They were actually a middle class family before migrating and they came to the United States for a better quality of life. His father had lost his job and decided it was best to move the family to the United States. Like a lot of immigrants, Maurizio’s father traveled to America alone until he was able to bring over the rest of his family. His mother worked for a prestigious bank back in Lima but was fired because her bosses decided it was cheaper to pay college students, rather than pay her multiple wages for all the positions she was working. Maurizio then explained to me that Lima does not have unions or laws to protect workers’ rights like in San Francisco, so they were able to fire his mother without justification. Both parents lost their jobs and they wanted better opportunities for their children. Maurizio made it clear that he had no choice to come to the United States because he was only a child. While boarding the plane to Houston, Texas, Maurizio was leaving behind the family maid, whom he seemed to have adored, and a dog that may no longer be living. Maurizio felt that he would have had a career if he was still living in Peru, in comparison to the job that he has here in S.F.  He acknowledges that those were losses accumulated, but because of that he has gained perspective. During our interview, he said, ”Because now that I am older, I’d probably, like I said would not have the mindset that I have now, back then, I probably would have chosen to come here.” Understandably, like most children, he would have wanted to stay with what he knew, but as a mature man, he understands what his father wanted and is grateful that is he is now here. If he had been an adult at the time of living in Peru he would have made the same choice to come to America just as his father had.

While some Americans feel that immigrants move here to drain our country of resources, Maurizio’s story disproves this myth; in actuality, Maurizio’s family was always searching for something better so they moved around a lot to increase the quality of their lives. With his family, Maurizio moved around quite a bit during his childhood whether it was a bigger apartment for space or to an actual house because it was better for raising children. He moved four or five times with his family. When he turned eighteen, he moved in with his girlfriend at the time, and when they broke up, Maurizio then moved to a friend’s house with their family and still has not settled into a place of his own. Maurizio has now found a better place living with his sister and father. Although his rent is more expensive, he now has his own room and is closer to his immediate family. He mentioned that, in his future, he may move several more times before attempting to buy his own home. According to the American Journal of Public Health authors Tama and Jeanne Gunn, their study “Moving to Opportunity” stated that, after interviewing 550 families, “Boys who moved to less poor neighborhoods reported significantly fewer anxious/depressive and dependency problems than did boys who stayed in public housing” (Gunn 1576-1582). This article can help us understand the reason why most immigrant families move so often. Moving is not an easy task but oftentimes lead to a better quality of life if one moves away from urban areas or into safer housing within that urban area. Moving to a better place is often seen as moving to a place that reduces stress and/or provides opportunities. Each time Maurizio and his family moved, it was because they felt that moving would enhance their quality of life in some way. Evidently, their reasons for migrating to the United States had nothing to do with planning to use any of American resources. They wanted a life in which they can work, and comfortably provide for their families.

Through assimilation, Maurizio lost the sense of unity he once knew from his large helpful community, but has gained back a small portion of that unity among his extended family members. If one takes the time to get to know Maurizio, it will become obvious that he has an undying love for his family. I asked Maurizio what his concept of family was and he said that he has one large family and has allowed a small number of people to access that special place in his heart, which he keeps reserved for his family. People have to prove themselves as worthy; for example, his friend from high school and his roommate at the time of the interview gave him a place to live when he was kicked out of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and had nowhere to go, so he considers him as a brother. After moving to California, Maurizio realized that there is a lack of unity among our people as compared to Peru. According to Maurizio, “…they might not help you with money all the time but, but they’ll always help you, like if you need clothes…” To clarify, neighbors in Peru will donate or let each other borrow clothes so that one can save one’s own money for something bigger such as college tuition. Maurizio emphasized that, in Lima, there is unity among their citizens but in the United States people have a more individualistic mindset and tend to mostly care for their own families and not their entire community as Peruvians do.

Maurizio seems to be very self-motivated; he describes himself as a simple guy who is easy to please. As long as his basic needs are met, he can handle the rest. What surprised me the most were his ambitious career goals.  He reminded me of myself a little. He wants to be an auto mechanic and his own boss. After that goal is completed, he will move on to owning his own body shop and is even considering a career as a chef, owning his own restaurant. He also pointed out that, if he were living in Peru, he would have already had a career by now, with support he would have gotten from his Peruvian community and family. He made a point to stress that, even though he is living in America and there is a lack of support, he will not give up; however, things will take him a little bit longer to get started. According to The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, “The childhood experiences of entrepreneurs have found to be difficult, characterized by poverty, insecurity and/or neglect and personal tragedies, such as parents divorce, a parents death, family financial difficulties, and/or serious illness” (Drennan 231). This makes sense as a way of understanding why Maurizio is so ambitious. His parents were going through a divorce, he and his family had faced financial difficulties, and, although he has had an overall happy childhood, he has faced some personal tragedies that have taken a toll on his mindset and has shaped who he is as a man.

It is noticeable that a lot of immigrants who settle in America tend to start small businesses, whether it is an ice cream truck, street vending, food trucks or auto body shops. It is said that “…Economic migrants are described as tending on average to be more able, ambitious, aggressive entrepreneurial, or otherwise more majorly selected that similar individuals who choose to remain in their place of origin” (Chiswick 52). Residents who are born in America tend to be job-orientated.  We are taught at an early age to think about what good jobs and careers we want to pursue after college and home ownership. As children, business ownership is not as emphasized as an option in getting a good job. This would explain why Maurizio is striving for more than just a job. This will help him in the long run; right now, he has to work different jobs to take care of any basic needs. Having his own business would allow him finally has some stability in his life if his business becomes successful enough. A business is never an easy goal but it is a goal preferred by a lot of immigrants because they don’t want to depend on anyone else to take care of them: they prefer to do it themselves. Maurizio is a citizen now and has the option to apply for general assistance but hasn’t.  He wants to take care of himself with the money he earns.

Americans assume that undocumented immigrants like Maurizio at the time do not pay taxes. A lot of immigrants use fake social security cards and, through those social security numbers, they can work, pay state taxes and those taxes are taken out of their paychecks under the number they are using.  Because those number are not theirs, they do not receive the benefits Americans would receive, therefore contributing to the American economy more than they benefit from it. Instead, America accepts cheap labor and taxes from undocumented immigrants and those working immigrants never receive tax benefits. They even pay gasoline tax, and sales tax. If undocumented people protest in any way, they risk deportation and, for Maurizio, he had already experienced a traumatic experience revealing to a classmate his citizenship status. Maurizio’s first job as an undocumented person was a dishwasher, as he waited for his papers to come in. During that time he worked, he was subjected to taxes and paid them.

It is believed that the U.S. is an openhanded country that has always welcomed immigrants from all over the world but this is a myth. Maurizio had to hide his citizenship status; otherwise, he and his family could have faced discrimination and deportation if they were reported during the time their travel visas expired. Maurizio was really young when, in confidence, he told his classmate he was not a citizen. Maurizio said, “They turn on you, use that information against you. I remember telling one person, I was really young um, I mean they made fun of me at the time and always making jokes about how there were going to tell immigration I was here.” He lost trust in people but also gained an understanding of what information should not be shared beyond family and why. Maurizio still carries that fear of trust and this just proves that America is not very welcoming towards immigrants as originally thought by a lot of Americans. According to Family Court Review, Robert Coles, a prize- winning psychiatrist from Harvard states, “Morality is not learned through memorizing lists or formulas. It is learned through being with others. It is learned through the example of others” (90). Anyone can become bullied, but we have to analyze the reason children would joke about someone’s immigration status. They hear adults talk badly about them and have learned that a lot of society disapproves of immigrants living here while undocumented. If we truly lived in a welcoming country, then Maurizio being an immigrant would not be the butt of children’s jokes. Children learn from their parents that immigrants are less valued members of society that are to be treated as third-class citizens. So, naturally, they think it is okay to tease undocumented children because the adults in their lives have exposed them to negative opinions. Those children will one day become adults and the learning of myths will continue unless society learns to recognize a myth from a fact. They can start by putting themselves in Maurizio’s shoes.

There are a series of stereotypes surrounding immigrants. They are viewed as people who come to America to take advantage of resources and not assimilate to the United States culture but immigrants are hard working people. If one understands someone’s history, one may understand his or her leading direction. Immigrant children do not often have a choice to come to this country. They have hard times trusting others because of a fear of being exiled from their peers. It is not easy for them to get work and they cannot even obtain library cards because they do not have documents to prove they exist. The cost of college is more expensive for them and they pay a lot of money into our tax system. Yet, Americans seem to think that they take advantage of our resources when they are actually being taken advantage of.  They learn English and some even forget their original languages.  They lose who and what they could have become in their own countries, possible experiences and materialistic things that they could’ve had. On the other side, they all gain an undeniable experience that leads to a story that too often goes unheard. Maurizio has gained more than he expected and more of a broader concept of home and family. When people migrant from one place to another, they take to that new place their ways of life, but once they establish residency, they adapt to their new surroundings in different ways just as Maurizio has done. We should learn who these immigrants are before deciding to believe in stereotypes about them.

 

Works Cited

Chiswick, Barry R. “Are Immigrants Favorably Self-Selected.” JSTOR. N.p., 2 May 1999. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.

Drennan, Drennan, Judy, Kennedy, Renfrow, and Patty. “Ingentaconnect Impact of Childhood Experiences on the Development of Entrepreneu…” The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 6.4 (2005): 231-38. Latest TOC RSS. Ingentaconnect, Nov. 2005. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Leventhal, Tama, and Jeanne B. Gunn. “Moving to Opportunity: An Experimental Study of Neighborhood Effects on Mental Health.” American Journal of Public Health 93.9 (2003): 1576-582. American Public Health Association -. 10 Sept. 2002. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

S, Robert. “The Moral Intelligence of Children.” The Moral Intelligence of Children 3.1 (2005): n. pag. Wiley Online Library. 15 Mar. 2005. Web. 07 Dec. 2013.

 

Interview Transcript: “Appreciation”

Jessica: Ok, so I’m here interviewing Maurizio…umm actually we’ll just start.

Maurizio: Alright.

Jessica: So what is your story? Tell me about when you came to the U.S. your choice to come to the U.S? If it was a choice.

Maurizio: Umm well it wasn’t my choice, I was young at the time, I was ten years old. I was living in my home country, I’m from Peru. Um, what had happened is uh uh my father left for the United States, you know for a better life back in 1996 three years before I, I came here with my mom, and we were suppose to stay over there my dad was kind of help support us and you know, eventually maybe move over, or maybe he is going to come back, I don’t really know the overall plan because I was too young I guess. So, in their, you know in their perspective they didn’t , I,I don’t think that I, I don’t think they felt that me and my sister were, were old enough to understand . So um at some point something went on and my mom lost her job, she had a really good job, she she used to work at a very prestigious bank. She was part of the corporate exculative thing.

Jessica: Mmhum.

Maurizio: She held the job basically of the four people so she had four different wedges she was making good money, you know we weren’t really poor. It was just my dad who lost his job so he decided to go to the United States, you know to, so something because he couldn’t find a job, his life situation was getting bad and yet he didn’t go to college or anything so it not like he could get a good job. So he left, and um my mom lost her job because the bank they decided it would be easier to pay four different people fresh out of college than to pay four different you know at a higher wedge because she been there over fifteen years, so they cut her loose.  Because it would be cheaper so because in Peru county there are no um laws or anything protecting people, you know like there is here, like unions and all that. You know?

Jess: Yes

Maurizio: So they cut her loose. So we, so she saved money and my dad helped us come over here with the money which he was making over there and in 1999, in July we flew over here, that’s, that’s how that happened.

Jessica: Ok how? Um excuse me for asking again, how old were you?

Maurizio: I was 10 my sister was 9.

Jessica: 10?

Maurizio: Um hum

Jessica: Sister was 9?

Maurizio: Um hum

Jessica: What part of Peru are you from?

Maurizio: Capital, Lama

Jessica: Umm hum, ok.

Jessica: If you had a choice?

Maurizio: um hum?

Jessica: at that age, if you had a choice, would you stayed in your country?

Maurizio: Well the choice, it can vary because you know at a young age, as I was back then. I would’ve chosen to stay with what I knew. My family, my country, my house, my friends, you know all that, but you know, like I said the choice can change.

Because now that I’m older, I’d probably, like I said would have had the mindset that I,that I have now, back then I probably would have chosen to come over here. It’s a hard question to answer cause, you never know what exactly what you want at that age. You know?

Jessica: Right

All you want is just to be happy with your family and friends.

Jessica: Do you have any regrets about leaving?

Maurizio? None

Jessica: None?

Maurizio: None, I don’t have any regrets because Like I said, I didn’t know what I left, what I was going for. Hum therefore hum, I have nothing to look back for. My family was here, that was the most important part, my sister was here, my mom was here, my dad was here you know. So no regrets because we’re all here.

Jessica: Ok, ok now when you were a child what did you expect coming to the U.S.?

Maurizio: Nothing at all.

Jessica: Did you expect for it to look like Peru?

Maurizio: Na, I can’t remember everything that when I came here, when I came here I remember stepping off of a plane getting to the new house. I was just noticing how everything was different. But after that, at the same time everything was pretty much the same. But the climate, for example it’s exactly the same except for it’s a little bit colder over here than over there and it rains a lot more over here than it is over there. But the climate is still pretty dry, you know?

Jessica: Um hum

Maurizio: It’s pretty much the same. It’s not like North Carolina, where my mom lives right now it is completely humid.  I never experience something like that before, and, and a lot of ____ I can tell that San Francisco and Lema are pretty much the same. Only thing that varies is the change of temperature being colder that’s it.

Jessica: Okay

Long Pause…

Jessica: So what city did you come in, come to when you 1st came, what city?

Maurizio: Straight here. I mean…

Jessica: San Francisco?

Maurizio: Yea, I came to live here to live in San Francisco, but if you’re asking where my flight stopped first, I was in Huston.

Jessica: Huston Texas?

Maurizio: Yea

Jessica: And do you…

Maurizio: I just…

Jessica: From Huston you came to SF.

Murizio: Yes, but I only saw the airport. But you know…

Jessica: Yes

Maurizio: It’s not, it’s not like I went to the city or anything. I only stayed for a couple hours.

Jessica: Ok, Have you tried or planned to visit your home country in the future.

Maurizio: I tried, but I couldn’t because of money problems. Cause I was always going to school and didn’t have enough money for bills and all that and going to school. Because going to school is very expensive, it’s like over it would be 1500 for a ticket and then you go and everything in Peru, like the economy in Peru is not that bad, like at all like other countries like anything you buy over there is just as much as its sold over here, like the price, I didn’t have enough money to save for anything like that, so…. But now, I’ma go. I’ma go in December. My mom bought me the ticket because otherwise , it would still be the same story I wouldn’t have enough money to go…so?

Jessica: So right now what is your current living arrangement?

Maurizio: Right now? I live with my roommate, and in a week I’m moving out. I’m moving in with my sister. We going to have together, an apartment…

Person: mumbles in background

Maurizio: (Whispers) looks at me.

Jessica: It’s ok you can do it.

Maurizio: Yea.

Person: Whispers

Maurizio: $7, $7.11

Person: Whispers about pizza money

Jessica: See whats up with Gio cause I have him $20.

Maurizio: Just tell Michael to go in my wallet.

Person: Walks away…

Maurizio: and Its somehow…mumbles.

Jessica: laughs

Jessica: Ok um, let’s start over. We were talking about living arrangements.

