Family and Grit

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Family and Grit

by Jeffrey Chin, March, 2019

Immigrants, from across the globe, come to America for a variety of reasons, including: better opportunities, safety and refuge, and family reunions. Regardless of their different intentions, they all share an equal desire for the promise of a better life and future. The land of opportunities, as most believe it, is a common ground for cultures and a breeding space for new possibilities—a place where anyone, striving for improvement, can indeed improve their lives. However, many new immigrants, if overly optimistic, can overestimate the country’s value, underestimate its flaws, and mistake the U.S. as a perfected utopia. Similarly, Robert left his beloved home and family for the U.S., for better education, more job opportunities, and, more importantly, asylum from the persecution of the Maoist party in his country. Although Robert manages to immigrate to the U.S. successfully, he still faces many unexpected adversities as an independent immigrant, which challenged him both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, Robert still believes in the American Dream. Despite the traumas from Nepal and the obstacles as an immigrant, Robert is able to mediate his traumas and reshape his hardships into growth-supporting experiences, through grit and with the motivation of his parents’ support, which facilitates his development as an independent.

I met Robert on the sixth of November. He was from Nepal, a small country squeezed between the large masses of China and India. Robert describes his home as “a regional country… it has all the mountains on the top, like the hilly region, mountain region… like um… Mount Everest.” For sixteen years, he grew up in a small village in the Gorkha District—a small community where most residents knew each other as neighbors. He remembers growing up with his three other siblings in that village. Occasionally, he would reminisce over his fond childhood memories. Since then, Robert has pursued his studies earnestly: earning his degree and a job as a civil engineer. Unfortunately, Robert later had a problematic encounter with one of Nepal’s political parties, which threatened his life and forced him to migrate to the U.S. Before he filed for asylum, Robert first flew to Norman, Oklahoma with a student visa, where he studied in Oklahoma University for a semester. Then he moved in with his cousin in California and transferred to SFSU, then CCSF. During his first year in the U.S., Robert struggled a lot with his transition from Nepal. Alone and in a new country, there were language barriers and cultural differences, which hindered Robert’s ability to adjust. Nevertheless, with time and patience, Robert is able to overcome his challenges. He hopes that, one day, he will be able to cultivate a future for himself in the U.S., travel the world, and revisit his family in Nepal.

Subjected to the dangers of political persecution and his traumatic experiences back in Nepal, Robert was forced to leave his beloved childhood home, out of fear and dread for the Maoist party. From 1996 to 2006, the Maovadi Dwandakaal—a civil war between the Maoist Communist Party and the Nepalese government—plagued the country. A period of tragic violence, the ten years were troubled times for Nepal, where “more than 13, 000 people were killed during the years of insurgency,” before Nepal’s political parties reached a consensus to dissolve and replace the ruling monarchy with an “inclusive democracy” (Joshi 276). In spite of the massive political shift, subtle “low-intensity violence” still occurs between party members to gain or repress supporters (Joshi 278). During a political campaign, Robert advocated for Nepali Congress—a social-democratic party—in opposition to the Maoist group and their unreasonable methodologies. Although his efforts managed to spoil the Maoist’s chances of winning the voting majority in a local village, four Maoist supporters later confronted Robert. They awaited him and “took [him] to the side of the jungle and started beating with wooden sticks” (Robert) until he was unconscious. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the rights of all individuals, the Maoist members’ actions were obvious violations of Robert’s “right to freedom of thought” (UDHR Article 18) and “freedom of opinion and expression… without interference… and impart information” (UDHR Article 19). By expressing his different perspective and belief, Robert was severely punished for interfering with the Maoist’s political agendas. Since his trauma occurred, Robert now feels anxious, unsafe, and fearful about returning home, intimidated by the prospect that he still remains a wanted target by the Maoist.

Although Robert initially struggled with his new responsibilities as an adult in the U.S., he eventually manages to overcome his anxieties and worries, through his parents’ support and encouragement. Far from home, Robert was plagued with melancholy and past traumas, and often worried about his future and his parents’ health. Sometimes, “[he] couldn’t sleep until 3 am in the morning” (Robert). According to an article, which evaluates the effects of self-esteem and social support on college students’ mental health, a group of University of Cincinnati post-doctoral researchers found that “students who felt higher levels of family social support reported fewer days of mental health problems.” (Merianos et al.) When Robert was segregated from Nepal and his family, he suffered minor symptoms of depression due to his lack of family interaction, which occasionally hindered his performance. As Robert recalls, “I was thinking a lot bad things. Sometimes even giving up whatever I am doing.” Despite having friends, Robert is more open and trusting of his parents to understand his problems. Regardless of distance, the intimacy and trust between a functioning family provides unparalleled support, and creates an environment of acceptance, genuineness, and empathy: “My father had shared many struggling stories that made me wanna… not [give] up no matter what.” Although Robert felt alone in the U.S., talking to his parents, being genuinely heard and emphatically understood, brought him relief and comfort, and encouraged him to be more optimistic and resilient in the face of adversity, which reinforces his self-esteem and morale.

As an independent, Robert has very little time for leisure or recreation, which makes him socially isolated as a consequence to his priorities, obligations, and busy schedule. Between school and work, Robert rarely has the time to socialize and relax like his American friends. In the article, “ ‘Whether I like it or not, it’s important’: Implicit importance of means predicts self-regulatory persistence and success,” Clayton R. Critcher, an associate Professor from the University of California, Berkeley, analyzes the effects of unconscious goal-relevant evaluations on grit and success. Critcher found that “people pursue things that are important not necessarily for immediately realizable affective benefits, but because of the value of what can ultimately be achieved.” Since Robert never grew up with the same benefits of an American life, he is more ready than his American peers, who have both family and financial support, to work harder for his future, “support [his] family back in Nepal” and then “save some money to go to university.” As Robert describes it, it is this feeling that “I have to do something right now to have something in the future.” Additionally, he sees that time, money, and education were invaluable assets that must not be wasted on “short-term temptations” (Critcher 818), but wisely spent towards achieving a better future, as in Robert’s case: a well-paying occupation and a master degree in architecture. This makes Robert naturally hard working, but, sadly, socially isolated. Despite his grit and earnest attitude, Robert has to sacrifice many lesser, temporary pleasures, as well as his social life, to remain committed to his larger objectives.

Since international students are limited in employment options, Robert was forced to work at a low-end job; nevertheless, in spite of his initial disappointment, Robert was able to persevere and make the most out of his experiences. Although Robert’s student visa permits him to travel and study in the U.S., it also binds him to very restrictive rules on employment. As an international student, Robert can only work on-campus jobs in his first academic year, and any off-campus employment, after the first year, must still comply with distinct terms and conditions (USCIS). As Robert recalls, “I tried to look for the work but I was not accepted anywhere for not having a work authorization card being an international student.” This is problematic for Robert, who desperately needs work to support himself and his parents, and to repay his loans from Nepal. It was not until when he filed for asylum and moved to California that he found his first job as a restaurant busser. In “Employment and Education-Occupation Mismatches of Immigrants and their Children in the Netherlands: Comparisons with the Native Majority Group,” a study on the labor market and immigrant minorities in the Netherlands, Yassine Khoudja, a post-doctoral researcher in social and behavioral sciences, examined the disadvantages and education-to-employment mismatches of immigrants. Khoudja found that in many occasions, “educated immigrants [are turning] to the low-skill oriented ethnic economy to find employment [because] their skills are not recognized or made use of in the high-skilled labor market” (131). As a result, past educational and work experiences, like Robert’s civil engineering degree, are often neglected and not fully utilized. Thus, Robert was unable to find any qualified work: “I wanted to be in architecture but then I ended up doing like clearing tables and then doing dishes and everything.” He said that he was not enthusiastic about working as a busser and wiping tables: “I was like ‘oh no,’ but then I had no choice that time sometimes you gotta do no matter what you know to survive.” Despite his disappointments, Robert still maintained a positive attitude about the circumstances: “if you keep working, if you be honest and work your [hardest]… you will learn pretty quick.” Aside from being promoted, Robert’s consistent work ethics and positivity rewarded him with new skills and experiences. Although initially skeptic about working at a restaurant, Robert, nevertheless, took full advantage of the opportunity, and, by consistent effort, shown great progress and growth.

Through self-motivation and his family’s encouragement, Robert is able to conjure enough strength to overcome his physical and mental difficulties in the U.S., which conditioned him into a responsible, independent, and capable individual, and made him all the more wiser because of his experiences. Although some might argue that Robert should not have meddled with Nepal’s political affairs from the start, it is for the benefit of society that everyone should be able to publicly promote their opinions and beliefs, without fear or intimidation, to create a fairer democratic government. Additionally, although some might consider that persecution should not qualify for asylum, everyone, especially those exiled or coerced from their homes due to fear and danger, deserves the right to life and to receive assistance and refuge from neighboring countries. It is common that many immigrants who come to the U.S. do not anticipate the difficulties that await them; some may feel discontent, others may be dismayed, but those who persist will persevere and grow according to their experiences. By persevering through his hardships, Robert is an example of how life’s worst obstacles can help a person grow and mature.

 

 

Works Cited

Critcher, Clayton R., and Melissa J. Ferguson. “ ‘Whether I Like It or Not, It’s Important’: Implicit Importance of Means Predicts Self-Regulatory Persistence and Success.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 110(6), Jun. 2016, pp. 818-839.

Joshi, Madhav. “Post-Accord Political Violence, Elections, and Peace Processes: Evidence from Nepal.” Civil Wars, vol. 16, no. 3, Sep. 2014, pp. 276-299.

Khoudja, Yassine. “Employment and Education-Occupation Mismatches of Immigrants and their Children in the Netherlands: Comparisons with the Native Majority Group.” Social Inclusion, vol. 6, no. 3, Jul. 2018, pp. 119-141.

Merianos, Ashley L. “The Impact of Self-Esteem and Social Support on College Students’ Mental Health.” American Journal of Health Studies, vol. 28, no. 1, 2013, pp. 27-34.

Students and Employment. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment. Accessed 10 Dec. 2018.

UN General Assembly, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The United Nations, 10 Dec. 1948, 217 A (III).

 

Sample Transcripts

 

[Start Transcript]

 

Robert:                  I’m older than you for sure [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  [laughing] I. I. I know.

 

So yeah, um [pause] where did you grow up?

Robert:                  Um [pause] so I was born in Nepal.

 

Jeffrey:                  Nepal?

 

Robert:                  It’s uh [pause] a little country in the middle of China and India. Do you know that?

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, yeah, I think I can imagine that. Yeah uh [pause] so, Nepal huh? What was it like living there?

 

Robert:                  Well living there [laughing] that’s a hard question I guess [pause].

 

All right so, this is a small country, um [pause] it has like, um [pause] Geographically, it is a [regiony] country in the world I would say, because it has all the mountains on the top, like the [hillery] region, mountain region, and (inaudible) region. So, you get to see like, um [pause] Mount Everest, it’s the top of the world.

 

Jeffrey:                  Really?

 

Robert:                  Yeah.

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh, wow.

 

Robert:                  And then, you get to see like the 60 meter from the sea level, so this is very low, so you get to see very low and then really top. So that has a variety of lands. So originally I was from like middle of that area. So I’d say like [hillery] region, it’s called Gorkha District, so they have like seventy-five districts in our country.

 

Yeah, so it’s divided, so one of it is Gorkha, so I always grow up there. I was born in a village. It’s a little village, um [pause] I would say maybe sixty households, and then we have like same kinda last names. So my name is Robert Gurung, so we have like Gurung, all the Gurung people who live there like in the small village. That’s kinda cool, yeah [pause].

 

Jeffrey:                  So, so since you guys are in a small village [pause] most of you know each other.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, so for me cause I’m not sure, like, if I know everyone, but like most of our [pause] my, my father, he knows like everybody, I’m not sure if he [pause].

 

Jeffrey:                  He. He. He grew up like his whole [pause].

 

Robert:                  Right. Right. Right, cause um [pause] I’d say like um [pause] I spent like fifteen, sixteen years in that village and then I had to move to a different village to go to school cause that village didn’t have like higher education. So for the higher education, I had to go to a different place. So maybe [pause] I, I, I don’t know like all the people over there so [pause] that’s what happens.

 

Jeffrey:                  So um [pause] did you have any siblings growing up?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, so in my family, my parents, right? I have my elder brother, elder sister, and me, and my younger sister. So we are six.

 

Jeffrey:                  Six of you?

 

Robert:                  Yeah.

 

Jeffrey:                  What was like growing with two older siblings, and one younger sibling?

 

Robert:                  Well my sister, she used to love me a lot. I still remember like those days um, right now I don’t live with them. I’m the only person in my family who’s in the US.

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh [pause].

 

Robert:                  All of them are in Nepal, so I came as an international student. Um [pause] it’s been like four years I’ve been living in the US. Um [pause] growing up with them was like to remember the past it’s, it’s [pause] it’s tough to remember [pause] to recall them is like [pause] good memories. Right, but then, so [pause] yeah, those are all good memories, especially when you’re far from your family; you miss them a lot. But yeah [pause] was one of them. Me, and my younger sister used to fight a lot [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh [laughing], yeah like the brother-sister sibling rivalry.

 

Robert:                  She is two years younger than me, and we were like kinda friends, but then right now, I feel her like gives you a fear, I would never fight with her something like that you know. It’s because I’m far from them.

 

Jeffrey:                  So you miss them.

 

Robert:                  Yeah I miss them a lot.

 

Jeffrey:                  Whose idea was it for you to come to the US?

 

Robert:                  Well, uh, first, two reasons I would say, um [pause] specifically for this project for you I’m gonna tell you all truth. So I’d say two reasons. Mainly, uh [pause] one, I wanna have a degree from the US universities, like that’s one thing; the other thing I would say, when I was in Nepal, um [pause] I was in one political organization that’s called “Nepali Congress.” So I was member of this trade union uh [pause] that’s a sister organization of Nepali Congress, and what happens is like [pause] in politics, you know um sometimes they fight between two parties.

 

Jeffrey:                  Like how it’s happening now in the U.S.?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, one way get out from that kind of environment, I chose to come to here um [pause] to the US because um [pause] if you come from Nepal you can file the application for asylum. Have you ever heard of the asylum?

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah like applying for refuge, sorta?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I did that, I’m doing that right now, it’s on the processing, um [pause] hopefully it goes well, I’m not sure [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  I hope all the best to you.

 

Robert:                  So, right now uh [pause] I was international student until last two years, but then I changed to resident. So right now, I’m resident because I file for asylum. So those are the two reasons I came to the US.

 

Jeffrey:                  So, speaking about education, what sort of degree are you hoping to get?

 

Robert:                  When I was in Nepal, uh [pause] I have my degree in diploma in civil engineering, um [pause] I finished my diploma in civil engineering; I work in Nepal like six months after I’d finished my school. Um [pause] that was pretty cool, made memories as well [laughing]. Um [pause] but then when I came to here [pause] so I came to the Oklahoma first. Uh [pause] it was the University of Central Oklahoma; um [pause] I came here December 31, 2014.

 

Robert:                  So I came to the U.S. 2014. I started studying University of Central Oklahoma for six months. Actually, I finished one semester; I had not chosen my major at that time. Uh [pause] I was thinking like doing something similar to engineering cause I have my civil engineering from Nepal, and I was thinking that that didn’t work at that time. I wanted to get a bachelor’s in civil engineering from University of Central Oklahoma, but then things changed um I have my cousin here in San Francisco, and I was talking with him, texting with him, and he was like, ‘finish one semester there and then you can come here and stay with me, and go universities around here,’ and I was like thinking um [pause] I said okay and he give me the idea to file for asylum also and then he did the same thing um and then right now he is a citizen right here, and then he has a family here and everything here, so yeah my family as well.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah so like, having family here is like really, really good as well, you have like the support, and like you won’t be like just here alone and then [pause]

 

Robert:                  That’s true, and to finish up your question, my education right now in City College I’m taking um [pause] classes for Associate in architecture. So I wanna get degree actually maybe bachelor degree from Berkeley or some other university. I’m just, I’ll just try, I’m not sure I can get in or not you know, that’s really hard.

 

Jeffrey:                  As long as you try right, do your best.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, I was thinking like maybe from next year. So I have one more year here in City College, so right now this semester also I’m taking all the major for my architecture. I have two classes this morning and [pause] yeah, so I wanna get a degree in architecture actually. I wanna be in architecture, that’s all hehe.

 

Jeffrey:                  Architecture sounds like really fun. You get to design stuff. Tons of your designs are like [pause] the people who use it really depends on you.

 

Jeffrey:                  You said that you came to the US in 2014, and you came here by yourself, were you nervous then?

 

Robert:                  Um [pause] well I was kinda excited on the first time because I had I was with one of my friend, who had like same Visa as me. We came to the same University, so I was with him. Right now, he is in New York. So we were in Oklahoma. We’re together, then he went to New York, and I came to San Francisco right.

