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


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.


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.


(28:56)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%.


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.





Between Worlds

Between Worlds

by Ara Avedian, June 2016

Many immigrants suffer the consequences of not being accepted in the United States. Johnny Hernandez, of Salvadoran and Honduran descent, is just one more example of how immigrants, and children of immigrants, struggle with the social differences in the United States. I met Johnny when I started studying at the City College of San Francisco in the fall of 2015, and since then we’ve become good friends. Having two separate cultural identities made Johnny create a distinct differentiation between his “home,” which is the Latino community, where he feels stable and accepted, and his “physical home,” which is the United States. Johnny also expresses his feelings through music by being part of the composition of his song.

     Johnny Anthony Hernandez, also named “Pingo,” was born in Los Angeles, California, but with Honduran and Salvadoran origins. His immersion into his Central American culture seems inevitable to him since he expresses it in every part of his life. At one point in his childhood, Johnny went to live to Honduras for around three years. He was taken cared by his grandmother and got to experience his Latino culture directly, but temporarily. Then, he got back to the United States without a problem since he had legal U.S. documentation. He didn’t have a lot of relatives in the United States but his parents and some of his siblings. However, he managed to get involved in the Latino community and create more connections. He has the unique experience of having and understanding a mixed culture. He is currently living in San Francisco, CA and studying at City College of San Francisco, majoring in chemistry.

Johnny’s perspective of home and self has been affected by his experiences of finding comfortability, acceptance, integration and stability within each cultural identity. He says that his perspective of home is where his family is. Johnny thinks his home is, in part, the place where he was born, which is the United States; however, he feels that the major way of belonging to a place is defined by his main culture, which, he says, is mostly Honduran. He went to Honduras when he was a child, so he got to experience his Latino culture from his family’s view. He says, “Sometimes I identify with LA since that was where I was born, but being or spending a couple years in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, made me feel like my place of nationality was Honduran.” Besides being immersed in his family culture, the fact that he got to go to Honduras made himself feel identified from a more general perspective by being exposed to a larger Honduran community, making him feel part of a bigger Latino society. On the other hand, Johnny calls the United States his physical home because it is the place where he is currently and physically living. Johnny has lived in the United States most of his life. There seems to be a feeling of denial of his American identity. He says: “I will feel part of the American society until they totally accept me in the American society.” Even though the U.S. proclaims equality, the inferior treatment of immigrants is always present. Norman Matloff, a statistics professor and former Chair of the Affirmative Action Committee at UC Davis says: “there is a general (though sometimes unconscious) treatment of minorities as forming a kind of hierarchy, with immigrants occupying a higher position than blacks, and within the immigrant category Asians occupying a higher position than Latinos” (“The Adverse Impacts of Immigration on Minorities”). Johnny feels that there is a hierarchy in the American society that creates differences between himself and people of other races within the United States. Therefore, this makes Johnny not proud to be American. He calls the United States his “physical home” to connote that it is not as meaningful as his Honduran “home,” in which he feels equally accepted.

However, Johnny can find the richness of his American culture in the value and importance of education, his perspective conveyed through his mother’s American culture. Johnny’s father lived a big part of his life in Honduras before coming to the U.S. in search of opportunity. His education was very poor. He never graduated from elementary school in Honduras.  On the other hand, Johnny’s mother came to the U.S. when she was fifteen years old. She has attempted to earn her GED. Even though she hasn’t received it, she still has an educational background. As she was able to experience being in the United States and since she has received an American education, Johnny’s mom is conscious of the importance of education in the United States and encourages and supports her son’s academic career. Johnny says, “She knows that working hard [and] getting your bachelors is the only way to succeed here in the United States.” Johnny’s mother seems to be more supportive and encouraging of her son’s education as she understands how important an educational degree (especially a college degree) can be right now in the United States. His father, on the contrary, doesn’t really seem to value the importance of college education and believes that, nowadays, in order to gain an economically and generally stable future, Johnny should drop school and go get a job. Donald J. Hernandez talks about how children of immigrants are affected by parents with low-education levels in his article “Demographic Change and the Life Circumstances of Immigrant Families”: “For all of these reasons, among children generally, negative educational and employment outcomes have been found for children with low parental educational attainment.” Like Johnny says: “He is illiterate in Spanish as well as in English, so he doesn’t really understand the difference between good grades and bad grades,” and this provokes Johnny to feel discouraged in school. “Immigrant families also face many challenges, and their children often must navigate the difficult process of acculturation from a position of social disadvantage, with limited language skills and minimal family” (“Children of Immigrant Families: Analysis”). Johnny’s dad barely knows the language and has no positive influence on Johnny in his educational background. Johnny appreciates the value of his accessibility to American education and listens to his mom by continuing studying at college.