Maurizio: I live with my roommate, umm friend from high school [Person’s Name], you know him very well.

Jessica: yea

Maurizio: together we have a good relationship, you know as far as friendship goes. We played basketball together; we went to school for four years, spent lots of good times together with a bunch of friends. Um he helped me out, because I was living with my ex girlfriend. The relationship ended and I didn’t have no where to go. Him and his family took me in and after three years of living together now I’m moving out, with my sister. Shee, we um got an apartment at the same house where my dad lives but it’s the downstairs apartment which was being rented out to somebody else but…COUGHS, so yea, now I am moving in with her.

Maurizio: It’s a two bedroom apartment.

Jessica: How do you feel about moving?

Maurizio: I prefer it because, well not money wise, I have to pay more for that but when it comes to privacy, and my own room, private kitchen, you know I prefer it you know, it’s a commodity.

Jessica: Ok, how many times have you moved in your lifetime?

Maurizio: Id say, there was the move over here to this country, for starters. Then I must’ve have moved four maybe five times, something like that. Well, ‘cause well we were always searching for a better apartment, better house, so when the opportunity presented itself we moved, so we moved maybe four or five times.

Jessica: Ok, What do you remember most about your childhood, about Peru? What do you remember about that, Peru.

Maurizio: It was a fairly, happy childhood I suppose, the only thing that wasn’t pretty, the only thing that was different well I guess I shouldn’t say different. That wasn’t like, to my liking I guess, my parents were never home they were always working. We had a maid; she’d take care of us, cook for us, clean the house and stuff, she stay over with us, she had her own room, we had a good relationship with her. We, we play hide and seek and things like that. Had a dog, had a good relationship with my dog, better than with the family. [We laugh] That’s my dog.

Jessica: Did she stay in Peru?

Maurizio: Yes, my dog and her young. Dogs’ probably dead by now, it’s been over 20 years. I don’t know if it still alive you know?

Jessica: Yes.

Maurizio: umm Yeah, and then we would always have house parties, family were always over. There were times when I would go to sleep at night and in the morning I would wake up, a uncle was sleeping in the sofa. Sometimes different uncles, it was floating. It was always, whenever they slept over it was always a happy morning you know, because they be there, and then breakfast, bigger, you know a more larger breakfast you know with people, always something to talk about. Me and my sister were always close because were only eleven months apart.

Jessica: umhm

Maurizio: We would always have something to talk about we play together um my grandma come over she really loved us a lot, so she make sure she, she come visit us at least four days a week, things like that it was…fairly happy. Except, the only thing that made it hard was my dad and my mom fighting a lot. My dad is really hardheaded and my mom is very aggressive when it comes to arguments so they would always clash together and there was a lot of like domestic problems in-between them, never really with us because that’s something they would always agree on, like how we were suppose to be brought up, what we were suppose to eat and they always gave it one hundred percent in our care. But eventually they got separated, you know my dad came over here, by the time we, me and my sister came over and my mom, they were separated you know. They had already divorced. So Yea.

Jessica: Do you plan to stay in California…and what is your reason behind your choice?

Maurizio: At this moment I’m not entirely sure because ahem, money problems like I said I been trying to go to school and all that. Um I don’t really have a special career in mind, besides working on cars because I really love working on cars and that like I’m thinking I really want to own my own shop, both a mechanical shop and a body shop. Because to me, you get a lot of money off of that, it’s a good profit and it helps me out because I’ve noticed that you meet a lot people who waste a lot of money in fixing cars, keeping them clean, you know, if you get into an accident and all that. And that’s basically something I’ll be able to wave off like expenses by owning businesses like that. So let’s look at the situation, I get money and I have to deal with it with my own property and I don’t think it is, it would be required of me to move out, seek other opportunities with a plan like that. Because that way I see it, a lot of people would like to move out of the cities, their state.  Like all that because that like to pursue other opportunities of a career or families or whatever their, the reason may be. I don’t have that, I don’t have that reason, that motivation to get out of California. Um that’s probably a goal, visit other places, sightseeing, Europe, Asia, and other states, but moving out I don’t think so.

Jessica: Ok, if there was a dollar figure that you would need to get you started on your path to a better life, to the life that you want for yourself, how much would that be?

Maurizio: Like money wise?

Jessica: Yes. To bee, to be at where you want to be how much money do you think you’re going to need?

Maurizio: To be what I want to be or to get me started on the way?

Jessica: Let’s say get you started, so to get you started on the path where you want to be in life your goal, your auto body shop. How much would you need?

Maurizio: I only wana go to school and that’s all I’m worried about. *coughs*to do that just to get me by school at least for a couple months or so  which is, that’s all I really need that’s all I need. To like get me, to get that little start, you know. I think I just need a couple grand that’s it, about two grand. With two grand I can pay for my, for my classes at city college to start that would set me on my way I don’t need much. I don’t I don’t ask for much I just need that to get started and everything else up to date and also my job. I’m not the kind of person that ask for money or ugh wants free money for that matter but sometimes we all need a little help you know?

Jessica: Yea.

Maurizio: …and two grand would do it for me, if I wanted to get started like right now. But whatever to me.

Jessica: What do you love most about the city you have chosen to reside in…or the city you are currently in right now? What is the, what do you love most about the city you are in right now.

Maurizio: Umm. That’s a hard question. I like a lot of things about it, but I wouldn’t say there is something I love most about it. It is, I guess that would depend on what makes me the happiest and it’s in between the fact that my family is very close and that I really, really like good, I guess people. Like the city, I like Twin Peaks and stuff, it’s…in a day where I’m stressful or like really frustrated, If I go up to twin peaks  or another place like that it calms me down.

Jessica: What do you hate most about the city?

Maurizio: The fact that their doing construction on main streets during the day.

Jessica: AH.

Maurizio: That’s it.

Jessica: So [mumbles] bother you?

Maurizio: Well, yea I’m a driver by profession so I do need the streets to be cleared out. [laughs]

Jessica: If this applies to you, how have you assimilated to American culture?

Maurizio: No. In Peru, you can’t really buy what you want all the time. Over here, you can.

Jessica: So you buy what you want whenever you want?

Maurizio: No not exactly because I do have, I mean I would be able to if certain things hadn’t happened in my life, like identify theft.

Jessica. Ohhh.

Maurizio: I don’t have a credit card or credit anymore. But if I had a credit card, like most people do and they see something they want or need. Something at the moment, they can buy it and pay off the credit card later.

Jessica: Don’t you think you would be in debt because of that?

Maurizio: Na.

Jessica: Ok so you pay off the total on your credit?

Maurizio: Always, I paid, I worked! When I had credit, I worked.

Jessica: Oh ok.

Maurizio: I was, I was always spending about three hundred every month and paying, paying it off like six hundred dollars, every month. And the reason why I needed to pay six hundred dollars a month because there were certain expenses I really needed like when I was going to school, when I had credit, when I had money to go to school, bought a laptop. To you know, to keep up with my work and type shit up you know. And you know, and that you know it, it just, my laptop cost me about nine hundred dollars so of course I had to pay a little more occasionally. But for the most part if I didn’t have a big expense I always kept my credit card in check, never owed more than four hundred, five hundred dollars at a time. I would always pay it off. Cause I’m a person that hates to be in debt, I don’t like to owe anything to anybody, for that matter that’s why I never buy a car off the lot, I never want to deal with that, with a huge debt.

Maurizio: Next question.

Jessica: Yea, hold on a minute. What is your concept of home?

Mauriizo: Hum…it’s very simple. Home can be anywhere, could b your, it could be the place where you feel more comfortable at, it can be where your family is at, or it can be the place you like most.

Jessica: For you?

Maurizio: For me? It’s here now this is where my family is, this is what I know. This is where I work at; this is where I can make things work.

Jessica: What was your first job?

Maurizio: I was a dishwasher at a place called, it’s a coffee shop called La Boulange.

Jessica: La Boulange? Where’s that at?

Maurizio: ColeValley. On Cole and Parnassus and a lot of people have been tell me that aren’t coming back [laughs] because I was giving out free food. [laughs]

Jessica: Were you a legal resident at the time?

Maurizio: When I go the job?

Jessica: Yes.

Maurizio: I was for one year, after that my papers came in.

Jessica: So when you came you were not a legal resident?

Maurizio: Uhuh, well I was because I had a tourist visa but after six months I wasn’t.

Jessica: Ok, so after six months, tell me about the process.

Maurizio: I don’t really know much about it because I was young; my parents took care of all that.

Jessica: Oh ok.

I just knew that I had a tourist visa and it would be six months to ten months. Depending on the kind of visa that you get, nine or six months.

Jessica: And after that you didn’t have any…

Maurizio: Nope nothing, V nothing.

Jessica: Ok and what age did you get your green card?

Maurizio: Eighteen and a half.

Jessica: Eighteen and a half, ok. What’s your current job?

Maurizio: I’m a driver um for Auto Parts Warehouse. We deliver, to other car shops and garages all over the city and the Pensula, San Carlos. So I do a lot of driving, I drive 11 hours a day.

Jessica: Since you have been, at least one point in your life a non legal resident do you think you have been treated fairly by this country, by the U.S?

Maurizio: I have, as long as nobody knew I was illegal

Jessica: Ok so as long as no body knew?

Maurizio: In truth nobody knew I was legal

Jessica: Did you tell them?

Maurizio: People I felt that I could trust, and its very hard for me to trust somebody.

Jessica: Why is that?

Maurizio: When you’re young you make mistakes trusting people you shouldn’t, when you tell somebody too much, somebody that is not going to help you not going to be there. Somebody that you really can’t trust…

Jessica: Yeah.

Maurizio: They turn on you, use that information against you. I remember telling one person, I was really young um, I mean they made fun of me at the time and always making jokes about how they were going to tell immigration I was here. Tell them I was illegal or whatever it is. It made you, well it made me feel like aw man what did I do I just put my whole family in jeopardy and everything. There were times I left like that, I didn’t know if they could do anything or not at the time I was just a kid at the time. I don’t know how the processed worked; I didn’t know who they could call. I, I didn’t know anything. As a kid you never wana, you never wana hurt your family anyway possible so it took a toll on me. After that I never trusted anybody. There are other things that happened of course that made me see the different perspective about who you trust but that’s one of the driving forces behind that.

Jessica: Was it one of the kids at school that made fun of you?

Maurizio: Yeah, I didn’t really know anybody outside of school, my dad always cared too much for me and my sister, he never left us out or anything so we never had any friends, besides the ones at school.

Jessica: What’s your concept of family?

Maurizio: Family, are the ones that are defiantly there for you, um people you can count on. Not necessarily have to be your parents, your brothers or cousins, blood, blood related for that matter. Family is someone there for you through thick or thin. Family is someone you can count on, who you can trust, all your problems and above all your good moments, when you’re having fun, when you know people. You can all together just simply truly trust.

Jessica: so, your concept of family is a little bit more general and you made a list of many possibilities of what a family could be.

Maurizio: Well, I consider them just one family to me. My dad, my mom, me, my sister and my little brother and about three or four friends, whom are considered my brothers and my sisters. And that’s it. I do generalize, like anybody could become a family member but that kind of a, you know?

Jessica: That place in your heart?

Maurizio: That place in my heart, exactly. They would have to show you how, you know? I’m not saying doing something stupid like you know, like take a bullet for you or something, you know? Just you know, if you’re in a moment of need and there really there for you, you know. Like Tim for example when I got kicked out of my girlfriend house the moment, I had nowhere to go, my dad wasn’t even in the states my dad was in Missouri because trying to pursue a different life so he went to another state. My mom was already living in North Carolina. And my sister was living with one of my aunts and the space for me there. And Tim and his family took me in. Something like that could earn you a place in my heart. So Tim is like a brother to me. That’s a example.

Jessica: So what age were you when you moved out of your family’s care?

Maurizio: I was 18.

Jessica: Ok. Did you move in with you girlfriend right away or?

Maurizio: Yep. That’s the reason I left my parents house.

Jessica: For freedom or cause you had a girlfriend?

Maurizio: Well, I had girlfriends before and I wasn’t really even, I didn’t move out back then, you know. But I think it was mostly because of freedom because this girlfriend was different, somebody I really fell hard for…so yes, because my parents was also trying to, I was also working and had my own money and they still wanted me to come home no later than ten o-clock at night, so I wasn’t having that. [laughs] But now that I look back on that I probably should’ve stayed home. But either way, that was my decision back then.

Jessica: Do you think that living here in San Francisco, do you think you would be the same person if you were living in Peru?

Maurizio: No.

Jessica: Do you have an idea of how you would be different?

Maurizio: Probably a lot more happier.

Jessica: You would be happier in Peru?

Maurizio: Not happier, a happier person. [while pointing at me]There’s a difference. Happier person, probably would have had a career by now. Education in Peru is very strict and there is always somebody willing to help. Family, neighbor, doesn’t matter, they might not help you with money all the time, but they’ll always help you like if you need clothes, “I have a shirt I have for you so you don’t have to spend money on clothes, so you can pay your tuition for school” something like that. Soo, most defiantly I would’ve had a career, I don’t know how far that career might have taken me, but I would defiantly be a professional.

Jessica: So you don’t get that feeling from San Francisco?

Maurizio: See back there you had support. Over here, everything is on you.  And because everything is on me, for the past couple years since I got out of high school I failed to provide that for me, a higher education. Now, that don’t mean I’m gonna quit. It means it’s going to take me a little longer to do that, you know. But, things would be different if I was, if I was in Peru. But I don’t regret any choices or the fact that I’m here because, because of everything that I went through over here, you know there a lot of positive sides to it I speak English, um that’s always a major plus apparently to everyone else.

Jessica: So you’re bilingual?

Maurizio: Yeah, I speak perfect English and perfect Spanish. So, you know, I have a wider mind set I guess. So, family, friendship, people that are worth your time, you can care, giving them a chance. Um because of everything that has happened I have had a lot of bad times, just a lot of bad experiences with people. A lot of bad times just a lot of bad experiences with people. I’m a pretty good judge of character now. I can analyze just about anybody.

Jessica: That’s good; do you have a plan for higher education beyond CityCollege?

Maurizio: No, not really. Not because I don’t want to, it’s because I see my life as steps you know.  I just know what I have to do. I will be getting another job soon that’s going to help me pay for school to be a mechanic. Cause to be a mechanic you don’t have to go to a four year college or anything. Now, to go onto business you have to study a little bit of business. When the time comes that I am able to get that business then I’ma put myself through school again. When I have everything I need to take the next step I’ma take the next step. Provided I know exactly what that next step is going to be. I don’t plan to completely plan out my whole life because things never go the way you want them to go sometimes. You always got to be able to adjust it and to see different things coming to the current reality. There I don’t plan for more than a couple of years. Two years from now, believe me when I say this I’m going to be that mechanic I told you about and by then I’ll probably start learning about body work in a car because its two different things learning about being a mechanic and body work on a car and it’s just a start. I have a long life ahead of me; I could learn a million other things. I been already a cook at a fine dining restaurant, after the coffee shop I went to work for Ruth’s Stake House, pretty prestigious. I know how, if I got a little bit more studying in cooking and food and all that I probably could be a chef too, if I wanted. I already know how to cook real good because of that experience working at that restaurant. There a lot of thing I can do. After I start a mechanic shop and a body shop I plan to start a restaurant, and you know restaurants, they can either provide you with a lot of money, how good they do with the market and stuff and clientele or it’s a gamble, a restaurant is always a gamble, or it could go down the drain and you could lose all the money you invested in it, which is why I plan to have the mechanic shop and the body shop because the money I earn from there is going to support the restaurant, until it start providing for itself.