 

Um [pause] I was excited because I wanted to see fireworks for the New Year you know, cause I came December 31; so on the day was the New Year. So I wanted to see that, but then what happened was [pause] so maybe what do you call jet lag or something? We slept all the day all the way. We didn’t see anything you know. That’s because like I think it was more than twenty-four hour of flight.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, like a whole day. That was a whole day

 

Robert:                  Time was very different you know. Right now, in Nepal, it’s morning, morning 6 pm, 6 am. Here, just 4am, so like two-hour difference, yeah two-hour difference. Time got changed and we just slept.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s disappointing to hear.

 

Robert:                  [laughing] Yeah, I was excited, I was nervous.

 

Jeffrey:                  Was there any trouble like getting here?

 

Robert:                  No actually [pause] it went smooth, it was pretty cool, cause my friend he was pretty smart I guess. Right now, I feel like he [pause] I didn’t do anything actually. He used to go to the place like in the airport also like he was ‘let’s go to that door now’ and I just followed him. He guided me a lot.

 

Jeffrey:                  You guys didn’t have any fireworks back in Nepal?

 

Robert:                  We have our new year also but then not like here, I’ve seen fireworks two times in SF [pause] but Nepal is like small and then not that popular.

 

Jeffrey:                  Ah [pause] In general, what do you like do for fun?

 

Robert:                  I’ll just tell you my schedule right now. I’m really hardworking person [pause] I’m working five days a week, so that’s full time. I work in the restaurant, and then I have two days of school here. So I have no day off at all, so that makes me like I feel like I’m a hardworking person. I feel like I have to do something right now to have something in the future. So you have to do something right now to get something in the future. So [pause] I’m just like managing all my time for my work.

 

I do full time work and full time study. So for the fall, I’d say like sometimes I go out with my friends. I remember last time, I have never been to club here in SF. I went with my friends from work, like all my co-workers. We made a plan to go to SF, City Night Club. We were checked in and we danced, dancing with our co-workers. It was pretty fun; we danced like four hours. After that it was two or one o’clock in the morning we started walking on the street downtown [pause] making a lot of noise, singing, and dancing. I don’t really go out [pause] so that was my first time we went out.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, with your schedule, I can’t even picture myself doing five days of work [pause] and two days of school [pause] it’s stressful.

 

Robert:                  It’s hard, it is hard, you get to see less people doing that, and yeah I’m managing this. Sometimes I get stressed but then it’s been like used to. I’ve been doing this for three years because I have to support my family back in Nepal, and then I feel I have to save some money to go to university, for future. So I feel like I’m becoming an independent by doing this kind of hard work right now.

 

Jeffrey:                  Yeah, I hope so. Cause right now, you’re not just trying to build a future for yourself in the U.S., but, at the same time, carrying this responsibility for your family back home [pause] That’s quite an accomplishment by itself.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, and to finish your question, I like to do photo-shoot. Sometimes I have my camera I take pictures at like sunset usually [pause] I like to go eat, I like Japanese food a lot, and I like sushi. On top on that, I like Nepalese food, and then usually from work there’s like a lot of Nepalese workers. So most of Sundays we go out for lunch also [pause] we go to some Nepalese restaurant nearby.

 

Jeffrey:                  There’s like a small community there [pause]

 

Robert:                  There are a lot of Nepali people in San Francisco, I saw like last month there was a picnic for only Nepali people, so I get to meet [pause] I met all of the Nepali people. I was like, “wow there’s a lot of Nepali people here.”

 

Jeffrey:                  You were surprised by that?

 

Robert:                  I was surprised. I didn’t know that many Nepali people live in this area, but then I got to meet with them.

 

Jeffrey:                  Other than feeling surprised, is there anything else you felt?

 

Robert:                  I feel like I was in Nepal [pause]

 

Jeffrey:                  Like you were in Nepal?

 

Robert:                  Cause they were talking Nepali language [pause] and we had Nepali food [pause] it was like reminding me of Nepal. It was kinda cool.

 

Jeffrey:                  Since you’ve been here for a while, have you thought of going back to Nepal? Or [pause] have you been back?

 

Robert:                  Yeah [pause] oh, no, no, no [pause] I’ve never [pause] I wanna go back to Nepal. I can’t go back because I file for asylum, so there are certain restrictions. So if you file for asylum, you can’t go back to the country because I’m saying I have [pause]

 

Jeffrey:                  Some reasons?

 

Robert:                   [pause] Some reason. It’s like [pause] if I say directly, I am threatened; I have a death threat. So if I go back to Nepal, somebody will kill me, so I can’t go back to Nepal. So I can go back to Nepal, but then when I come back from Nepal, it’ll be like fifty-fifty chances whether I can get in or not. So it’s from the Department of Homeland Security, so they will check all the backgrounds and everything, so they have all my information [pause] I don’t want to get into trouble.

 

But then [pause] I talked to my family like every Thursday, so I have a schedule, after I go from school from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, every Tuesday and Thursday [pause] it’s kinda crazy. I don’t have class in this campus so I have to go to mission campus on Thursday and I have to go to downtown campus today Tuesday. So when I go home it’ll be like, sometimes 10 o’clock or 10:15 something like that.

 

And then I have a schedule like after 10:30 I talk to my family back in Nepal every Thursday. Sometimes I just text them, and sometimes I video call them, and then my parents, they still live in a village, so they didn’t have like Facebook [pause] and everything. So I have to call them through like the phone, just audio. They don’t have video access there but then with my siblings they live in uh [pause] city like capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, and then I talk to them on Facebook, sometimes Instagram; we do video calls, like every Thursday.

 

Jeffrey:                  Sounds like a lot of work. Compared to you, I should [pause] I should [pause]

 

Robert:                  When I started working there first I started working as a busboy, you wipe down tables, take the plates, and everything [pause] you wipe down the windows.

 

Jeffrey:                  Did you like doing that?

 

Robert:                  Well [pause] that was, I had no choice you know, that time. One of my brother’s friend, he brought me to that place, that has a lot of Nepali people form there, cool for me to learn new things.

 

In Nepal, I’ve never worked that kind of job, but here I started working like that. I had a feeling like “oh shoot I wanted to be in architecture but then I ended up doing like clearing tables and then doing dishes and everything.” I was like “oh no,” but then I had no choice that time. Sometimes [pause] you gotta do no matter what, you know to survive or to support family, or whatever reason you have for that, and I did like for three months and then I started learning hosting. Um [pause] they have a period system so you can make reservation by phone call and putting name on the system [pause] and then after three months I became a host at that restaurant.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s great!

 

Robert:                  Then I started learning about food also. Cause I had to learn it, if I take a phone call to go order they would say this kind and this kind of food and I’m like I have no idea what is that even [laughing]. And I had to learn all the food and then I started doing food orders [pause] maybe around two months, and I learned all the food, and then my manager wanted me to be a bartender, at that time, and then I started learning a little bartender, only non-alcoholic beverages, and then I started mixing like drinks, all the drinks, and, after like one or two months, I learned like every the drinks they have over there.

 

Right now, I’m a pro like I do everything there; I know everything of that restaurant, what things are where you know. It’s because I’ve been working there three years, I feel like that’s my experience. Right now, sometimes I do, I work as a bartender, and sometimes I work as a server. I don’t do busser nowadays, because like maybe old maybe, at that place.

 

I’d say, if you keep working, if you be honest and work your hard or learn things, like ask somebody if you don’t know how to do it, you will learn pretty quick, if you want to do it. At that time, I have no choice so I had to do it so I did it, I’d say like I did pretty good cause that’s the only thing [pause] like off my income that time. I used to get hourly at very first, but then they like my work and they hired me as a monthly worker, and then, right now, they pay me monthly basis, and there is no risk they can’t fire me cause I know everything.

 

There’s no way they can fire me. They can’t fire me right now [laughing].

 

Jeffrey:                  [laughing] Because they’re too dependent on you huh? Because of your work skills [pause]

 

Robert:                  Yeah [pause] because I know everything[laughing]. Funny thing, I don’t drink, I never drink in my life, you know, and then I have to taste all those alcohol when I was mixing the drinks, so that was kind of fun. I still don’t like the flavor like beer, I don’t drink all the alcohol, but then I do bartender. But we’re not a full bar, we only have like wines, beers, and sakes, those kinds of stuff.

 

Jeffrey:                  Mhm [pause] So things are getting better as time goes along [pause]

 

Robert:                  Yeah, that’s true [pause] when I came here first, I knew nothing about the U.S., and I was not independent. When I was in Nepal, I always think US will be that big place, it will be hard for me to survive over there.

 

But when I came here, I realize like if you do, if you wanna learn something, just do it, don’t wait for tomorrow; just do it today or don’t waste time for doing anything else. So I’d say, always have a plan set for future, at least have one plan: what you gonna be, or what you’re gonna do in the future. That way you just work in that plan. Maybe, it won’t be tomorrow, but maybe [pause] step by step, maybe [pause] it’ll takes two years, maybe it takes five years, you’ll reach there you know. So, I’m on this step right now, working slowly.

 

Jeffrey:                  I understand that. Since you’ve been to the U.S., you’ve only been working hard, not wasting time, but spending most of it to support yourself and your family. Again, it’s impressive.

 

Robert:                  Well, I’d say, that’s because I didn’t have a choice, I didn’t have my parents to support me at that time. That’s what makes me stronger than I use to be before. If I was in Nepal, and I was with my parents, there would be no money, and then I would go out and do whatever I want to do. But then here, you don’t have your parents, and then [pause] but you need money to go out, to buy things you wanted to have. So for that, you need to work, that’s what the difference is, like you have parents versus you don’t.

 

I’d say it’s a good thing I came here because I got to learn a lot of things about life. If I was in Nepal, I use to be, I have my other elder brother. If I need something, I’d always ask him or my father.

 

But here, I don’t have them to support me but then, at the same time, I’m happy I’m supporting them right now, so in three years I have like made over thirty thousand dollars, and then we bought a land in Nepal. We’re gonna built a house like maybe single family house, we’re on plan actually, so that’s gonna be my last plan for my family. Then maybe I’m gonna design that house. But, for me, you sometimes gotta think about yourself too, so for me I always took priority as my family as first place and second, my future, my study, and [pause] friends [pause] I’d say, “Look my family comes first, my study second, you are the third.”

 

Jeffrey:                  So you would prefer you’d come to the U.S. rather than staying back home? Because I hear that you’ve learned skills that wouldn’t have been available to you if you stayed back in Nepal.

 

Robert:                  That is true.

 

Jeffrey:                  Um [pause] so before you came to the U.S. what did you expect it’d be like living here? Aside from the cities being really big and stuff like that.

 

Robert:                  Well, I think I come here and I might finish bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. I changed my major I’m doing architecture now. While I was in Nepal, I used to think like I’m gonna get a degree from there and then come back to Nepal and then maybe have this one business off my name. So I didn’t want to work for others.

 

Jeffrey:                  You wanted to start your own business?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, I wanted to start my own business, so I had a thought like I’d come here and finish my study, I’d get a degree, and go back to Nepal and have my own business architecture or engineering, design for people. But when I came here, I changed my mind, I saw a lot of better things in here,

 

Jeffrey:                  Ah [pause] so the U.S. widened your perspective a little.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, there is a term “U.S. is a land of opportunities.” I would agree with that so if you come here. If you wanna do it you can do anything you wanna do, but then if you be lazy then you can’t do anything. I was like well why don’t we stay here and then grab some opportunities and we can go back to Nepal later, but then have your plans first, make your future first, then go back to Nepal or wherever, but then my future plan is, I wanna travel the world. For sure I will travel the world one day, maybe after fifty or something.

 

Jeffrey:                  So would you say that most of the problems you faced here came from having to support yourself and your family?

 

Robert:                  I got quite lucky for that because whenever I came to SF I got in the top that was kind, so I would get money for there as a salary so that was not that hard. At the same time, I have my cousin and I was living with him. So he did support me until I get a job so it was okay for me for that part but then I’d say there are certain problems when I came to SF I had applied for the SF State University and CCSF I have accepted there and then I went first time we use to live in Chinatown but then we my cousin he bought a house in San Lorenzo last December so we moved there so I went to SF State from SF Chinatown and I had to use underground Bart, I had never used that before that was kinda crazy story there.

 

Jeffrey:                  Did something crazy happen the first time you take it; some crazy story?

 

Robert:                  What happened was I read all the instruction I need to get the ticket to go in, I did that, but then when I came back I went to the international office there I got my acceptance letter there, I was super happy. I took that Bart but then in that place I didn’t see like, I didn’t know I had to get the ticket again so I came back so they had, one stop at qualimeyer street or something [pause] somewhere [pause] and then there was a checking going on [pause] so the ticket was to go there but it was just one-way.

 

I didn’t know, it was my first time here, and my English was terrible at that time, I didn’t have good English. I couldn’t even speak up at the time, there was a ticket lady, some police officer or something, and then she asked me where was my ticket, then I told her like, “this is my ticket,” and she was like this is not your ticket. I had only this ticket with me, I didn’t have any other ticket, I told her this is my first time, and I had no idea what’s going on. I even told her this is my first time, I went to grab my acceptance letter from the university, and she was like if you don’t speak English, you should find you a language interpreter [pause] she gave me two tickets that I had to pay like one hundred two zero and one hundred two zero [pause] that was my worst expense I ever had here in the US, for that I could not speak up well that time, my English was the barrier I couldn’t say like whatever I wanted to say at that time and then yeah that was a really bad experience.

 

I’d say that’s a good experience also at the same time, I took it positive cause I got to learn new things new rules new regulations. After that, I look up what are the transportation city of san Francisco and one of that was Bart, Muni bus, and other stuff, the Cal train and everything. After that I never got into trouble. Right now I have a car I drive I know the rules and everything.

 

But then that experience taught me a lot. Sometimes you need to get into trouble, not a big trouble, but then do not make a double mistake, you can make a mistake once, if you make the same mistake again, that’s the biggest mistake. So you learn from some mistake, bad mistake and then do not repeat mistake. Even my manager use to say like if I break glass, “it’s okay to break glass, it happens sometimes, but then try not to break again, be careful when carrying it.” He told me “It’s okay to make a mistake the first time, but then same mistake shouldn’t be happening, so do not repeat the mistake, same mistake again.”

 

Jeffrey:                  So you’ve talked about how you felt in Nepal, but what about the U.S.? How do you feel now; now that you’ve lived here for four years?

 

Robert:                  I’d say It’s better, much better than Nepal, Nepal I’d say first reason [pause] so while I was in Nepal, I after I graduated from my school I worked six months there. At that time, I got I used to get fifteen thousand dollars a month [pause] but then right now if I compare that time and right now here, I get like three thousand dollar per month.

 

Jeffrey:                  Is the fifteen thousand in Nepali currency?

 

Robert:                  Yeah, Nepali currency. So here, fifteen thousand Nepalese rupees is one hundred and fifty dollars. That’s how much I got from Nepal, but then here I get like three thousand dollars. That is a very, very vast change, Nepal versus here working. And I would say I like it better here even though I have like much more expenses than I used to have in Nepal because I got to be an independent, so I drive car and I have pay for car insurance and everything.

 

If I was in Nepal, maybe I used to drive motorcycle under my parent’s insurance because that fifteen thousand rupees would never let me buy for me. But here I have three thousand dollars so [pause] I can put some of the amount for that. Yeah, so I’d say that that is the major point.

 

And other parts if I talk about technology US is much better than Nepal, even at my work most of my customer they are from Google, Facebook [pause] and then one thing I like better in Nepal is let’s say you and me are friends in here, we are really good friends but not like soul mates, what I have seen a lot maybe not all but most of them if you are friends with somebody here, they are not friends like from inside, it’s just pretend to be friends, they are friends but not real friends. But in Nepal, if you are friends with somebody like you can do whatever for him.

 

Jeffrey:                  Like someone you’re really connected with.

 

Robert:                  We connect our inside, we love them a lot but here you don’t get that and then one thing what I’ve seen here is strange is I tried to make friends a lot, but then their perspective and my perspective is like very different. So my first semester I tried to make like some friends and then even at my work I tried to make some friends and what I found was what they do is they want to earn money by working today but then Friday night they wanna spend all the money.

 

So what they do is they want to go out, hang out, they want to go to prom. But then for me, I was like, “No, I didn’t come to the US for that, I have some certain goals I have to achieve that.” Then I didn’t get like friends who has similar thoughts to me, so that’s why I don’t have a lot of friends if I have friends, I have only one friend actually right now he is from Nepal, he has similar like feelings with me. He is working hard for his future and family and everything.

 

So what happen was, I tried to make friends and they were like, so they get paycheck right usually we get paycheck on Thursday and the other day they wanna go out and spend all of the money.

 

Then one of my considerations is if I get paycheck on Thursday I don’t want to spend tomorrow and then get broke on other day. What I have like strong feeling about is I wanna have certain percentage of my savings for my future certain percentage for my family. But most of my friends they don’t think about that. So their perspective and my perspective are very different. I don’t wanna be friends with them you know. If I were a friend with them I have go with them, hang out and drink, smoke. And I don’t like that. That’s what happens, not making a lot of friends, I have certain friends at work, but then just for work, after work we don’t hang out.

