The Maze

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The bottom block features mazes on all sides, while the top two feature Buddhist and Chinese animal symbolism.

The Maze

by Thea Zhang, May 2019

This is a story of a girl named Carey, who immigrated to the United States from China during childhood. In her adolescence, she decided to become an artist. Roberto Bolaño was a Chilean writer and poet, who represents “the most significant Latin American literary voice” in the last century and suggests that exiles is in a search for identity. According to his article “Exiles,” “To be exiled is not to disappear but to shrink, to slowly or quickly get smaller and smaller until we reach our real height, the true height of the self” (Bolaño 1). The author states exile as a process of narrowing down a vast world of possibilities, either slow or fast growth to discover the truth about oneself. In addition, Bolaño says, “Many of the exiled, freighted with more suffering than reasons to leave, would reject this statement” (1). In some but not all cases, while exile can be a journey of suffering for forced immigrants, that is not necessarily a route one has to go through. Instead, the woman in this story did not suffer from a harsh transition of immigration. Her family simply hoped for a better life. For Carey, exile involves defining one’s identity throughout the various stages, and all of these stages are associated with art. The shifts in culture with constant movements made Carey fragmented into different identities. Inside her soul, her world remains dedicated to the Chinese tradition with her family and childhood memories, whereas, outside, she integrates language and education with the new culture as an American. Art has been a medium of freedom and liberty through its creative form of self-expression and personal healing, allowing Carey to adapt herself to a new environment that comes with different languages and lifestyles, and to imagine herself as whole.

I met Carey on the first day of school in the fall of 2018. Through her introduction in class, I learned that she was born in southern China and grew up in different parts of China. Since her father was from Guangdong Province and her mother was from Sichuan Province, she moved back and forth between these two provinces for the first nine years of her life. She immigrated to the United States when she was nine. Since then, she has been living in San Francisco for almost fifteen years. During the continuation of my interview with her, she stated that life is like a maze. She was lost until she found art was a way to express herself, and to clarify her identity as a whole, so she could find a way out of a maze. Nevertheless, with time and patience, Carey has been able to start to overcome the challenges in her life.

Carey describes her young childhood as having constant movements because her parents come from different cities in China; the many uncertain situations she found herself in, each with many possibilities, became increasingly confusing in terms of identity. These small movements, the movements between a small village and a metropolis, lead not to unification but to fragmentation. Whereas Sichuan is a province in southwest China, Guangdong is a coastal province of southeast China. She states:

“I was born in Guangdong province. But I moved to Sichuan province for one year, and then moved back to Guangdong for better education. Moving to and fro between those two hometowns. In total, I stayed in Guangdong for around seven years. After that, I immigrated to the United States.”

For one year, when she was seven years old, she lived in a small village in Sichuan Province, a small community where all villagers knew each other as neighbors. She remembers growing up with her sibling and playmates in the village. One of her most vivid childhood memories is of a night when she was running in the playground and was carrying a colorful lantern during the mid-autumn festival, a traditional festival in China. Growing up in a small town is an experience unlike any other regarding childhood memories, even though she was raised by a strict mother, who often told her to come home early and did not allow sleepovers. It was enjoyable, full of love and laughters. Occasionally, she reminisces over her fond childhood memories. However, comparing these two cities, she says, “I like Guangdong more because it was more like a city. Sichuan was just like a small town that filled with mud and dirt, a rural place.” The transitions from a small village to a metropolis provided different viewpoints of the country for her. When she was nine, she started to draw mazes, whether she was in school or at home. Perhaps she was subconsciously trying to find a way home. The concept of home brought her uncertainty in the transitional period, causing small fragmentations that caused her to feel she had two roles within her childhood, and she had to act differently in different situations.

The education system and school life form a significant part of her identity; as a student, Carey transferred from another country and felt split into multiple selves in a sense due to cultural differences. Carey migrated from China to the United States in 2005, with her parents and her younger sister. She describes, “I did not know the reason that I immigrated to the United States because I was too young. My father and mother decided to come here, so I have no choice.” Although it was not her choice to make the life-changing decision, it symbolizes a turning point of her life. According to “Exiles,” Bolaño claims, “Exile, in most cases, is a voluntary decision” (3). In this case, her parents chose to leave their hometown to make a better life in a different country. During her first year in the United States, Carey struggled with her transition from China. The most significant movement in her life happened when she was nine, in the fourth grade in elementary school, which was only a year and a half from graduation. She transferred to a primary school in America. Sita Patel, a psychologist, in a study on newcomer immigrant adolescents that was published in School Psychology Quarterly, states: “Newcomer adolescent immigrants are a particularly vulnerable population…[a]s they face the simultaneous challenges of rapid developmental changes and acculturation-related stressors and adjustment” (1). Adolescent immigrants appear to be a vulnerable group. On top of the fact that they face a variety of difficulties in adjustment, the interactive role of family stressors on school outcomes brings out adverse psychological pressures. Initially, she created multiple identities, and did not feel like an American, even though she had lived in America for a long time. Following a different education system in America, Carey studied in middle school for three years, in high school for four years, and has studied in college for four years until now. The cultural environment within the education system and at home broke down into two directions; Inside her home life, her family became a pressure on her school life. Outside, in the world of her school, the different education system was also confusing. Carey had to code-switch and act differently in the two different environments.

The language differences act as a barrier between the two parts of her world; Carey grew up between two cultures and had to come up with ways to integrate both of her sides to redefine herself as a whole. In the new country, there were language barriers and cultural differences, which hindered her ability to adjust. Carey states, “I speak Chinese at home, but I speak English everywhere else. Not only Chinese, but I also integrated Chinese and English with my family. Sometimes, it also comes with Sichuanese and Cantonese.” Sichuanese and Cantonese are dialects of Chinese. Her family’s holding onto her traditional side is a way of maintaining traditional culture to express themselves more liberally. Sharon Thompson is a counselor who is working with the Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation, and Interpreter Training at Troy University. Her article provides an explanation of creative skills and techniques for counselors when working with children who function as language brokers, who have been utilized by their family to translate and interpret information within other cultures and environments. According to her article in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling, “One of the most significant challenges for these individuals is communication within their new culture” (Thompson et al.). In this case, Carey is considered as the language broker in her family, which creates a significant challenge for her to communicate within American culture in English. Furthermore, intra-family relations also form foundations of her identity. Eileen McGann, an art therapist and an editorial board member who is working with Art Therapy Outreach Center, in the Journal of Emotional Abuse, presents with other scholars a pathway with different factors for the adolescent to achieve the consolidation of one’s identity. They state:

“[An] adolescent must experience and internalize validation from her immediate community and the culture at large. For young women of color, the effects of intra-family prejudice and societal racism can severely compromise their ability to embrace their ethnic identity” (McGann et al.).