Johnny feels part of a mixed culture but yet doesn’t feel fully identified by one of them, making him create a rancor for the American culture.  He says: “The city has a weakened idea of community, acceptance and unity.” He feels discriminated against since he is stereotyped as abnormal. He says: “As an American I find that a home is somewhere where you have stability and comfortability.” However, he thinks other people see him as an “outcast.” He thinks that moving a lot within and out the United States has made him lose the possible connection he could have with Americans. He says: “It was hard for me to identify myself the way I wanted growing up. Moving through place to place made it difficult.” He doesn’t feel completely identified in a place. It’s a resentful feeling because he lives in a place where he can’t identify himself and people don’t let him feel identified either by not accepting him as an American, thanks to his ethnicity. Johnny’s little knowledge about his Salvadoran culture still affects him in a positive way by making him feel integrated to his identity. “The connection that I share with El Salvador’s community is that people are friendly and close-knit.” Also in the Honduran community, he feels “more celebratory; there is always a positive aspect, a positive attitude on life, because every moment has something to celebrate.” He finds that home for him is somewhere near family. Curiously, he also said that his household is where one has accessibility to alcohol: He argues: “Since alcohol is a strong expressive way of celebrating in Honduras, just as dancing, home is accessibility to music and alcohol.” He expresses this by dancing, drinking and celebrating positivity every weekend. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t drink when he has a problem or feels sad but when he feels happy, as with his Salvadoran family culture. As a Honduran, he feels happy to be in this country because they are away from the violence in Honduras. With the Salvadoran and Honduran cultures, he easily connects with his family; his family gives him stability and comfortability, and that makes him happy at the end of the day. He has social support from the Honduran/Salvadoran community. However, in America he has none of this, making him feel like an outcast and, therefore, making him feel resentful towards the United States.

The musical piece that I composed with the help of my friend Johnny Hernandez gives a better representation of what he is been through, according to him. As Johnny helped put thought and essence into the music, one can feel the way he is feeling in a more abstract way. There are four instruments used in this song: piano, piccolo, electric bass and a flute. I chose these instruments since these were the ones I felt relate to what Johnny tried to express. Besides, the four instruments have the potential to be used with a lot of “reverb,” which is an effect that (in this case) helps to bring out the melancholy and nostalgia that Johnny carries. The song in general has a classical touch but still follows the popular form or shape of the modern time. First, the piano surprises with three emotional chords in a descending sequence, which may represent the submission or tiredness caused by Johnny trying to accept the United States as his country. The abundant use of silences in the song acts as moments of relief to catch a breath after such intense emotions. It makes one want to hear more about it but the “climax” is not given just yet as it repeats the verse with the three chord sequence. The first chorus brings in a sweet flute, which blends perfectly with the emotion of the music. The pronounced vibrato of the flute in conjunction with the dynamics of volume in the music make the piece a little turbulent, as Johnny’s perception of home and self. With the same logic, there are times in the music when the tempo is unstable; the beat of the song seems to slow down and then catch up in order to create a certain tension and then release or satisfaction. In the second and last chorus of the piece, I decided not to include the flute as I thought that a leading melody would distract the purpose of the near ending of the song, which is to fade away. The subtle woodwind instrument, the piccolo, helps giving this feeling by having a really long fade in and fade out, which in other words mean: less attack and a longer release. Also, it has a very low pitch, which is unusual for a piccolo since it has the highest pitch range of all the recognized woodwind instruments. The last and the most expressive part (in my opinion) is the piano solo alongside the powerful bass, which serves as a climax to solve all the negative and sad feelings that once remained.

Johnny’s multidimensional perspective on home and self has a certain complexity yet beauty due to his diverse cultural background. Even though Johnny shows negative feelings about his American culture, he ultimately knows that the United States has influenced him in a good way as it has made him progress educationally and broadened his perception of his cultures. He knows it forms part of his identity and is grateful for its forming part of it. He is always going to be susceptible to a change or molding of personality based on his communication with the culture or society. He has recreated his own understanding of the American and the Honduran cultures as one.

Works Cited

Matloff, Norman. “The Adverse Impacts of Immigration on Minorities.” The Adverse Impacts of Immigration on Minorities. N.p., 5 Apr. 1995. Web. 23 May 2016

“Children of Immigrant Families: Analysis.” 14 (2004): 1-3. Web. 21 May 2016.

Tamer, Mary. “The Education of Immigrant Children.” Harvard Graduate School of Education. Usable Knowledge, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 21 May 2016

Hernandez, Donald J. “Demographic Change and the Life Circumstances of Immigrant Families.” The Future of Children 14.2 (2004): 16. Web. 20 May 2016.


Sample Transcriptions

Ara-Hello my name is Ara, what is your name?

Johnny-My name is Johnny Anthony Hernandez

A-Cool, do you have an alias or nickname?

J-Yeah, at home and with close friends I go by “Pingo”

A-Interesting. What does it mean?

J-Actually Pingo doesn’t really have a significance in Spanish but it’s short for Domingo, the day I was born.

A-Great. So, can you tell a little bit about yourself?

J-Well, I was born in Los Angeles, CA. I wasn’t raised there for very long, I only stayed there for a few months until I was taken as an infant to Honduras in San Pedro, for a few months.