 

They have different thoughts, they have different opportunities, but I do not. That’s why I’m working really hard.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s good. You know, we need more hard working people.

 

Robert:                  For me if I see like somebody is doing something bad I tell them, you should be doing this. For like younger generation I’d always try to motivate them to work harder for the future.

 

Jeffrey:                  That’s kinda your philosophy: To work hard.

 

Robert:                  I wanna help people it’s because maybe I didn’t get the mentorship maybe I got to learn by myself doing most of things. But then if I see people struggling in their life I’ll always try to help them at least tell them, share your story. Your story motivates someone else, that’s a good thing about you, and you are the inspiration for someone else. That’s why I want to share my story.

 

Jeffrey:                  Oh, going back to Nepal, you said that the friends that you make there have very good connections. How is that so?

 

Robert:                  I don’t know [pause] maybe cultural legacy, I’d say like um our culture well, our culture we’re very rich in our culture, what happens is like if your parents have taught you that way, you will learn from your parents a lot. It’s kind of natural whatever your parents do, you wanna do that too. By seeing, I think that’s the reason what happens to the Nepali people, they wanna be connected soul to soul. But then here what I’ve seen is their parents really don’t care. With their parents or relatives, they should be doing but then in Nepal my parents and all the relatives, and their my relatives right now but here maybe they don’t care, maybe their culture is like that, I don’t get it. I haven’t got that part. Why is there so different between Nepalese culture versus the American culture.

 

Jeffrey:                  So Nepali culture place more importance in union.

 

Robert:                  For here, it feels so off. I’m from Nepal, in my culture, helping someone is a good thing, my parents have taught me to help somebody if possible. There are certain ways to help people. Just be honest in your life trying to help people, it just makes you satisfied. I would want to inspire them to work hard, have a plan for the future. At the end of the day, you are the one who will do for you, there is no one else. For me, I came from Nepal, nobody was here to do for me so I’m the only person who does for me. I’d say like always priority for yourself your health your food, and then priority your family, cause your parents I consider my guardians as my parents, and then after that your friends, girlfriends, or whatever. Main thing is be honest with everyone you try to help, like all the people in all possible ways. That’s how you can become pleased, how you feel satisfied.

 

[End Transcript]

 

[Start Transcript]

 

Jeffrey:                  Hi Robert, how are you doing? I got to look through our conversation, and it made me even more curious about your story. Like you said, you were a part of Nepali Congress, but something about apposing political parties and environment made you apply for asylum. Were you persecuted or mistreated in some way?

 

Robert:                  Yes, I remember two incidents most; the first one is while I was in class eight: it happened in my school in my birthplace, Gorkha district of Nepal. As I told you earlier, I was a good student and also I used to dance from a very young age. I used to be first in our district dance competition. The Maoist party of our district got to know that.

 

One day, they came to our school in our assembly time at morning. The Maoist wanted to take all the students in their rally, especially me, but they didn’t know which one is me. Our socials teacher tried to speak up, but they showed the guns and pointed towards our teacher. All the students got scared and tried to run off the school. While everyone running here and there, one of my science teacher dragged me, and locked me in the toilet, and told me not to make any noise until he comes back. I was super scared.

 

After about seven hours, he came back to get me with my father. I was so thirsty at that time. I couldn’t even ask what happened [pause] later on, I got to know that seventy-eight students were captured and the Maoist had taken with them. Later on, I got to know that the Maoist wanted me to dance for their programs.

 

I have very bad childhood memories with them one day, I saw more than a hundred people with guns walking on the side of our house. They asked all the villager to give them food and bed; seven of them entered out house and searched everything inside the house. They asked my mother to cook for them ASAP. They put their guns in our kitchen. We were very scared, but we had no options; so we had to do whatever they said. My mother and father gave them everything they asked for. Thankfully, they left our village after staying two days. But whenever they come, we had to be scared of them [pause]

 

Jeffrey:                  That is absolutely frightening. I didn’t know that this happened in Nepal.

 

Robert:                  Yeah, there was civil war in Nepal for 10 years [pause]

 

The second one is after I finished diploma in civil engineering: I went to the village and helped local Nepali Congress party for the election campaign. I went to door-to-door and talked about how bad were the Maoist, and why they should vote for Nepali Congress.

 

On the Election Day, I was coming home from election booth, and, on the way, four people were waiting for me. They told me I am the main reason that they cannot get vote from our area; number one. They asked me to go with them [pause] they took me to the side of the jungle and started beating with wooden sticks. I still have a scar in my leg. After I got beaten up, I was unconscious.

 

They thought I was dead and left me in there. Some people found me, and brought me home, and my father took me to the hospital. I am still scared of what happened in the past. Yes, my life was in danger.

 

Even after that, they knew I came to the U.S., they ask my parents money. I told my parents not to give anything. Right now, the situation is better than that time, but they personally think I should be dead. So I am always scared to go back to my country. That’s how I filed for asylum in the United States. And here, Trump government always comes up with new rules, which makes it hard for the asylum seekers in the States. But I hope everything goes well with me. And thank you for asking me about my past.

 

Jeffrey:                  Of course, thanks for sharing part of your life, I know it’s especially hard to share such traumatic experience openly.

 

Also, if you don’t mind me asking [pause] When you came to the U.S., did seeing less people and stress from supporting your family affect you mentally?

 

Robert:                  If I understood you question correctly [pause] yes, I was mentally challenged a lot. When I was in Oklahoma, I used to hang out with my Nepali friends. We used to play basketball all day, sometimes watch movies, or play games with friends, but at nights, I couldn’t sleep until three am in the morning. I used to think a lot about Nepal, all the incidents and all the bad things. And I had to pay back loan. That was the main challenge at that time.

 

I used to believe in myself that I will be doing good in life one day. So, I tried to look for the work, but I was not accepted anywhere for not having a work authorization card, being an international student. I used to think about my parents and their condition. I was thinking a lot bad things. Sometimes, even giving up whatever I am doing.

 

But, whenever I talked to my parents, they used to advice me about not giving up in life. My father had shared many struggling stories that made me [wanna] struggle in life, not giving up no matter what, and not stop doing whatever I am doing. I thought of my parents and my future a lot.

 

So I would say to people that they have to talk to their parents everyday, especially if you are abroad, because they get worried about you as twice as you do about yourself. Finally, and fortunately, I came up with an idea of reading books, watching motivational videos. That helped me a lot to think positive in life. So I think now, I am a grown up man who knows many things about life. I do not give up in anything.

 

Jeffrey:                  It’s great to hear that you’re going strong.

 

[End Transcript]

Xian Yan’s Best Life

Xian Yan’s Best Life

by Pamela Robinson, January 2019

From China to San Francisco, how does a positive mindset inspire Xian Yan to attain her best life?

“Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. Chengdu history dates back to at least the 4th century B.C., when it served as capital for the Shu Kingdom. Artifacts from that dynasty are the focus of the Jinsha Site Museum. The city is also home of the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where visitors can view endangered giant pandas and a natural habitat” (experitour.com).

This is a story about an amazing, inspirational 45-year-old woman named Xian Yan, born and raised in Chengdu, China. When she was a young girl, she lived in a house with her parents and two siblings. One memory she recalls as a young child is the time when her family was having hardships, as life in rural China then differed from that of urban China. “In the latest two decades, Rural Tourism (RT) has speedily developed and become an important concept of tourism in China. However, there remains little understanding in the western world about RT for its special role in China’s rural socio- economic regeneration” (Su 1438). Baoren Su, a research student affiliated with Zhejiang Gong Shan University, believes that “Nong jia le” tourism developed vigorously, at a good pace.

“As an distinctively Chinese version of rural tourism “Nong jia le” tourism, among with other forms of RT such as folk custom tourism, leisure farm tourism, and rural ecotourism, has been developed not only as a new style of holiday making among Chinese urban residents, but also as a new form of privately owned small enterprise among millions of Chinese farmers” (Su 1439).

Although Yan’s family lived in China when it was poor, “the government generously gave [Yan’s] family means to generate money through farming,” which helped make a big difference. When her family’s farming business started in the 1980s, she worked on the farm. Yan and her siblings had a lot of work to do around the house so they didn’t play with other kids in their hometown. Yan went to school at a time when education in China was excellent, better than it is now. She worked hard on the farm and afterwards went to school; however, her parents just needed to pay $1 for her to go to school. “When my mom died my siblings and I had to help with the housework, especially the cooking, help with the feeding of the animals like the pigs, chickens, and goose; although it was hard work it was a lot of fun,” Yan reminisces. While the uncertainty about life’s experiences sometimes influenced Yan’s mindset and her tendency to absorb negative energy, the positive effects of a happy farm home allowed Xian Yan to have a happy childhood. Yan can attain her best life by maintaining a positive mindset, surrounding herself with positive role models, connecting with positive people, and being mindful of her rights.

Can Xian Yan’s determination and will to survive alter her inner drive to achieve her goals? Yan viewed her parents as role models who always initiated their values and morals of hard work to inspire her at a young age and emphasized how school is highly recommended by everyone in Chengdu, China. Penelope Lockwood, Vice Dean, Academic Planning and Strategic Initiatives, at University of Toronto, wrote a study about motivation by positive or negative role models. Lockwood states:

“Positive role models, individuals who have achieved outstanding success, are widely expected to inspire others to pursue similar excellence. Accordingly, the accomplishments of star athletes, musicians, and award-winning scientists are often showcased in an attempt to enhance people’s goals and aspirations. People also seem to be motivated by negative role models, individuals who have experienced misfortune. Indeed, positive role models can inspire one by illustrating an idea, desired self, highlighting possible achievement that one can strive for, and demonstrating the route for achieving them; however negative role models can inspire one by illustrating a feared, to- be- avoided self, pointing to positive future disasters, and highlight mistakes that must be avoided so as to prevent them” (Lockwood 854).

While living in China, Yan was raised by two parents driven by integrity and a strong sense of self worth; however, is there a possibility for Yen to grow to her fullest potential through positive intervention and hard work?

Life is good for Xian Yan in Chengdu, China. She was married for about five to seven years and then got divorced. Afterwards, she worked hard to become a teacher in her hometown and owned an apartment and a store. In China, the internet became popular so she went online and met a man. The man she talked to was from the United States and “[she] would talk on the internet each day for more than 5 or 6 hours a day for eight months.” By getting to know him online, Yan felt they had the same will to survive. They felt the same way about each other, and shared the same feelings. Yan felt they were “very compatible.” All the positive conversations lead him to decide to go to Chengdu and marry Yan. Later, they decided to come to the United States to apply for Yan’s visa (a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizen). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on December 10, 1948 by the UN General Assembly, is “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” The UDHR’s second article states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs.” Xian Yan’s life is good right now and positive thoughts about her husband inspire her hopes and dreams of building a new happy life here in the U.S.

Robert S. Chang, a second-generation Korean-American part of the Faculty Scholarship at Seattle University School of Law Digital Commons, announces an:

“Asian American Movement in the legal academy and an opportunity to reverse the pattern of discrimination against Asian-Americans. Traditional civil rights work in current critical race scholarship fail to address the unique issues for Asian Americans, including nativistic racism and the model minority myth. Space must be made in the legal academy for an Asian American Legal Scholarship and the narratives of Asian Americans. It is through solidarity that Asian Americans will gain the freedom to express their diversity” (1243).

“The Model Majority Myth: This history of discrimination and violence, as well as the contemporary problems of Asian Americans, are obscured by the portrayal of Asian Americans as a “model minority.”

Asian Americans are often portrayed as “hard-working, intelligent, and successful,” but the dominant culture’s belief in the “model minority” allows it to justify ignoring the unique discrimination faced by Asian Americans. The portrayal of Asian Americans as successful permits the general public, government officials, and the judiciary to ignore or marginalize the contemporary need of Asian Americans” (1258).

“An early articulation of the model minority theme appeared in U.S. News & World Report in 1966: In any Chinatown from San Francisco to New York, you discover youngsters at grips with their studies. Visit ‘Chinatown USA,’ and you find an important racial minority pulling itself up from hardship and discrimination to become a model of self- respect and achievement in today’s America” (1259).

Despite the language barrier that Xian Yan will have to overcome and learn, her positive thoughts and interactions with her English-speaking husband are going to help her to attain her best life.

Positive role models are mostly what Xian Yan is receptive to but perhaps a negative interaction will give some insight into one’s decision to achieve success in this new land. Yan finally arrived in San Francisco, with her daughter and husband and someone asked, “Is San Francisco everything you thought it would be?” Yan replied, “In San Francisco it is quiet and the people are very nice here too and China it is very noisy. San Francisco is like the whole world, all the rich people are here, and they say hello and also there’s a lot of Chinese people that are here too. In S.F. there’s a lot of diverse foods, diverse people, and you can eat different foods here too.” Adjusting to life here is much easier for Yan. Life is very easy going and it helps that her husband treats her family well. Yan knew there were going to be changes in the culture, the language, and school. English is a hard to language to learn to speak, but Yan learned to speak some English when she was in middle school in Chengdu. Yan was always good in school so her schoolwork ethics helped her to adjust to life here in S.F. Yan’s husband “doesn’t speak Chinese that well, but he speaks English,” and practices with her every day. As a result, Yan enrolled at City College of San Francisco to study reading and writing. Yan thought that her documentation of being a teacher in Chengdu would help her achieve a higher teacher credential in the United States but she found out it was just a piece of white paper not applicable to use in the U.S. Somehow, this negative response motivated her even more and as Yan’s English improved tremendously she knew, however, that if it wasn’t for “her determination and drive that lives inside of her,” the probability of Yan achieving her goal would have been small. Yan is living her best life with her daughter, Shi Shi; son, Jordan; and her husband. She speaks and teaches Mandarin to some students in S.F. and enjoys teaching very much. Yan always says:

“Teaching is my job, it is like the only job for my whole life, I love it! I really love it!” While the Chengdu Chinese culture can somewhat disappear in San Francisco it is an essential part of Yan’s life moving forward as a teacher to her children. Min Zhou, is a Professor of Sociology and inaugural Chair of the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Zhou’s main areas of research are on immigration, education, Asian America, etc. Min Zhou states that, “Chinese schools become an important physical site where formerly unrelated immigrants come to socialize and rebuild social ties” (17). Yan wasn’t sure how to adjust to the cultural change in life in San Francisco; however, Yan’s mother-in-law helped her remember some of the cultural aspects she had forgotten about her upbringing as elder Chinese women are more familiar and practice the culture more often than younger Chinese women. Yan has a child named Jordan and she teaches him the Chinese way, meaning the Chinese children need to respect their parents and grandparents and need to follow the order. In Yan’s Chinese culture, the teachers are treated like parents and Yan teaches her son the same things about how teachers and parents are on the same level. Even though Yan is more in tune with the American culture because she has other Chinese friends that have adjusted to the American way of doing things, Yan continues to grow in her new life.

Xian Yan has a beautiful outlook on life and says that “People are all different, like every color of the rainbow are different, like the textures of wood colors are different.” Yan’s outlook on life is so powerful as it connects with positive people, which makes her exceptionally different. Xian Yan celebrating her strength and resilience helped her to overcome her life struggles.

Work Cited


Chang, Robert S., Toward an Asian American Legal Scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Post Structuralism, and Narrative Space, 81 Calif. L. Rev. 1241 (1993). 16 Dec. 2018. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1411&context=facult

Lockwood, Penelope. “ Motivation by Positive or Negative Role Models: Regulatory Focus Determines Who Will Best Inspire Us.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2002): Vol 83, No. 4, 854 – 864. 12 Dec 2018.

Su, Baoren. “Rural Tourism in China.” 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

UN General Assembly Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 Dec 1948. 16 Dec 2018.

“Welcome to Chengdu.” Experitour. www.experitour.com. 1 Jan 2019.

Xian, Yan. Personal Interview.

Zhou, Min. Community Forces, Social Capital, and Educational Achievement: The Case of a Supplementary Education in the Chinese and Korean Immigrant Communities. Harvard Educational Review, April

2006.https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Min_Zhou3/publication/44836550_Community_Forc es_Social_Capital_and_Educational_Achievement_The_Case_of_Supplementary_Educatio

 

Strong Woman

street-scene-el-nido-palawan-philippines

Strong Woman

by Isabela Irene T. Nangca, December, 2017

In Philosopher Friedrich Nietzche’s book Twilight of the Idols, he wrote, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (6). Margareta is a medication aide in an assisted living facility in San Francisco. I met her on July of 2016 when I was hired at the facility as an assistant medication aide. Margareta was the one who trained me. She gave me the impression of being a strict teacher, but a caring mother. Curiosity made me want to know her story as to how she developed her ironic mix of loudness and gentleness. As we got closer, she started to open up about her stumbling blocks and the relationships she has had with the people around her that have shaped her into who she is now. Although some of the relationships she has made with the people she has loved, such as with her deported mother or her cheating and abusive ex-husband, combined with some of the stumbling blocks she has endured, such as her documentation issue, have given her challenges in life, Margareta has channeled this negativity into her personal motivation and strength to achieve a good future for herself and for her daughter.