Jessica: Ok, that’s nice.

Maurizio: Like I said it’s a plan. I already know what I’ma do next and because I know that I could do it and I know that I could do it in three years time I’m already thinking about what the next step of that might be. Now in two years, my perspective might change and I’d want to try something else, but until that stop coming into my head I’m not going to plan ahead.

Jessica: If you could and you had the resources would you go after a Masters or Ph.D.?

Maurizio: Oh yeah, in a heartbeat.

Jessica: Ok.

Maurizio: I know how to study, it comes naturally to be. In High School I never had to pick up a book or study over a half hour.

Jessica: Ohh, that’s impressive. I was the student carrying all my books in my backpack.

Maurizio: I was too but that’s because I had to do homework, not because I actually read them.

Jessica: [laughs] Okey. Do you consider yourself an immigrant? What do you consider yourself to be? Immigrant? Citizen?

Maurizio: Those are just labels designed to segregate different groups of society by certain groups, political levels. For me, for me, I’m just a normal human being living in a city. There’s no label for something like that. I call myself a citizen if there hadn’t been a label picked up already by a group of people.

Jessica: That’s fair.

Maurizio: But if a citizen is someone who has papers and, and ID, if that’s the definition of a citizen then I rather not because I think a citizen should be somebody who lives in a city, provides for their family and pays their taxes, weather there illegal or not. Because I grantee it to you people that are illeagel pay their taxes

Jessica: So, I’m going to ask you a question now, and then I have one last question for you.

Maurizio: Ok.

Jessica: Maurizio: Who are you? Who is Maurizio?

Maurizio: It’s a hard question, I don’t even know that myself and the reason why because who I am now, isn’t who I am going to be ten years from now.

Jessica: Well, who are you right now?

Maurizio: I’m just a guy that enjoys life. Not just the fun part of life, which is you know, there is people my age and what they’re doing is like drinking, dancing, hitting on girls stuff like that.

Jessica: Mumbles…

[Phone Rings]

Jessica: Yes mom? Yes. I don’t know, I might have not closed it all the way but it shouldn’t be wide open, ok bye…ok I’m so sorry…who are you? Oh, who are you right now?

Maurizio: Like I said, I’m just a guy who enjoys life. I like going out and having fun and all of that. I also enjoy my family and I love every opportunity to feel proud of myself like I’m achieving something. I like to call myself just a simple guy.

Jessica: A simple guy?

Maurizio: Pretty much I don’t need much to be happy.

Jessica: Ok, we can wrap up for today and if I have any more questions I will email you.

Maurizio: Ok that’s fine.

Possible Follow up Questions?

What life lesson did you learn from your father?

What life lesson did you learn from your mother?

How has your father and mother job loss situation shaped your determination for a better future?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immigration, Academics, and Family

Immigration, Academics, and Family: The Success Story

of an “Open Minded Brazilian”

by Aaron Henderson, December 2013

While most of us go through good times and bad times with struggles and successes, it’s the overcoming of any obstacle itself that many would say best defines a person’s identity and character.  When you look at the world as a whole, it would be tough to say that any obstacle is harder than emigrating from one country to another.  When someone leaves a place that one has called one’s home (country) for any considerable amount of time, one is forced to adapt to his or her new home (country) and expected to do so quickly.  The process can be stressful and can leave a person searching for his or her new sense of self.  This can ultimately be positive or negative depending on the experiences each immigrant goes through.  While keeping that in mind, it can also be said that America is arguably the toughest country to migrate to as the U.S. has historically benefited from immigrants’ undocumented statuses, thus holding them down in society while reaping economic benefits.  The U.S. government does this by making it very difficult for most foreigners to gain citizenship here and without that documentation it is nearly impossible to obtain a decent paying job or receive any financial aid for school.  This means all odds are usually stacked up against most immigrants in America, making the fulfillment of their goal to live the “American dream” very difficult.  The story of Lohanna Pinheiro , an eighteen-year-old college student at the time of her migration from Brazil to America, has been a very positive, uplifting, and successful development and can give hope to other immigrants.  While immigrating to America from Brazil for academic reasons, Lohanna had to leave much of her family behind in order to experience America and all that this great country has to offer.  While interviewed about her journey, she spoke about many things, including expectations versus reality, academics, discrimination, and the American dream, and began to configure how all of this has shaped her identity and her sense of home.

                In Goiania, Brazil, Lohanna grew up in a family of three.  The Brazilian culture has taught her many great values including family, religion, and pride for her country.  While Lohanna was young, she was introduced to God as she regularly attended church with family.  Lohanna’s Christianity has humbled her as her faith in God has, in her words, “been my guidance all along and I know God has many great things in store for me.” At that time in her life, she also learned the family tradition of barbecuing after church with many of her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, and siblings, in order to keep the family’s bond strong and stay close to each other.  Their extended family would spend many days together throughout the week as they are all very close, but Sunday was the big family day.  Music, games, food, and much socializing was the norm for the family as they would “live it up” together, acting more like close friends.

          Lohanna’s family was not wealthy by any means so they tried to spend money wisely as many products are very expensive in Brazil.  “In Brazil, many people work a full month to earn as little as five hundred reais, what would be something like three hundred dollars in America.  That’s per month you know so they don’t have much to afford or buy a lot of exotic foods.”   As described in the article “Global Production Networks, Chronic Poverty and ‘Slave Labour’ in Brazil”, many Brazilians work with no guarantee of regular pay while working in undesirable working conditions: “Workers’ perceptions of being thus ‘tied in’ to a job, even where the conditions of work classify as ‘analogous to slavery’, illuminate how the payment of an advance or the withholding of wages are the key mechanisms used by employers and recruiters to discipline the labour force and exploit workers’ situations of chronic need.”  These unfortunate people are the byproducts a big issue in Brazil and that’s poverty. They work like everybody else but don’t get paid until the employers are ready to pay them despite needing to house, clothe and feed their families.  While the strong family bond, religion and food are some uplifting aspects of Brazilian culture, the negatives are the economic problems and the poverty in which many live in.   With that being said, Lohanna’s family would create a strong bond of togetherness as they spent many days and nights together doing recreational things and made their own fun.  Lohanna’s childhood was filled with love and joy, but unfortunately her father passed away when she was seven, thus leaving her behind, along with her sister and mother.  It was a very sad time for the family but this left an everlasting bond between the three girls as they have remained close ever since.

                Throughout Lohanna’s childhood, she developed a negative view on Americans as she thought all people in the U.S. were snobs that held biased opinions about their country, thinking Americans were better than those in the rest of the world.  She didn’t really care for America and focused her efforts on the country she stood on.

“But that was the reason I never learned English in Brazil, because I just hated it! You know, because I always thought it wasn’t fair for one country to try to dominate the world, and that’s how I viewed America.  Like America would try to go out of their way to work on other country’s businesses.  Like in Wars and stuff like that.  And so (giggling) I just hated the United States because of that.  I think that’s the way a lot of Brazilians view America”

This just goes to show how many others view the U.S. as it seems we have made a few enemies over the years.  Lohanna must have been expecting many ignorant people here and probably wasn’t looking forward to coinciding with them.  On the flipside, however, Lohanna was curious about the “American Dream” and what that stood for.  She had seen American movies, movies that had rich families with big houses and very little poverty.  She was excited to see if it was all that it was cracked up to be.

            As Lohanna and her family were planning a trip to Corte Madera, Ca to visit her Aunt and Uncle, they knew that they needed to obtain a Visa in order to travel to the U.S.   They went to see a consulate in Brasilia to get permission to travel and got it easily.  Now they could finally fulfill their curiosity and see for themselves what America was like.  As they arrived, the weather was very cold as it was December.  It was a shock to them as the weather back in Brazil never reached the low temperatures of forty degrees Fahrenheit.  When the Pinheiro’s arrived at their relative’s home, they were pleasantly surprised: “It was interesting because it was everything beautiful, like in a dream.  It felt like we were in a movie because the weather was different from Brazil and then we got to their house and their house was huge, just like in the movies.  And then we saw all the Christmas decorations, and then it was like…living in a dream.” Lohanna was extremely blessed to have relatives who have prospered here in America so she could see the good part of America first. “I went to the ballet at the City Hall and I had the experience of watching that and, you know—I had never done that before.  And it was magical. Then I went to Lake Tahoe and saw the snow for the first time.  So I did all that stuff I had wanted to do ever since I was a little kid you know.  And I went to Disneyland and I cried like a baby!”.  This is very rare for most immigrants who are usually very disappointed with their first impression.  However, Lohanna would keep experiencing more and more positive things that America has to offer.

Lohanna would also be shocked as to how cheap the food and clothing are as well as how safe the environment is compared to that of Brazil.

“Well the first night we went to Costco it was like…All those huge boxes!  You know for so cheap.  That was the first thing.  I was like ‘WOW’, food is really cheap here compared to Brazil.  I felt like it was awesome but at the same time it is kind of unfair because I know the reality of Brazil.”

This seemed bitter sweet for her and her family as they were happy to be in the position they were in but knew how much of a struggle it was and still is for millions of people back home.  Later in the interview, Lohanna had mentioned that another good thing about America is how much safer it is.  “You could walk down the street and we weren’t afraid of getting robbed”.  Back in Brazil the criminality rate has risen greatly over the past ten years so you can see why the simple fact of not having fear of getting robbed was a sigh of relief for Lohanna. After asked to sum up what was better about American life, she explained simply that it was a better quality of life.  Little did she know, however, that she was about to spend a lot more time here than she had expected.

          As the Pinheiros’ vacation in America was coming to an end, Lohanna’s aunt and uncle offered to help Lohanna by asking her to stay in the U.S and study abroad, thus taking college classes here instead of in Brazil.  Lohanna was very pleased by this and accepted without hesitation, stating that a degree in America had much more weight than a degree in Brazil.  “I’ll have a second language and I’ll have experienced a new culture and, for God sakes, it’s America, and everybody in Brazil thinks everything here is better.”  While taking college classes here in America had excited her greatly, she knew the first step wouldn’t be easy.  She now had to learn English, the language that she thought she never would have had to or would have wanted to learn.

          Lohanna quickly enrolled in an intensive English program, knowing she must learn it quickly in order to get into college.  She speedily progressed and within months could speak in sentences.  However, not knowing English too well at the time, Lohanna would start to encounter her first experiences of discrimination.

“I would go to the store and try to find something and because of my accent or because I didn’t speak English well, the white people would completely ignore me.  But I noticed the other workers, like the Latino workers and people with darker skin, they were nicer to me.  They would try to help me while the white people would just look down on me.”

I believe this kind of discrimination pushed Lohanna even harder to learn English.  She committed herself to learning the language completely and within nine months Lohanna was ready for the TOEFL test.  This test was for people that spoke English as their second language to determine whether or not they were in position to attend college.  Incredibly after only learning and practicing English for a small amount of time, Lohanna passed the test and was on her way to College of Marin.

            Arguably, the hardest part of assimilating to a new country is learning the language.  As Lohanna had completed that aspect of joining America, the next part was learning and understanding the culture.  Many people say that there is no true “American culture” as America is made up of so many different races and ethnicities that have different cultural expectations and traditions.  Combine all of this together and America is just one big melting pot of the world, one big melting pot of many different viewpoints on life and what life is supposed to be.  Meanwhile, all are living together in one democratic country.  Lohanna has other ideas, however.  When asked about American culture and what she viewed it as she replied with this:

“There are a lot of immigrants here in America, but I do think there is an American culture.  I don’t want to speak for everybody but I think American culture is about money.  You know, the American dream where you have to work and work and work to get what you have and you….You don’t have time to pay attention to the people around you.  You don’t have time for your family, you don’t have time for your kids.  Your kids are raised by nannies and babysitters and you don’t have time for anything. You know it’s just you working everyday, that’s all you pretty much do to achieve the American dream.  And it feels like nobody really gets there because even though I think the people got that, they still working like crazy.  So I think there is an American culture and it’s founded on money, unfortunately.  I mean, it’s not everybody.  I’ve seen people that like to have time for their families and kids but what I’ve seen…Most of it is money.  Money is everything.”

The term “American Dream” was once made up by historian James Trusslow Adams in 1931 in midst of the Great Depression.  His famous quote lies in the article “The Death of the American Dream,” in which he says, “It is not the dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”  This is what so many men and women chase here in America: finical stability, personal growth, recognition from one’s peers, and so on and so on.  Many Americans are chasing too many things while forgetting to take the time to enjoy life and the company we share in it.  Lohanna has seen this firsthand while working as a nanny in Marin County, CA.  She has worked for families that are made up of hard work., so much hard work that both mom and dad are working just about every single day.  This forces the parents to leave the kids to be with trusted strangers Monday through Friday.  This whole process is putting the nanny in the mother role as the nannies are watching the kids almost more than the mother.  It’s a far cry from the family structure back home in Brazil where families are only raised by mom and dad and when help is needed, the extended family is looked to for support.  Experiencing all of this first hand as a nanny in Marin County, Lohanna has realized how much she misses her home country.

            As Lohanna has been in the U.S. for four years, she can see now what America is like and how it differs from Brazil.  She expressed that she deeply misses her family as well as her native food.  She has a hard time eating many things that most Americans enjoy regularly and also misses seeing her relatives on a daily basis.  Even though they all stay connected through social media, phone calls and text messages, she explained that it is just not the same.  When asked if she had to pick one place to call home, Lohanna stated “Brazil” without any hesitation.  “Because that’s where I was raised.  That’s where I got my sense of self.  That’s where I learned to be myself and what I like and what I don’t like.  That’s where my family is.  You know, my first language”.  I then asked that even though she has experienced so much here in America including having a serious relationship with a boyfriend, if after college she would drop everything to return home with her degree as planned or possibly make this her permanent home.  She paused and thought about it for a few seconds then replied “um, that’s interesting.  I want the good things from Brazil and the good things from the United States all in one place but that’s not possible, so I don’t know.  It all depends when I graduate and if I get married.  Where it’s going to be better but I definitely want the freedom to go back and forth.”

            While Lohanna was thinking and talking about a very personal matters, I then asked her how this whole experience has affected her identity.  She said that it really hasn’t, as she knows who she is.  She is Brazilian—she knows that, is proud of that and she is not trying to be American.  She stated that she still eats like a Brazilian, acts like a Brazilian and values her culture very much.  I then challenged that, stating that one’s identity is shaped by not only the way one views oneself, but also the way others view that individual as well.  She had explained earlier in the interview that her view on America had changed since her arrival in the U.S.  Her viewpoint has changed as well as her identity as a whole:

“In Brazil, we are more open to other people.  We are very welcoming.  We are very receptive and we are very friendly people.  See in that way, I’m still the same person.  But they still view their country not as good as America and in that case, I think my view has changed because now I see there is no such thing as a perfect country.  You know, there’s a lot of good things in America, but there’s a lot of bad things too.  When you immigrate and assimilate to another country, you look back at your country and evaluate what is working back there and what doesn’t work.  Then you can compare and grow as a person because now you can accept more the differences there are in the world.  You’re not as judgmental and racist.  So I guess my identity would be an open minded Brazilian.  Or a um, self aware.”

All in all, it seems that Lohanna’s identity has changed. It has changed in a positive light as she holds her Brazilian values while learning American culture and she has taken the good from both while leaving what she deemed as the “bad” aspects out.