A-Interesting, so where do you identify yourself with?

J-Well, like I said, I was born in Los Angeles and lots of times many people would ask me questions like: where are you from? My only answer could be… where do I feel comfortable with and what city do I feel like I was raised in the most. I didn’t stay in LA for very long but I feel sometimes I identify with LA since that was where I was born. But, being or spending a couple years in San Pedro, Sula, Honduras, sometimes I would say my place of nationality is Honduran. Although my mother was born in el Salvador I can also say that I identify with my Salvadorian culture.

A-So you would say that you are like half Honduran, half Salvadorian?


A-Okay, so what do you remember of your stay in L.A.?

J-So, what I remember of LA is not a lot, but I did go to elementary school from Kinder garden up until the fourth grade and the I abruptly moved with my family around the age of 9 to Arizona , I spent about 4 years there, and then, we came back to LA around middle school, in my eighth grade, right before graduation, and I went to a community school which was a community mostly of Latino. So around that time, I got to experience the city a little bit more, independence, going out with friends , that kind of stuff.

A-Cool, so what about Salvador, have you ever been there?

J-No. I have only visited Honduras. The last time I visited Honduras I was about 4 years old, and then I came back here at 5 but I really never had a lot of cultural information about El Salvador because the last time my mom visited el Salvador, when she was 15, I just never had that much information about el Salvador since my mom didn’t talk about it very much.

A-Cool, so now that we are talking about your parents, why don’t you talk a little bit about their attitude and education.

So my father education is something unusual cause he never graduated from the second grade so he doesn’t have much of learning experience and background, he is illiterate in Spanish as well as in English , so he doesn’t really understand the difference between good grades and bad grades. on the other hand, my mother tries to push me a little bit harder than my father because she has experience with her GED , even though she never got it, but she tried and that sorta thing. And she knows that working hard, getting your bachelors is the only way to succeed here in the united states.

Interesting, so what would you consider your family’s culture in general? Because you said your mom has been living here since she was fifteen, and your dad came around the same age.

So my parents never really took the advantage of learning English as they should have so they speak mostly Spanish at home, its more of a Honduran cultural background at home because as I said my mother doesn’t have a lot of really fun memories of el Salvador, so we don’t really talk much about that side of the culture. Most of the memories that she has of el Salvador was the abuse that she received as a little girl, by her grandmother who she thought I was her actual mother.

So how do you think your family has influenced you culturally?

My mother seems to have a very good work ethic, she knows that working and having a job is partly the only thing that helps you succeed is not only about having a title but also about benig a hard worker , she got that from her mother who happens to be a hard worker as well. That’s something that I see as a positive influence from my mother ; working diligently.

What’s your childhood view with your parents once you are in the united states of course.

Well, I never had fun memories about my childhood, I suppressed a lot of them, but from what I hear from my mother is that I had , everything and everything that I ever wanted, but I was lonely as a kid since my momma was at work, even if I had toys id be playing by myself not with any friends.

Do you plan visit Honduras or el Salvador and what for?

I plan to visit Honduras soon when I get into some cash because I haven’t been there in a while and It would be nice to see my grandparents not when they come and visit me but me going there. Yeah, when I visit Honduras or El Salvador I would like to stay for two months and visit las Islas de la Bahias or el Canton .

Okay. changing of subject, what is your music taste?

I really like listening to bachata and punta because people listen to that there.

Alright what about your taste in food?

Food, mm I really love baleadas.

What American influences have you received while living here?

American, nothing. Most of my American influences are those that I received while in the public school system because I spent more time at home than I did at school. English, it’s a language that I spoke only at school and not at home.

What do you consider it is to have fun?

I like swimming, I’ve always liked swimming. When I was younger I used to have a pool in my backyard. We used to have a lot of pool parties with my family.

So you think you got that liking of swimming since it was a good memory from your childhood?


Okay, something else that you like a lot?

Also, I love reading and as a child I read a lot of harry potter books, series books, mystery novels. I really like reading on my free time. Recently I read harry potter and the prisoner of Azkaban but I read it in Spanish because I thought that I’d like to practice my grammar and that sort of thing in Spanish , and it went pretty well, I enjoyed the book a lot, even though it was Spanish more traditional from Spain so it was hard to understand some of the words.

I see, Cool. So how do you see yourself in 2 years from now?

Well I see my self still studying   here at CCSF

What about in 10 years?

In ten years, hopefully ill be getting my titles in patent law, which I know it sounds weird and all but chemistry and law are just two subjects that mean a lot to me and I really like chemistry.

Where are you planning to practice it?

I plan to practice this hopefully here in California, I’ve already started looking at some grad schools like UC Berkeley. Hopefully, someday I can be able to be back to LA and get closer to my Salvadorian family.

You have family in LA ah?

Yes, I have tons of family in LA.

So you see yourself in the future in LA with your family..

Yes. I plan to buy my first home in LA hopefully, getting a little bit closer to my family.