The article shows that a confusing religious identity with a confusing sense of nationality can lead to more misunderstanding, which causes more fragmentations, especially for female adolescents of color. To maintain inner solidarity with a group’s ideals and identity is an essential stage in identity formation. In the process of identity formation, Carey is suggesting that retaining her Chinese culture with her family creates a sense of belonging and integrating a new language creates a new way to consolidate her identity.

The passport symbolizes the turning point in her identity transformation from Chinese to American; however, Carey sees home as a narrative construction across two countries with little differences and more similarities. While most immigrants would compare their hometowns to America in many different ways from their expectations that they had before the move, Carey does not notice many differences between San Francisco, Guangdong, and Sichuan as she considers these cities are all her home. There are very small differences between these two countries that she does not considers significant. She states, “The only difference between America and China that I could think of is the nightlife, whereas in the U.S. when it is getting dark, no one would hand out. In China, you can stay until midnight.” The society in America is more individualized, compared with the lifestyle she had in China, and lacks a sense of community. But she also reflects, “The same thing is life; you still have to live and work.” Apparently, she does not notice many differences between these two countries. Life remains the same wherever she is. Until now, she considers herself as an American due to the U.S. passport. She states, “I am a U.S. citizen now. Before I had a China passport, I would say that I was an immigrant. But now that I am not.” The Chinese passport carried a part of her previous identity, and the U.S. passport creates a new one. This change in form stands for a turning point that home is a narrative for Carey, instead of a place or a location. Hanoch Flum, a professor at Ben-Guion University of the Negev, suggests that identity development plays a significant role in the context of cultural transition. From a psychosocial and sociocultural perspective, the author investigates “self-continuity” and identity integration in light of “inherent discontinuity” among young immigrants. He claims, “Their negotiations of identity, with a focus on their narrative construction of past, present, and future across life domains (education, career, military service, family), are illustrated in a variety of developmental paths” (Flum). The identity of young immigrants is complex due to the narrative construction of their entire life. Seemingly, Carey copes well with her new identities, which mix both sides; her home plays an important role in a variety of developmental paths. Even after creating a new self, she continues to question her identity despite the certification of her physical identity; in fact, these feelings of being lost and fragmented run through Carey’s core.

The process of experiencing different types of art has challenged her perspective of her identity. While she is in exile in the United States, art allows her to incorporate any aspect of her identity freely. At the very beginning, Carey wanted to experience a variety of art classes in the school. Carey states, “I was not sure what kind of art I wanted to take at first. Therefore, I decided to take every kind of art classes; then I would know which kind I like.” By learning and assimilating the art world, she can shape her views of reality gradually. Besides, each kind of art presents a different aspect of herself. Along with a group of scholars, Rachel Ettun, who is affiliated with Rambam Medical Center, in an article on the study of the connections between art and healing and spirit, with the title of “Transforming Pain into Beauty,” states:

“From drawing to sculpture…the arts can have a major impact on patients’ spiritual well-being and health. The arts empower patients to fulfill the basic human drive to create and give patients a sense of possibility. Through creative expression, patients regain a feeling of wholeness, individually and as part of the larger world.” (Ettun et al.)

This quotation shows that the arts not only can fulfill the basic actuation of creativity but also provide a sense of possibility. Exploring in the art world, Carey can achieve wholeness and can be independent in the world. Through the exploration of different kinds of art, she finds out her favorite is sculpture, which allows her to build up her world through the project. However, she uses her creativity to find ways to incorporate cultural aspects of both her identities. Since then, Carey has discovered her interest in art and pursued the goals earnestly: earning a degree and becoming an artist. Ceramics was the beginning of her exploration of art, as a medium of freedom. Carey says:

“I studied ceramics for two years in high school includes beginning ceramic and intermediate ceramic. The ceramic classes in college were interesting too. Whereas I used my hand to make in high school, I learned how to use the machine to make in college. I have more options to create my work, more materials, more techniques for ceramic.”

She has studied ceramics for more than five years. By learning more materials and techniques, she can access more options to express herself. Initially, she did not know what culture to identify with, which traditions to embrace or how to maintain her family’s identity and the Chinese status while she grew up. But through art, she finds a way out of the maze created by these transitions.

The cultural diversity of San Francisco has helped help Carey begin to construct an American identity because she is able to maintain her Chinese culture in the meantime with more freedom. Carey can redefine herself and discover a sense of belonging through art while she spreads Chinese culture, which she is familiar with. Carey says, “As a Chinese American, I think I know Chinese style better than the others here. Therefore, I want to make more about it and let everyone know what Chinese style looks like.” The colorful lanterns in the Chinatown of San Francisco also light up a small part of Carey’s identity. The lamps, painted in the traditional Chinese colors of red, gold and green, make Grant Avenue one of the brightest streets in the city at night. Ellen Dissanayake, an American author and scholar that specifically focuses on the area of “the anthropological exploration of art and culture,” claims, “Art belongs to everyone and is a natural part of human behavior.” Also, she can be braver and stronger in the art world with more freedom. Carey states, “But art, you do not need to think of it. Even you made a mistake; it is still art.” From her perspective, art is made of creativity and freedom. When we make a mistake, we must correct it adequately as quickly as possible. According to a, American cartoonist and writer, Scott Adams, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Allowing people to make mistakes can be liberating for one’s creativity. In the world of pure art, Carey does not need to be afraid of making mistakes. Even though she makes mistakes in her artworks, she can afford the consequences. While allowing herself to make mistakes without fear of failure can be liberating for creativity, she can also use art as a medium of freedom to reconstruct her fragmented identity. Her aesthetic is that of freedom and imagination, mixing two such cultural elements with her identity, which mixes the Chinese and American. It shows that Carey wanted to incorporate different aspects to solidify a sense of self through the discovery of imagination.