             While Lohanna still lives here in the U.S., she is still experiencing and learning new things all the time.  She is a Junior at San Francisco State University and hopes to graduate in 2014 with the goal of moving on to Grad school.  As she has experienced many things in the past four years that have shaped her current identity, Lohanna’s story can be seen as a success by many including any immigrant who hopes to study here in America.  While it would be beneficial for many of us to experience another country for personal growth, America should still be viewed as one of, if not the best, as the U.S. has much to offer students who are studying abroad.  Diversity, solid academics, and heavy competition are just a few of those qualities here in America.  Lohanna’s experiences in both Brazil and America seem to have had a lasting effect on her as she appears very open minded and can see the world with great intellect.  Lohanna is a great example of what an immigrant should be about as she is motivated towards success, humble, intellectual, and diverse.

Works Cited

Philips, Nicola and Leonardo Sakamoto. “Global Production Networks, Chronic Poverty and ‘Slave Labour’ in Brazil.” Studies in Comparative International Development Vol. 47 Issue 3, Sep2012: p287-315. Print

Wright, Luke S. H. “The Death of the American Dream.” Critics Notebook Vol. 85 Issue 4 2009: p196-199. Print

The Lost Identity

The Lost Identity

by Brandon Moreno, December 2013

What is home? Asking someone what home is is like asking someone what love is. This is a very complex topic and everyone’s idea of home is going to be different. To some it may be where they live now or where they were born. To others it can be an entire country or state that they see as home. Katrina has no home. She lives in a nice two-story, four-bedroom, two-bath house with her parents in the Bay Area. Most people would see her as being very fortunate, but all she has is shelter, no home. After asking her which country she considers to be her home country, she says the Philippines only because she was born there. After asking Katrina what her concept of home is she said, “My concept of home is a place where you feel you belong and a place to make memories.” She see her home country as home not only because she was born there, but also because she feels more accepted there.

          But what if one does not identify any specific place as home?  This is a strange  but very real concept.  As natural disasters and war ravage regions around the world, home may be destroyed for some people.  This is what I will address in my paper.  After interviewing my subject, I realized that she does not identify with a specific home.  In this essay, I will outline her struggles to fit in and gain acceptance in a world in which she does not feel grounded to a specific place.

            In the Philippines, like other Asian countries, the culture is very collectivistic.  Elders are respected and honored as sources of wisdom and guidance.  Younger children are taught at a young age to respect their elders and contribute to the family.  It is not uncommon for a child as young as ten years old to get a job and begin providing for his or her family.  Also, in Asian cultures, one functions for the betterment of the family as opposed to the advancement of the individual.  This fosters a sense of camaraderie and strength within the family as they are all working together toward one goal, which is to survive and prosper.  Here in America, the opposite is in effect as we have a strongly individualistic culture.  When we are young, we are asked what we want to do when we grow up, what type of clothes we want to wear and what food we want to eat.  In many other cultures, there is not much choice given and what your family has is what you get.  The individualistic nature of this country’s culture can prove to be very challenging for someone of Asian descent due to the many cultural differences. 

            The first topic I will touch on is code switching and its significance from a cultural perspective. Like I previously mentioned, in Asian cultures each family member has a distinct and specific job that he or she has to accomplish. In American culture, one often does not have a distinct job related to the family. An American’s job is based on how that person wants to live his or her life. If she wants to become a doctor, her job is to study hard and get into medical school. This may be a hard line for an Asian American to straddle due to the fact that her family is telling her that she has to provide for the family, but her surroundings are telling her to be individualistic and make her dreams a reality. This idea of living one’s life within the family and living another with friends and at school can be very hard to comprehend for an Asian American. One has to balance her home life and social life and act differently in both roles, which can be very confusing and disheartening. 

            Due to the cultural difference between the Philippines and America, I can see why it is hard for Katrina to call a specific place home. Her interactions at home with her family are very different from the pressures society puts on her being an American citizen. At home, she treads with caution around her parents, as she is very respectful and compliant to any of their needs.  She is often responsible for helping her sister with homework and cooking meals when her family is busy with other things. When at home, her dress is very conservative due to her strict parents and her Christian upbringing. She also has a very long list of chores that she has to complete each week, ranging from cleaning her room to mopping the kitchen floor. Also, she is responsible for most of her bills, which include her phone, clothing and all of her credit cards.  Nothing is handed to her in her family. When Katrina is with her friends and away from her family, she takes on a very different persona. She is much more social and participates in many activities her parents would not want her to be doing. Her actions portray those of an average American woman who likes to go out dancing, drinking and shopping with her friends.  In contrast to how she dresses at home, the way she dresses with her friends is more provocative and individualistic, which goes along with the American culture. She has specific interests, which include badminton and volleyball, which she participates in, outside of the home. Her speech is also very different when she is out with friends as she adopts the slang of her American generation. With these tremendous differences between her home and social life, I can see why Katrina has not identified a specific home for herself. She is basically straddling two worlds, which are in great conflict with each other.

            Another reason why Katrina does not feel she has a home is due to her religious affiliation.  Back in the Philippines, her extended family is made up of  devout Catholics. They live and breathe by the Bible and do not support any other religion. Katrina and her nuclear family are Christian, which is an offshoot of Catholicism, but there are differences in their beliefs.  Her family in the Philippines frowns upon her nuclear family’s choice of religion and it has caused great tension between them in the past.  This has put a tremendous strain on her due to the fact that her relatives in the Philippines have disowned her immediate family. Although this may seem trivial, Katrina takes this very hard because it is always tense when she goes back to visit. She does not feel a connection with her relatives because they look down upon her, but she does not feel connected with American culture because she is of Asian descent. 

            Her relatives also look down on her for not being able to speak her native language fluently, which makes home feel like a fictional concept. Although she is competent enough to understand and speak minimally, it is frowned upon that she is not fluent. This causes a lot of discomfort for Katrina in that she does not feel connected with the closest place that she can call home. Her relatives constantly leave her out of conversations when they are together to teach her a stern lesson. Although this may seem unfair to some, it is very common in Asian cultures for one’s family to disown or look down upon a family member for something that is not directly his or her fault. 

            Another reason why Katrina does not feel like she has a specific home is that her relatives constantly criticize her family for moving to the United States. Her relatives make jokes about American culture and assume that her family is rich due to living in a different country. The majority of the communication between the two families is her relatives asking her family to send money. This is incredibly disheartening to Katrina and her family because, not only are they looked down upon for moving overseas, but they also feel used and almost obligated to send money to win back their relatives’ trust. This is a strange position and I cannot imagine how this changes her perspective on where she calls home. Although she identifies the Philippines as home, she is ostracized by her relatives due to her religion, speech and current living situation.    

            Another key factor in Katrina’s discovery of home is having a sense of community. I asked her, “How do you view life when you’re in the Philippines in comparison to when you’re in the United States?” She replied, “Life in the Philippines is slow but also more difficult. Everyone is more community-oriented and bases their decisions on how it will affect others around them. The US is very self-centered.” She mentions the word community and in order to feel accepted and at home she needs to have a sense of community. The U.S. does not live up to those standards, as it is very “self-centered,” as she claims. This balancing act of trying to feel at home in two countries she feels lost in continues to take a toll on her daily life. Community is a key factor in her culture in the Philippines and, if she doesn’t have community, she doesn’t have a home. She feels most at home in the Philippines because her family there is warm and welcoming.          

            The majority of Filipino-Americans have their extended families living with them in their homes, as that is a part of their culture. Barbara Posadas, author of the book The Filipino Americans, states, “in 1990, Filipino American households more typically included members other than spouses, children, and even parents and parents-in-law of the householder, than did American households in general.” She continues to add that the percentage of extended family members in Filipino homes is more than four times that of extended family members living in American homes. This idea of closeness within a family is ideal for Katrina because family is community and community is the closest thing to home in her mind. She identifies her self through home, so, without a home, her identity is essentially lost.

            She seems to struggle with the language of her home country and the lifestyle of the Philippines. I asked her about how it feels when she goes back to the Philippines and she explains that her family prepares a feast, welcomes her, and then they go out. Next, she says, “If that aspect weren’t there, if it didn’t happen every time I came back to the Philippines, then I would just feel like an outsider. I wouldn’t feel so welcomed.” She continues on to explain the language barrier and how a lot of bargaining goes on in the villages of her home country. She is not a barterer and doesn’t like their way of communicating there. Her family also looks at her differently there because she is “Americanized” and doesn’t speak her root language very well. Since she can’t speak her native language very fluently, the idea of acceptance becomes an issue and she doesn’t feel like she belongs in the Philippines. It’s easy for her to get frustrated because negotiating is so third-world to her even though she sees this third world country as her home.

            The fact that Katrina is not a U.S. born Filipino-American makes it difficult for her to get along with Filipinos who were born in the United States because of communication issues. This too is also in part because of the language barrier. I asked her, “What is the most difficult thing about living in a country that you don’t consider to 

be your home country?”  She replied “… and it’s kind of sad. Even Filipinos who were born here treat Filipinos from the Philippines who are immigrants almost the same way as Americans treat us.” Her observation shows that she is at a loss with finding comfort and in where home is. Her identity is Filipino American: while she knows her roots and is culturally rooted, her sense of home involves a constant tug-of-war between the two countries and two cultures. Acceptance is a huge issue that continues to cause stress and emotional problems that erupt in her.

            Next, I asked her to elaborate on how Filipinos born in the U.S. treat her. She says:

“So they make fun of us. Like for example I guess you can say I speak more properly. I use a wider range of vocabulary even if I don’t sound like it right now. I just came from work and I’m really tired so I’m not gonna be at my best, but I don’t speak in Ebonics like most Filipino Americans do. Umm, I’m not into the same things that they are so they make fun of me and say that I’m really white and I don’t have a lot of Filipino American friends. Like all my friends are different. I’m friends with Latinos, blacks, and whites and others Asians but not so much Filipinos because if this particular reason. They make fun of me for not acting Filipino.”

As she states this very detailed example of her mistreatment from her own group of people with the same roots as her, I observed that they are very different. Although many Filipinos may speak the same language and have the same color skin, they are not similar at all as in Katrina’s case. Her battle to feel accepted by the majority of white people, by Filipino people in the Philippines, and by her Filipino peers in the U.S. brings about a stronghold in her life.

          Katrina constantly faces the unbearable motion of depression due to feeling like she doesn’t belong to a true home. Pisares, the writer of the journal article “Social- Invisibility Narrative of Filipino-American Feature Films,” explains, “the crux of the Filipino-American social condition is a nagging sense that despite their status as the second largest Asian-American group, Filipino Americans are represented or recognized infrequently in multicultural, post-civil-rights U.S. culture: they are, in a word, invisible.” This is in fact to be understood as saying that people like that Katrina are facing depression through the lack of acceptance from society. Unfortunately, this is not a phenomenon as this is very common for many individuals who have immigrated to the United States from other countries. Uniquely enough, her ethnic group is the second largest of the Asian-American groups yet they are still ignored through the scope of the majority. 

            Lastly, the Filipino and American cultures are very different, causing great conflict in Katrina deciding which she prefers to be her own. As Eric Reyes, writer of “Fictions of Return in Filipino America,” adds, “In contrast to local and localizing art projects such as Images of America, the transnational art project is another form of intervention into the messy field of tension between Filipino America and America.” In Reyes’ observation, one thing is clearly revealed to us is that transnational art challenges the notion that one country’s influential art is based on culture, providing views of their idealistic concept of home.  How does this art and culture relate to Katrina’s concept of home? Transnationalism is the idea of being able to relate to or be involved with several nations. Katrina’s life relates to this art piece since she has transcended national borders. Her perspective of culture changes as she changes location and there is never a concrete conclusion to her unanswered question of who she is and where home truly is.

            In closing, there is no clear understanding of home in the eyes of many immigrants. The majority of them face depression due to having no true identity and because of the harsh realities of the world. As many continue to stay voiceless and passive, their own beliefs become lost and adjusting to another culture becomes the norm. Earlier, Katrina stated that community is a significant aspect in her life in referring to her concept of home. Transitioning from one culture to the next through a variety of outlets takes a toll on an individual. Although moving around a lot has challenged Katrina, being exposed to no real home, she has gained much knowledge and has built a foundation of who she is throughout this process. Identifying herself is a process, and through experiences, her ability to embrace trials and tribulations has lead her to be at peace with herself even if home isn’t really home.

Works Cited

Salangsang, Katrina. Personal interview. 29 October 2013.

Reyes, Eric. “Fictions of Return in Filipino America.” 107th ser. 29.2 (2011): 19+. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.

Posadas, Barbara Mercedes. “Individual Aspirations, Family Claims, and the Filipino American Household.” The Filipino Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.             100-01. Print.

Pisares, E. H. “The Social-Invisibility Narrative in Filipino-            American Feature Films.” Positions: East Asia Cultures             Critique 19.2 (2011): 421-37. Print.

Transcribed Interview

How long it take for parents to decide to come to us?

I would say maybe about eight years because my dad was in Saudi Arabia while my mom was in the Philippines. They decided they wanted to build a Life together. In the U.S. because there were no jobs for them in the Philippines.

Tell me about the culture of your home country.

I would say it’s umm. It’s really vibrant. In a way that we’re very welcoming and neighbors really get to know each other. They’re practically related. And they share a lot of food. Everybody we meet we somehow give them food or you know, just give them a taste of what Filipino food is like.

What did your family expect America do be like before they arrived here?

Just really a great and full of opportunity and a lot easier life than it is in the Philippines.

Has the U.S. exceeded your expectations?

Not really umm, life here is actually a lot more difficult in terms of just keeping up with the pace of how this country is. The expectations we have for social status, just being able to pay taxes and you know like umm. We have expectations of our own culture and that of the U.S. So it makes it difficult. Especially when the U.S. culture does not accept us as openly as our own. And you know what, neither does our own accept us because we are seen as the, how do you say this, I guess the more umm privileged, but we do not feel privileged at all because we have to work so hard, so much harder than they do in the Philippines.

How has your view of the U.S. changed after moving here?

It’s changed because growing up (cough) I thought that the U.S. is the melting pot so everybody’s gonna get along no matter what ethnicity, religion or background, but that’s not what was proven to me  because growing up I was made fun of a lot (cough) especially when I still had an accent. That was back in Elementary school. And then even now I would consider my family and I to be middle class, you know we worked hard enough and we have the income to be considered middle class and we are educated people but people who are, who think that they are originally from this country feel like they can look down on us. They think they can make us feel inferior because of our skin color, because of where we come from and it’s really annoying because growing up I was told that America was the land of the great. You know everyone’s here to just live life together and just make everything better for each other. That’s not what it is.

Why do you stay in the U.S?

I have no choice. You know I’ve lived here since I was three years old and it would be difficult for me to even live back home because they have a different culture there. Even they would make fun of me for not knowing how to speak fluently in our native language.

Do you ever plan to move back to your home country?

Sometimes I think about it. Umm if I were to find a good enough opportunity and find a good source of income or a good place to live or if my parents do decide to move back home and they need me then I would move back.

Tell me about your families journey in immigrating to America.

It was really difficult for my parents. For the first ten years I could tell that they struggles a lot with the language barrier even though they spoke English really well it would still be difficult to understand body language, certain tone in the way people talk to you, attitudes. It would be hard to really understand what that person what trying to say. Like let’s say somebody was being condescending they would really pick up on that really easily so it was difficult for them to I guess like make friends with people who were not Filipino and also to communicate with co workers on a more personal level, but professionally it looked like they did well. It’s just the connection and more personal level that lacked.