Back when she was still in the Philippines, Margareta de Jimenez grew up in a close yet distant family. She was born on August 5, 1985 in Leyte, Philippines. Growing up, she lived with her grandmother because of her parents’ and siblings’ constant absence. She told me that when she was little, she felt “like I [didn’t] know [her] parents…and like [she was] the only child.” Her parents were visiting her every six months from the United States because they were on multiple-entry tourist visas, which required them to go back to the Philippines regularly, while her siblings were already living permanently in the U.S. According to “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Goals and Support Groups,” by Robert Strom and Shirley Strom, grandchildren being raised by grandparents are common, mostly due to different parental conflicts. It was stated in the journal article that “Letting children know they [were loved was] essential for helping them grow up. Grandparents [were] often praised for how well they fulfill this need” (Strom and Strom 705). She mostly spent time with her grandparents and cousins, making her feel like they were her parents and siblings. She was raised by her grandparents because of her parents’ absence. Despite her distance from her immediate family, she was always kept close and warm by her extended family. With a twinkle in her eyes, she recalled, “Every Sunday, we always [had] family gathering[s], and during the holidays too.” She said that after attending the church in the morning, together with her cousins, uncles and aunts, they would have a simple feast at home, strengthening the close bond between them. Although her parents’ and siblings’ absence created a hole in her heart, her extended family filled the hole with love and warmth instead.

Because of her parents’ decision to make her follow them in the U.S., Margareta saw lots of opportunities but was sad at the thought of leaving her grandparents and scared of the uncertainty of her parents’ plans. At the age of seventeen, her parents wanted her to live in the U.S. with them. As a child, she said, “I [had] no choice.” She was saddened by the thought of leaving the family she knew and of being with the immediate family she barely knew. She had a stable and simple life with her grandmother, already starting college and enjoying a blossoming relationship with her boyfriend. She was reluctant to leave it all behind for an uncertain future in the U.S. with a family that she didn’t know. Most of the time, children don’t have a say in their parents’ decisions for them. Those children always follow their parents, no matter what consequences there might be. Like them, Margareta felt the same way. She followed her parents’ decision to go to the U.S. even if it meant leaving her good life with her grandparents behind in the Philippines in exchange for an uncertain life in the U.S. with her parents, not knowing the struggles that would come her way when she finally got to U.S. She loved both her grandparents and her parents, but the thought of living with her parents, who were very distant to her and away from her grandparents, who she already considered as her parents, made her very lonely.

One reason why Margareta’s parents wanted her to come to the U.S. was because her mom was already being petitioned for residency by her stepdad, who was only using her mom’s money for another lover, and they were hoping that she would be granted the residency since she was still a minor. Before she came to the U.S., her parents had already divorced and her mom was already married to someone else, a U.S. citizen. Her mom really loved her stepdad, only to find out that “[her] stepdad was only using my mom for money.” Her mom questioned him when she noticed the constant withdrawal of money from their joint bank account. Money is a root of problems in relationships, not just married couples, but also family members and friends. In Social Psychologist Dr. Joan D. Atwood’s article on the relationship between money and couples, she stated, “Many individuals have problemed relationships with money and when they enter marriage, money matters can become a trigger for arguments” (10). An argument between Margareta’s mom and stepdad arose when her stepdad confessed that “he [had] a female heart” and his boyfriend was the one who he spent the money on. At the same time that this problem arose, the petition process was almost complete and a final interview was on its way. After her mom and her stepdad had been interviewed one-by-one, the immigration officers decided that their marriage was a fraud so they turned down the petition. Her mom was disappointed because she knew that right from the start that it was probably just a one-sided love. She got angry at her stepdad because she and her mother suspected this after he had said something in the interview that influenced the decision of the immigration court. This fueled a flame inside her, which motivated her to move forward and fight.

After being with her parents for a short period and after the issue between her mom and her stepdad, she was scared of being left alone in the unknown again, but started to stand on her own and be independent. Since her biological father was going back and forth between the U.S. and the Philippines, he was still a blurry figure in Margareta’s life, so basically all she had in the U.S. was her mom, and now, because of the issue with her stepdad, her mom will also be a blurry figure again in her life. After her stepdad’s failed petition, she and her mom received a deportation notice from the U.S. immigration. She said, “We were planning of going back home, but my mom decided that I should stay here.” Her mom decided to go back home to the Philippines for good, but told her to stay because her mom knew that her future would be brighter in the U.S. But now, Margareta’s life would be harder because not only was she alone, but she was also a TNT now since she could not renew her work permit due to her deportation notice. TNT is a Tagalog abbreviation for “tago nang tago,” which in English means “always in hiding.” This is a characteristic of every undocumented immigrant: that is why it is a term used for them. In journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us, about the woven lives of four Mexican teenage girls, their documentation issues and their futures, one of the girls, Yadira, an undocumented immigrant, experienced being away from her deported mother, who was charged for stealing the identity of a U.S. citizen. Yadira described the deep longing she felt for her mother and her anxiety about her future. As with Yadira, Margareta also felt afraid of being alone in one of the tough times in her life as an undocumented immigrant. So although there are lots of opportunities in the U.S., her future would still be uncertain because of her documentation issue. Still, she diligently worked hard and looked for ways to legally achieve residency.

After a few years, Margareta found the one she thought was her one true love, who helped her with her documentation problem yet broke her heart by fooling her and abusing her. Before her mom left, both of them already knew what could solve her documentation problem: marriage; but her mother reminded her “to do it with love.” Her mother never wanted her to fool someone else just like her stepdad had done to her mom, even if it was in a different way or situation. She met and fell in love with a U.S. citizen, Pedro, who knew about her situation but still accepted her anyway. They planned a lot of great things for the future, even marriage. At first, her relationship with Pedro “was legit … but I guess, things change; he changed.” When they found out that she had gotten pregnant, Pedro accepted the baby whole-heartedly and even wanted to keep her and their baby, so they planned to get married and did. But days before, Pedro visited his home in the Philippines. He changed his mind, telling her that he wanted to be single because he didn’t want to be responsible for her hormonal emotions, but he was still willing to support their baby. Then, she revealed, “I didn’t know that he was cheating.” When he wanted to break up, she decided to move out and be independent again. The day she moved out was the same day that she received a removal notice from U.S. Immigration. She started to text Pedro because she was so scared. He tried to comfort and calm her down through text messages but accidentally sent a wrong message that was intended for a girl he was flirting with. The girl was the reason why he wanted to be single when he visit the Philippines. After his vacation, they continued their marriage. He still wanted to keep their baby, and she moved back once the petition for residency had started. Although he still wanted to help her documentation issue, she opened up about how “he [had] threaten[ed] [her] every single time,” how he psychologically scared her with his words, and how he continued to flirt with the girl. He would slap her with the documentation issue to make her feel useless and threaten that she wouldn’t get the chance of acquiring residency without him.

During those hard times, Margareta grew closer to her friends, especially to her best friend, Agatha, and they became her support and gave her motivation to continue on. A year after she arrived in the U.S., she went through a CNA program, where she met Agatha. When her mom got deported, Agatha became her company as she started to become independent from her distant family. Agatha helped her find ways just so Margareta could and would stay, even suggesting marrying her, if it was already legal, so she could be petitioned by her best friend. Margareta was encouraged to move forward and work for her future. Then, when Pedro came and made her vulnerable again, no one from her family or Pedro’s knew what had happened to them, except Agatha. She was there to help her stand up and to encourage her to fight back. Margareta describes how “Agatha is like a family: my sister.” Despite Agatha’s own personal issue, she never failed to be there for Margareta, like a family. According to William Rawlins, a Stocker Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University, in the foreword of The Psychology of Friendship, a book about friendship by Psychology Professor Mahzad Hojjat and Associate Psychology Professor Anne Moyer, he said, “Friendship has manifold psychological significance and time-honored recognition as indispensable for individual and communal well-being.” Agatha has been very significant in Margareta’s life and wellbeing by giving support and encouragement, especially in times of need.

Through the struggles she faced with Pedro, Margareta’s baby gave her the utmost of strength and determination. When she caught Pedro cheating, Margareta wanted to leave the baby with Pedro and return to the Phillipenes, because she didn’t want her baby to grow up with a broken family and knew that she wouldn’t be able to raise her baby alone. But she knew that her baby deserved a good life so she said, “I was motivated to stay in the U.S. for my daughter’s future.” She thought of her baby’s potential future in the U.S. if she fought and stayed. In “The Role of the Future in Student Motivation,” a journal article about students’ motivation in their education, it was stated that “Frank (1939) and Lewin (1935) were two of the first modern psychologists to discuss the importance of the imagined future in understanding human motivation and behavior” (Husman and Lens 114). It was discussed how perceiving the consequences or outcomes of different possible actions could motivate a person to choose an action with a better positive outcome. This is the same as Margareta: she had the option of letting go of the baby and going back to the Philippines, or keeping the baby and staying with Pedro, who suddenly wanted her to stay. She chose the latter for the future of her baby, learning to fight back against Pedro’s threats. She became a strong pillar against Pedro and for her baby.

After several years, Margareta’s life is now stable and quiet but she still holds her past in her attitude and character. After receiving her green card, she immediately moved out of Pedro’s house and waited for her citizenship for five years, instead of the two years she would have waited as a a fiancé/spouse. She won her citizenship last 2016, so she was able to petition for her parents, and the process is now ongoing. She is expecting their interview soon. Her marriage with Pedro just officially ended last January 2017, but they are “now on good terms.” He continuously supports and spoils their daughter to the fullest. Agatha and Margareta are still working together in the same workplace and still have each others’ backs. Margareta’s baby girl is already in her 3rd grade at school. She is a very bubbly and silly diva, like her godmother, Agatha. As for Margareta, going back to the start, I now understand why she has this ironic combination of characteristics. Her softness comes from the circumstances and the people who made her feel vulnerable, while her boldness comes from the people who encouraged her to fight.

Although her relationship with her distant parents and her cheating husband, and her lack of documentation at such a young age, have given her challenges in life, especially her life in the United States, Margareta has channeled these problems into her strength with the motivation that her friends and her daughter give her. While her parents and grandparents play a vital role in her life, Margareta’s friends took up that supportive role during the hardest times of her life in the U.S. When Margareta was still young, her parents were blurry in her image of family because of their physical distance from her but fortunately, her grandparents stood up as her parents during their absence. When Margareta and her parents finally got together in the U.S., it was short-lived, for her parents were forcefully sent back home, leaving her alone in the crucial moment of her life as a young undocumented immigrant. Thankfully, her friends, especially Agatha, were there for her to give her support and her daughter was also there for her to give her strength. They still are here for her today. Families play a vital role in the lives of young immigrants, especially those that are undocumented. Young undocumented immigrants always need their loved ones to help them through their hardships and to give them support. Margareta never had her family beside her during those hard times, but thankfully, some people stood in their place to help and guide her life.

 

Works Cited

Atwood, Joan. “Couples and Money: The Last Taboo.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 40, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-19.

De Jimenez, Margareta. Personal interview. 11 Nov. 2017.

Husman, Jenefer, and Willy Lens. “The Role of the Future in Student Motivation.” Education Psychologist, vol. 34, no. 2, 1999, pp. 113-125.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Translated by Richard Polt, Hackett, 1997.

Rawlins, William. Foreword. The Psychology of Friendship, edited by Hojjat, Mahzad, and Anne Moyer, Oxford UP, 2017, pp. ix-xiv.

Strom, Robert, and Shirley Strom. “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Goals and Support Groups.” Educational Gerontology, vol. 19, no. 8, 1993, pp. 705-715.

Thorpe, Helen. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America. Scribner, 2009.

 

Sample Interview Transcript

Interviewer: Isabela Nangca (IN)

Interviewee (Pseudonym): Margareta de Jimenez (MJ)

Interview Setting: November 11, 2017 at 4:30 PM

IN: Hi Marge! Good afternoon!

MJ: Hello Issa!

IN: When is your birthday?

MJ: Birthday? August 5, 1985

IN: Where were you from?

MJ: I’m from the Philippines, from Visayas, Leyte

IN: Can you tell me something about your childhood in the Philippines? Any memorable experience/s?

MJ: Memorable experience, just, uhm, being able to, I guess, spend time with, okay, the memorable part, I guess, when we were little, most of my cousins, nakatira kami sa lola (we were living with our grandmother), and we have that great bond, yeah, we always hang out, we always have, like, every Sunday, we always have family gathering, uhm, everyone must be there, and then, uhm, sometimes, during holidays, uhm, and then, more like, ung mga panahon na (the times that) we, you know, like I was able to really, like spend time with them when were little.

IN: When did you came to the United States?

MJ: So, I came to the US when I was 17, when I graduated high school. I didn’t want to but I had to come with my parents. I came to the US as a tourist, and my mom was trying to process my resident card here. So, my mom actually got married to my stepdad and the part of the reason why I was coming to America because I was petitioned but unfortunately, uhm, it has to go through a lot of process.

IN: So, what do you mean by you were petitioned but too many process, then you came as a tourist, so it’s like you can’t wait for the petition?