Carey experienced exile when she was a child and did not have a choice. She sees art as a tool to reconstruct her fragmented identity with freedom and liberty by following herself to achieve happiness. Carey describes, “Art is freedom, happy and interesting to me. Art is like walking around and design.” Most of the time, instead of teamwork or collaborations with others, she enjoys working by herself. She likes to bring the artworks home and design them because it makes her feel comfortable working alone. When it comes to the question of whether art is healing, Carey answers firmly, “Absolutely. Art will not make me feel tired and frustrated. When I get started on a new piece of artwork, I would be one hundred percent focus on it.” For Carey, designing and creating are enjoyable processes. Caelan Kuban, a doctor of psychiatry at UC Irvine, suggests that art helps people to express themselves. In her journal article “Healing Trauma Through Art,” Kuban says, “Art also provides youth with a medium to express and explore images of self that are strength-based and resilience-focused.” Art can be a trusted medium for self-expressing and imagination. Art can help in times of stress by relieving oneself from any situation; for Carey, art can be a way for her to express herself and make it clear to find her identity through imaginations.

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Through the processes of making artworks, she feels peaceful and comfortable by expressing her opinions and ideas. In the advanced sculpture class in spring, students need to use a hundred words to presents the meaning of their life in a sculpture. Carey states, “For the sculpture project, I made a tree. The meaning of tree is just like our life; the tree branch is the choices that leading us to different directions. It was a kind of lifestyle, which has good parts and bad parts, positive side and negative side. Through the tree, you can see my life.” The leaves are sparse, few and far between, which means her life experiences are not enough. She explains, “If my tree has a lot of leaves on it, that means I already have many experiences, my life will be complete.” The tree represents the meaning of her life with her different identities. One example of the use of a tree is by Everett Middle School in San Francisco, which lost a student to gun violence in 2001. Laurie Marshall as an art educator, sharing her philosophical context on how art can be used as peace building. She states, “Each year they devote a week to Peace Studies. In 2011, they created the Cypress Singing Tree of Peace, where students share the action, they plan to take into their community to create peace” (Marshall). The author claims that art can be healing for the individual and peace building through the creation of the tree. Following the material and the tools particular to an artwork also allows people to think and follow the thoughts of the material. Herbert Read, an English art historian and philosopher who is best known for numerous books on art, states in Modern Sculpture, “It is while carving stone that you discover the spirit of your material and the properties particular to it. Your hand thinks and follows the thoughts of the material.” During the art-making processes, the medium of arts often sustains efforts and struggles. In the meantime, people may paint an image, or cut the plaster and clay to reform a sculpture. Engaging with art materials is a sensory experience that often leads to a release of emotions. Carey often worried about her future. Making a piece of artwork to discover the spirit of its components can also be a way of relieving the daily stress of her life. The future is unknown, but with the use of art as a medium, she expresses all the feelings to complete her identity.

Her changing concept of home caused Carey to separate into multiple identities; by maintaining traditions and expressing herself through the creativity and imagination of art to find herself as a whole with freedom, she can redefine her identity through the discovery of art and the works of art in the time of exile. By combining Chinese and American styles together, she can unify her identities. Using culture and creativity is a way for Carey not only to hold on to her old identity but also to help create a new one for her own. One could argue that tradition does not create anything new, that it is only a way to remember the past. However, past, present and future form a narrative construction that spans across our lives. To confront the past and better face the future, the beauty of culture and art allows people to express themselves in their ways and learn new ways through creativity and imagination. It can draw an emotional connection across different cultures and bring a new way for people to establish themselves, and their families. For Carey, her immigration forced her to construct a new identity and to find a place to belong during the transition from childhood to adulthood. Exile can create the fragmentation of life, but through the healing process of creativity and imagination within art, people can conquer the difficulties in life. Although Carey struggled with her new responsibilities as an adult in the U.S., she will eventually manage to overcome her difficulties and worries, to embrace the world of freedom.

 

Works Cited

Arévalo, S. Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Presidential Task Force on Immigration. American Psychological Association.Washington, DC: 2012.

Bolaño, Roberto. Exiles. University of California Press, Apr. 2011.

Dissanayake, E. Self-taught art: The culture and aesthetics of American vernacular art. Very like art: Self-taught art from an ethological perspective. Outsider art in C.Russell, University Press of Mississippi, 2001, pp. 35–46.

Ettun, Rachel, et al. “Transforming Pain into Beauty: On Art, Healing, and Care for the Spirit.” Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (ECAM), vol. 2014, Jan. 2014, pp. 1–7. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1155/2014/789852.

Frantz, Gilda. “Creativity and Healing.” Psychological Perspectives, vol. 59, no. 2, Apr. 2016, pp. 242–251. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00332925.2016.1170567.

Flum, Hanoch, and Tamara Buzukashvili. “Identity Development and Future Orientation in Immigrant Adolescents and Young Adults: A Narrative View of Cultural Transitions from Ethiopia to Israel.” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, no. 160, Jan. 2018, pp. 15–30. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1176356&site=eds-live.

Lin, Carey. Personal Interview. March 23, 2019.

Marshall, Laurie. “Art as Peace Building.” Art Education, vol. 67, no. 3, May 2014, pp. 37–43. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1046775&site=eds-live.

Martin, F.David. “Sculpture and ‘Truth to Things.’” Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 13, no. 2, Apr. 1979, pp. 11–32. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ215391&site=eds-live.

McGann, Eileen P. “Color Me Beautiful: Racism, Identity Formation, and Art Therapy.” Journal of Emotional Abuse, vol. 6, no. 2/3, June 2006, pp. 197–217. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1300/J135v06n02_12.

Patel, Sita G., et al. “Newcomer Immigrant Adolescents: A Mixed-Methods Examination of Family Stressors and School Outcomes.” School Psychology Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 163–180. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/spq0000140.

Read, Herbert. A Concise History of Modern Sculpture. New York: Praeger, 1964. Print.

Sickler-Voigt, Debrah C. “Carving for the Soul: Life Lessons from Self-Taught Artist O. L. Samuels.” Art Education, vol. 59, no. 3, May 2006, pp. 25–32. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ740333&site=eds-live.

Thompson, Sharon R., et al. “Using Altered Art for Children Who Language Broker: Navigating Roles and Transitions.” Journal of Mental Health Counseling, vol. 40, no. 4, Oct. 2018, pp. 302–315. EBSCOhost, doi:10.17744/mehc.40.4.03.

 

Sample Interview Transcripts

Interview Topic: Immigration, Art, Freedom

Interviewee: Carey Lin

Interviewer: Thea Zhang

Interview Date: March 23, 2019

 

Carey Lin: My name is Xia Lin, I am 24 years old and I am a student.

Thea Zhang: What are you doing lately? School and work?

CL: School, Work and to earn more money

TZ: Where did you grow up?