Home: Love, Acceptance and Commitment


Home: Love, Acceptance and Commitment

by Emily Schattenburg, January 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Work Cited

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

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

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

I Left My Heart in Syria


I Left My Heart in Syria

by Serena Mokatish, May 2015

The monarchic form of government that Syria uses relies on violence by police and military forces on protesters and innocent civilians to suppress demonstrations. Opposition militias began to from in 2011, and by 2012 the conflict had expanded into a full-fledged Civil War. Today, many Syrians fear being attacked by government forces and are forced to leave their homes. Since Syria is a heavily Islamic populated country, the remaining 8% of Christians in Syria also fear ISIS, which is a terrorist group. Like Steven, an eight-year-old boy who feared possible death in Syria, many other Syrians have escaped the war by migrating to other countries for liberty, life, and prosperity. Throughout the last few years of conflict, Steven and his family moved in and out of Syria multiple times. Steven’s family would stay in Syria when the Civil War conditions were calm, but when the war conditions were critical, his family would temporarily move to Lebanon. Finally, on August 13, 2014, Steven and his family decided to follow in the footsteps of his grandparents and move to the United States to live with them. Steven and his family landed on August 15, 2014, which was Steven’s birthday. During his first week in America, Steven began to feel homesick and felt like his culture was taken away from him. The sudden shift in culture, traumatic experiences, and his experiences as a refugee from the Syrian Civil War have made Steven experience trauma, which has disrupted his adaptation in America because he feels like he does not belong.

Being forced to a new country has been scary for Steven because he has not adapted to the American culture; therefore, Steven has felt isolated, forced, and discouraged, but despite his struggles, he has grown into a strong boy from his experiences. After the Syrian war, Steven and his family moved to America. Immigration was an obstacle that made Steven dislike the United Stated because he lost his friends, his home, and family members due to the Syrian war. Steven was forced to live in America. Steven felt fortunate he had escaped the tragedy of the war, but felt remorseful at the same time, as he states: “I felt really sad for the people in Syria. They killed half of Syria. It is all gone and half of Syria is dead.” The term “they” refers to the Syrian regime. The term “half of Syria” refers to the innocent Syrians that were killed by their own radical people. Steven holds a grudge against the extremists in Syria that killed the innocent half of his country. Steven and his family fled to America for protection and in the process lost their home, as Steven states: “I used to have more friends in Syria, more cousins; my house was bigger; I had two pools, four bathrooms, and two kitchens, and four bedrooms.” Currently, Steven lives in a small apartment and his family is barely making it. Their picture of the American Dream was not what they had hoped. In reality, they have been suffering in a country they did not want to be in and moved regretfully to America because they were trying to protect their lives from the Syrian government.

In addition, the war in Syria affected Steven emotionally because his feelings shift from feeling happy living in his homeland, to feeling threatened living in his homeland, to being scared and forcefully leaving his homeland in order to survive, thus causing confusion for the child. I asked Steven to describe three words on how he felt when he lived in Syria and Steven responded, “Happy, fun, and joy.” Then, I asked him to describe in three words of how he felt during the war and Steven responded, “Scared, sad, and worried.” Next, I asked him how he felt when his parents told him that they were moving to America and he would be living with his grandparents, and Steven replied, “Sad, excited, and scared.” Steven’s eighth birthday was a day he will never forget because it was the day he landed in America, and the moment he landed is when he felt estranged, confused, and shocked. The day before Steven’s eighth birthday, he left his home and traveled halfway across the world to escape from the destruction of the civil war in Syria. Upon his arrival, he met his grandma and grandpa at the airport, as he states: “I did not see them from when I was six. I ran to my grandma and grandpa and hugged them.” Steven was thrilled to reunite with his grandparents again, since he had not seen them in two years. The reunion between Steven’s grandparents and him brought joy and a sense of security because he felt like he had a part of his home back, which was his family. Although Steven was separated and reunited with his family again, the split and reconnection confused him and disrupted his normal childhood, thus causing severe trauma for him because Steven’s emotions changed simultaneously from being happy living in Syria, to feeling threatened living in Syria, to feeling sad after being forced to leave Syria.

Furthermore, as a refugee, even though Steven escaped the dangers of Syria and entered America, which was considered a safe land, instead of feeling a sense of belonging in the American culture, he has felt like a foreigner. After the death of his uncle, which occurred in America, Steven was furthermore traumatized and was confused about which country was a better place to live in. Steven faced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as Boris Drožđek, a researcher in psychology, connects: “They originate from the fields of systems theory, migrant mental health, and posttraumatic stress theory” (4). Frequent migration and traumatic experiences during one’s moving process can cause PTSD and effect one’s mental health. PTSD originated from the stress Steven faced in Syria, for he woke up every morning thanking God for being alive because he feared for his life. He developed migration PTSD because he was told that America would protect him and his family’s lives, but when his uncle came to America, he died in a car accident after landing from the airport. Steven felt betrayed by the country he supposedly trusted, thus causing confusing and psychological trauma for him.