What challenges do you face as an immigrant that you feel you wouldn’t face as an American?

I think the main challenge for me is I don’t know acceptance. I feel like to this day people still look at me and my family and they treat us differently. Just the other day my mother and I were at a department store and one of the workers at the department store was in the aisle that my mom was in and she said out loud “oh the security camera guy is here, he just installed the cameras.” And my mom looked up and nobody was there so basically that woman was trying to say if you’re trying to steal something you’re being watched or because you are not white we’re gonna assume that you’re trying to steal something.

How did that make you feel?

Angry

What are your favorite qualities of the United States?

I guess my favorite quality is that even though diversity has it’s negative points to it just like the racism, sexism it’s still really fun getting to know other peoples cultures and just I don’t know having community with people who are completely different from what your ancestors were.

What are your least favorite qualities of the United States?

The least favorite is of course still I guess I can call it White power. The White power feel of this country. You can see it on the media. I think it was Miss America. Just this past Miss America pageant I think she was Indian and there were comments about that. About people not liking that they chose an Indian American so that really pisses me off that it still happens.

How have you grown from your experience?

Honestly, I think I’ve grown to learn how to accept people more. Umm but it’s also helped me toughen up in terms of knowing how to protect myself and accepting that it’s gonna happen so in a way my acceptance is my protection because I’m prepared for whatever is gonna be said or whatever is gonna be done.

Tell me about the economics in the Philippines.

The Philippines is mostly a third world country. Obviously America’s first world so a lot of people there have to work overseas just to support family in the Philippines. Umm I  think my families pretty well off in the Philippines and we’re considered middle class here. Umm so I think does that answer your question?

Do you consider the Philippines or the U.S. to be your home? Explain.

I think I consider the Philippines to be my home only because I was born there.

What are some human rights abuses you might have faced?

Mostly discrimination against race, color, language, religion and I still don’t feel like  I’m entitled to live and breathe on this soil. Like no matter how educated I am, no matter what I do to try and improve myself which is BS because there is nothing for me to prove since I didn’t even choose to live here in the beginning. You know like what’s up with that. I’m just here because I had no choice. I’m just trying to live my life.

Do you have any regrets in coming to the U.S?

I mean not really. My life, I don’t know how my life would of turned out if we stayed in the Philippines because back then I know my grandpa was cheated of his inheritance so then my mom was growing up in poverty and my dad as an overseas worker didn’t make much and he grew up in poverty to begin with. I think I. Would of been poor also, but here even though it’s such a struggle to keep our lifestyle you know just keeping a roof over our head, some food in the fridge, just being able to go out wherever we want I think I would keep this life in this country.

What are some stereotypes about immigrants that you feel are false?

I guess just the stereotype of us taking over. You know everybody that’s in this country right now they were descendants of immigrants so nobody is completely entitled to saying that this is their country and that we should go back to our own. And also I guess the main stereotype of Filipinos is that we’re all gonna be nurses. Lucky me I’m not a nurse.

How does it feel when you go back to visit your home country?

Most of the time it is really good. It feels really good. I feel at home probably for about a week because everybody is welcoming. My aunts always prepare a feast for us and then my cousins take us out, but it seems like if that aspect weren’t there. It didn’t happen every time I came back to the Philippines then I would just feel like an outsider. I wouldn’t feel so welcomed. Like if I were to go to the mall  or the market by myself I feel like if I were to try to buy something people would cheat me because I don’t know how to barter, bargain or like ask for a lower price. That’s the thing in the Philippines. You are able to ask for lower prices for things. It doesn’t matter where you go. You can do that but I’m not good at negotiating and I’m not used to that so I guess that would be something that would make me miss the more structured way of paying  for things in the Unites States. I like the food there of course. Nothing beats like the food of your country of origin, especially if you really like it. And just the hospitality in general.

Do people immigrate to the Philippines and how are they treated?

Yes we have Koreans, Chinese, and even Americans. They come to live in the Philippines either for school, work or just to retire. From what I’ve seen they get treated well if not better than Filipinos in their own country. Like usually if you were to see or encounter and American or Korean person in the Philippines I feel like they treat them with more respect and give them better hospitality, better customer service. I guess because in our culture we just want to make people feel welcomed so that’s what we do.

What was the process like to become an American citizen when you moved here?

Honestly, I don’t really know the process. I just remember as a child when I was about maybe 5 or 6 going to San Francisco coming from the a East Bay going on BART just to get my picture taken. I would guess that it was from some immigration center. This is embarrassing that I don’t what what it’s called, but I know that that was probably when I established my residency here. I was naturalized.

What is the most difficult thing about living in a country that you don’t consider to be your home country?

I guess just I don’t know like. I think for me it’s still the criticism, racism, sexism just personal things that I have to deal with and it’s kind of sad even Filipinos who were born here treat Filipinos from the Philippines who are immigrants almost the same way as Americans treat us.

Tell me about that.

So they make fun of us. Like for example I guess you can say I speak more properly. I use a wider range of vocabulary even I don’t sound like it right now. I just came from work and. I’m really tired so I’m not gonna be at my best but I don’t speak in Ebonics like most Filipino Americans do. Umm I’m not into the same things that they are so they make fun of me and say that I’M really white and I don’t have a lot of Filipino American friends. Like all my friends are different. I’m friends with Latinos, blacks, and whites and others asians but not so much Filipinos because if this particular reason. They make fun of me for not acting Filipino

How does that make you feel?

I just brush it off because honestly I’m not gonna feed their insecurities. I feel like making fun of people is out of insecurity.

What are some racial slurs that you have been called?

I guess FLIP. F*ckin little island people. I think that goes back to like one of the world wars. And then other asians don’t like us because we’re part of Asia but we don’t look asian a lot of the times. Some of us look more Polynesian or Spanish and we have darker skin tone and they make fun of us for that.

What are you proud as an American?

Even though we go through a lot of racism, prejudice, I am glad that in America we are still able to have education. We can still live out our dreams, but for me with all the “isms” it’s not gonna make me feel like living it out. I feel like I’m almost trying to keep up with the norms

How would your life be different here in America if you didn’t face any racism or discrimination?

I feel like I. I don’t know. I would feel way more empowered. I think with that empowerment I would be able to put all that energy, the knowledge that I have from my education into use a lot better and not have to worry about which career would I be more I guess qualified and criticized in. Most likely I wouldn’t be more insecure. As a girl we’re already insecure but then to be different and to be treated that way in a country that is supposed to be your home and you’ve assimilated yourself here and you don’t even feel like your country of origin is your home. It would help to not have all of those “isms”.

Who is Katrina?

(Laughs) I am a child of God. I am a Filipino American. I would also say I am a sister, a daughter, a friend. Somewhat of an activist especially for women. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I definitely do support women’s rights and just any other thing that surrounds that. I am a bad mitten, volleyball player, singer, dancer and foodie.

How long did it take for your parents to decide to come to us?

I would say maybe about eight years because my dad was in Saudi Arabia while my mom was in the Philippines. They decided they wanted to build a Life together. In the U.S. because there were no jobs for them in the Philippines.

Tell me about the culture of your home country.

I would say it’s umm. It’s really vibrant. In a way that we’re very welcoming and neighbors really get to know each other. They’re practically related. And they share a lot of food. Everybody we meet we somehow give them food or you know, just give them a taste of what Filipino food is like.

What did your family expect America do be like before they arrived here?

Just really a great and full of opportunity and a lot easier life than it is in the Philippines.

Has the U.S. exceeded your expectations?

Not really umm, life here is actually a lot more difficult in terms of just keeping up with the pace of how this country is. The expectations we have for social status, just being able to pay taxes and you know like umm. We have expectations of our own culture and that of the U.S. So it makes it difficult. Especially when the U.S. culture does not accept us as openly as our own. And you know what, neither does our own accept us because we are seen as the, how do you say this, I guess the more umm privileged, but we do not feel privileged at all because we have to work so hard, so much harder than they do in the Philippines.

How has your view of the U.S. changed after moving here?

It’s changed because growing up (cough) I thought that the U.S. is the melting pot so everybody’s gonna get along no matter what ethnicity, religion or background, but that’s not what was proven to me  because growing up I was made fun of a lot (cough) especially when I still had an accent. That was back in Elementary school. And then even now I would consider my family and I to be middle class, you know we worked hard enough and we have the income to be considered middle class and we are educated people but people who are, who think that they are originally from this country feel like they can look down on us. They think they can make us feel inferior because of our skin color, because of where we come from and it’s really annoying because growing up I was told that America was the land of the great. You know everyone’s here to just live life together and just make everything better for each other. That’s not what it is.

Why do you stay in the U.S?

I have no choice. You know I’ve lived here since I was three years old and it would be difficult for me to even live back home because they have a different culture there. Even they would make fun of me for not knowing how to speak fluently in our native language.

Do you ever plan to move back to your home country?

Sometimes I think about it. Umm if I were to find a good enough opportunity and find a good source of income or a good place to live or if my parents do decide to move back home and they need me then I would move back.

Tell me about your families journey in immigrating to America.

It was really difficult for my parents. For the first ten years I could tell that they struggles a lot with the language barrier even though they spoke English really well it would still be difficult to understand body language, certain tone in the way people talk to you, attitudes. It would be hard to really understand what that person what trying to say. Like let’s say somebody was being condescending they would really pick up on that really easily so it was difficult for them to I guess like make friends with people who were not Filipino and also to communicate with co workers on a more personal level, but professionally it looked like they did well. It’s just the connection and more personal level that lacked.

What challenges do you face as an immigrant that you feel you wouldn’t face as an American?

I think the main challenge for me is I don’t know acceptance. I feel like to this day people still look at me and my family and they treat us differently. Just the other day my mother and I were at a department store and one of the workers at the department store was in the aisle that my mom was in and she said out loud “oh the security camera guy is here, he just installed the cameras.” And my mom looked up and nobody was there so basically that woman was trying to say if you’re trying to steal something you’re being watched or because you are not white we’re gonna assume that you’re trying to steal something.

How did that make you feel?

Angry

What are your favorite qualities of the United States?

I guess my favorite quality is that even though diversity has it’s negative points to it just like the racism, sexism it’s still really fun getting to know other peoples cultures and just I don’t know having community with people who are completely different from what your ancestors were.

What are your least favorite qualities of the United States?

The least favorite is of course still I guess I can call it White power. The White power feel of this country. You can see it on the media. I think it was Miss America. Just this past Miss America pageant I think she was Indian and there were comments about that. About people not liking that they chose an Indian American so that really pisses me off that it still happens.

How have you grown from your experience?

Honestly, I think I’ve grown to learn how to accept people more. Umm but it’s also helped me toughen up in terms of knowing how to protect myself and accepting that it’s gonna happen so in a way my acceptance is my protection because I’m prepared for whatever is gonna be said or whatever is gonna be done.

Tell me about the economics in the Philippines.

The Philippines is mostly a third world country. Obviously America’s first world so a lot of people there have to work overseas just to support family in the Philippines. Umm I  think my families pretty well off in the Philippines and we’re considered middle class here. Umm so I think does that answer your question?

Do you consider the Philippines or the U.S. to be your home? Explain.

I think I consider the Philippines to be my home only because I was born there.

What are some human rights abuses you might have faced?

Mostly discrimination against race, color, language, religion and I still don’t feel like  I’m entitled to live and breathe on this soil. Like no matter how educated I am, no matter what I do to try and improve myself which is BS because there is nothing for me to prove since I didn’t even choose to live here in the beginning. You know like what’s up with that. I’m just here because I had no choice. I’m just trying to live my life.

Do you have any regrets in coming to the U.S?

I mean not really. My life, I don’t know how my life would of turned out if we stayed in the Philippines because back then I know my grandpa was cheated of his inheritance so then my mom was growing up in poverty and my dad as an overseas worker didn’t make much and he grew up in poverty to begin with. I think I. Would of been poor also, but here even though it’s such a struggle to keep our lifestyle you know just keeping a roof over our head, some food in the fridge, just being able to go out wherever we want I think I would keep this life in this country.

What are some stereotypes about immigrants that you feel are false?

I guess just the stereotype of us taking over. You know everybody that’s in this country right now they were descendants of immigrants so nobody is completely entitled to saying that this is their country and that we should go back to our own. And also I guess the main stereotype of Filipinos is that we’re all gonna be nurses. Lucky me I’m not a nurse.

How does it feel when you go back to visit your home country?

Most of the time it is really good. It feels really good. I feel at home probably for about a week because everybody is welcoming. My aunts always prepare a feast for us and then my cousins take us out, but it seems like if that aspect weren’t there. It didn’t happen every time I came back to the Philippines then I would just feel like an outsider. I wouldn’t feel so welcomed. Like if I were to go to the mall  or the market by myself I feel like if I were to try to buy something people would cheat me because I don’t know how to barter, bargain or like ask for a lower price. That’s the thing in the Philippines. You are able to ask for lower prices for things. It doesn’t matter where you go. You can do that but I’m not good at negotiating and I’m not used to that so I guess that would be something that would make me miss the more structured way of paying  for things in the Unites States. I like the food there of course. Nothing beats like the food of your country of origin, especially if you really like it. And just the hospitality in general.

Do people immigrate to the Philippines and how are they treated?

Yes we have Koreans, Chinese, and even Americans. They come to live in the Philippines either for school, work or just to retire. From what I’ve seen they get treated well if not better than Filipinos in their own country. Like usually if you were to see or encounter and American or Korean person in the Philippines I feel like they treat them with more respect and give them better hospitality, better customer service. I guess because in our culture we just want to make people feel welcomed so that’s what we do.

What was the process like to become an American citizen when you moved here?

Honestly, I don’t really know the process. I just remember as a child when I was about maybe 5 or 6 going to San Francisco coming from the a East Bay going on BART just to get my picture taken. I would guess that it was from some immigration center. This is embarrassing that I don’t what what it’s called, but I know that that was probably when I established my residency here. I was naturalized.

What is the most difficult thing about living in a country that you don’t consider to be your home country?

I guess just I don’t know like. I think for me it’s still the criticism, racism, sexism just personal things that I have to deal with and it’s kind of sad even Filipinos who were born here treat Filipinos from the Philippines who are immigrants almost the same way as Americans treat us.

Tell me about that.

So they make fun of us. Like for example I guess you can say I speak more properly. I use a wider range of vocabulary even I don’t sound like it right now. I just came from work and. I’m really tired so I’m not gonna be at my best but I don’t speak in Ebonics like most Filipino Americans do. Umm I’m not into the same things that they are so they make fun of me and say that I’M really white and I don’t have a lot of Filipino American friends. Like all my friends are different. I’m friends with Latinos, blacks, and whites and others asians but not so much Filipinos because if this particular reason. They make fun of me for not acting Filipino

How does that make you feel?

I just brush it off because honestly I’m not gonna feed their insecurities. I feel like making fun of people is out of insecurity.

What are some racial slurs that you have been called?

I guess FLIP. F*ckin little island people. I think that goes back to like one of the world wars. And then other asians don’t like us because we’re part of Asia but we don’t look asian a lot of the times. Some of us look more Polynesian or Spanish and we have darker skin tone and they make fun of us for that.

What are you proud as an American?

Even though we go through a lot of racism, prejudice, I am glad that in America we are still able to have education. We can still live out our dreams, but for me with all the “isms” it’s not gonna make me feel like living it out. I feel like I’m almost trying to keep up with the norms

How would your life be different here in America if you didn’t face any racism or discrimination?