CL: I grew up in China and I came here for a better life. Okay, just tell the truth. I did not know the reason that I was immigrated to the United States because I was too young. My father and mother decided to come here, so I have no ideas

TZ: Where were you born? Where did you originally come from?

CL: I was born in Guangdong province. But then I moved to Sichuan for 1 year from sixth grade to seventh grade to have school over there, and then moved back to Guangdong, I stayed in

Guangdong around six or seven years. After that, I immigrated to the United States. I like Guangdong more, because it was more like a city. Sichuan was just like a small town that fulled of mud and dirty, a rural place.

TZ: Do you consider yourself as an immigrant?

CL: You can say that, but right now I am not. I am a U.S. citizen now. Before I had a China passport, I was said that I was an immigrant.

TZ: What are the differences or similarities between China and America?

CL: Compare to China, I like the weather here. Sometimes it is too hot and sometimes it is too cold. Cause I do not like to wear t-shirt, I like to wear hoodies stuff. But the food is good and then it is a safety place. The biggest different of these two countries; In the U.S., when it is getting dark, no one would hand out. But in China, you can do that, and you can stay until midnight. The same thing is the life, you still have to live and work. It depends on what kind of life you want.

Of course, I like Chinese food, because I am Chinese. Even though I am a American, I eat Chinese food at home. This is kind of habit things. But at here I do not hand out outside, so mostly it just like burgers, bagel, pizza. (These kinds of American foods.)

TZ: Do you consider move back to China?

CL: Who knows, maybe. I would say that if I graduate from college.

TZ: What details can you tell me about your family?

CL: There are four people in my family including me. Father, mother, my younger sister and me.

TZ: Can you describe your relationship with your sister?

CL: Pretty good, sometimes we fight and sometimes we hand out, that is called sister. The relationship between my parents and I is good too. Not fights, we usually hand out and talk so much so we don’t have secrets at all. Sometimes we will say it. Mostly with my mother, she is just like my friend. Dad is dad. Because he is a man. Less communication with more distance.

We were talk to each other only when we were at home or when I met him. But I would say the relationship between us is still good. Sometimes we will help and respect each other. We don’t fight a lot. Last time we fight was because of my sister, she and I fought each other. And my dad always says, ‘your sister is young, and you are the older one, you should let her’. That was long time ago, I was 12 years old by then when I was a teenager. We did not fight during this long period.

TZ: What is the biggest challenge you faced right now?

CL: Education. And then you have to work. I mean, after you graduate from college you have to find a job. Then buy a house and then you have to leave. And the thing is that I have to transfer, that is a challenge for me. The biggest challenge for me is future. Because you never know your future; I am still feeling confused.

I want to be a maze design. Because I like to draw maze. If I can find any job about maze, I will do whatever I can. It does not matter it that drawing or any others. Painter is just paint anything, but maze designer is only about maze. I was just thinking of this right now. In general, just be an artist.

TZ: How to balance work and study?

CL: The most important thing is to schedule your time. I have two part-time jobs right now. So, scheduling a good job hour. Four days for work and two days school.

TZ: How do you feels about college? Years?

CL: Stress and challenge. This is my fourth year in college. The classes are different and especially English. And math is difficult, I hate math. But biology is fine, because the teacher is good and helpful. When the teacher was caring and wanted to help, that make me felt more comfortable and less stressful.

In 2005, I was at the fourth grade in elementary school. I still did not graduate from China. And then I moved here and took fourth grade class for only half semester. So, I got one and half year elementary school in America, three years for middle school, four years for high school and then four years for college. From 2005 until now.

TZ: What are the differences between high school and college?

CL: I want to be a maze design. Because I like to draw maze. If I can find any job about maze, I will do whatever I can. It doesn’t matter I like high school. It was less stressful even for Math and English, because I don’t care. I don’t care about the grades, but I need to care about it for transfer right now, I don’t want to spend another year in college. Mostly I got good grades, but it depends on teachers. High school is youth to me; friends, hand out, no stress. I did not have a job by then (No pressure on life too). Basically, it was very simple: wake up, go to school, hand out with friends at lunchtime in cafeteria, then back to home. I did not feel any stress about English and Math, because it spent one year to take the course and now is just one semester. So, you can see how fast it is and I can take my time to learn math.

TZ: What was your favorite subject in school?

CL: I studied ceramic for two years in high school. Including Beginning ceramic and AP (college level) ceramic. Four and half a week for two years. The ceramic classes in college were interesting too. I learnt how to use the machine to make in college and I used my hand to make in high school. In college, I have more options to create my work, more materials, more techniques for ceramic. There’s no essay, test, quiz and homework. So that I like it.

TZ: What make you decided your major in Art?

CL: I decided my major in art because I like it, any kind of art. I was not sure what kind of art I wanted to take at first. So, I decided to take every kinds of art then I would know which kind I like. My favorite is sculpture, I like to build stuffs.

TZ: How to build a sculpture project?

CL: Like the wood project, the first semester of sculpture, I made the wood goldfish. I knew exactly what to do, and then I could enjoy it. But if I don’t know what to do, it just stuck in the first stage and feels stressful in the rest of that class.

The processes to build the goldfish: first, the teacher asked me to design an animal with movement. Second, I did not want to do it too complicated and I wanted to keep it simple. So, I thought of fish would be so much easier for me. The reason why I choose goldfish because my house has it and it is for Chinese style. Then, the teacher showed us how to do it: use three woods, use tools to shape it and design it then make it in 3D (use machine to make the fish skin cut the wood smaller). Think, draw, then make it real. I think I know Chinese style better than the others. So, I want to make more about it and let everyone know what Chinese style is looks like. I tend to be a worker; I don’t like to sit at the chair, and I liked to move. Even drawing, I can walk around, thinking about it and then drawing instead of sitting still all the time. That’s why I don’t like drawing that much, I just think in my mind.

 

TZ: Can you describe ‘Art’? What is it to you? How do you feel about it?

CL: Art is freedom, happy and interesting to me. Art is like walking around and design. Not like the other jobs, you need to sit in an office and type at computer. Most of the time, you can work alone. I don’t like teamwork. You just need to feel about yourself and focus on yourself. If someone watching me, I feel so weird. That’s why at Chinese brush painting class, I don’t usually at class doing my stuff, I liked to bring it home and draw because it feels more comfortable to working alone.

TZ: Do you feel art is healing?

CL: Yes, because it will make me feel not tired anymore and focus. If I feel that is not interesting, then it will make me want to sleep. But art make me feel not tired.

TZ: Do you have a favorite artist?

CL: Maya Lin.