Consequently, due to the extreme stress Steven faced in a short amount of time, he continues to remember bad memories, which in addition, makes him lose hope in the land that is supposed to protect the lives of refugees. Steven is facing cultural shock as Irina-Ana Drobot, a psychologist, illustrates: “He projects his fears on the surroundings. The description of nature is subjective, and it is the result of Rochester’s feelings of anxiety and of feeling overwhelmed by the foreign culture he finds himself in” (2). When one enters a country and experiences cultural differences in his/her surroundings, one starts to feel overwhelmed by the foreign culture and has a hard time adapting to his or her new environment, thus causing confusion and stress. This also makes Steven not want to live in America because he was forced to live here and has experienced the death of a family member. He also had a hard time adapting to a different culture because he does not have many family members in America to express his Syrian culture with; therefore, Steven feels restricted to the predominant American culture and does not like it. Family is what makes him feel like he belongs at home and since one family member was removed out of his life for good, he gave up on the hope that America once promised him, which was life over death.

Moreover, Steven faces cultural Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Cultural PTSD) due to cultural shock, experiencing the death of his uncle in America, and being a refugee, which disrupted his adaptation in America because he was overwhelmed by all traumatic experiences. Although being a refugee secured Steven’s life, it has also made him feel like an outsider and feel homesick, which has furthermore disrupted in his mental health because he went from feeling happy in Syria, to feeling threatened in Syria, to being sad when he forcefully left Syria from the unsafe government. Shifting cultures demandingly made it harder for him to have a sense of belonging and he had a hard time adapting to his new environment as Leah James, a psychologist and researcher in psychological treatments, states: “Children most commonly express frustration and anxiety associated with safety concerns or the whereabouts and well-being of missing family members” (2). When a children leave their home due to safety reasons, most project their fear and anger out onto the new place they are forced to stay in because they feel like they will never like their new home since they are forced to stay in it. Since Steven was forced to leave his home, friends, and family members, he has put all his anger on the country he was forced to stay in, though it has helped secure his life. He is eager to return back to his hometown as Steven shows: “I would ask my mom everyday saying mom when are we going back to Syria? Mom when are we going back to Syria?” He misses his old environment because that is where he belonged. Steven’s identity stayed back in Syria and since he was forced to escape to America, he left his old identity behind and struggls to find his new one because he is facing culture shock. Steven’s psychological trauma derives from being a refugee, experiencing the death of a loved one, and having a hard time adapting to the new American culture because he valued his Syrian culture excessively, and that was taken away from him.

In addition, Steven’s traumatic experiences of losing his loved ones, being a war refugee, and having a hard time adapting to the American culture dampened his hope for fitting into the American culture. Since Steven lost the majority of his family and friends, he relied on God as the last resort for comfort because he knows God will never leave him throughout his struggles. What kept Steven from missing his uncle, family, friends, and home in Syria was his faith, as Steven claims: “I thank God every day that I did not die in Syria and I ask God to help me make new friends and family so I can be happy again.” Steven’s faith helps him get through the tragic experiences of losing his family, friends, and home in Syria. He had to accept the fact that God had a different plan for him and it was by fate and for safety reasons that he had to move to America and leave his old life in Syria behind.  Though he accepts everything as fate, he never forgot about his cultural values. He learned to embrace his Syrian culture and only grasp on to the positive culture values from America. Steven’s family is very involved in church because they want Steven to be raised well and not pick up bad habits from the American culture, which also disrupts his adaptation in the American culture because he is forced to follow certain rules. His parents shelter him and protect him with the help of his new spiritual family. His spiritual family constantly lifts him up, welcomes him, and helps him get through his traumatic experiences because it severely affected his emotional health.

Similarly, while Steven is suffering from traumatic experiences and is having a hard time adapting to the American culture because his emotions are fluctuating between being happy, sad, and frustrated all at once, he is currently recovering with the help of loved ones. In order for Steven to adapt living in America and heal from the mental scarring he faced, he needs the support of friends and family. He finds comfort by trusting the people he loves the most and since he is only eight years old, he needs nurturing love in order to move on in life. For Steven to feel safe and secure, he needs the emotional support from his immediate family and his spiritual family. I asked Steven if he would miss the members of his church if he left back to Syria. He replied, “Yes, of course!” According to his response, if he left to return to Syria, he would be even more traumatized because he would be leaving more of his loved ones in America and gaining back the family members he lost in the past in Syria, which would cause more confusion for the child. Then, I asked Steven if he would dislike America even more if he did not have his grandma and grandpa with him and he replied, “Yeah.” Conferring to Steven’s response, family is what has helped him adjust to life in America after having his adaptation disrupted due to living among his family members in Syria, to forcefully leaving his family members in Syria, to meeting new friends in America and ending up loving his new spiritual family members in America.