MJ: So basically, when my mom was petitioned by my stepdad, she wants me to be in America already while I was still underaged, that way when she gets the papers done, I will get automatically get the green card as the same time as she will. And at that time, I only have a tourist visa for 10 years, which is I have to go back and forth to Philippines every 6 months. And during the process, well, she thought that, you know, when Im already here in the America and we’re already processing the papers and when everything goes through, they wanted me to just stay here instead of going back after 6 months, even though it’s still on a pending, uhm you know like uh, processing our papers. So my mom tried to, uhm, request from the lawyer, request an extension and they have try to submit, and you know, see if the court or immigration will say “okay”, uhm, then I would have stayed and so me and her because she’s also under process. We have to both, but then she, well maybe she, I don’t know, I’m not sure, maybe she could stay but maybe not me, because basically she’s the one being petitioned as a wife or fiancé, and I’m only the daughter, so maybe I have to go home. That’s what I’m understanding back then. But I guess the request was granted so I stayed. And later on, during the process and stuff, there was a lot of, uhm, issue that actually made everything worse that instead of getting the papers granted, it turned out to be bad, like hindi nagkatuloy (it didn’t continue) because my mom found out that my stepdad was only just using her, he was not really, uhm uhm really, lalaki (male) because he has a another heart, he likes man, he has a female heart and he likes boys, well originally I guess. I don’t know why he wanted to pretend, I guess, I don’t know what’s his reason. And then my mother found out that he was using her money, you know that they have joint account and stuff. And then when we were doing the interview, unfortunately we were supposed to have out attorney and my mom decided not to have the attorney. So when we were getting our interview, final interview, we uhm, we ended up getting interviewed one by one, and that was more, it was the scariest feeling that me and my mom, and I’m sure my stepdad too. They were already in bad terms at that time and we were having, uhm, interview na tag-isa-isa (alone/one by one). The first person that got interview was my stepdad, no, my mom. And then after my mom, they interviewed my stepdad. And I never got interviewed because after that, they already got denied. They were suspecting that it was fraud and all that stuff. I don’t know if my stepdad was the one that actually turned it, you know like, kinda like, maybe he, may they’re probably interrogating, maybe they scare him away for whatever it is because he knows to himself that he’s not really real to my mom, maybe he got scared, and then he started probably telling stuff there that “oh this is what happened.” And then we got, my mom had to, me and my mom had a deportation notice after then. So within that 30 days, we have to leave the country and that was 2005. And uhm, so we were planning of going back home but my mom decided me should stay here, just to be good, not do anything crazy, not do anything stupid, just try to be good and work if you can, and you know, just try to survive because she knows that that was the only she can give me at that time, future wise, like I know, she knows that if I stay here, I’m going to have a better life. I know I’m going to be by myself, or not really by myself because I have family still but you know, I chose not to be with my siblings. So I basically started to be independent, I continued to work at the company I started working. I’ve never really had any issue yet with asking the papers stuff. It was basically it was fortunate, or maybe it was God’s plan that all throughout the time that I’m not legal, I’ve never encountered, for many years, that you know, mahuli ka ba (being caught) because you’re only tago nang tago (hiding). But at the same time, of course, I have to do good and I didn’t wanna have any issue so I don’t get in trouble. Stay away from trouble for many years and then, so my mom went back home to the Philippines, and I stayed here with my friends. Later, after a couple years, you know, I met my daughter’s dad, my ex-husband. So at that point, when we were great, we planned a lot of things. He knew about my situation and then I got pregnant, and he wants to make sure to keep me and the child here. So, it was basically legit, like it was real at that time, that we were planning. Later after, I got pregnant. I guess things change, you know, he changed, he have things in his mind, he was young, whatever, and he wants to- you know, we had plans that we wanted to do. At the same time, it actually didn’t happen because he changed like he wanted to be single and he already know I’m pregnant, and this and that. So basically I have to go through at the time that he was helping me, at the same time, uhm, you know with the petition and stuff, it was more on, you know, at that time, I mean, in the beginning, it was supposed to be, you know, because he wants me and he wants the child and then later on, it ended up like, oh, uhm, i wanna be single, whatever, and then, he just wants to keep the baby, so I have to kinda struggle with in that phase where I don’t wanna be with him but because of my child, I have to be there and even if he already have some new girlfriends, or I mean you know, new girlfriend back in the Philippines, he would still, you know, I’m here and like trying to just to stick around, you know, I mean, it wasn’t, it wasn’t, it’s not the- what I wanted but it’s just what’s happening because that’s what he wants and I’m giving him what he wants, uhm, in the middle, like i don’t want to go through the papers because my mom, when she left, she would always tell me, if you ever want to, to, you know, get your papers done, we all know that there’s no other way for me to get my papers is just to get married, she always tells me that do it with love, like you really love the person. You are not using the person because of what she have gone through and even if it’s in a different way, different situation, because the guy, I mean my stepdad was messing with her head, uhm, yeah, it’s like, whatever, you know, cause I can always get just be, you know, maging fake ka na lang (be fake) just to get that. I didn’t wanna go through it, I wanted to let go of the baby, I wanted to do a lot of- there’s so many things because I’m by myself, I have no family here close by. I didn’t wanna tell my brother about my situation because I know they also have problems with their own. So, I have my best friend, she’s the only one that would know most of everything that I have encountered, or you know, experience in my whole life here in the US since my mom left me. And she’s always been there to help me with everything that I need. She’s like my family sister, or like a sister, kinda like best friend. Now, I have to go through a lot of mess because, you know, something that i cannot control. But, I have to stick around for my daughter, to make sure that she gonna hav good features-      she’s gonna be here. I don’t wanna, you know, there’ even a point that I just wanna give up already like I don’t wanna go through the process anymore because it takes a long time for the marriage, I mean, the petition for that, and, uhm, I’m struggling to much because the way that he was treating me that tame was really, uhm, the worse, like worse, uhm, experience that i wouldn’t ever ever thought that I would experience when you know, when I was uhm bata pa (still a child/ still young), whatever. Ang dream ko talaga (My dreams), i always dream to have uhm. And then, ang pinaka pangarap ko kasi noon (my dream before), to have my own family and I though he was my family. And then when I have my daughter, I thought it will change hi mind. It actually changes his mind, after four years, my daughter was already born. But that’s like I already have moved on but yeah, so and dami kong pinagdaanan bago ko makuha yung (i did so many things before I got), uhm, yung mga bagay na (the things that) I really thought na ang hirap nung panahon na yun (those times were very hard), especially knowing na shit, buntis ako (I’m pregnant), I’m not even legal here, and I have to deal with this man that i thought would help me, i mean he did help me with papers and stuff, but the consequences na binibigay niya sakin (he’s giving me) was not- it wasn’t really, it was not a normal or like, uhm, he was just really treating me bad at that time, and I don’t know why, and I even cursed him before, and you know, pero lahat magbabago (but everything will change), nagbago naman ang lahat (everything changed) because what can you do, he’s going to be forever part of my life, may anak kami (we have a child), and everything. So, and then after nun, we have to go through court hearing because at that time when he wanted to break up, I got pregnant, the same day I had my removal. So, when I had my removal, hindi namin expected yun (it was unexpected), we already planned to get married even before I got my removal because I got pregnant but at the same time, hindi ko akalain na may removal ako (I didn’t realize that I have removal). And then, when I received the removal, and I remember that it was like December 2008, uhm, nalaman kong nabuntis ako nung (I found out I was pregnant on) December 25, after 3 days gusto na niya magsingle (he wants to be single), gusto na niya maghiwalay kasi gusto na niya umuwi sa Philippines (he wants us to break up because he wants to go to the Philippines), hindi ko pa alam na he was cheating pala (I didn’t know that he was cheating). I just found out everything the same day that I got my removal, same day that I moved out, and same day that he sent me a wrong message that was supposed to be for the girl he was flirting back in the Philippines and that’s the reason why he wants to be single before he goes to Philippines because he is already going to see someone and I let him. In the beginning, I let him go. Okay you want to be single, because he just wanted to go to the Philippines because he just wanna be single, that he doesn’t want to be responsible for my emotions, whatever. So even if I was pregnant, I was actually strong to let him go. I said, “okay, and i’m going to move out. You have your own life, go do whatever you want.” At that time, I was just gonna, I was just thinking, “Oh, you know what, I don’t need you, I’m going to take care of my child, I don’t care.” And there’s times that I think of letting go of the baby because he/she doesn’t have a father anyway so might as well, I don’t want to continue, but most of his family members already know, and they kept telling me, “you better not do it because you have to keep the baby.” And then, I have no choice. I mean, at the end, I realized na “oh it’s buhay (life) and I already know I’ve made mistakes in the past na hindi ko na siya pwedeng ibalik ulit (that I can’t change), you know, so then I have to keep the baby. And every single time, I have to deal with him, magpupunta kami sa court(when we go to court), because I have the removal so we processed everything. We got married. He tried to petition me. He did all that stuff and he always threaten me every single time when we are not really in good terms like about sa mga kalokohan niya (his foolish actions), like he thinks, like he can do whatever he wants here with me while he’s here, while he still talks with the girl in the Philippines, like parang okay lang (it’s okay). But I had no choice because at that time I have to live with him because there’s no way I’m gonna be doing these papers and I’m living somewhere else. We’re gonna get caught and I’m gonna going be back home for whatever this and that and it’s gonna be on my daughter too like paano na lang ang future niya kung babalik ako? (how would her future be if I come back?) I mean, I know, like what my dad always say “oh bakit ka naman mamomroblema kung madedeport ka, eh hindi ka naman ipapadala sa Thailand? (why would you worry if you get deported, it’s not like they’ll send you to Thailand?)” like he always joke that, like “you’re going back to us, to your family, here in the Philippines.” But, yeah, I get it, you know, no matter what happens that time, I was like thinking “oh yeah babalik naman ako sa Philippines, may mga tulong ako. (I’m going back to the Philippines anyway. I have help.)” But it’s still not gonna be enough for me and my daughter na maglive (to live) in the Philippines and we know how it is and how hard it is to be there, magtrabaho (to work), and all that stuff, yung mga opportunities na meron ako dito (the opportunities that I have here). I’m gonna give up everything and what’s gonna happen to her. I mean, I’m sure I’m not gonna leave her alone or my parents are not gonna leave me alone. But, I’m pretty much independent for many years that I’ve lived na ako lang (alone) without my parents so that’s something that I would not wanna go for. I had to fight. When I fight, I have to swallow every damn thing kahit masakit, kahit na gusto mo na umiyak (even though it’s painful, even if I want to cry already. Pero for one year na nangyari sa buhay ko yan (that it happened in my life), none of them knows what I was going through. Ang alam lang ng brother ko (the only thing that my brother knows) is I was having a removal notice, that I have to go through court. My brother never knew anything about Pedro until after one year because I don’t wanna tell them anything. My parents didn’t know anything about him. Ang nakakaalam lang is my best friend and yung mga kaibigan ko na malalapit (Only my best friend and my close friends know). But my family never knew about him, the cheating, treating me like shit

IN: Like how does he treat you bad? How, like abuse, or something?

MJ: He treats me like “oh you know, if not for me, you’ll be a TNT, mababalik sa Philippines (you’ll go back to the Philippines)” and all that stuff.

IN: Parang sinasampal niya sa face mo? (like slapping it to your face?)

MJ: Yeah, sinasampal niya lagi sayo (he always slaps it). And then, pagmagaaway kayo (if you argue) because there’s no way na maiiwasan mong mag away kayo (to avoid arguments) because of how he’s doing. Buntis ka na nga at lahat and he had the nerve to leave you for another girl na nasa Philippines. Of course, at that time, gusto niya, enjoy siya (he only wants to enjoy). But then, eventually, he didn’t know na it’s gonna bite him in the ass once na mawala na yung babae (that the girl will leave) because she was just using him. He would spend many many many money for that girl and not spend anything for me or even just for our baby because you know, he was young back then. He was stupid, all he does is whatever benefit him at that time is what he takes. If not, then he doesn’t care. Even his parents would get mad at him. I always tell myself that one day, he will regret that. It’s gonna go back to him 20x. It’s not gonna be that easy or simple but it will. After four years, that’s what happened. It all came back to him. Then tapos na (it’s done), nag go through na kami sa papers ko and everything (we processed my papers). I had gotten my papers, and I was happy. I mean, I appreciate naman na (that) he still continued to help me. Yun na lang ung pinanghahawakan ko na (That’s what I’m holding onto that) even though he was an ass at that time, I know he was just being selfish because he thinks that he got the power cause he was controlling me because of my situation and I let him that time. Not totally let him because I would fight back na sagad-sagad kahit na uuwi ako sa Philippines (extremely even if I will go back to the Philippines), na I don’t give a shit, bahala ka sa buhay mo (Tagalog idiomatic expression for I don’t care about you, do whatever you want), I can do that but di mo makikita anak mo, balaha ka (you won’t see you child, I don’t care)” because of what he’s doing. Natapos na lahat and everything (it was done). Nag go through na, nakuha ko na what I need (It went through, I got what I need). It sucks na (that) you have to go through a lot of, you know like, magkaproblema ka pa sa papers (you’ll get problems on your papers) and then you would go through mga treatments like mga ganyan (those) or you would experience na parang ganyan (like that). Sometimes you would think na walang puso itong taong ito (he’s heartless). But then, like I said, Ito na lang ung pinanghahawakan ko na (that’s what I’m holding onto, that) he helped me out kahit na ganun siya ka grabe na (even if that’s how he is, that) I have to struggle and sacrifice a lot of things, emotionally, physically, mentally. Because I was just, actually that time, iniisip ko lang yung anak ko (i will just think of my child) and what’s gonna happen to her and to me at the end. Of course, magiging masaya kami (we will be happy).

IN: So, how many years did the process of the papers go through?

MJ: So we got married on January 2009. The process started at that time. It took me until 2011 before I was granted. I have to go back and forth sa court to show them the documents that they needed to see, so that way, they can keep me here. I had to hire a lawyer and pay hell of a money to save me and my daughter here in America. And because, hindi naman talaga dapat magiging parang set up (it is not a set up originally). It just happened kasi nagbago na siya (because he changed). It was supposed to be really legit marriage, love, family. If it was not a legit, I would not, I mean, bakit ako magpapabuntis sa kanya? (why would I want to get pregnant to him?) 2011 – I got my green card. Mas maganda ang nangyari sa buhay ko after that (My life became better). Kung baga, naisip ko na din na lahat ng mga struggle ko and sacrifices nung Naiwan Ako ng parents ko, may deportation notice kami (I always think of all my struggles and sacrifices, when my parents left me, when we got our deportation notice). I was worried about my mom and dad and ang layo ko (i’m so far away), mag-isa lang Ako (I’m alone) for many many many holidays. I was happy to have him because I thought siya na ung family ko dito (he will be my family). And then, sinira Niya yun para sakin at para sa anak ko (he destroyed it for me and our daughter). Pero you know, there’s always a reason why everything happens to each individual. With mine, I learned a lot from my experiences sa buhay ko na hindi ko aakalain na (in my life, that I won’t believe that) I’m gonna become me now. And that’s because of that stuff. It wasn’t easy, simple, but kapit lang bes (just hold on bes). Then, okay na. Nag citizen ako nung (I became a citizen) last year (2016), after 5 years. I was supposed to be citizen already after 3 years but hindi ko nakayanan ung treatment niya sakin na maghihintay pa ako ng 3 years (I really can’t endure his treatment anymore to wait for 3 more years), tapos magkakaroon pa kami ng (then we will have) another probation. After 2 years ng green card, uhm, bibigyan ako ng (they will give me)- actually I’m pretty fortunate that time kasi nung ginawa na yung green card ko (when they processed my green card), imbis na magkakaroon ka pa ng 2 years probation (instead of having 2 more years of probation), ni-let go na nila yun (they let it go) because it was already 2 years na I was going through court. So the court and being with him at that time na kami pa rin hanggang nung natapos na (from when we were still together until the end), automatic na nila akong binigyan ng (they automatically gave me) green card for 10 years na (that) I don’t have to worry about probation or anything kasi yun na yung 2 years na cover na dun (because the court already covered for the 2 years probation). Then, nung nakuha ko na yun (when I got it), so I wanted to get a citizenship already in 3 years starting the day they granted my green card on 2011 pero naghirap talaga ako sa issue naming dalawa (but I’m really having a hard time with him) so I have to let go of him… (32:06.34)

IN: What’s your motivation to go on despite everything that happened to you? What pushed you to stay in the US?

MJ: I was motivated for my daughter to stay in US for her future. I could of went home after my biggest breakup with her dad but because i know there is not much opportunity there specially for her i had to stay and sacrifice being single mother for her.

IN: When you were still in the Philippines, what’s your perspective of USA?

MJ: When i was in Philippines …i think of USA it’s beautiful because I know there’s many opportunities but I don’t want to live there because HOME SWEET HOME with my family and friends in the Philippines where I came from and I only want to stay there. But my parents forced me because I have no choice im only 17 eh. Lol

IN: When you first came to the US, did your perspective change? (From your answer in #2)

MJ: yes my perspective on USA changed since I attended school and met new people and friends and I got used to it and I became happy that I stayed in the US because I became independent. I worked to help my mom and learn how to budget and stuff and specially knowing the fact that I GET WHAT I WANT because I have my own money.

IN: Then now, how would you view Philippines and USA?

MJ: I would say when I went to Philippines for vacation i see the big difference than US and i would say that in the Philippines i can only go for vacation and not live. The feeling is already different between living in the Philippines and the USA, very big difference. I would also say I’m happier now being in US living the life in US its been 14yrs living in the US. My lifestyle is different now.

Where His Family Is

photo

Where His Family Is:

Git Lee

by Isabella Chen, September 2017

I met Git while I was volunteering with Project Shine helping coach an ESL class. I worked with him a lot because he has a bit of hearing loss as well as not being able to see out of one eye. I was drawn to Git from the beginning because he is 84 years old but still one of the harder working students in the class. Most Chinese senior citizens I know love to just sit in front of the TV or hang out at Asian coffee shops but I knew that Git was a different kind of “old” person. Git comes off as a delicate old man that is very polite and soft spoken. I enjoy working with Git because I get to use my Cantonese skills and help translate the chapters that he doesn’t understand. We became close because I was helping him get into DSPS (Disabled Students & Services) for over a month, every Monday at 9:30 at the Mission Campus. Git was born in 1933 and speaks Cantonese. This common ground led me to want to get to know him better. He is currently retired and lives in the house that he partially raised his five daughters in in the Outer Mission. Eventually, his daughters bought him and his wife that same house. We both share a passion for helping the community, especially the Chinese American community. As I got to know Git better, I found out that he is also from the same province in China as my dad. I asked Git if he would let me interview him for my Oral History Project and he said yes! Our interview was done at my house on a cold Tuesday in the early afternoon.

     Git migrated from Guangzhou, China in the late 70’s. He arrived with his five daughters and his wife. He knew all his life that he was coming to America because it was ingrained in his plans while he was growing up. His father left for America when Git was at a prepubescent age, leaving his mom to raise him while his dad sent money back to support them both. Because it was just the two of them, Git and his mom became really close, opening up his eyes to how important family is to him. Eventually, Git started his career as a teacher in China. He spent over twenty years teaching Chinese calligraphy and origami. Git is a husband and the father of five daughters. Finally in his mid forties, his father’s sponsorship and the paperwork for Git and the rest of his family kicked in and they were ready to come to America. After arriving, Git realized that thriving in America was quite a bit harder than he had anticipated. He faced many life challenges that held him back from his dreams and career, but conquering those challenges has helped him find where his sense of home is.

            Git has planned to make America his home for as long as he could remember. His father came to America when Git was very young to make more money for him and his family. Git grew up watching his father provide for them. His dad supported him and his mother. Git tells me, “She didn’t really work and was dependent on him because my dad was in the U.S, sending money back.” Git’s life was planned for him with the dream of his father to bring him and his mom to America. Git eventually founded a home and started his career as a teacher in China, teaching Mandarin, Chinese calligraphy, and origami. He met his wife over in China as well and started a family, having five daughters. Before moving, Git and his wife were in their 40’s with their kids living a comfortable life in their home. One day, they got a letter and it was finally their time to come to America. Git planned to come to America all his life because of the life his dad started in America and the plan to move the rest of his family out there. I asked if Git was worried about coming out here, but he promptly replied, “No, not scared. We knew we were coming to the U.S for a while now so we were mentally prepared for it. My family was not scared either.” By putting his career on hold, Git was able to move to America to please his parents as well as to give his daughters the best opportunities; this move helped him see that family is where his home is regardless of where they are located.