TZ: Or any specific artwork that you like?

CL: No. Just any sculpture and wood, or about maze.

TZ: You are taking sculpture and Chinese brush painting right now. So, what do you do to prepare for a art work?

CL: I will be painting in my house and finish the sculpture at school, because of the materials and machines. For sculpture I made a tree. The meaning of tree is just like our life, the tree branch is like our choices that leading us to different directions. It was kind of like a lifestyle, which have good parts and bad parts, positive side and negative side. Through the tree, you can see my life. Cause that’s my project. I can describe myself as a baby tree and grew up to be strong. The leaves depend on the things that I had done in my time. The tree is done by now. But it still growing up and you never know what kind of tree it would be. The tree is implying the meaning of who you are. The leaves are sparse, few and far between, which means my life experiences is not that enough. If my tree has a lot of leaves on it, that’s means I already have many experiences, my life has been complete. The lack of experience is because I did not finish school and education.

TZ: Why are you choosing this tree?

CL: At first, the teacher asked me to think about a hundred words for people life like passion, sign and verbs like smell, taste. Then I was choosing the tree, I think the tree is contained those hundred words you are facing. Only tree can present the hundred words through the leaves and branches.

TZ: What kind of materiel you use for it?

CL: Using wires and tapes. I used wires to control the tree branches, to hold and tight and to cover it. Used tapes to make the rolling, little pieces and stick on the roll made it more like a tree. I draw it done first. When I am doing this project, I was thinking about it all the time even when I was sleeping. What should I do and making plan, I was focus on it.

TZ: Can you tell me the differences between a art work and an essay?

CL: (laughs) I felt giving up on essay. You have to think about it in mind, think about verbs and run-on sentences. But art, you don’t have to think of it. Even you make a mistake, it is still art. And I don’t like to communicate with people. I prefer work alone.

 

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

 

Meet Happiness

picture -Tina

Meet Happiness

by Tingting Xu, June 2018

The sea reaches out its longings, and eventually meets the sky on the horizon. If dream walks far enough, it would probably meet happiness in the end.—Angela Chang, from one of her  popular Chinese songs

America has often been viewed as the land of opportunity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world come to the United States and try to seek their fortunes. How can they eventually climb the ladder of success or happiness? To them, time is like a piece of land. A dream is like a seed, waiting for someone to come plant it. Dalu was one of those people who came to America and tried to pursue his own dream here. His dream was simple, making more money and owning a fancy car, a Rolls-Royce, which he saw as a symbol of success. However, while the dream was beautiful, the reality was cruel. While he first arrived in the United States in 1986, he felt disappointed because he faced many challenges like being undocumented in the U.S., working for low wages in restaurants, and struggling with the language barrier. I first met him in September 2016, when I moved into a new house that was bigger than my previous one, in order to prepare for the birth of my child. Thus, he became my new neighbor. When I think back on him, I remember he always wore worn work clothes and a pair of sneakers stained with paint. He was a tall figure with slightly curved shoulder, who seemed to be full of stories. His face was covered with wrinkles, but I could still see that he had probably been a handsome man when he was young. Although Dalu always believed that success (for himself) meant owning a fancy car or having wealth that could be envied by others, he had an epiphany when he suffered from a brain disease that almost took his life; this made him see life as fragile, so he started to focus on the essence of life through reading the Bible and now hopes to create more long-term meaningful achievements by doing volunteer work at his church and spending his holidays traveling with his family.

Dalu was born 1963 in XianZu Town near Chongqing. He said, “My hometown was surrounded by mountains and had picturesque scenery. It was very beautiful, clean, and was surrounded by nature.” He had an elder sister and brother. He was the youngest child. Although Dalu’s family was not rich and his parents planted vegetables and fruit for survival, he had a happy childhood because he could stay with his parents when they were working in the mountains. Dalu said, “They [his parents] had little chance to receive education, so I knew knowledge was important because my mother always told me that you needed to study hard; otherwise you would end up like us [poor].” According to “Education And Poverty, Relationship and Concerns. A Case For Kenya,” a journal article by Maiyo K. Julius, who is a professor at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, “Education is widely accepted as the main exit route from poverty. It is the backbone of growth and development of individuals and the nation” (73). Although pockets of poverty also exist in developed countries, this poverty caused by lacking education is more common in developing countries, particularly in rural areas. Dalu didn’t want to repeat his parents’ lives, so he studied hard and eventually graduated with honors and was assigned to a famous factory in Chongqing province as a manager in 1982. He then worked at this factory for almost four years. One day, his director found him and asked him if he would like to go the United States to work because there was a job vacancy there. He immediately agreed because it was America, a dream country that was represented by his dream car (Rolls-Royce). One day in 1986, Dalu took an airplane, departed from Shenzhen, passed over Hong Kong and Japan, and finally landed at the San Francisco International Airport alone. However, while the dream was beautiful, reality was tough. His job was to install and repair generators for hospitals and other buildings. He faced the challenge of working on the night shift because these machines were usually off at night. This dangerous work (repairing generators) with a poor schedule caused Dalu to feel stressed and tired.

He felt stuck because he desired to move back home due to homesickness and his soon-to-be- expiring visa, but the news that his friends had been sent to jail during the special period of economic restructuring in China made him feel scared to return home. Instead, he decided to stay in the U.S. After the Cultural Revolution, a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976 which was launched by Mao Zedong, public ownership dominated. All machines, technology, and factories were owned by the government. The government controlled everything. With the passage of time, public ownership was dismantled. Private ownership became dominant around 1990. Many workers were laid off and a lot of factories dissolved. The workers took some equipment and materials from the factories and sold it off, in an attempt to make up for the low government wages. Some leaders who had real power had taken away a large amount of equipment, technology, and skilled employees early, and set up their own companies. Some of these leaders were among the first generation that was able to become rich at that time. However, these people were very rare and extremely lucky. Most of the people who had power or took equipment were punished by the government and went to jail. During this period, the political situation was turbulent. The government began frantically suppressing intellectuals in order to maintain order and eliminating groups who might be a threat to the government’s interests. His friends were involved in these cases and were imprisoned in China. Back in the U.S., Dalu had been working in San Francisco for nearly a year. The factory that had sent him to America had disintegrated due to these events in China. Due to his homesickness, he was willing to return to home, but when he called his mother in China, his mother strongly advised him not to by saying, “Dalu, do not come back anytime soon; it’s too risky. Everything is crazy; Jie and Hong [Dalu’s friends] were captured [sent to jail]. So just stay there [in the U.S.] and come back later.” Dalu not only felt conflicted because he was scared to go back, but also felt nervous due to his visa expiring soon, which forced him to face the challenge of being an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. However, he never regretted his choice to stay in the U.S. He said, “I was lucky because I stayed here [in the U.S.]. If I went back [to China] at that period, I would have been captured [got through in jail].”