Steven will most likely will never be able to adapt fully to America because he will always treasure the land that was forcefully taken away from him. He is not the type of boy that hides his identity; instead, he embraces and claims his identity as Syrian. Although his life was threatened in Syria, he still holds on to his Syrian identity. When Steven entered America, where his life is not threatened, again, he still holds on to his Syrian identity. He is very proud of his culture, but has a hard time embracing it in the United States because he does not have most of his family members to share it with. Steven cannot integrate his culture well with the American culture because there are too many differences. Steven also does not want to be so-called “Americanized” because he feels that some aspects of the American culture tend to be disrespectful, since respect is an important factor of the Syrian culture. I asked Steven, “What do you not like about the American culture?” Steven immediately replied, “I don’t like how the teenagers grow up to be. They think they can do whatever they want and then they get in so much trouble with their parents. If they do that they don’t respect their parents.” Steven bases his cultural value on the idea of respecting his parents. Syrian children honor their parents and grandparents so much that they would risk their own lives just to save them. Steven expresses his culture by showing respect to his parents. He wants to hold on to his Syrian culture because he does not want to grow up to be a typical American teenager and disrespect his parents, which is equivalent to disrespecting his culture.

Steven’s mental health transformed negatively and his adaptation was disturbed because his feelings have shifted from being happy living in his homeland, to feeling threatened living in his homeland, to being scared and forced leaving his homeland in order to survive, thus causing confusion for the child. Although being a war refugee saved his life, it also made him feel like he was forced to stay in a country where he felt like he did not belong due to cultural differences and to not having his cousins around him. Dangerous war conditions often force people to leave their homes for safety; when they escape for safety reasons, they often face cultural shock because they entered a country that they were forced to remain in. He had his culture taken away from him and has been forced to integrate it with a completely different culture, which also causes more bewilderment for him. Today, thousands of Syrian refugees are fleeing from Syria to other countries to protect their lives. When refugee children like Steven are forced to leave their home, it disrupts their normal healthy childhood because they are confused from the sudden change of their environment.

Works Cited

Drožđek, Boris. “Challenges in Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Refugees: Towards Integration of Evidence-based Treatments with Contextual and Culture-sensitive Perspectives.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 6 (n.d.): 1-8. ESCOB. Web. 5May 2015.

Drobot, Irina-Ana. “Relationships and Culture Shock in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.” Scientific Journal of Humanistic Studies 6 (n.d.): 1-3.ESCOB. Web. 5 May 2015.

James, Leah. “The Mental Health of Syrian Refugee Children and Adolescents.” Forced Migration Review 47 (n.d.): 42-44. ESCOB.


First Meeting:

Serena: “How do you like living in the United states?”

Steven: “Not that much.”

Serena: “Why?”

Steven: “Because I used to have more friends in Syria, more cousins, and a bunch of other stuff. My house was bigger, I had two pools, four bathrooms, two kitchens, and four bedrooms.”

Serena: “How did you feel about the war?”

Steven: “Really sad.”

Serena: “Why did you feel sad?”

Steven: “Half of Syria is gone. They killed it! So now there is half of Syria and half of the other Syria is dead. That is why I am sad.”

Serena: “But none of your family died?”

Steven: “None.”

Serena: “Okay, that is good. Why did you come to the United States?”

Steven: “From the war.”

Serena: “So you do not have to be in the war?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “How do you feel about moving to the United States?”

Steven: “Sad.”

Serena: “Did you want to move to the United States?”

Steven: “Not that much.”

Serena: “So you were really sad when you left?”

Steven: “Yeah, until my mom told me that my grandma and grandpa were here. I became a bit happier.”

Serena: “So you see your grandpa and grandma a lot huh?”

Steven: “Yeah, I did not see them from when I was six. All the way to seven and when I had my eighth birthday year. On my eighth birthday year that’s when I came. For my birthday. And two weeks, so it was…Wait no, for two days…August 15th, that is when I came.”

Serena: “Mhm.”

Steven: “Do you have any more questions?”

Serena: “Where do you like going to school more, here or Syria?”

Steven: “Syria.”

Serena: “Why?”

Steven: “I have more friends, I have two cousins….”

Serena: “And you learned more?”

Steven: “Yeah, I learned five languages.”

Serena: “Wow!”

Steven: “I know that is a lot.”

Serena: “And you have more friends there?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Wait, so you speak all those languages fluently?”

Steven: “Like, two of them I do not know a lot, but three of them…”

Serena: “Fluent.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Describe what you did in Syria with family.”

Steven: “We would have family dinners, go to the mall, walk around, and go visit my cousins. I would go swimming. I would play with my cousins.”

Serena: “What games did you play?

Steven: “We played tag, hide and seek, soccer, we swam in the pool. A lot of stuff.”

Serena: “Did you have a lot of friends at school?”

Steven: “Yeah I had so many friends.”

Serena: “Do your friends speak Arabic and English or just Arabic?”

Steven: “Some do, some don’t. But most of them speak both English and Arabic because that is what they teach us in school.”

Serena: “Oh, that’s good.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Would you go back to Syria?”

Steven: “When the war stops, yes.”

Serena: “Do you want to go back to Syria, after the war?”