Git was excited to reunite with his dad again, since his dad had left for America when he was really young. Git felt like he had come from a broken home without a father to guide him. Git wanted to give his daughters a better opportunity like his dad had sacrificed his quality of life for n order to provide a better life to him and his mom. Because of the hard work endured by his father, Git had a better opportunity than many people in China by being able to get an education and then eventually become a teacher. Back in China, his family lived comfortably in a three-bedroom apartment but he dreamed of giving his daughters more. Git believed that coming to America would give his daughters new opportunities in education and careers that they deserved. He wanted the best for his five daughters and their families to come. He and his wife dreamed that coming to America meant that they would find jobs and a home right away, mostly because his father had been in America for so long and even ended up owning his own laundry business. Git’s dad migrated to the U.S. because of the Gold Rush. He had heard that there were many opportunities to make more money on the “Golden Mountain,” which lead him to come to San Francisco, CA. As Git’s dad arrived to America, he wound up in the laundry business and worked so hard he eventually owned his own business. Ronald Takaki, a Professor on Ethnic Studies, wrote in his book Strangers of a Different Shore referring to the 1940’s, “61 percent of the Chinese who were in the labor force were manual laborers, almost all of them working in laundries, garment factories, and in restaurants.” He ended up selling his business. “My dad didn’t leave me the business because he never expected me to be able to actually come to America, especially because so many years had gone by.” Git knew at age 46, in the year 1979, that it was finally time to come to America. “I got a call and had to get our paperwork in order right away because it was happening fast.”

From the late 1800’s to mid 1950’s, Chinese immigrants were denied opportunities to work in many occupations for which they were qualified due to anti-Chinese sentiment and laws that reflected this. This led many towards the laundry business. Back then laundry was considered “women’s work.” In fact, there were very few women in the industry due to the 1882 law, which made it unlawful for Chinese immigrants to come in any capacity except as merchants. Chinese men in America took over the opportunity. Everyone needed their laundry washed so no one really opposed the Chinese doing laundry as a way of living or other jobs that no one else really wanted. According to a journal article that was written by Joan S. Wang, “Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Woman in the United States,” in 1850-1950, most Chinese men turned to laundry because “…the small amount of start-up capital needed, the eagerness of Chinese workers to be self-employed, and the limited language requirements for the trade.” Many laundry companies had three to five men doing laborious work for long hours. The workplace was hot and steamy and the heavy wet clothing would be brutally heavy to work with. While the work was intensive, the positive outcome was that these immigrants owned their own businesses with limited communication.

As Git’s finally arrived to his new home in America, he felt disappointed and overwhelmed due to the fact that he didn’t feel like he belonged her; he felt that America didn’t feel he belonged either. In China, there was gossip and talk of America being the land of opportunities but in reality it was just stressful. He struggled due to not being able to speak English, which he recalled left him “feeling deaf, mute, and blind.” He informed me that it felt like he had gone from being a scholar and a teacher to feeling handicapped. According to the IMR (International Migration Review), which collects and studies statistics on immigrants, “That the effect of early arrival is much greater for English proficiency than other outcomes and bears significantly on most, not all, attainments.” Git has also told me that when he first arrived, he always worked hard but never felt like he was doing enough. He worked from nine to twelve hours a day, six days a week but still felt discontent. He told me, “…with my job I couldn’t pay rent, back then rent was like $700-800 for a flat. With all the taxes I ended up with a little over $500 only and rent was $700-800 so how can I afford rent? Sometimes I’m like what am I working for?” Git was forced to work at the cleaners because he felt like he had no other sustainable skills. His father used to own a laundry shop but had sold it before Git arrived. His father still managed to have some connections so he reached out to the men he used to work with in the laundry business and provided Git with a few labor jobs. As time went on, Git started working as a laundry man, working from eight in the morning to around six, with an hour break and dinner at five pm. I asked him if he ever had to work overtime and he told me a lot of the time he did work overtime. “In the first year and a half [I didn’t get paid overtime] but then after [a year and a half] I did get paid overtime. As you stay overtime [after the year and a half] they will [would] throw you some money for a few hours here and there.“ Git didn’t see anything wrong in that but I believe it is an abuse in his human rights to take advantage of people that have just moved to America. Article 24 in the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), a document about equal human rights, tells us, “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” In reference to the long hours Git worked with his hands, especially when he pulled up the wet load of laundry from the washers, he told me, “the load of laundry was soaked and when you have to pull it up over and over again. My fingers were throbbing, at night I remember trying to fall asleep and my fingers just hurt so badly.” Git never once had regrets of coming out to America. He felt like America was in the plans and he needed to make the best of it.

As Git started to accept that America was his home, where his family and responsibilities were now, and that he needed to adapt more, he began to socialize and joined social clubs that would take him to places around San Francisco, as well as to teach immigrants how to adapt and fit into America. On top of going on outings, he also watched movies and learned English at the club meetings. Git and his wife actually met some of their friends there. The clubs were a safe place for the immigrants to look for resources as well as talking to others that are going though and feeling the same way Git was feeling when he moved to the U.S.. Oxford Academic has a journal called Social Forces, which talks about the importance of immigrants being social and meeting other immigrants that share similar feelings. In one of their articles, they state, “These networks provide group-based resources that assist immigrants in making headway in their new society.” Git was telling me that as you work and interact with the same people, “people end up talking about you, but you just have to deal with it.” In the beginning he said that adapting to the culture was really hard. He felt like many people took advantage of him including swindlers on the street. Git confided in me:

“One time a regular looking Chinese man came up to me and told me he needed to cash his check. The check was for $30 but the man told me he need the money now and that he would take $20 for the $30 check. I believed at the time it was a good deal for the both of us so I gave him the $20. The next day, I went in to cash the check and the check bounced. I tried to do a good deed and make some money but it turned out I was taken advantage of.”

Git took it as a learning experience to not trust anyone but instead to be more aware. Twenty dollars was a lot of money, especially back then, and Git felt very ashamed that he had been tricked. He never saw the man again. After that Git felt like he needed to acclimate more to his surroundings and be more aware of the people around him.

Git finally felt like he was at home being able to watch his daughters graduate college and start their own families as a result of how hard he and his wife had worked. Git’s dream had always been to teach and learn but he had his dreams cut short due to having his life planned for him by his father, for his kids and his family. Git finally got to teach and go to school again after working so hard six days a week, nine to twelve hours a day for over twenty years. In the middle of my interview, Git actually pulled out a book that he proudly showed me. It was a book that was made for him by this family whose two brothers, six and thirteen, he used to teach origami to. Git showed me pictures of his daughter graduating from college as well as him teaching kids origami.

There were also pictures of him teaching calligraphy to older folks. He told me that he had started teaching origami because, “Someone introduced us in my community center. They told me that their kids loves origami so the couple brings them to the community center for class with me.” Then he showed me another picture that he is also very proud of, “This picture is at the retirement center of me teaching calligraphy.” He was so proud and looked so happy explaining what he had done for the Chinese American community in San Francisco. Git never moved out of SF after he settled here. He moved from Chinatown to the Outer Mission but that’s the extent of the change in his living situation.

He told me that he just really likes the San Francisco weather and that home is where his kids are. He said that he sacrificed a lot for his daughters and there was no point of him living anywhere else; as long as he is close to his family, he is home. He also felt like the San Francisco community has done a lot for him and he wants to be able to be a bigger part of it, as well as finally doing what he loves best, learning and teaching. Git currently spends his days going to the community center to eat lunch and attended class.

Git found his definition of home by being where his family is. Git grew up seeing the sacrifice his father made to America without a second thought of what he himself was giving up for his family. Back in China, Git used to be a teacher but when he finally arrived here he had to be a laborer and work as a washer and dryer at a laundry company. Git put his dream and his own priorities on hold for his father’s dream of moving him and his mother to America. As Git arrived he quickly realized that being in a new country was harder than he ever imagined. Not only did he not know the language, but he couldn’t continue pursue his career while working six days a week. Git agreed to move to the U.S. as a young boy because his father had moved to America first in hopes of finding a better life for him and his mom. Even though his paperwork to come America took so long and Git ended up starting family in China and a career in China, he was always prepared to leave his career and his home in China when the paperwork was finally ready. Home is usually where someone feels the safest, and since Git’s family was so important to him that he has always felt at home with them near by, knowing that he is doing everything he can to provide for them. Some people might say that Git is his own person, he can make his own choices, and didn’t have to leave China, or follow anyone’s dreams but his own, but he had to get away because of the one child rule and he wanted a better opportunity for his daughters. Git felt he was home in China with his mother but has always known that America is also home because his father was living there already. When it was finally time for Git to move to the U.S., he brought his wife and five daughters to move with him. No matter how much Git suffered, he always felt like America was the right direction for him, especially after being able to provide for his daughters, please his father, and to be at home, which is where his family is.

Work Cited

Myers, Dowell, Xin Gao, and Amon Emeka. “The Gradient of Immigrant Age‐at‐Arrival Effects on Socioeconomic Outcomes in the U.S.” International Migration Review. Blackwell Publishing Inc, 02 Mar. 2009. Web. 3 May 2017.

Sanders, Jimy, Victor Nee, and Scott Sernau. “Asian Immigrants’ Reliance on Social Ties in a Multiethnic Labor Market.” Social Forces. Oxford University Press, 01 Sept. 2002. Web. 3 May 2017.

Takaki, Ronald T. Strangers from a different shore: a history of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998. Print.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 7 May 2017.

Wang, Joan S. “Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850-1950.” University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society, n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.

 

Sample Transcription: Git Lee

I: So I want to ask you where you were born?

K: Huh what?

I: Where you were born.

K: Ah, in China, Canton.

I: Oh ya! My dad was also born there, So what year were you born?

K: In 33’ year

I: Ah ok, Can you explain Canton to me, maybe tell me a little more like the weather?

K: What? What?

I: How in Canton including the weather; is it hot, cold, is it a city or the suburbs? Um, Is there lots of vegetation/ farming?

K: Its is small, Guangzhou is a big city, the others are much smaller cities.

I: Are there a lot of plants?

K: Yes there was, especially farmlands there is a lot vegetations

I: ah ok, Do you any siblings?

K: Its just myself

I: wow oh my gosh, What is your favorite place in Canton?

K:(names a park) small park in Canton,

I: oh nice, i’ve never been, How many people live did you live with?

K: It use to be just my mom and I, my dad’s family was here in the US already

I: How did your house look like?

K: It was rented like how I did when I moved here (US) – with three rooms

I: What did your mom do for work?

K: She didn’t really work and was depended on him because my dad was in the U.S, sending money back,

I: so how much schooling did you have in China?

K: I went to school for awhile. I went to school for about 10 years in Canton

I: So what do you miss the most?

K: wha well, (laughs) nothing really to miss

I: i forgot to ask you what your chinese name is

K: My name is (Chinese name)

I: what is your last name?

K: lee

I: what is your english name?

K: Kit lee

I: how old were you when you arrived to America?

K: In my 40’s, i don’t really remember exactly

I: so where did you meet your wife?

K: I met her in mainland china

I: oh so you moved out here together, how old was she when she moved out here?

K: also in her 40’s

I: What about your daughters? You have 5?

K: ya they were in their teens and younger like 8 or 10

I: did your mom move with you?

K: yes but she moved out to the US first then we followed but as we finally arrived she ended up passing away before we made it out here. She passed away for a few months before we made it out here.

I: oh wow. So how long was she here for until you and your family made it out here?

K: probably a few years

I: did you have to go through angel island?

K: i’ve been there but was not required to pass through, we were allowed to arrive here already

I: Was it hard for you to move to America? To acquire citizenship?

K: no it wasn’t, I had applied for my green card and identification before I arrived

I: Were you scared to move here- to lose all your friends? Was your family scared?

K: no, not scared, we knew we were coming to the US so we were prepared. My family was not scared either.

I: Did you have any dreams or aspirations before coming to america?

K: it was hard when we first arrived, we were not used to it, we thought it was going to easy but when we actually arrived reality kicked in and back then rent was still around 700 and we thought it was really expensive. We rented a whole floor for my family and I

I: How big was it?

K: it was comfortable, we had a big living room at washington st and the cross street of something by chinatown

I: How did you find it?

K: through an acquaintance

I: did you have a lot of friend?

K: no, just met people through work

I: how did you find work?

K: my father use to own a clothes washing joint and by the time we arrived he already sold his shares and the shop. The men he sold his share to older men or men that have money or is somebody so my dad introduced us and told me to go work for them

I: Does your dad live nears you?

K: not really, he lives on Stockton st & Vallejo st in an SRO

I: did you only live in sf?

K: yes

I: did you live any other homes? Did you move a lot?

K: in 87’ we moved

10:00

I: So the house you are living at now, is it being rented or do you own it?

K: The kids ended up buying it, because they grew up

I: So did you have the same job as a laundry man your whole career?

K: Yes the whole time, I washed clothes

I: When did you retire?

K: I retired at 62..haha

I: what did your wife do? Did she do laundry with you?

K: No she worked at a garment factory, sewing clothes

I: So wow, you had so much schooling but you just washed clothes in America?

K: ya just laundry, when i retired I started teaching here and there, started out doing calligraphy and then ended up teaching kids how to do origami

I:  How did the laundry job work? Was it just one person working? Did you wash and dry?

K: Yes it was one person, I washed and dried. It was all me.

I: ooooo ahhh (he shows me a book with pictures of him and kids folding origami)

K: here are some pictures of people folding and here are some people writing calligraphy

I: oh wow ooooomg wowww.

K: this is my daughter and I.

I: wowwwww she’s so pretty

K: haha

I: when did you learn how to do origami? Did you learn it here?

K: here and back in China, the kids are my students that i teach origami to

I:  is this your daughter’s graduation

K: yes college. That kid is only 6 in there and he’s really good at folding

I: wow they made a book for you? That so nice

K: yes their father does real estate

I: how did you find you? Was it at school? (he’s my student in an esl class)

K: Someone introduced us in my community center. They told me that their kids loves origami so the couple brings them to the community center for class. The drive them and drop them off. These are brothers. This picture is at the retirement center of me teaching calligraphy

I: So laundry, is that how you met friends, at work?

K: we when i had to work there would be someone else working near me so we would end up talking and getting to know each other

I: So when did you start english

K: I was learning here and there

I: Well your english is pretty good already

K: Laughs** is just spelling that I’m bad at. My memory is bad

I: Noooooo. Even the professor says that your english is good but you just can’t hear. The professor has told me that he wants us to got DSPS because your english is really good but you just can’t hear.

K: hmm. ok

I: soooo do you still keep in touch with any of your friends?

K: ya some of them?

I: who do you know the longest? Do you still keep in touch?

K: This one dude that lives in Oakland. We write letters to each other here and there

I: wow writing letters. So why did you live in sf for so long? Why not move to oakland?

K: well I lived here for so long? Why bother moving? You just get comfortable

I: well I guess all your activities are here and you have so much. So speaking of activities, what did you to pass time when you first moved here?

K: when i first move here I joined this club “asian progressive club” is in Chinatown, (in some famous building across some bank) on the fifth floor. When i first moved here I would go every sunday to meet people and look for activities to do, and ways to explore this new place we moved to

I: What kinda activities?

K: we went to the museums, sometimes we went to the movies, sometimes there would be parties, we went to angel island also

I: was this for everyone? Not just for retired people?

K: No its a club for everyone. You just have to be a member to go to the events. They also brought just to picnic.

I: How many people went?

K: There was about twenty something people

I: What are origami? Did you do that at the club?

K: No that was something I did when i retired. After work I was be so extremely tired so how can I do origami after?

I: In china what did you do?

K: I taught writing

I: did it make you sad that you didn’t teach anymore? To have to go from your your brains to using your body for labor?

K:  Yes of course. I missed china and teaching

I: wow so when you moved here everything was different

K: ya so different

I: I can’t even imagine

K: hahaha

I: umm so emm when you first moved here did you see your dad alot?

K: yes i saw him everyday actually

I: how old were you when he moved to america?

K: I was very young when he moved here

I: So you haven’t see him for a long time, like twenty something years? Wait over 20 yrs like 30ish years?

 

20:00

K: yes

I: So what does he like to do? Like activities?

K: i’m not too sure but I know he likes to go get coffee with his brothers/ friends

I: oh my grandpa use to do that a lot. He use to sit around and get coffee for hours and hours. When I was younger I use to wonder why he would sit there for so long? I grew up around Oakland so I know that Chinatown more. So did you have any expectations when arriving to America? Did you think it was going to be easy?

K: I thought it was very hard to sustain a living in America since i’ve arrived. I felt like I was deaf, mute, and blind. Deaf because I don’t understand the language english , mute because I cannot speak and blind because I can’t read

I: Didn’t you learn english in Canton though?

K: I learned a little but knew mainly just some alphabets and some words here and there but mainly the three, blind, deaf and mute

I: you use to teach so did you think that this job (in america) is harder that your life back in China? You taught for so long and then it was all taken away from you with you feeling mute, blind and deaf.

K: ya

I: so back then, what was your schedule like? What time did you start work?

K: where?

I: here

K: i would start at 8 in the morning and end work at 8 or 9. Many time around 8 or 9

I: wow ohhh like 12-13 hrs a day

K: they would give me an hour to take lunch. You can rest and take a breath

I: then you would do laundry. Wow ehhh ugh. You did it for around 20 year?

K: yes haha

I: What do you think of America?
K: Well I think SF had really nice weather. Everyone is really nice, very giving

I: but that’s it?