Dalu felt disappointed and overwhelmed because of the fact that he could only find lower wage jobs in restaurants due to the language barrier and documentation issues in the U.S., which directly contradicted the belief that he had previously held that he could find a better job and salary here. He had left his previous workplace because he was worried that the immigration office would find him due to the expired visa. In order to survive, he went to a restaurant called Wang Ji, working as a handyman six days a week. The wage was $500 a month, $4.5 per hour. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, upholds the idea that equal rights apply to all people. The Declaration states, “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work” (Article 23.2). It is clear that $4.5 per hour paying is a violation of his human right to “equal pay for equal work,” given that the minimum wage was $8 per hour. His jobs were to carry things, clean the toilets, wipe glass, cut vegetables, and wash dishes. The restaurant’s working hours were from 9am to 10pm. He had no better option because there would be no income if he didn’t work, and he had to pay his rent. In fact, a large number of newcomers still work at jobs that didn’t utilize their full skill set mainly because of the language barrier. Bolei Liu is a Master’s student in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. His research interests lie in economic sociology, labor market, and immigration studies. In the article “Getting a Job in Flushing: A Qualitative Study on Chinese Immigrants’ Job-Finding and Job Transitions in an Ethnic Enclave,” Liu listed an example: “Such a guy who has no English proficiency, no legal status, no citizenship, you have no rights to choose your job. Somehow, it is the job that chooses [sic] you” (126). He also pointed out that for any worker, “education is the most significant human capital predictor of earnings and labor market success,” and “specific skills are an important indicator of high-paying jobs” (127). Some researchers also consider that “education to be of great importance for the success in the labor markets “ (127 qtd in Pérez and Muñoz). Therefore, wages are usually influenced by education, English language ability, and U.S. job experience. On the other hand, legal status does not have a much significant influence on the wages of low-income immigrants. Dalu also felt loneliness and helplessness because of his cruel reality. Although he saw plenty of opportunities in the U.S., there were still many uncertainties in his heart due to his documentation issue and the poor income. However, he had no better choice but choosing a way to work excessively to distract from his homesickness and unhappiness.

While he felt loneliness and lacked a sense of belonging in America, one of his coworkers at the restaurant helped him overcome this tough time by bringing him to a church where he could learn English, and it was there that he met his wife. One of his coworkers, Tim, realized his unhappiness. In order to reduce his loneliness and nostalgia, Tim brought him to church. Since then, Dalu felt that he had a new life. He went to church almost every week. He said, “I went to church because I wanted to learn English there.” His English level had some improvement after weeks of regular study. Moreover, through studying and understanding of the Bible, he became aware of the importance of God and gradually came to believe in God’s existence. He said, “I used to believe in Buddhism when I was in China. The idea of Buddhism does nothing, but free people from desire. On the other hand, what Christ advocates are to do good things, to give, to help and extend a hand to more people to enable them to escape from evil.” Therefore, he gradually changed his mind and became a convert to Christianity. In addition, he met his wife in church and they married in 1988. He was able to gain a green card quickly because his wife was a citizen. They had their first baby in 1990, and then another one in 1994. His life became more difficult because of his two sons. He also felt stressed and stuck because he wanted to learn more useful knowledge (English and other work-related skills), but he didn’t have enough time because he had to work to support his family due to their poor economic situation.

After starting a family, Dalu shouldered the responsibility of supporting their lives; he started work like a maniac. Although the manic work, which had exceptionally long hours, could improve the quality of his family’s lives, he ignored that what his children needed most was a warm, emotionally engaged and a supportive father, not just money. He chose to go to a construction company because he thought that his skills related to installing hydropower could come in handy there. Through a friend’s introduction, Dalu entered into a construction company and began to work in wall painting, “because I thought wall painting was the easiest to learn.” At that time, he could earn 40 dollars a day. Then he did woodworking, plumbing, and all kinds of construction work. One year later, when he had completely mastered all the decoration techniques, he left the decoration company and started his own business. In 1991, someone introduced him to a project. “My first business was to help people paint the exterior of their houses. I was both the boss and the worker. I got up early, took the bus, and went to the employer’s home. Every day I worked until dark, sometimes even midnight. It was hard to describe the tiredness I felt, but I also was very excited because in ten day’s work I could earn $1,200 which was several times what I made at the restaurant,” he said. In the article “Gendered Processes of Adaptation: Understanding Parent-Child Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families,” by Desirée B. Qin, who is an Associate Professor at Harvard University, she studies the mental health of high achieving Asian American students and the cultural differences in parenting including “tiger mothers.” Dr. Qin proved that work stress and adaptation difficulties had a “significant impact on the parents’ relationship with their children,” and “children were also likely to be directly influenced by the bad tempers of unhappy or stressed-out parents, particularly fathers” (467). So the physical and psychological absence of a father (Dalu) in his sons’ lives might have led to his sons’ unhappiness. These children needed Dalu’s guidance and support as they navigated their way in a completely new cultural environment. Moreover, in order to make more money, he usually worked until midnight for the next whole year. He learned English on the weekend because he planned to take the license. “I took the exam twice and finally got my license,” he said. He added, “those years were my most glorious period [he earned a lot of money and gained the license].” After a few years hard work, he bought a car (even though it was not his dream Rolls-Royce), and took out a loan to purchase a house. It seemed like his dream had become a reality. However, as a father, Dalu, should have accompanied his sons while they grow up happily and guide their development, but due to his absence in his sons’ lives, the relationship between him and his sons became weaker. Moreover, the high-intensity work and stress posed a danger to his health.