Steven: “Yes, every day I beg my mom. I tell her “When is the war going to stop? I want to go to Syria. When is the war going to stop? I want to go to Syria!””

Serena: “Aw!”

Steven: “Every single day, every single second.”

Serena: “Wow. Where do you consider home, here or Syria?”

Steven: “Syria.”

Serena: “Obviously, yeah. Describe the moving process, like describe how you moved from Syria to here.”

Steven: “Okay, so before the war in two days we were in Lebanon. We stayed there for a year and went we went back for two weeks and went back to Lebanon and stayed there. We got our stuff and went to the airplane. Two days from the airplane we went all the way to America. From Lebanon to America when you go it is two days.”

Serena: “Mhm.”

Steven: “I watched some movies on the airplane. I got ice cream.”

Serena: I know I got ice cream too when I traveled.”

Steven: “Let’s see, I met two of my friends.”

Serena: “On the plane?”

Steven: “Yeah. One was Kieran and one was Zach.”

Serena: “How did you feel when you first stepped in America? Your first step like when you came to the airport in America.”

Steven: “I was like, I got a bit scared, was a bit weird, out of place, and saw with my grandpa and grandma and friends. First, I ran to my grandma and grandpa. I hugged them. Then, I went to Kieran and Zach. We said hi, we shake hands, we hugged each other, we had lots of fun. That day we had a sleepover. They went to my house, or should I say my grandma’s house.”

Serena: “Oh wow! Do you love your grandma and grandpa a lot?”

Steven: “Yeah I love them a lot!”

Serena: “Aw!”

Steven: “Yeah, we had lots of fun! And we had a big feast.”

Serena: That’s good, that’s good!”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “So, if you went back to Syria, would you miss America?”

Steven: “Not that much.”

Serena: (laughs) “Okay.”

Steven: “But I would miss my friends and the people that I know.”

Serena: Church?

Steven: “Church!”

Serena: “Would you miss me?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Describe the last moment you had with your friend.”

Steven: “Okay. I told my friend not to eat chicken nuggets.”

Serena: “Why?”

Steven: “Because they are bad for you. My mom said so.”

Serena: “Yes, you are correct. They are bad for you. They crush baby chicks with the bones and guts inside and make chicken nuggets.”

Steven: “Yeah all the bones are in there. That is why I do not eat chicken nuggets. My friend did not believe me and thought I was crazy and weird.”

Serena: “Well, don’t worry, when he grows up and learns about it, he will remember you. You know my sister, Mira, loves chicken nuggets?”

Steven: Really?”

Serena: “Yeah. I hope she stops eating it.”

Steven: “Yeah they are bad for you. I will never eat them”

Serena: “Wait so is English your first or second language?”

Steven: “Second.”

Serena: “So you know how to read and write and speak Arabic?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Kol ishi (Means everything in Arabic)?”

Steven: “Kolshi (Means everything in Arabic).”

Serena: “You are so cute! I wish I get to have a son that turns out just like you.”

Steven: (Laughs).

Serena: “Oh by the way, I heard about you mom’s brother. I am so sorry for your loss. But he should be happy he is in heaven living with God now.”

Steven: “Thanks, I hope so too. I really miss my uncle. I thank God every day that I did not die in Syria and I ask God to help me make new friends and family so I can be happy again.”

Serena: “How old was he when he died?”

Steven “Twenty-four.”

Serena: “Wow, so young! How did it happen?”

Steven: “My Grandpa told him to escape from the war and to move. So when he did and got out of the airplane and went into car, he got into a car accident and died.”

Serena: “Oh, my gosh, that is so sad!”

Steven: “Yeah. He came to escape the war because he did not want to fight in it.”

Serena: “So he was a part of the Army?”

Steven: “Yeah. He left because he did not want to fight but when he came here he died anyways.”

Serena: “That means God wanted his child early. You will see your uncle again someday, don’t worry.”

Steven: “Yeah I know.” (Looking all sad).

Serena: “Give me a hug.”

(Serena and Steven hug)

Second Meeting:

Serena: “Do you have a lot of friends in your new school here?”

Steven: “Not as much as in Syria, but I’m starting to make new friends here.”

Serena: “How do you like living here so far?”

Steven: “I don’t like it that much. I miss my friends in Syria.”

Serena: “Would you hate America even more if you did not have your grandma and grandpa with you?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Do you like the kids in the church?”

Steven: “Yeah I like playing with them. Your little sister is so nice.”

Serena: “Yeah she is, but you should see her when she gets home. She acts crazy.”

Steven: “Really?”

Serena: “Yeah, and your little sister is so cute!”

Steven: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone says oh your sister is so cute.”

Serena: “If you were president of Syria, how would you fix the war?”

Steven: “Murder is bad. I would tell people that God said no to kill anyone and that we should all love each other.”

Serena: “I would do the same thing. If there was such thing as a time machine, would you go back in time to experience living in Syria?”

Steven: “Yeah I wish I could go back.”

Serena: “Do you know what the Syrian War is about?”