I feel like I. I don’t know. I would feel way more empowered. I think with that empowerment I would be able to put all that energy, the knowledge that I have from my education into use a lot better and not have to worry about which career would I be more I guess qualified and criticized in. Most likely I wouldn’t be more insecure. As a girl we’re already insecure but then to be different and to be treated that way in a country that is supposed to be your home and you’ve assimilated yourself here and you don’t even feel like your country of origin is your home. It would help to not have all of those “isms”.

Who is Katrina?

(Laughs) I am a child of God. I am a Filipino American. I would also say I am a sister, a daughter, a friend. Somewhat of an activist especially for women. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I definitely do support women’s rights and just any other thing that surrounds that. I am a bad mitten, volleyball player, singer, dancer and foodie.

The Fallen Leaves: Yang’s Journey

leaves

The Fallen Leaves: Yang’s Journey

by Anh Nguyen, December 201

There is a saying in Chinese that is roughly translated as “the fallen leaves find their ways to the root,” and which educates people to eventually stay true to their culture and origins. Charlene Yang, a Chinese immigrant in America, lives her life according to this saying. About twenty years ago, Yang moved to America with her parents, sister, and brother. Yang came from a poor province in Guangdong, where she vividly remembers the heat of summer. Like many people living in China at that time, Yang found it hard to acquire enough food and clothing. Yang was working while going to school with a salary of 80 cents a day. Her school not only allowed underage students to work, but also even provided work for students and permitted three days off a week to work in the fields. Seeing that her life could not get better if she had stayed in China, Yang decided to leave for America with her family when she was 23 years old. Her life was not easy when she first came here as she did not speak English, and everything was much more expensive than she had thought. Yang started to lean English by going to a night school while working in a clothing factory every day. When her family became more stable and more accustomed to the American life, she went to Macau to marry her husband, after which he also moved to America with her. Then, she became pregnant with her first daughter, and so their lives in the US began to be stable. Now Yang is blessed with a stable job in a hotel and a happy family with two daughters and a son.

Looking back at her decision to move to America, Yang thinks it was the best thing she could ever have done, to secure an easy and happy life for her children. Our interview takes place in Yang’s living room, which is full of Chinese ornaments and some small decorations with American flags. The background sound of her husband watching an American football game via Chinese telecast, and her children discussing things in both Chinese and English can still be heard through the recording. Yang speaks with a soft voice, and, sometimes, when the cheers of her family watching the game cuts her story off, she quietly stops talking to give a gentle and satisfied smile towards her family. When asked about her identity, Yang becomes confused because she thinks it has an obvious answer: she is Chinese. Although she cannot give any reason why, Yang insists that her family, which consists of three children who have never been to China, is a Chinese family through and through. After close examination, I realized that Yang is neither totally Chinese nor totally American, and is clinging to her Chinese origin as a coping mechanism in her American life. By blindly sticking to her Chinese culture, Yang is actually confused about her cultural identity as she tries to assimilate her origin, dream, and future to forcefully realize the American dream and make America her home, and it is only then that she realizes that she neither belongs to America nor China, which is actually a manifestation of the “underground” racism towards Asians in the United States.

Yang’s story is one of the few cases in which the American dream actually comes true, but she has not relied on sheer luck, but rather her enormous, effort to realize her dream. With a soft smile, Yang expresses how content she is with her life now. Yang is happy with her job with stable earnings and many employees’ benefits that she never had in China. Comparing her new life with her life in China, Yang is also happy when she thinks her children’s potential futures are much better than they would ever be if she had stayed in China. Yang came to American to seek a better life, and she found it. But Yang’s case is actually the odd happy case of realizing the American dreams among the poorer and unprepared immigrants in the US. Liso, an undocumented immigrant in the US, shared her view of the American dream through the book Underground America, which consists of many immigrants’ stories exposing the unthinkable hardship and abuses they have to face in America: “you find dollars lying in the grass, every leaf on the tree is a dollar” (80). However, when Liso moved to America, she realized that her life was worse off than it would had been, had she stayed in Africa, and that many Americans suffer great poverty, contrary to common belief in her country. Liso and Yang’s stories are so different that one might think they live in totally different countries or different times because Yang’s America is the land full of hopes and promises, while Liso’s is the complete opposite. Putting aside the fact that Liso was in a more complicated situation, both legally and mentally, one might think that Yang is genuinely lucky to have her life as it is now. Yang did not rely on luck, but rather her effort and attitude to make her dreams come true. When she first came to America, Yang had to adjust to the American culture, which was completely new and different to her. Because everything here was so expensive, Yang remembers she was so afraid of paying for anything that she spent two days walking nonstop to find a cheap place to stay. In addition, Yang left behind her friends to live in a country whose language she did not even speak. Therefore, Yang was also facing hardship when she moved to America. However, Yang did not let her dream slip away just because of those troubles. She tried her utmost to learn English and to save up money while keeping a positive attitude about her situation. Because she believed in herself and her accomplishments, she kept altering the hardship into challenges for her to change herself. Therefore, Yang realized her American dream by keeping a realistic view of the US and continuously challenges herself.

Yang identifies not only herself but also her children, who have never been to China, as Chinese, a behavior that is an example of one of four mainstream coping mechanisms of immigrants. Cultural identity of first and second-generation immigrants like Yang and her children is an interesting subject to study because they tend to be caught between two reasons to debate over their identity: adapting and deserting. In their study “Cultural identity and psychological adjustment of adolescent Chinese immigrants in New Zealand,” Mei Lin Eyou, Vivienne Adair, and Robyn Dixon classify second generation Chinese immigrants in New Zealand into four groups according to their attitudes towards China and New Zealand’s cultures. The study of over 400 adolescent Chinese immigrants shows that “162 (44.4%) of the participants were classified as integrated, 133 (36.4%) as separated, 20 (5.5%) as assimilated, and 50 (13.7%) as marginalized” (536). If, according to Yang’s first answer that she thinks of herself as Chinese, she falls in the 36.4% group of separated immigrants, who find themselves strongly connected to their original culture, although, after being questioned about her answer, she changes her answer to half American, half Chinese, which means she wants to appear more as an integrated immigrant, who mainly identifies herself with the mainstream cultural identity. Her lack of resolve suggests that Yang is probably confused about her cultural identity. Her confusion is the result of her struggle to live her American dream while holding onto her Chinese origin. As a result of her inner debate, she chooses to cling to her Chinese origin as a simple way to cope with her dream of living in America, the future of American life for her children, and her cultural origin.

 Although Yang tries the easy way out regarding her cultural identity, she is actually still in a much more complicated and lost situation as she tries to identify herself. Yang is actually neither integrated nor separated because her lifestyle is not similar to either the stereotypical American or Chinese. Consciously or not, Yang surrounds herself with Chinese people and avoids contact with Americans. In additions, she celebrates both American and Chinese holidays, which may make her seem like integrated immigrants who are equally affected by their original and new cultures. However, Yang acts according to the stereotypes of Americans more for the appearance of it than celebrating the actual reasons for the holidays. Thus, Yang is, indeed, trying to identify herself with both the Chinese and the American. In consequence, Yang is neither American nor Chinese, and the more she tries to act like either of these two, the more she does not belong to either of the two groups. Incidentally, Yang’s behavior clearly exemplifies the coping mechanism of a marginalized immigrant, who is alienated from both cultures. On the one hand, Yang acts like a Chinese person because she was educated to do so from childhood, so this lifestyle stays as a habit. On the other hand, Yang tries to be American because she is affected by the expectation of her family and friends about someone living in the US. Therefore, while trying to act according to different and contradicting expectations of her, Yang actually loses sight of who she is and who she wants to become. Thus, Yang’s final answer to the question about her cultural identity, which is simply “I don’t know,” greatly exemplifies her complex exile from both the cultures that she is trying to assimilate with.

Yang’s choice to stick with the Chinese culture is actually inevitable because it is a decision predetermined by American society. As explained earlier, as Yang is caught between the dilemma of blending in with the American lifestyle and retaining her Chinese upbringing, she has two choices of cultural identity, American and Chinese. However, in reality, Yang has no other choice but to stick to her Chinese roots, and to understand her forced choice, we have to understand the history of Chinese and Asian immigrants in the US. In The Wealth Inequality Reader, edited by Dollar & Sense United for a Fair Economy, Meizhu Lui assesses the racial wealth gap of American-born Asians and white Americans to find out that “American-born Asians have moved into professional positions, and the median income of Asians is now higher than that of whites. However, glass ceilings still persist…Asians are still defined by race and branded as perpetual foreigners” (50). This situation is true if we go back in history of Asian immigrants. Asians came to the United States at the same time as the Irish. However, when the early Naturalization Act of 1790 recognized the Irish as citizens, Asians were left behind in the race to be legally admitted. Then comes the Civil Rights Movement, and once again Asians are simply forgotten. Now, while there is less discrimination between the black and the white, at least by law, Asians are neither black nor white. In addition, laws were passed to alienate Asian immigrants like the Foreign Miners Tax, the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and Alien Land Act, so Asians have mostly existed quietly in secluded areas that Americans do not penetrate. In accordance, Yang represents just a small fraction of the Chinese society existing inside America, but as a dispensable external part. As a result, Yang has no other choice but to identify herself as Chinese and not American because it is the decision that society expects her to make due to her Asian race.

In other words, Yang’s choice to associate herself with Chinese people is the manifestation of the “implied racism” towards Asian Americans in the United States. Racism towards Asians is “implied” because it has never been historically and officially admitted. Asians were lucky to not be considered among the slave race, but were never among the rulers either. Even nowadays, many Asians in San Francisco solemnly live in Chinatown, Japan-town, or Korean-town. Society simply accepts the idea of naming some place Asian-town and Asian-market. Imagine saying black town! And even more confusing, if people are named because of their skin colors, shouldn’t they say yellow instead of Asians? Everything points out to the conclusion that racism towards Asians is “implied,” and it is so deeply rooted that it becomes natural and unquestioned. Living in a society that accepts and facilitates this kind of “implied racism,” Yang’ choice, once again, is the final outcome of most Asians living in the United States, and this will be the choice many more Asians immigrants will have to make if they want to live “harmoniously” here. The solution to this implied racism is even more complicated than racism towards black people because, while black-racism is openly recognized, Asian-racism is inexplicit. As a consequence, public movements are unlikely to solve Asian-racism. Educated Americans are proposing two ways to eliminate racism towards black people, which persist despite all the movements, that we either erase history or change the future. However, these methods will not provide any solution for racism towards Asians, as long as Asians themselves do not admit they are being discriminated against. So, the first step towards eliminating racism is recognizing it, but, again, this is the choice of Asians. Hopefully, Asian immigrants like Yang will no longer suffer from any kind of racism and have more control over their choices of identity.

Living in the culturally diverse United States, Yang chooses to identify herself as Chinese, despite living here for a longer portion of her life because she is confused by her dreams, expectation and origin, so she chooses to act Chinese out of sheer habit. However, Yang is neither Chinese nor American, so she is eventually exiled from both cultures and even loses sight of who she want to be. Yang’s situation shows the problem that many Asians immigrants, and immigrants in general, have to face. Immigrants are often caught in the dilemma of either changing their ideologies to adapt to the new culture or staying true to their former cultures. In any case, the decision will vary with the person’s personality, ability to adapt, and ability to understand him or herself. However, as an Asian immigrant in the United States, Yang has to suffer the implied racism that white immigrants do not have to face. And because Asian-racism is inexplicit, Yang is unconsciously, yet undoubtedly, influenced by it. Thus, the decision to cling to Chinese culture is not Yang’s choice but the result of the drives from society. In other words, Yang chooses to identify herself as Chinese is the usual behavior of a stereotyped Asian immigrant who society construct. Yang’s actual cultural identity is a wonderful mixture of the American free and exciting lifestyle and the reserved and refined Chinese doctrine. If only she could realize this, she would not be so lost and would be able to make peace with her dreams and her burden to carry on with the Chinese lifestyle.

Works Cited

Lui, Meizhu. The Wealth Inequality Reader. Dollar & Sense United for a Fair                       Economy. Oakland: Dollar & Sense, 2004. Print.

Eyou, Mei Lin, Adair Vivienne, and Dixon Robyn. Cultural identity and psychological adjustment of adolescent Chinese immigrants in New Zealand. Auckland: Elsevier, 2000. Print.

Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. Ed Peter Orner. Voice of Witness. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2008. Print.

Interview Transcript

Under the dimly light of Yang’s living room, we started our conversation. Far off to our right, Yan’s husband and children were watching an American soccer game in a Chinese news channel. The sound of the broadcast came out to be a chaos mixture of Cantonese and English; I was surprised to know how they could even make out what was going on. Yang offered me a glass of warm water with some lemon slice. We were sitting in the same sofa, so I moved to one far edge and urn to her, to give us some space, and mainly to look at her.

       Where were you born?

       I was born in China. I was 23 when I came here.

       Did you always want to come to the US?

       Yeah. I came here with my parents. They came here when I was 21. I was separated from them for 2 years.

Yang’s eyes seemed distanced as she thought of her parents. She turned from me to briefly look at her husband. As she fixed her eyes on the wooden coffer at the end of the room, which seemed to contain every little ornaments and mementos one could keep, I went on with my questions.

       Can you tell me about your first day in the US? Why did you decided to come here?

       I had always thought that everything was better here. Now China is better, but it is still better here. I heard that business is good now.

Yang turned to look at me directly when she said that, with sparkled eyes, and her hands trying to draw the cross line with China on the one side and American on the other.

       Can you tell me a little about your life in China?

       I lived in Guangdong. All I remember is that it was very hot there. We worked all day, and there was not enough food to eat.

Her eyes scrunched as she talked about her old life in China. It was as if she was trying to fresh some long forgotten memories.

       What did you do in China? What was your job?

       I mixed rice for one or two years. I was sixteen when I started working. It was when I was still studying. I worked 7 days a week. There was no holiday. It was so hot. I worked from 5am to 2pm every day. After working on the field, I went back to my house to take a shower, take a rest, and then went back to work again. I was paid 80 cents for one day. The work was not the same every day, and it was not hard work, only too long. Sometimes it took 10 hours a day, sometimes 12. Although we never stopped working, we were very poor.

Yang repeated the last sentences more than twice. She told her story in broken sentences. Sometimes she would stop and try to think of an English word for what she wanted to say. While struggling to express her at times. Yang was eager to tell her story. Yang could not remember the world “field,” so she drew it out in a piece of napkin for me. As we looked it up in the Internet, she commented on how Internet is “so good, so easy,” and how quick witted I was to think of using the online dictionary.

       How often do you contact with the people back in China?

       Not very often. My husband’s brother is in China. We talk on the phone sometimes, but not often. They say it is very good now. They make more money, and there is more food now. Everything has changed since I left, which was about 30 years ago.

       Can you tell me more about your school in China?

       I did not like school in China. If we did not do homework, they would punish us by hitting our hands. I was so scared of the teacher. The school’s system was not good in China then. The president’s policy was not good. We did not study at all. We did not go to school 4 days a week; students were supposed to work during those days. The school gave us work like cooking to feed the pigs.