Dalu not only had to adjust to a new cultural, linguistic, social and economic system, but he also had to overcome some unexpected obstacles like health issues, which might have been caused by his previously stressful life experiences. His first major incident occurred at about 6 o’clock one morning in 1998. He still clearly remembers the sudden head pain, which triggered vomiting. His wife was extremely scared and unable to deal with this situation. His neighbor was exercising in the yard. The neighbor, seeing his poor condition, immediately called 911. Soon, Dalu was admitted to the hospital. After first-aid measures, he was out of danger. The doctor had detected that he had a congenital vascular malformation (in his forebrain) and must be operated immediately. “When I woke up after about 14-hour surgery, I saw a doctor smiling at me. I knew that I was saved,” he said. In the next ten days of hospitalization, he often stood by the bedside and watched out the window, the people walking around, the vehicles shuttling, the trees rustling. “I felt as if they did not have any relationship with me. It seemed that I stayed in another world,” Dalu recalled. In the journal article “Health Disparities Among Immigrant and Non-immigrant Elders: The Association of Acculturation and Education,” by Terry Y. Lum, a Professor at The University of Hong Kong, he investigated the association of immigrant status among older people with their physical and mental health outcomes, health services utilization, and health insurance coverage. Lum concludes that “As immigrants, they are likely to have experienced various levels of stress throughout their lives. An accumulation of stressful life experiences may lead to poor physical and mental health” (743). Immigrating was a stressful life event for Dalu; it began when he left his native country (China) to move to the United States. When Dalu arrived in the U.S., he had to face a lifetime of adjustment and acculturation and deal with the large amount of stress that came with it.

After Dalu’s illness, he began to focus on issues of the spirit; he finally realized that hard work could create more income, but could not guarantee the sense of well-being because all things (including a person’s life) are fragile and impermanent. After the surgery, he almost lost his ability to move. “I took a small step, and another small step, moving like a zombie,” he said as he stood up and imitated his old unnatural waking patterns. “It was too hard at that time. I couldn’t sleep at night because my wound wasn’t completely healed. I was just staring at the ceiling and felt extremely sad because of thinking about my children and wife,” he recalled. He thought that if he could not recover his lost mobility, it would mean that he would lose the ability to work. “Seeing two poor children (his sons), inspired me to force myself to walk every day. Walk slowly for one street today, then walk one more street the day after tomorrow,” he said. For his family’s future, he was motivated to continue to practice walking every day. Although the physical inconvenience would occasionally make him depressed and upset, he never gave up because of the responsibility as a father he shouldered. After two months, he finally gained the ability to move freely. He felt excited and seemed to be reborn because he knew that he had overcome the obstacle that the disease had brought him. When he stayed at home, he would read the Bible. He suddenly awakened when he saw this verse “For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (Corinthians 4:18). Dalu started to understand that life and happiness were more important than wealth and success (for himself). Joele Kim writes in his article “Living in God’s Grace: 8 Weeks in Romans 12-15” that “Paul is urging believers not to imitate the patterns and priorities of their current [temporary] society, but to embrace the renewal and transformation of God’s eternal kingdom. As recipients of God’s mercy, they are to change how they live” (54). Kim also asks, “What steps can you take to reset your mind to focus on eternal things?” He answers this by listing: “First, Paul instructs his readers to pursue a love that’s sincere. The concept of love permeates all of Romans. God shows his love for us by sending his Son to die (5:5), and he promises that nothing can separate us from his love (8:35, 39)” (54). (Kim totally listened eight steps in his article; here I just chose the first step). Actually, after his illness, he changed the way he lived. He learned to love his sons like God loves us. He also realized that money was not the most important. He said, “At that time, I thought that if I died, I would have no chance to stay with my family. How could they (his wife and sons) survive if I died?” He started to give true love for his family, and spent more time being together with his sons, bringing them to church, traveling on holidays, picking them up and dropping them off at school. He also believed that God could give him the courage to face any challenge from life. Through his continuous prayers and efforts, his health condition became better and better. Now he lives happily with his family, and sees America as his home.

While Min Dalu originally tried to pursue wealth and a career, he realized that money and wealth were not the most important things after he experienced a deadly brain disease; the words of God made him start to focus on how to love others, such as helping people in need and spending more time with his family. Some would argue that success can provide people with enough material resources and improve their confidence. On the other hand, many people have epiphanies after they have suffered from major illness. These illnesses can help people realize that material and wealth can easily depart. The words of God further prove that only spirit and inner joy are eternal. Success is a goal that if not achieved means the absence of happiness; true happiness is an inner peace that cannot be taken away. Thank God, Dalu understands the truth and eventually meets happiness.

Works Cited

Julius, Maiyo K; Bawane, Jyoti. “Education And Poverty, Relationship and Concerns. A Case For Kenya.” Problems of Education in the 21st Century. 2011, Vol. 32, p72-85.14p. 9 Charts, 1 Graph.

Kim, Joele. “Living in God’ s Grace: 8 Weeks in Romans 12-15.” Bible Study Magazine. Sep/Oct2017, Vol. 9 Issue 6, p53-56. 4p.

Liu, Bolei. “Getting a Job in Flushing: A Qualitative Study on Chinese Immigrants’ Job-Finding and Job Transitions in an Ethnic Enclave.” Qualitative Sociology Review, Apr2017, Vol. 13, Issue 2, p122-145. 24p.

Lum, TY; Vanderaa, JP. “Health Disparities Among Immigrant and Non-immigrant Elders: The Association of Acculturation and Education.” Journal of Immigrant & Minority Health, Oct2010; 12(5): 743-753. 11p.

Qin, Desirée. “Gendered Processes of Adaptation: Understanding Parent–Child Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families.” Sex Roles. Apr2009, Vol. 60 Issue 7-8, p467-481. 15p.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

 

Sample Transcript

Interviewer:Author myself (I)

Interviewee: My neighbor Dalu (D)

Interview Setting: March 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm

I: First, eh, Are you ready?

D: Just ask. Ai~

 

I: Can you tell me your name, your age, and where were you born?

D: Name? (laugh) I was born in 1963. My hometown was Dazu town, it was a mountain city near Chongqing.

I: What was it like?

D: It was very beautiful, clean, and nature. My hometown was surrounded by mountains and had picturesque scenery.

I: What is your unforgettable memory of your childhood, can you describe it?

D: Unforgettable memory, woo~ that’s so long ago. Let me think…Oh, there were quite a few air-raid shelters in the mountains near my home. I often played inside with my classmates after school. About 1940, the construction of air-raid shelters were built. They were formally completed in the mid-1950s. We called them “Maodong” (bomb shelters). At that time, I often ventured with a group of children. Everyone drilled into an abandoned cave. It also naturally brought us a sense of mystery, a feeling of adventure and a little bit of criminality. We were so excited when we run across these air-shelters. It was really dark, we felt that we explored in another world.

I: Can you tell something about your parents? And what were your parents like?

D: My parents? Ai~ They were not easy. My parents worked so hard for raising us, they had little chance to study (receive an education). My family was poor. My parents plant vegetables and fruit for sale and earn money. This was the only way to support my family. But I still felt happy. I had a lot of time to stay together with them (my parents) when they were working. When I grow up, I often helped them [work] in the field.