Steven: “Yeah. The Syrian War is both sides fighting each other.”

Serena: “Were you living on the good side of Syria or the bad side of Syria?”

Steven: “The good side, but some people around us were bad.”

Serena: “So your family moved to America just in case the bad people come to the good side where you lived?”

Steven: “Yeah. My mom wanted us to be safe.”

Serena: “Do you feel forced that you left your home.”

Steven: “Yeah I had no choice. Syria is dangerous now.”

Serena: “What kind of house do you have now?”

Steven: “It’s not that big. I miss my old house, but I live with my grandma and grandpa. We don’t have our own house.”

Serena: “Do you like living with your grandma and grandpa?”

Steven: “Yeah, but i wish we all lived together in Syria.”

Serena: “Do you find it hard to fit in?”

Steven: “Not really.”

Serena: If someone were to ask you which are you more, Syrian or American, what would you say?”

Steven: “Syrian.”

Serena: “Are you proud to be Syrian?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “What you like the most about Syria.”

Steven: “My friends and family.”

Serena: “What school do you like better, the one here or in Syria?”

Steven: “Syria.”

Serena: “Do you feel like your heart will always belong in Syria more?”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Describe three words of how you felt when you lived in Syria before the war.”

Steven: “Happy, fun, good.”

Serena: “Now describe in three words how you felt during the war in Syria.”

Steven: “Sad, scared, and worried.”

Serena: “Now describe in three words how you felt when your parents told you that you were moving to America with your grandpa and grandma.”

Steven: “Sad, excited, and scared.”

Serena: “Since you have been in America for a while, in three words how would you describe your feelings now?”

Steven: “Better, miss my home and friends, and still sad.”

Serena: “How would you feel if you went back tomorrow to Syria and the war was magically over. Describe it in three words again.”

Steven: “Really happy, excited, joy.”

Serena: “Aw. Who do you miss more, your family or your friends.”

Steven: “My family. Especially my cousins because I love to play with them.”

Serena: “Of course. Nothing beats family.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “What makes you feel at home when you are in a different place?”

Steven: “When you have a lot of friends and family.”

Serena: “Describe how you feel when you leave your friends.”

Steven: “When I leave my friends I get sad a little bit, but then I get over it.”

Serena: “Describe how you feel when your parents leave the house.”

Steven: “When my mom leaves the house I get mad.”

Serena: “Why do you get mad?”

Steven: “Because I want my mom.”

Serena: “You’re a mommy’s boy.”

Steven: “Yeah.”

Serena: “Describe a normal day with you and your family.”

Steven: “First, I get up in the morning and go to school, then I come home and do homework, eat dinner with my family, then play with my sister, and then I take a shower and go to sleep.”

Serena: “Do you spend more time with your mom or your grandparents.”

Steven: “Both because we all live together.”

Serena: “Do you consider yourself Syrian or American?”

Steven: “Syrian.”

Serena: “What makes you Syrian?”

Steven: “I grew up in Syria, my family is from Syria, I speak Arabic, and yeah.”

Serena: “Does your mom work?”

Steven: “No.”

Serena: “How about your dad?”

Steven: “Yeah my dad is a taxi driver.”

Serena: “Are you closer to your mom more than your dad?”

Steven: “Yeah, I think so.”

Serena: “Do you have dreams of the memories you had in Syria or dreams of you in America when you sleep?”

Steven: “I have dreams of me in Syria playing with my friends and family. With my friends I play with them at school and with family I play with them at home.”

Serena: “Describe the last dream you had when you were in Syria.”

Steven: “I dreamt that I was in Syria playing soccer with five of my friends. Then my mom called us into the house to have dinner, but we did not want to go into the house because we were having so much fun playing. Then my mom got mad we went back inside. We tried sneaking back out to play but all the doors were locked and we did not have the keys. Then I woke up.”

Serena: “Funny dream. Do you miss your school or friends in school more in Syria?”

Steven: “I miss my friends more.”

Serena: “What did you hear about America before you came here?”

Steven: “That America was the best country in the world and that it is pretty and nice and there is a lot of rich people.”

Serena: “After coming to the United States, do you think what you said was true?”

Steven: “It looks nice but it is boring.”

Serena: “What makes it boring?”

Steven: “There is no one in the streets, I don’t have a lot of family and friends here. I have a smaller house. My parents used to have more money and I bought more things in Syria.”

Serena: “Are there a lot of people in the streets in Syria.”

Steven: “Yeah there’s lots of people everywhere. It is like a shopping mall but everyone is outside. Everyone talks to each other in the streets. In America all you see outside are cars. It is like a dessert.”

Serena: “Do you think in Syria people talk more and are friendlier?”

Steven: “Yeah we all help each other.”

Serena: “Do you think the people in Syria are one big family?”

Steven: “Yeah they are all nice.”

Serena: “What don’t you like about the American culture?”

Steven: “I don’t like how the teenagers grow up to be. They think they can do whatever they want and then they get in so much trouble with their parents. If they do that they don’t respect their parents.”