K: well back then my job wouldn’t pay me enough to pay rent

I: you and your wife didn’t make enough to pay rent?

K: I mean by myself with my job i couldn’t pay rent, back then rent was like $700/800 for a flat. With all the taxes I ended up with like $500 something only and rent was $7/800 so how can i afford rent? Something i’m like what am i working for?
I: wow you worked so much and couldn’t even afford to pay rent? But what about your wife? With her job can you both afford rent then?

K: well with her job of course we can afford rent

I: What about your daughters? Where were they born at?

K: They were all born in China, well with normally we just worked till 6ish. We would have lunch from 12-1 then eat dinner at 5

 

I: Then after dinner would you have to start working again?

K: Usually not but sometimes when we have big jobs then we would have to
I: If you stayed longer would you get overtime money?

K: In the beginning I didn’t but then i would get it as I worked there longer

I: In the beginning like you mean the first few months?

K: Like in the first year and a half but then after I would get paid overtime. As you stay more overtime they will throw you some money for a few hours here and there

I: did you think anyone was racist towards you or prejudice ?

K: i’ve always worked in shops with chinese people so there was never any of that. We are all Chinese so what’s there to be prejudice against.
I: what about where you live?

K: no not really?

I: have you been out of sf?

K: I’ve been to vegas, lake tahoe, reno

I: have you been to the snow?

K: ive seen snow but never ski or anything
I: are both you and wife retired?

K: yes

I: was your wife ok with coming to America? Did she like it?

K: I don’t know her thoughts

 

30:00

 

I: Why did you stay in SF? Why didn’t you move somewhere with more space like Oakland?

K: there is no point of moving. Then I would have to look for a new place and its too much.
I: Is your house big?

K: Its comfortable

I: So where do you live now?

K: In the outer mission

I: so is it close to school at the ocean campus

K: ya its close, I live at geneva
I: there is a lot of Chinese people there, So why don’t you live in Chinatown?

K: I’ve lived (CT) there before, since they bought a house there, we ended up moving

I: did you like living in Chinatown?

K: well of course, there is a lot of chinese people there and its easier to get around and acquire what i need. And grocery shopping is close by
I: What about the rats there? There is so many rats?

K: haha ya there are some mice there.

I: You said you use to rent?

K:  Ya back then there use to be many places for rent. Back then 750 was considered a lot to rent a flat. Back then around 300/400 you can rent a whole appartment. Everything above 500 was considered very expensive. That was like over 20$ years ago

I: so back then you can rent a whole 3 bedroom for around 300$? Thats crazy!!!

K: haha ya.

I: So you use to work in sf chinatown also? Did you feel like there was a lot of gossip?

 

33.59

 

 

 

 

 

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?

J-Yeah.

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?

Yes.

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.

 

 

 

I Left My Heart in Syria

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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.

Transcripts

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.”

Georgian-American or American-Georgian

tbilisi_sunset-6

Georgian-American or American-Georgian

by Michael Figlock, August 2014

I met with Levan at the Japantown Mall due to its close proximity to where he works as a bartender. He told me that afternoon that he was short on sleep, having just worked after playing an extended, cut-throat game of Poker with his friends the night before. The two of us met such that I could write a paper for my English 1A class, a class that he had taken previously. Something that resonated with him from the class was an essay in which Andrew Lam, a Vietnamese-American writer, said he was old enough to still remember his country and still young enough to still adapt to this one. Levan described this condition as being one that applied to him and his relationship with Georgia, the country from which he emigrated. Levan’s description of his country of origin was a complex one, fitting for a country that has been in the hotbed of Eastern European political affairs for the last three decades. Levan described his time in Georgia as being largely positive, despite genocide occurring “three blocks away from [his] house” while he was there. Russian tanks came through Georgia and literally drove over protesters. Levan said that he considers himself “Georgian-American or American-Georgian.” He considers Georgia to be his home, though since living in the United States, this has changed. Now, Levan’s sense of home has come to include both Georgia and the United States.

Levan is 28 years old and is working hard to improve his livelihood as a member of both countries. While speaking to him I got the impression that, throughout the rest of his life, he will continue to travel between both Georgia and the United States.  He is working on getting his certification to become a paramedic so that he can do good works in both countries. He is currently certified as an EMT, a steppingstone to becoming a paramedic. As a paramedic, he wishes to retrofit vans into ambulances such that Georgia can have a modern ambulance system. According to my impression of him, he is someone who very much believes in pulling himself up by his own bootstraps.  He has already bought cars in America at auctions to send back to Georgia. He is “taking all of the classes, as much as [he] can,” in order to go to SF State, where he hopes to study history and perhaps get involved with the Red Cross. As he already knows “four or five languages,” he thinks that this kind of move with his life is very possible. Levan says that languages come pretty easily to him and that, as a result, he enjoys learning them. Even though he doesn’t speak Spanish or German particularly fluently—he speaks English, Russian, and Georgian fluently—he thinks he could pick them up pretty quickly if he were to spend some time in a country that speaks them.

The sense of community is what Levan misses most from Georgia. He says that it is a very “community-based country,” and that what he feels he has lost the most since leaving is “the sense of family.” His times there were peaceful “from ’91 to 1999.” In Georgia, one stays with the same classmates all the way through school, with teachers coming to the classroom rather than the other way around. As a result, your classmates become very close to you, some of them becoming like brothers, and another, even, possibly, becoming a wife. Much of his life there was devoted to soccer and friends. Some of the times that Levan reflected on the most fondly were when he was living with his grandparents, away from his home city. There, his brother’s friends showed him around and, because of the fact that his grandfather was a famous Georgian boxer from many years ago, many older people wanted to show Levan around as well. Yet the reasons for Levan’s time spent with his grandparents were not happy. Someone in Levan’s close family needed serious medical attention as his father’s car had been sabotaged and exploded.

When Levan was living in Georgia, he witnessed an armed conflict there. Georgia has always been “in-between struggles, even since the Ottoman Empire.” Early in Georgia’s history, the area was a battleground for wars between Islam and Christianity, the two factions warring over where Georgia would fall in this conflict concerning eternal damnation. More recently, Russia has been the aggressor in the struggles that Georgia has been a part of. Levan’s opinion of Russia is that the country is a “bully” and he “can’t stand bullies.” There was genocide during the years that Levan was there; which happened in 1991, when Levan was about five years old. Some of his family’s relatives came into his house with AKs and stuff to help him flee from the capital city. Levan was pretty casual when discussing the genocide and he didn’t spend much time talking about it. Now that he’s older and has a greater awareness of the world, he says that his understanding of what happened back there has grown. He wishes that, when he was in Georgia, he had taken more time to learn about the country’s complex past. I wondered if that was what compelled him to look into studying history at SF State, but I didn’t ask.

When first making the United States his home, Levan’s biggest struggle was the linguistic barriers associated with the cultural transition. His brother got a job at Charles Schwab in America after coming here with political immunity due to the war in Georgia. It was Levan’s opinion of his brother that he’s doing “very well” for himself. Levan came here after his brother and went straight to high school in San Francisco. Some of the other struggles he faced have included the “depression and the sadness that [he] miss[ed] people, nostalgic feeling of being around home.” What got him kicked out of high school briefly was a fight over a mistranslation. Levan, when he was in Georgia, had a certain amount of education in English. According to him, not everyone “jokes, for example, the same type of jokes.” I think that this statement highlights that there are many cultural nuances that are present in communication, particularly with respect to joking. The mistranslation that Levan was involved in, though casually dropped frequently between Americans, was one that he thought was insulting his mother in some pretty drastic ways.

Something that stuck out to me in Levan describing his former self prior to coming to America as being a bit more consumed by “ego-type of ways.” The impression I got was that he was also doing a certain amount of fighting in Georgia as well. Levan said that something that has been a struggle in his life for some time now has been not feeling as though he was older than or even superior to his peers.  Since coming to America, he was exposed to people from places that he “wouldn’t even think about—from Philippines to China to Arabian countries

to–of course Russian people.” Because there are so many Russian people living in the Richmond, the district where Levan originally moved in San Francisco, he fit in decently well because Russian is one of the five languages that he speaks. His perspective became one that takes humanity in general into account rather than one just focused primarily on Gerogia. He used to think that “being a Georgian was the best thing,” but after his time in America, he contrasted his previous viewpoint with saying that “it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”  He now describes himself as “out forward, outgoing, and [he] won’t do anything to piss people off.” He said that he notices at jobs at whatnot that people recognize him as someone who is easy to deal with.

Something that particularly indicates in my mind the bicultural nature of Levan’s post-American-living identity is his desire to eventually raise children as both Georgian and American. His goals are to “raise a family here, just to take them there, let them grow as my children, as understanding both.” This is one way in which Levan would seem to cement his identity as both a Georgian and American. Levan believes that what makes America so great of a country is its capacity to integrate the ideals of people from many different countries. It is my opinion that Levan has internalized this perspective into himself in that he views himself as being greater for integrating the ideals of people from many different countries. His brother’s wife is Brazilian and he joked with her about Brazil’s recent trouncing in the World Cup.

Now that Levan has expanded the scope of his previous perspective of the world, it is impossible for him to go back to viewing the world in the way he once did.  In his own words, he said something to the effect of “he kinda’ cannot go back to his natural habitat,” meaning that his worldview with respect to his home and how he sees the world has been forever expanded.  Levan’s mother tried to come to America but was less pleased with her transition between the two countries.  She made the trip when she was much older than how old Levan was when he made the trip.  It was Levan’s opinion that it must be harder for someone to come to America, or leave their country at all for that matter, when so much of their life has been established in another country.  Recently, when Levan left San Francisco for “somewhere, even [his] country—[he] went there a few times—[he] miss[es] it here so much, [he] can’t even explain.  [He] went to the East coast for two weeks [and he] couldn’t wait to get back.”  His opinions of living in Gerogia now is that living only there would leave him feeling “cornered,” with the only good news he hears from people living there being that they had a kid.  Practically everything else that he hears coming from the country is that someone has died or some other negative news.  I think that Levan would feel tied down of that’s what he was doing right now. Politically, he is not fond of the way in which Georgia has sacked its powerful leader for being too despotic.  Though a particular powerful politician there was able to arrest numerous politicians, he became criticized for gaining too much power.  Now, it is his opinion, that the country is governed by politicians who are far too young and inexperienced (Levan).

Edward Said in his essay, “Reflections on exile” paints the departure of one home country as nearly almost always a contributor to great sadness in the life of the exile. Where there are people who are exulted as having experienced great, humanistic, transnational experiences on account of immigration, there are always far more people who have been dislocated on account of conflict whose story of immigration is very sad. Levan’s story of immigration is hard to categorize as either fully working toward a positive end in his life or something that was conflict-induced, his story, I think, exemplifying Edward Said’s description of immigration stories. Levan’s brother, a decently large player in Levan’s immigrant experience, at least, came to America on account of political asylum he received due to a conflict. Levan’s life however, much to the merit of his resolution, seems to be very much moving in the direction that he’d like it to, that being toward his role as a medical professional. Simply, Levan’s life is comprised of both growing experiences that recognize a broader understanding of the human character as well as experiences that were put into motion on account of conflict.          Edward Said also would seem to make the claim that existing between nationalities is necessarily a painful experience. Levan, who sees himself as Georgian-American yet is not completeky satisfied with everything that is Georgian or everything that is American, is perhaps better off not being restricted to having a single nationality. This way, he can assimilate the best parts of what he can derive from both countries–say, the family-sense of Georgia and the life opportunities of America–and make a wholly new identity for himself, outside of any one nationality. This way, he can pursue the American medical field while also being a contributor to the communities that brought him up in Georgia (Said). In “Happiness and ‘economic migration’: A comparison of Eastern European migrants and stayers,” David Bertram shows that, at least in the case of Eastern European emigrants moving into various Western European countries, the happiness level of immigrants varies from country to country. This peer-reviewed research would support the idea that Edward Said’s classification of emigrants into two categories of those who are pleased with the humanistic experience of their immigration and those who are displeased with it on account of having to do so due to conflict is too simplistic. The reality of the situation is that the experiences of immigrants leaving eastern Europe may contain too many specificities and unique qualities for general assertions to be about all of them (Bartram).          Whereas some may say that an immigrant’s story must be either entirely devoted to humanistic transnationalism or the product of conflict’s strife, I think that Levan’s story has shown otherwise. Now, Levan’s sense of home has come to include both Georgia and the United States. His goals in life of working to become a paramedic in order to establish a modern ambulance system in Georgia and his goals of raising his future children in both countries will further establish him as being a member of both countries. The specificities of Levan’s story of moving from Georgia to America further establish the diverse nature of what it means to be an immigrant.

Transcribed Interview

Voice 003: 00:20 — 00:35: 15 sec

L: I’m taking all of the classes, as much as I can, until I can go to State, so I don’t have to pay as much over there, ya’ know?

M: Are you trying to go to SF State? L: Yeah.

M: Cool.

L: I’m actually going to apply wherever, ya know, a lot of places, but State–I like to be close to the City.

…Voice 003: 0055 — 01:25: 45 sec

L: I’m certified as an EMT. I’m going to try and be a paramedic, but I need six months of experience and six months more of education to be a certified paramedic. It makes a big deal pay-wise, but work wise, it’s pretty much the same. There are six or seven medical procedures we cannot do without our medical control, but it’s good. And bar-tending on the side.

…Voice 003: 00:40 — 2:30: 2:35 min

L: At City College so far it’s light health, but at State I want to change to something with history so I could, like, probably go to Europe–Red Cross maybe. Have some medical education, know, like, four or five languages–

M: You know four or five languages? L: Yeah. M: What languages do you speak?

L: English was my third language, Russian was my second, Georgian was my first, German, and I’m struggling with Spanish. I don’t know Spanish, but I’m picking it up with people I work with. I work with a lot of Latin people. So that’s about it, but if I take it, it should be good. But I know I need at least three months in Europe or being in Germany to speak fluently, because I’m kind of forgetting it. If you don’t use it, it’s like a muscle, ya’ know.

…Voice 004: 00:00 — 00:35: 3:05 min L: What route are you going to take? What’s your main idea? What’s your topic going to be?

M: I was sort of waiting to talk to you. I was going to be really true to what you say and go from there. L: Sounds good, man. You want some coffee?

…Voice 005: 00:00 — 02:00: 5:05 min M: What can you tell me about where you’re from.

L: I’m from the Republic of Georgia. It’s considered Eastern Europe. On the east and west sides we have seas. On the north side we have the Caucasian Mountains bordering us from Russia. And to the south we have Turkey and Azerbaijan and all Muslim countries, pretty much. My country has always been in-between struggles–Ottoman Empire since back in the day because Georgia comes from the fourth century. Back in they day, they’ve been trying to make us Muslim and we were wanting to do Christianity so we combined with Russia and we were working together but when we got our independence, they would wouldn’t give it to us. They wanted land–

M: Are you talking about in 1990?

L: The first time was in 1981. It was a big genocide. Russian people came over with tanks and we had protests and they ran people over with the tanks. I remember I was about 5 years old and in 1991, it occurred again–a big one–and I remember some of my family’s relatives came in our house with AKs and stuff and were like, “We have to take you out of here.” And I remember my whole family–we had to go away from the capital city. We had to hide out for at least three days until things calmed down. So it was pretty bad at that time. It was so bad, actually, people were just thinking about surviving and maintaining.

…Voice005: 02:10 – 05:25: 8:20 min L: But then I lived through some peaceful times, I guess. From ’91 to 1999, it was pretty peaceful. I remember those times as pretty pleasant. Hanging out with friends, going to school, playing soccer–stuff like that. But economy wise, it’s always been a struggle because I always saw my parents, ya’ know, go through it. There where days where we had to survive for certain days and there were days where we were all good. It was ups and downs, but overall, I had a very positive…

M: Impression?

L: I had a very positive impression about my country.

M: When did you come to America? L: I came to the United States in 2001. And the way I came here was that my brother actually got here first and because of that war, actually he got… immunity, I guess. Political immunity. So the United States gave him a visa, gave him a passport, and gave him all the opportunities he could have and he used every piece of it and he pretty much made it here. He started with computer engineering and now he’s at Charles Schwab. Just a manager. So he’s doing alright. He’s doing very well, actually. So after five years he brought me here so yeah. That was about me and him at first. After that I took a placement test and tested into ESL at first in high school and freshman year was a little bit tough, not knowing the language, cultural customs, seeing all these people from different backgrounds, so it was difficult, but then sophomore year, I was alright. I moved out of the ESL. Junior year I was doing even better and senior year I did so well in the previous years that I only had to take five classes, I remember. I was getting out of school about 1:30 when people had to stay ’till 3 so…

M: That’s cool.

L: It was alright.

M: Where did you go to high school? L: I went to George Washington High School. It’s in the Richmond district of San Francisco–close to the beach.

M: So you moved straight to San Francisco when you…

L: Mmm hmm–straight to San Francisco, straight to high school. I thought I was gonna’ have to take some classes at John Adams. That’s where people that I kinda’ knew that were from different countries as well but they were going to those schools just to gain English. But I had some background back in Georgia. I was going to an English teacher and so I actually took languages very seriously because it was coming easy to me so I enjoyed it.