We had to stopped and looked up the “pigs” word again. Yang apologized for her limited use of English, and made up for it by using body language and hand gestures. She held out one hand and hit it with the other when she told me about her being hit in school. Yang did not use the word “president,” she use a Chinese word for it. I didn’t know how the word looked like and how to put it in English character. But one thing for sure, I knew it meant “President” in Chinese because I had always heard my Chinese friends using that word. What a wonder that even my Chinese friends, who were influenced in English, still used the Chinese word when they talked about their Leader.

       Do you want to go back to China some day?

       No, I like it here. I only go back to China for vacation.

       Can you tell me a bit about your journey to the US?

       I spent 3 days coming here. I came here with my brother and younger sister. We walked for 2 days. We did not take the bus to save money. Everything was so expensive here. My parents, my brother, and I worked for a textile company. I worked there for about a while, and then I worked for an electronic company for 9 years. Now I am working for a hotel. The pay is good, and they offer employees’ benefits there, so I like my job now. My mom worked in a restaurant. The money was good, but it was hard job. We wanted to save money to buy a house. We Chinese like to have a house. We do not like moving or renting houses. If you borrow money to buy a house, after 20 years, you have that house. But if you rent your place, even after 20 years, 30 years, you still do not have any place.

It took Yang more than 20 minutes to talk about her life when she first came to the US. Yang puzzled when I asked where she first worked as she did not understand the word “company.” After a while, she muttered some Chinese word and began to catch the meaning of my questions and continued on.

       How did you meet your husband?

I pointed to her husband, who was sitting with her children 3 feet from us watching TV. They broke out some cry; maybe the game had reached its climax. The only light in the room was glittering above their head, where the TV stand was. Yang turned to her husband, and her face brightened.

       I had known him in China before I came here. He is a good man. One year after I came here, I went back to Macau to marry him, and then we came here. Now you cannot do that any longer.

       Why did you decide to come here?

       I was thinking for the future. Everything was better here. Now I have my family and my children here with me. We are very lucky to be living here.

       Do you miss China?

       A little bit. I only miss my friends. I do not like anything else in China. Now in China, the food is not good because there are lots of chemical in the food. It is not like that here. I do not have to worry about food here. The government here has policies to protect people. US’s government is better. The salary is better in China now. Government job’s pays about 5000 to 6000 thousands Chinese dollars. Although you can make more money in China, you cannot spend your money however you want to.

       How did you find life in the US?

       I did not speak English when I came here. I had to learn from A B C. I worked in the morning and went to school at night. Every day, I went to school from 6 to 8:30pm. It was very hard. After my husband came here, I had my daughter, so I stopped going to school. I learnt English by listening to the radio.

Then Yang told me again about her life in China: how she had worked all day long with below minimum pay, and how unfriendly the weather had been.

       Do you think of yourself as Chinese or American?

       I am Chinese, of course. I am still Chinese. I say “we Chinese” all the time.

Yang laughed out when I asked if she was Chinese or American, as if it had been some silly question with obvious answer. But when I turned the question around and asked what type of passport she used, to which the answer was American passport, she cached on my intention. Yang adverted her eyes and shaked her head, muttering to her self: “But I am Chinese.” As I pestered her what made she think so, Yang smiled gently.

       What about you then? Are you Vietnamese or American?

I was surprised that she asked me that, but nevertheless, I affirmed her.

       I am Vietnamese of course. I was born in Vietnam, raised in Vietnam, and I have a Vietnamese passport. I came to the US for less than a year. How can I be American?

       But what if you were me? What would you say?

       Then maybe half and half.

Her eyes glittered.

       Ok, half and half then. I am half American, half Chinese. But I am Chinese.

Realizing I could not get more than this answer, I changed the subject.

       What about your children? Do you raise them according to the Chinese tradition?

       They are Chinese.

       But they are born here, and they never lived in Chinese, they are still Chinese?

       They are Chinese. Their father, mother, grandparents are Chinese, and so they are Chinese. I tell them they are Chinese. Sometimes I think about China. I was born there, so I am Chinese. Although I like it here better, and I do not plan to go back to China ever, I am still Chinese.

       Do they speak Cantonese?

       I tried to teach my daughter. I even sent her to Chinese school, but she did not like it. She said “Mommy, I don’t want to learn Chinese. It is too hard.”

Yang laughed heartily looking at her daughter at the other end of the room. Her children were talking to each other in fluent English.

– What do you think of the one child policy in China?

– It must have been long time ago. Now, the government allows you to have a choice. If the first child is a girl, you can have another try to have a boy. But now everything is expensive, so people only want to have one child. So many people have abortion to have one boy only.

Then Yang went on to talk about how lucky she was to live in San Francisco. Our conversation died off as the clock stroked 10pm. Yang got up to prepare for her job the next day at the hotel before she went to bed.



 

 

 

 

 

Finally Found Home

Finally Found Home

by Ruben Guzman, October, 2013

For many people, “exile” is a word that is hard to define because each person interprets the meaning differently. For the last essay of the semester, I decided to interview Karina, a student at C.C.S.F., because she has lived in various countries; in addition, I feel that she has experienced the “exile” we have been closely examining in class. During Karina’s upbringing, exile meant constantly moving and being an outcast in every environment she has lived in, which caused her identity and concept of homeland to be stunted. Because of the way she looks, people automatically give her an identity, such as Russian, Ukrainian, American, or Canadian, but for Karina, it isn’t easy for her to define herself. Having lived in Kiev, Montreal, and San Francisco, and having experienced isolation, have caused Karina to have difficulty forming an identity and a concept of home.
After her parent’s separation, at the age of one, Karina and her mom moved from Norilsk, Russia to Kiev, Ukraine, where they stayed with relatives. Living in Ukraine would be the first time Karina would experience identity confusion. During the nineties, Ukraine was still part of the U.S.S.R, which was a union of Eastern European countries during the majority of the twentieth century. During Karina’s childhood, she witnessed the collapses of the Soviet Union. When Ukraine separated from the U.S.S.R, there was a change in government, from communism to capitalism, which created a chaotic environment in Kiev because there wasn’t any established order. This period in her life caused Karina to start challenging her identity because she was living in a time when Ukraine was forming a new national identity, and she didn’t know whether to identify with being Russian or Ukrainian. On one hand, Karina starting identifying with being Russian because that’s where she was born and her mom would reinforce this notion. On the other hand, Karina identified with being Ukrainian because she spent her early childhood there and hadn’t lived in Russia for a long time. In other words, at a young age, Karina struggled with identity because she was torn between her mom identifying her as Russian and living in Ukraine at an early age. This confusion of identity led her to be an outsider at school, where her schoolmates would identify her as Russian, while the Russian kids would identify her as Ukrainian.
Karina’s struggle with identity can be compared to an article written by the scholar Elena Dubinets, titled “Music In Exile: Russian Emigre Composers and The Search For National Identity.” In the article, Dubinets writes about three Russian composers who struggle with identity after fleeing Russia, after the 1917 Russian Revolution. What Karina and these composers share in common is that they were both in a country that was going through huge economic and cultural change. In one part of the article, Dubinets is explaining how these Russian melodists were labeled as “Russian composers” in their new homelands despite having spent the majority of their life abroad, instead of Russia, and at the same time, other Russian composers, from Russia, rejected their claim as Russian because they didn’t compose their music in Russia. Dubinets writes, “These émigré composer are still regarded, without exception, As ‘ Russian composers’, even though most have tried to become assimilated into musical and cultural life of their new countries.” In other words, what Dubinets is saying is no matter how hard these composers try to acclimatize in their new homelands, the people around them are still labeling them as Russian, simply because they are foreigners, while simultaneously being spurned by other Russians. Karina experienced a similar situation in Ukraine, where she had a hard time choosing to identify with what her mother wanted her to be, and trying to be Ukrainian at the same time. This article helps solidify the fact that Karina, along with these composers, dealt with the burden of trying to acculturate in their new homelands only to find that assimilating is a difficult task that carries heavy emotional wear.

Due to economic instability, and cultural change, Karina and her mom moved from Ukraine to Montreal, Canada, when she was twelve years old. At first, Karina was really excited for the opportunity to have a fresh start, because she didn’t feel like she fit in well in Ukraine. However, In Montreal, Karina experienced exile on another level.  Unlike in Ukraine, Karina wasn’t able to fit in as easily; as a matter of fact, it was more difficult for her to acculturate because of strong Russian facial features and accent. For the first couple of years, Karina loved Montreal for its natural beauty and diversity, but at the same time despised it because of substandard living conditions, along with feeling like an outcast in a new country and being detach from her family in Ukraine. At first, Karina had a difficult time making friends in Montreal because she barley knew how to speak French, along with the hostility towards her by other young women of her age, which made her create a false idea of “home” in Ukraine. The first year in Montreal made Karina miss Ukraine dearly, which caused her nostalgia to cover up the unpleasant memories of Ukraine and make them disappear. Moving to Montreal resulted in Karina facing loneliness because she was living in a new country and didn’t know anybody, which makes it hard for a pre-teen to cope with this form of exile.

Although Karina experienced identity crisis and exile in both Ukraine and Montreal, something positive came out of these situations: these hardships have enabled Karina to develop strong character traits, such as thick skin and a great outlook on life, which make her the ambitious woman she is today.  The scholar Anamaria Falaus argues that exile can be a positive experience. In her article titled  “Identity Metamorphoses In Codruscu’s Exilic Memoir,” Falaus argues that the Romanian-born American poet actually benefited from exile by channeling his energy into his art that made him famous. In her conclusion Falaus states, “Identity is not what never changes, but, on the contrary, it is what allows one to constantly change without giving up who one is.”  In other words, this quote is expressing that identity isn’t what constantly changes; rather, it’s the circumstances that change and not the individual. This applies to Karina in a manner that reveals her character as a strong individual who can thrive in any environment, no matter how difficult the challenge is.
Similar to Palestinian scholar Edward Said, Karina has to deal with the burden of having to explain her identity to people whenever the question arises. In the case of Said, he states, “I have retained this unsettled sense of many identities-mostly in conflict with each other-all my life, together with an acute memory of the despairing feeling that I wish we could have been all Arab, or all European, or all Orthodox Christian.” Karina said something similar along the lines of, “when you immigrate you lose your home… Because when I go to Russia or Ukraine people say, ‘Oh it’s that American girl.’  When I come here they’re all like, ‘Oh it’s the Russian Girl.’ When I go to Canada, it’s like, ‘Oh it’s the American girl who happens to be Russian.’” On a follow up interview, I ask Karina if it would had been simpler to just have one identity, and she responded, “Defiantly. If I had a choice, I would love to be all American, or all Russian. It just makes life simpler, but at the same time I don’t take any of my experiences back.” Said, like Karina, had to struggle with identifying a “home”; however, at the end of the interview, Karina has a better sense of what home means to her. For example, Karina states, “home…my personal home…it’s where ever I feel comfortable…so, its my house with my husband right now.”  What this means is that, throughout all her struggles, home is within her, and later when I asked her,” “So, would you consider The United States your home?” she quickly replied,” Absolutely, as of right now, my home is San Francisco.”

Having lived in different countries forced Karina, at an early age, to experience isolation, which delayed her ability to form a strong identity. Karina has always been categorized as an outsider everywhere she has gone, which has caused her to constantly challenge her identity. However, through those challenging moments, she eventually overcame those hard times and metamorphosed herself into the strong person that she is today. Although Karina frequently had to face isolation from the societies she had to live in, the process made her an independent person who has a strong sense of self. Like Said, she has come to terms that she will forever be an outsider, which she’s okay with. For a child, moving from one place to another can be difficult in that one always starts fresh. Isolation comes with moving to a new region, and without a great outlook the experience can seem like a nightmare.

Me: Where you born?
Karina: I was born in Russia, city called Norilsk…it’s a small town north and mmmm the majority of people that live there work in mines and is related to mines…yeah

Me: Having that said, were your father or any of your relatives were in the mining industry?

Karina: mmm my dad was actually going down to mines to mines to look for uuhhh nickkl?nickll? its… metal

me: nickle
Karina: Yeah exactly he was actually the mines and his mother, she worked in some type of management, and I’m not sure exactly what she was doing, but she wasn’t going into mines. She was just working for the company.

Me: Ok annnnd so you said you were born in Russia, when did you leave there?

Karina: Well, I lived there only for one year, my mom went there pregnant to give birth to me there… I don’t know the particular reason, she never really explained it to me and when I was about one year old she brought me back to Ukraine where she lived, and where she was born. My father is actually Ukrainian as well. but he had to move to Russia, to the.. Norilsk city umm because he had to look for work and it was really hard to find work during eighties and nineties.. so yea.. so that’s why he move to Russia.

Me: And what do you remember about the Ukraine? and what city was it in?

Karina: well, um I was living there in the capital city called Kiev…umm. I remember relatively a lot… I don’t know where to even start…umm. yeah when I was… When I left there I finish 6th grade there so still in middle school according to US…well elementary I wasn’t sure.. I don’t even know what to answer (thinking to herself) I remember a lot of things …. you know… What in Particular?

Me: MMMM like the environment.

Karina: The Environment was really chaotic because it was during the nineties and Russia, Ukraine and all the countries were still part of USSR where umm.. Really chaotic because I mean we had the communist and we had to transfer to another economic system.. a lot of rich people get richer and the poor people didn’t know what to do so we had a lot of criminals around that time and nineties would say is probably the hardest time know to people for the last hundred years.. its was really hard. Maybe world war one or world war two were a more challenging. to transfer from communism to capitalism.. so I remember the chaotic , the gangsters everywhere on the streets.. I remember that it’s not as organized as now. because now is like the government is responsible for the stores and stuff… where you can open the stores or not ,before it was the gangsters that took care of that, the mafia, and basically you had to pay high, really high taxes to do anything you wanted..

Me: And, Alright you said it was chaotic but when you where growing up did it seem normal?

Karina: It was still scary yes, it was normal when I was living there.. I realized that it’s not normal when I moved to Canada, but it was still scary cuz you knew who the bad guys where and you had to be more careful even when you do certain things for example when some people go to the market you had to be more careful than… I don’t know my mom would just be all like… would be saying you should be extra careful.. you know so you could still feel that it was chaotic because our parent knew times that were a little bit badder even though maybe you didn’t have as much food, as  much products and stuff like that but you still had more…It was safer exactly.

Me: And How long you live in the…. When did you immigrate from Ukraine to Canada?

Karina: Ukraine to Canada… In Ukraine I lived ten years I moved there when I was twelve, ummm I moved to Canada when I was twelve to Montreal directly it was illegal immigration that my mom was able to start in Ukraine with my stepdad and so we were well prepare to move to Canada, when we moved there we already had an apartment umm my mom spoke a little bit of French… just enough to buy bread and the basic necessities… My father struggled more…defiantly and yeah….
I moved there when I was twelve 2002.

Me: And the reason was economical?

Karina: mum My mom never fit well in Russia… She is a very strong woman… She is all about her career. And that does not work well in Russia anymore. During Soviet Union Actually had more equality between women and man then there is now. Now women depend on guys. If you want to do well in that country you need to marry somebody or you need to date somebody rich and my mom was never like that she always wanted to be independent sooo and she wanted the same for me she didn’t want me to depend on some other random person that I never knew. And that’s why she wanted to move to Canada.. Yeah it was really for the independence of women.

Me: So let me sum this up your mom moved because economically it was better in Canada and on top of that she didn’t like culturally where Ukraine was headed because it got to the point where it was kinda of becoming uhhhh a macho society

Karina: Yeah

Me: where the man was in charge and the woman was dependent and your mom didn’t want that for you.