M: What can you tell me more about your childhood in Georgia, the happy times, I guess, or whatever? L: I respect–not respect, I actually see more clearly right now because people tell me enjoy these years, it’s gonna’ be the best years of your life because…

…Voice006: 00:00 — 05:55: 14:15 min

L …all you have to worry about is getting home on time, eating, and going back out to play again, I guess. And it was good up until 1997, my father, his car was sabotaged or something and his car blew up so my mother, father, and older brother, before coming here, they had to go to Russia because the medical field is much more better over there so he had to get treatment there for three years and I basically grew up with my grandmother and grandfather and I had to switch the neighborhood because I couldn’t stay in that place no more, that neighborhood. So my brother’s friends–by the way, he’s six years older than me–so his friends took care of me, showed me to places and things. I kinda’ grew up feeling that I was older than I was actually, ya know? Just because I was exposed to certain things, I guess, made me feel that I was wiser or bigger than other kids in my peer–and I believe until four years ago, I still used to think that way. It was a setback on me, ya’ know? I should have… yeah. I’m realizing now and I’m just going through it, my process. What else can I tell you about Georgia? It’s a very community based country–every body knows everybody. And on top of that, my grandfather, actually, in 1952 and in 1954 was a Georgian boxing champion and he was pretty well-known so me mentioning my last name and knowing that I was his grandson, everything was easy for me. I could have went anywhere and everybody was showing me a lot of attention and everybody was taking me places. It was good times for me. I couldn’t really experience that–I was in that age where I didn’t take it serious, right? And it was bad times. Now that I look back and see some documentaries on what really took place–literally three blocks away from my house, that’s where the big clash happened–protestors and army. And to look at it right now… I get goosebumps. Literally they used tanks to just run-over people and it was a genocide, I believe, it was horrible. But I didn’t really feel it, ya’ know? Summers were hot, in my city. So we owned a cabin in the mountains which was four hours away. Every summer, my grandfather and grandmother would take me out to the cabin, leave me out there, go back into the city, do whatever. I had some real family living there, friends, and everything. So for literally three months every summer, I would spend away, and come back to the city. Good memories, pretty much. Good memories. Besides, I guess, adolescence and just fighting, now and again. Overall, it was great.

M: Cool. What’s the biggest struggle you’ve faced, after coming to America.

L: The biggest struggle was… The struggle was changing the environment. Because I did that previously, like I told you–I had to change the neighborhood–and it was difficult for me because I was not in that age where I could just travel anywhere by myself. Friends that I really had, close ones, I kinda’ left them in that old neighborhood, which I wouldn’t visit no more. And just that idea that I had to do it allover again, just to pickup, but on a bigger scale–I’m not just switching neighborhoods, I’m switching countries. I guess the biggest struggle was depression, sadness that you miss people, nostalgic feelings of being around home, appreciating home cooking, home cooked meals, the language barrier, people from different countries, trying to understand them. Not everyone jokes, for example, the same type of jokes. Everyone has different morals, I guess, standards, logic, so I had to kinda’ adapt to it, but overall I had a good time. Right away, I made friends from places that I wouldn’t even think about–from Philippines to China to Arabian countries to–of course Russian people are very–a lot of them are by the Richmond district and Russians–speaking a Russian language helped me out because I was basically mostly with them. And the struggle I had to go through was… basically, I fought a lot because I didn’t understand certain things and I felt people were just… looking down on me, making fun of me. Just simple getting lost in the translations. I don’t want to say, but to me, mother@%#$@#, when somebody said that, I don’t want to say it on here, but to me, it meant something horrible. It meant that you were insulting my mother, and just because of that, I actually got kicked out of high school, and had to go through dropout preventions, and all that stuff. But once I grew up, kinda’, I adapted, I learned. Now I have friends where we just joke about it and don’t take it seriously. But basically, the biggest struggle was trying to fit in, make friends…

…Voice007: 00:00 — 05:55: 20:10 min

L: …try to fit in, just those times where you want to go back home. But then again, I had an older brother who guided me through it. He told me, “You’ll understand later,” and “This and that…” But basically my main struggle was the language barrier, cultural differences–not much of religious differences, not at all–mostly just cultural and language. M: Where would you say your home is now? L: Where my home is? I’ve been thinking about that a lot… a lot… I believe… And also, I want to rephrase something. We learned something in his class. We were talking about this person that came from Vietnam and I don’t know if you guys read that pamphlet again, I don’t know. We had to write a summary about it and in it he mentions how he was “old enough to still remember his country and still young enough to still adapt to this one.” And it really touched–I felt like I was still in that place. I was old enough to still have memories and still feel Georgian, I guess, I have pride in it. And I was young still enough that I was adapting to it so right now I consider myself Georgian American because every time I go somewhere, even my country–I went there a few times–I miss it here so much, I can’t even explain. I went to the East coast for two weeks, I couldn’t wait to get back. This is where I consider my home now. And I’m probably going to be here, probably raise a family here just to take them there, let them grow as my children, as understanding both, and being more open-minded and [indistinguishable]. It took me awhile to get rid of some of the ego-type of ways that I had imprinted in Georgia. A certain type of way that people carry themselves. A certain way that people are. I believe that I consider myself Georgian-American or American-Georgian, whichever, even though I’ve still got an accent–I don’t know why. I hope this is helpful.

M: That was a pretty heavy answer. That was pretty heavy. I guess you’ve already really answered this, but how have you changed since coming here? L: How have I changed? M: Or not?

L: I have progressed in many ways and in some way I feel like I have regressed as well. Mostly I believe I’ve changed… I used to think that being a Georgian was the best thing. I was so thankful that I was born Georgian, but the way I think about it right now is that I have a total different respect for just humans, humankind–it doesn’t matter where you’re from. I show respect to everybody and I treat everybody the way I want to be treated. Being like that tends to get me ahead because people tend to notice me, even in jobs. I’m out forward, outgoing, and I won’t do anything to piss people off. I wasn’t used to be like that back then. You looked at me wrong, I had to say something, I had to do something. I had a lot of things that I thought I had to stand up for even though they were very [indistinguishable]. But I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve learned from them, I try not to do stupid stuff again. But overall I believe my character just grew. One of the things I think about it is once a person is exposed to a lot more, or a lot, he kinda’ cannot go back to his natural habitat. I went to Georgia and people that said goodbye to me five years ago, literally five years ago, were literally still in the same yard playing cards dominoes, and I couldn’t stand it no more. I couldn’t live that way. I felt like I was cornered. I had no prospects in life. I don’t want to just live at my parent’s house, get a wife, and let my parents [indistinguishable]. It gave me more strength, it gave me more passion towards growing, learning, to become something. Not only something that my family’s proud, something that I could do for my country. And the reason I took paramedic was I was hoping to go back to Georgia. I used to buy some cars in auction here and send them back home. So I was thinking that maybe with this education I could ship vans, turn them into ambulances, and have an American-standard ambulance system with a medical field. Over there, it’s different. If someone is sick and you take them to the hospital, you pay for the bed, you pay for how many days they stay, you pay for the medicine. There’s no healthcare. Everything comes out of a person’s pockets.

…Voice008: 00:00 — 03:15: 23:25 min L: So my main intention is to improve things over there. Everything that I went through here and everything that I went through back there make me, I guess, I can’t say fearless or nothing, just made more more confident to achieve what I want to achieve, be what I want to be, and not only for myself, I want to do good to others–make my country proud. M: When I asked you this question, you said you like you both progressed and regressed. What have you lost, I guess?

L: I believe what I’ve lost is the sense of the family because people that are my age–so the way it is in Georgia, the education system–once you get in first grade up to twelfth grade you’re with the same classmates, literally, same classmates. You don’t change classrooms when you go to classes, teachers come to you. So you pretty much grow up with these people, they become your friends, your brothers, one of them may be your wife, ya’ know? And everyone that was in my grade over there, they all have families, they all have kids. They just made their own families. So I guess I’m missing out on that because in America, I’ve been through relationships, some long, some short, and I’m kinda’ like sometimes I feel like that’s maybe what I need, ya’ know? Not only feel, I miss–I want it. So I guess the most thing I’ve missed is the family part. I bet you if I was in Georgia right now at the age of 20 I would’ve got married, I probably would’ve got kids. I know so many people there that are my age that have two kids, one is 8, one is 6.

M: How old are you? L: I’m 28 years old. So when I see them, it brings me happiness. Seeing a little guy that is identical to his father and I remember him when he looked like we went to school together, all these things. That’s about it, I guess, and also I miss… I could’ve learned more about Georgian history while I was there. I didn’t take time doing it out here because I’m busy, always busy. After high school, I guess, I haven’t stopped working or school. I just had to work, support some family there, friends. To be honest, besides I got married and I got a kid, I haven’t heard good news. Somebody got into a crash, somebody passed away, somebody lost his bet–all the time there’s somebody that calls you and kinda’ ask something of you. They kinda’ demand a lot from you. I don’t miss that part. Hahaha! I’m just rambling around. But basically I missed out on the family. …Voice008: 04:10 – 10:45: 30:00 min M: What are your thoughts on American culture in general?

L: Wow, I could say a lot about that. In my opinion, to this day, when I think about America, I think about people from all over the world. Besides, I guess, Native Indians. I believe they are true Americans. But besides that, I think America was created on many people’s different cultural ideals and melting it all together. That’s why they’re so powerful and strong to this day. They have ideas from all over. Just people from everywhere, pretty much. I consider America to be a very powerful country, they are very influential, but however they do sometimes, certain things, where they just stir something up and just step aside and see what happens. That’s what they did in 2008. Russia wanted some land in Georgia. Georgia… we had friendly relationships with Russia but then America kinda’ like took our side, said that they would protect [indistinguishable]. Our Georgian president back then who got all his education in America went home and since 2005 ’till 2012, he really changed the whole mentality of Georgia. He already arrested all of these people who were criminals, mafia. There’s no corruption at all and he built new things. He wanted Georgia to go into the United Nations, but during all this process, I guess, he did two terms, 8 years, he kinda’ became a dictator. So people started hating him so they actually kicked him out and now they think the president is not really a president, he’s a vice president, but they’re so young and so inexperienced. I feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. I mean it was a success to get the word out, win the votes, not just corruption. People achieved what they wanted, that was great, but on top of that, we needed somebody who knows what they’re doing. They have a bunch of inexperienced young people in politics and government and there may be some wrong mistakes but it’ll take time, I believe, I can’t lose hope. But besides that, I’m grateful, man. America gave me all these opportunities, man, helped me out a lot. So I can only say great things about it. M: I know you said you weren’t really into politics, but what do you think about Russia today? L: Bullies. I believe they are vey bullies. They are very ignorant and I guess in some ways they are good for them, they don’t want to change, they don’t want to improve things–okay, I understand it, but you don’t have to stir some stuff up. You don’t have to influence others. You don’t have to take lands when they say no. You’ve got to let them be. So I believe Russia is a very powerful country. Not as powerful as they believe, actually, in my opinion, but I guess they have a lot of countries that are close to them that would kind of support them, but in my personal opinion, Russia is a bully. I can’t stand bullies. I kinda’ like it that Georgia is away from [indistinguishable]. I like it, but then again, you’re so close to them, they’re so huge, you kinda’ have to be careful what you gotta’ say, because they could easily do this–wipe us off the map and we’ve been coming from the fourth century and some stories in history books I read of fighting Chingis Kahn and all this and one thing he said, I believe, that stuck to my head that the two things he couldn’t conquer, Chingis–you know him, right? M: Yeah, he started Mongolia.

L: Yeah. Yeah, and also Shak Habas, he was an Ottoman king of the Ottoman Empire, Shak Habas, he mentioned that the two things he couldn’t conquer were death and Georgians. And when I heard that I was like, “woooow.” M: Wait, who said that? Chingis Kahn said this? L: No, Shak Habas. Shak Habas of the Ottoman Empire. But Mongolians, yeah, they came, the conquered us for a bit, but then we fought them off, we always fought them off, but with this era, this day and the technology, man, I don’t think it’s possible. I just want everybody to still be happy. I don’t want little stupid things to make them mad and [indistinguishable]. …but we are fearful of Russia, in that sense. M: So you said your brother works at… L: Charles Schwab. M: Charles Schwab. What’s the rest of your immediate family doing?

L: My mother was here for a minute. She actually came here at the age of 42. She went to school, got some education, she got some certificates as child development and other things. Then she worked at the workers compensation for about 8 years and then she went back home. I guess, for her, it’s much more difficult than it was for me because at that age you have all of the family and friends there. Me, for example, I was still young. That’s about it. My brother is here, he has a wife. He married a Brazilian woman, she’s wonderful. I joke with her about, Brazil’s loss the other day, she hates me for it. M: Hahahahaha!

L: I have a three year old nephew. I just adore him. I like him. I believe without coming to America, this family that I’m looking at wouldn’t happen. I’m just grateful [indistinguishable].

Memories of an Émigré

Memories of an Émigré
by Levan Tortladze, May, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

 Transcript

Levan T: What is your name?

Adriana: Adriana.

Levan T: What year were you born and where?

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

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

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

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

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

Adriana: I always dreamed about.

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

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

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

Levan T: What was her reaction?

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

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

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

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

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

Levan T: Have you heard about other immigrants?

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

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

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

Levan T: How long was the process?

Adriana: About 4 months

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

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

Levan T: How long have you been here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levan T: What good came of this hardships?

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

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

Levan T: Your greatest accomplishment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Disproving Myths, One Immigrant at a Time

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Disproving Myths, One Immigrant at a Time

by Jessica Hart, December 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

 

Interview Transcript: “Appreciation”

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

Maurizio: Alright.

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

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

Jessica: Mmhum.

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

Jess: Yes

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

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

Maurizio: I was 10 my sister was 9.

Jessica: 10?

Maurizio: Um hum

Jessica: Sister was 9?

Maurizio: Um hum

Jessica: What part of Peru are you from?

Maurizio: Capital, Lama

Jessica: Umm hum, ok.

Jessica: If you had a choice?

Maurizio: um hum?

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

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

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

Jessica: Right

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

Jessica: Do you have any regrets about leaving?

Maurizio? None

Jessica: None?

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

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

Maurizio: Nothing at all.

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

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

Jessica: Um hum

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

Jessica: Okay

Long Pause…

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

Maurizio: Straight here. I mean…

Jessica: San Francisco?

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

Jessica: Huston Texas?

Maurizio: Yea

Jessica: And do you…

Maurizio: I just…

Jessica: From Huston you came to SF.

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

Jessica: Yes

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

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

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

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

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

Person: mumbles in background

Maurizio: (Whispers) looks at me.

Jessica: It’s ok you can do it.

Maurizio: Yea.

Person: Whispers

Maurizio: $7, $7.11

Person: Whispers about pizza money

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

Maurizio: Just tell Michael to go in my wallet.

Person: Walks away…

Maurizio: and Its somehow…mumbles.

Jessica: laughs

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

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

Jessica: yea

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

Maurizio: It’s a two bedroom apartment.

Jessica: How do you feel about moving?

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica: Did she stay in Peru?

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

Jessica: Yes.

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

Jessica: umhm

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

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

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

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

Maurizio: Like money wise?

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

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

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

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

Jessica: Yea.

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

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

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

Jessica: What do you hate most about the city?

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

Jessica: AH.

Maurizio: That’s it.

Jessica: So [mumbles] bother you?

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica. Ohhh.

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

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

Maurizio: Na.

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

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

Jessica: Oh ok.

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

Maurizio: Next question.

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

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

Jessica: For you?

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

Jessica: What was your first job?

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

Jessica: La Boulange? Where’s that at?

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

Jessica: Were you a legal resident at the time?

Maurizio: When I go the job?

Jessica: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica: Oh ok.

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

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

Maurizio: Nope nothing, V nothing.

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

Maurizio: Eighteen and a half.

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

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

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

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

Jessica: Ok so as long as no body knew?

Maurizio: In truth nobody knew I was legal

Jessica: Did you tell them?

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

Jessica: Why is that?

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

Jessica: Yeah.

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

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

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

Jessica: What’s your concept of family?

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

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

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

Jessica: That place in your heart?

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

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

Maurizio: I was 18.

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

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

Jessica: For freedom or cause you had a girlfriend?

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

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

Maurizio: No.

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

Maurizio: Probably a lot more happier.

Jessica: You would be happier in Peru?

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

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

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

Jessica: So you’re bilingual?

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

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

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

Jessica: Ok, that’s nice.

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

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

Maurizio: Oh yeah, in a heartbeat.

Jessica: Ok.

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica: That’s fair.

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

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

Maurizio: Ok.

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

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

Jessica: Well, who are you right now?

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

Jessica: Mumbles…

[Phone Rings]

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

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

Jessica: A simple guy?

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

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

Maurizio: Ok that’s fine.

Possible Follow up Questions?

What life lesson did you learn from your father?

What life lesson did you learn from your mother?

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