Karina: Exactly! yeah cause she lived through it… she dated some guys, not purely for money, but she know how it feels… eeeee I don’t know I think that now she that she lives in Canada that she fits better there with her mentality than in Russia because even till this day In Russia woman are more oppressed than guys are… Guys have a lot more opportunities

Me:  And Do you remember the move from Ukraine to Canada?
Karina: Well yeah. ha. It actually took a while because ummmm.. My mom kept on saying we gonna move in two months and in two months and two months and it took around a year and I was telling all my friends ” oh yeah I’m moving to Canada and I was always making my date change…you know because of my mom, she kept telling me different dates I don’t know the reason in particular, and at some point my friends my friends didn’t believe that I was going to move to Canada and I finally did…It was…you know I didn’t realize that I was moving forever until maybe year that I lived in Canada, so after a year I lived in Canada I was like “oohhh this for real” haha but the move itself I wasn’t realizing at what point it’s going to be challenging probably.
Me: Were you angry, did you not wanna leave Kiev? Were you excited?

Karina: I was really really excited because when I was a Kid I didn’t fit in very well into my school so for me it was a new change, but I didn’t’ realize that this change would bring me other stuff. for example I didn’t have as a much close connection with my grandmother that raised me.. She actually was  the person that was raising me, so leaving her was actually really hard. It’s defiantly not an easy thing..immigration.. and probably the hardest thing was immigration…leaving everybody behind… It’s not even the things… the things can be replaced but the people, all the memories.. giving all that up was really hard.

Me: Ok so you were ambivalent, meaning you were two sided.. On one side your excited because you didn’t fit well and on the other you couldn’t replicate those replications that you had… With your grandmother, with your family..

Karina: Exactly. so it was fifty-fifty. I mean I was a child.. I was twelve years old I wasn’t realizing how serious it was to move to another country I was still too little to understand that.

Me: So I’m gonna backtrack a little bit to Ukraine… How is the freedom there? Do people even have it? or how was it…..

Karina: No, I would say no and ummmm I recently went to website…it was called Freedom house… It’s ummmm a US Organization that rates how other people live in different  countries and then they assess if the country is free or not. And they say that Ukraine is partially free while russia is not free and I disagree with that because I think Urkaine is more limited than Russia..ummmm we have orange revolution for one of the presidents it was around 2004 and that didn’t work It was basically a fight for a president that we wanted to elect…we had hope but what happened? we elected him and then he had no power so basically even when we express our..ummmm wants by votes it still doesn’t go through… the press is defiantly limited… there is defiantly… how can you call that? ummmm the government lets what it wants go through the press, you cannot say whatever you want it’s not basically free press

Me: So there’s no freedom of speech or freedom of press.

Karina: Well freedom of speech you know it’s different in the United States people don’t don’t understand the value of freedom of speech until someone decides to fight for it people try to fight for freedom of press which doesn’t exists and actually when I was still living there there was one journalist super famous, he tried to announce all the problems with the Ukraine but the problem was that he was killed like months after that. and just recently they found him, like who killed him? Ultimately they said it was some criminals but for reals it was the president…Everybody assumed it was the President during that time cause they were controlling the freedom of speech uuhhh freedom of press.

Me: Okay moving forward.. what was your first impression of Canada when you went there like… It was Montreal and take me through the experience: the surroundings, the sights, the schools, the culture.

Karina: Okay… So when I arrived there it was great, it was bad weather so that actually didn’t help… The architecture is a little bit different the buildings are painted sometimes brighter especially more expensive neighborhoods so when I arrived in Montreal it was bad weather and all the buildings were already the grey tones so I had an impression that he city was so sad and umm the first person that I saw in Montreal it was a Hasidic Jew, so he had special dreads, he had the hair especially made like waves uummm that’s when I realized it’s a different world… because I never seen hasidic Jew’s in my country and then I seen some African Americans and as a kid I was actually excited by those changes umm. so that was my first impression I thought the city was super great and depressive sad but I like that… The culture was a lot more diversified..  because as a child your more attracted that. like your interested… I don’t know.

Me: Okay so it sounded like you really embraced mov…. ummmmm arriving there because
Karine: I embraced some parts, some of it

me: okay
Karina: It was weird because it was a culture shock you know because it was completely different society so there’s some good things and there’s some bad things and ummmmmm one of my favorite things was…I don’t know if this will help you… Was the dollar-rama It’s like one dollar store and you would go buy anything you want and when your a kid your like “oh my god I’m rich” I can buy whatever I want… Small things like that made me happy but you know I was still sad by my move because I wasn’t able to see whatever I saw in the past ten years. The last ten years wasn’t there

Me: So Economically you guys lived a lot better in Canada than Ukraine?

Karina: Actually no it was the other way around ummmm so when we moved to Canada my mom decided to go back to school.. to the university.. and umm I was helping her, I was helping her clean apartments and the money we received sometimes she would give it to me, other times she would take everything then it depended on whatever on what our family needed because it was only me and my mom… I had to work for it too and it was actually a lot harder… we lived in a studio for seven years… me and my mom.. which I find super hard… when your sixteen you want to have some privacy and basically I had to give up all my privacy just to be in another country and I think that played a role in why I didn’t want to say in Montreal because I always associated Montreal with a studio apartment… And I always struggled financially with my mom because we were on welfare and she was studying it was hard time but I knew that there was a reason why she was doing it and I knew that one day it would be better for us… so I was willing to give up maybe 5, 7 years of my life for a better future….yeah but financially it was defiantly a better situation in Ukraine…It was only temporary

Me: So when you came to Canada at the age of twelve… that’s kinda a difficult age because your transitioning from a kid to an adult and for me middle school was really hard growing up because the kids were just…. I myself moved from one part of San Diego from another and economically it was different and I was around the same age so  having that said it must of been hard growing up and going to school as a pre-teen essentially

Karina:  Yeah defiantly when I was going to school in the Ukraine I went to a private which was an expensive school and I knew that my status better than majority of the people in my city you know but then in montreal it was… there was no middle school.. they only have elementary and high school and it was defiantly different  I can feel the difference ummmmm I didn’t have a good experience in high school because the first high school i was sent to it was aahhhh really ghetto that was there they sent the immigrants you know which is I understand perfectly because they have a special class it’s called… you know to help you learn french…

Me: Like ESL?

Karina: Yeah! ESL basically ESL classes in high school are only in ghetto where immigrants live… Usually they can’t afford to live in a good neighborhood so it was really funny because i was living in a good neighborhood in a small apartment but was going to ghetto school in my first school actually nobody accepted me and I was rejected and it was weird but then I change another school where they had….it was really mixed they had everybody and I think it was actually great because it was a lot more mixed and people were not like ” I’m black so I wont talk to you” or ” I’m white so I wont talk to you” so my other school was a lot better.

Me: Ok

Karina: Ummmm yeah, so my first school I struggled and the second school I think it was easier because I was able to find other people who were in the same situation and actually me best friend that I met there is actually from equator and she moved around the same time that I did and so we had something in common and we could understand each other you know and I think having her and other people like me it was easier to even adapt because we learn new stuff and were sharing with each other how to adapt better in that society.

Me: That must of been nice… Personally I can appreciate.. you know growing up meeting someone who was in a similar situation.

Karina: Yeah, I mean I actually thought that it brought me and my best friend closer because sometimes were misunderstood… I huh.. Its so hard trying to explain it… your still a little bit different you know your not… you have the accents in all and you lived in different countries and had different experiences you know  so ummmm having my best friend understanding me what I go through that actually helps bring us closer.

Me: So during the first school you went to… when you felt exiled… did you ever find yourself missing Ukraine? were you thinking like “Oh Man” “Why did we move here?” ” I wish I was back home”?

Karina: Oh yeah defiantly I did but ummmm as soon as I able to find friends in the other school those waves of thoughts changed it right alway, then I saws the light at the end of the tunnel, then I was like “okay there is a purpose why I was here” ” It’s going to be better and better” and it became, every year it became easier and better and better and then at some point it became better than living in the Ukraine, but the first year I was defiantly thinking ” Why am I here?” ” Why did I move here, I wanna go back to the old ways” because I gave up everything that was there and I didn’t have anything… Plus even though I went through illegal immigration to Canada I couldn’t go to Ukraine for four years… So that was kinda hard.

Me: Okay so Canada ended up being a great experience… When did you come to the United States?

Karina: The first time I came here I was sixteen years old I went here to visit my mom’s friend, my mom ACTUALLY forced me to come here, It was Los Angeles in particular ummmm I didn’t want to go there because I was well adapted at that time in Canada, I had my friends, I was doing well in school and I was just perfect, I didn’t want to go, I wanted to spend the summer with my friends, and my mom was like “NO! Were going to go see my best friend in LA” We went to Los Angeles and we went to Las Vegas as well, so we visited two cities right away when I arrived here, it was for business, and then I came back every year for the next three years between Montreal and Los Angeles because I met my husband Ivan there and I started dating him, so three years I was back and forth between LA and Montreal.

Me: So you came here when you were twenty correct?

Karina: Yeah, to leave I was in my early twenties late nineteen.

Me: And your twenty-three now?

Karina: yeah

Me: So that was three years ago.

Karina: Yeah around that time.

Me: So you left Canada because you were really into Ivan?

Karina: That too, but I do not know why but I think it was something subconsciously maybe because it was my immigration and I had some bad association with Canada and I associate Canada with something hard, because the first years of immigration where defiantly not easy and since I moved there…since the first day I told my mom that I will never live there and that i’ll move one day, I would tell her all the time and that’s what happened, one day I was like I’m done with Canada, I called Ivan and told him that if he wanted to move to San Francisco with me together… I cannot explain the exact reason why I left Canada… Really I can’t… It’s a beautiful city but  it wasn’t for me I guess.

Me: Okay it sounded to me that… you were over Canada, you had your fun.

Karina: Yeah!

Me: And It was time to grow.

Karina: Yeah probably, and United States… I don’t know why, since day one, I came here, I felt like I fit better here than Canada, I felt here that it was my home, I actually found this immigration a lot easier than Canada… even thought Canada is beautiful country, United States just felt better for me.

Me: Alright, when you were living in Ukraine, you knew about the United States obviously, because they’re know throughout the whole world… What was your impression of the US when you lived in Ukraine versus when you arrived here.

Karina: Okay so because I was only twelve I wasn’t interested in politics by that time… I imagined United States as Jeans everywhere, Michael Jackson where, American bikes everywhere, and New York… Imagined every city in the United States looking like New York and that was my imagination of the United States.

Me: How about our freedoms? Cause United States prides itself on the best human rights.

Karina: You know… we had a cold war… Russia…well USSR versus United States so those freedoms were not talked about in Russia, we had no idea that in the United States your life was easier and equal… that’s what they told us… but we didn’t…we didn’t have any of those details…so I had no idea about freedom of speech… Actually I only realized that when I came here… I realized… I learned more about it… You know about the culture of the Untied States… But in Russia we had the idea that America was Hollywood, White teeth, Michael Jackson and Jeans. That’s how they see it even to this day when I go there I don’t talk politics to my friends because that’s what they don’t about about the United States…what…..They associate different stuff…urrhhh how can I say that….hahaha I don’t know how to say that… Basically they don’t think about freedom of speech… when they think about United States they think buying culture, buying….

Me: Materialistic

Karina: Yeah! Materialistic there you go.

ME: Okay so you really didn’t ummmmm have too much of an exile coming from Canada to the United States because you were with Ivan….

Karina: I thought Ivan helped me a lot…yes because he had more experience living here… so having that person already living here for ten years or more…it’s really helpful because in Canada I didn’t have that… I didn’t have a person that knew everything, I had to discover everything for myself and here I wouldn’t say Ivan did everything for me. For example when it came to school I did everything myself… Like enroll myself into the community college and figure out all the college I wanted to attend and information like that… It was up to me to find it… But the basic stuff like the first immigration papers, he help with that… so it was a lot easier.. here you are not scared of government… that is basically it… There you see government as gangsters that have power that are even more scarier than mafia on the street… that’s how I see it… Our president… Our current President was actually in jail for robbery he was allegedly… suspected for rape of a woman… gang rape… and he was actually caught for two other cases but they were cancelled or something like that….. basically  a bunch of criminals… even that going to vote means nothing there… for me I would never go vote there… here I think it’s a lot of.. here you can know about politics you have the opportunity.. it’s so available… And you can get your opinion heard, if you want you can go and vote, you can actually do even more than that, you can get people signing……

Me: Petitions

Karina: Yeah! right petitions, and you can talk to people and say ” hey you know my cause is that…so do you wanna participate in that”. It’s so much more easier to make a change in United States than in Russia… It’s not as corrupted… there government is corrupted.

Me: A lot of people like to complain about our government, saying ” Oh our government is corrupt”, ” the government just wants to take” and….

Karina: I mean… There is still something wrong… don’t get me wrong…. I still think that sometimes the United States government is too big… you know sometimes we have too many offices… like departments and stuff like that and sometimes it takes too much of our taxes… but i’m saying that it shouldn’t be that way cause maybe it’s better that way…you know… but you know that at least money….some money.. will go to people… there you know if it goes to the government than you will never see it.
So yeah thats basically the biggest difference I don’t see that United States government… I don’t see it as corrupted… even though many Americans believe so.

Me: Having all that said.. Do you have a concept of home?

Karina: Like home…my personal home…. It’s where ever I feel comfortable… So its my house with my husband..right now.. But home as a country, I am struggling with that… Sometimes it makes me sad that I don’t have a home because I moved so much around….uummmmm. But at the same time I’m grateful because that’s what made me who I am because I had so much experiences in different countries but at same time it’s defiantly a struggle… If I was born in the United States I wouldn’t move haha… You know I wouldn’t not go through Immigration If I… If I didn’t have too… Because when you immigrate you lose your home… Because when I go to Russia or Ukraine people say ” Oh it’s that American girl”  when I come here they’re all like ” Oh it’s the Russian Girl” When I go to Canada it’s like ” Oh it’s the American girl who happens to be Russian”

Me: hahahaha

Karina: So it’s like no one takes me like I am the same thing as they are… You know I’m always an outsider where ever I go so..

Me: And you feel that made you the person who you are… Because your a pretty strong woman..

Karina: Ahhh thank you… um well I mean it defiantly helped me out… I don’t want to sound like I am complaining because I am still grateful and I think United States so far is more of my home than any other country out there even though I was born in Russia I feel that my home is in San Francisco more than any other country..uuhhh place..

Me: Thats cool….Finally having going through all your moves… How has these moves affected your perception on Ukraine?

Karina: Um I think that I see that country as it has less opportunities that I thought of… When I was a child I thought that I was still able to get a job there… I saw some future there… But now I think that It has less opportunities than I saw… In reality there was a lot less opportunities… and I think that this country is going to go through big change….maybe revolution really soon…Maybe next thirty years… than it will become better, at the moment… I don’t think it’s doing as well as Russia and it is more corrupted and my perspective became… I think that it is a lot harder to live there than I thought… It was..yeah.. Now that I live here I appreciate certain things for example service even when you go to hospital… they don’t treat you like piece of meat… if your old there, doctor will basically tell you just die …you know… And here they will take care of you, they will always be polite, nice… things like that make a difference.. Even if it’s small things it makes a difference.. you know I think that now my perception of Ukraine is not as good as it was, because I saw better, I saw that it can be better, I saw that Canada and United States have more opportunities.

Me: I think that’s all the question I have for you… Thank you Karina.
Karina: No problem!