I: What were the happiest moments of your childhood?

D: It should be the “Spring Festival” (Chinese New Year). We were really poor in the past, we really looked forward to the “new year”. So we can eat a lot of food we couldn’t eat in normal times.

I: What are your best memories of your school?

D: School? The school was a just simple single-story house in the town. The playground was made of stone and clay. When we run on it, there was a lot of dust flying, very dirty. The clothes and shoes were full of dust.

I: Do you have any siblings?

D: I had~. I had an elder sister and brother, and I was the youngest one (child).

I: Can you tell me something about them?

D: They? Just ok. I have already not seen them for a long time. They were all in China now. I rarely go back China. You know, Em, it was not easy, go back (China), then return (to the U.S.). If I went back, just stayed for a month.

I: How long have you come to the U.S.?

D: It has been 33 years since I came to the United States. In 1986, I departed from Shenzhen, passed through Hong Kong and Japan, and finally reached San Francisco. A lot of people envied me at that time because they knew that people who came to the United States were very capable. People who could come to the U.S. was very rare. Finally, people who could stay in the United States were even less.

I: Why did you come to the United States?

D: This was a complex topic. Hard to say. This would be related to some political issues. You knew, Em, this process was not easy. I came to San Francisco in 1986. My job was to install generators for factories and hospitals. I did not use a computer, and there were few people who could use computers, at that time. But I knew the people who worked in the generator companies. “They had drawings [of the generators]” he said. So I tried to ask them to print out drawings for me. When I came across repairing problems, I would ask them for help and slowly I became familiar with them. After that, they printed out all the relevant drawings of the generator for me. I saw them very clearly and learned how to install them. I was happy to see each size of the screw and the specific location of the installation. I had worked in the factory for almost 1 year. I hoped to go back to home. But I am bad luck, or shouldn’t say bad luck. It was right after the Cultural Revolution (I came to the U.S, all machines, technology, and factories were controlled (owned) by the government. At this time public ownership was dismantled. Later, private ownership (become dominant around 1991. Many workers were laid off and a lot of factories closed. Some people took away the equipment, technology, and skilled people (employees) and set up their own companies. Those people were first group (very rare) who become rich at that time. These people were very lucky. When I prepared to return to the home. I called my mother. My mother told me, that “Da, do not come back recently, too risky. All (everything was) crazy, your friends [Jie and Hong] was captured [into jail]. So just stay there [in the U.S.] and back later. I am lucky because I stay here [in the U.S.]. If I go back [China] at that period, I must have been captured [sent to jail]”.

I: Can you talk about something about the church?

D: Church? I went to church [mainly] in order to learn English. My English was poor when I just arrived here (the U.S.). One of my friends brought him to church. Then when I had time I would go to church. I used to believe in Buddhism when I was in China. The idea of Buddhism is doing nothing, just let people free themselves (desire). Differently, what Christ advocates are to do good things, to give, to help more people escape from evil. So I started to accept Christianity.

I: I remembered you told me you have worked in restaurants, what did you do there?

D: first job was working as a handyman, six days a week. I did whatever I could do, from carrying things, cleaning the toilets, wiping the glass, cutting vegetables, or washing dishes. You know, I was no paper because my visa was expired. I was also scared to return to China, so I only could do this (very low wage job) in order to survive.

I: How much can you earn? And how many hours do you work?

D: I could earn about $500 a month, almost 5 dollars per hour. I worked from 9 am to 10 pm. The restaurant served lunch and dinner.

I: How did you meet your wife?

D: I met her in church, she was a Christian.

I: Was she a citizen or (had) a green card?

D: She was a citizen.

I: When did you married and had your first child?

D: Em, I married in 1989. I had my first baby in 1991, then another one in 1994. It was too difficult after having two young children. I wanted to learn more knowledge (English and skills), but I had no enough time because I had to work, otherwise, there would be no income.

I: Why did you choose to do decoration housework?

D: Because I was familiar with this aspect. I started to work on the wall painting because I think wall painting is the easiest to learn. At that time, I could earn 40 dollars a day. Then I learned to do woodworking, plumbing, and all construction work. I left the decoration company and did myself (made his own business). My first business is to help people paint the exterior of the house in 1991, I remembered. I was both a boss and a worker. I got up early, took the bus, and went to the employer’s home. I remembered that I always worked until dark, sometimes even midnight. It was hard to describe that tiredness, but I earned $1,200 which was several times of a restaurant paying. I still learned English on the weekend because I wanted to take the license, it was important to me. When I took the exam, I also hired an interpreter to help. I took the exam twice and finally got my license.

I: You said that you almost died. What happened to you?

D: It was about 6 o’clock, very early, I remembered that was (happened) in 1998. I clearly remembered that a sudden head pain occurred, then I began vomiting. My wife felt was scared and didn’t know what to do at that time. My neighbor exercised in the yard. He immediately called 911. Soon, I was admitted to the hospital. I was out of danger after first-aid measures. A doctor told me that I had a congenital vascular malformation (in my forebrain) and must be operated immediately. Otherwise, he I would have danger. After about 14 hours’ surgery, I waked up and saw a doctor smiled at me. I know [that] I was saved. When I was in hospitalization, I often stood by the bedside and watched out the window. I saw the people walking around, the vehicles shuttling, the trees rustling. I feel as if they do not have any relationship with me. It seems that I stay in another world.

I: What did you think when this happened to you? I mean did you scare or upset?

D: Scared! After the surgery, I almost lost the ability to move. I took a small step, a small step, moving like a zombie (as he stood up and walked to imitate the way unnaturally). It is too hard at that time. I can not sleep at night because the surgical wound of the brain wasn’t completely healed (painful). I am just staring at the ceiling and feel extremely sad because of thinking about my children and wife. I thought that if I could not recover or lost my mobility. It meant a disaster for me because it also meant that I would lose the ability to work. Seeing these poor children (his sons), so I force myself to walk every day. Walk slowly for one street today, then walk one more street the day after tomorrow. For his family’s future, he fulfilled with motivation and continued to practice walking every day. For two months, I basically could have moved freely. Like I saw a hope. Thank God, I was recovered.

The Ups and Downs of Kat’s American Dream

Danbi Photo

The Ups and Downs of Kat’s American Dream

By Danbi Kim, June, 2018

While immigrants flood into the United States with many fantasies, their expectations often conflict with the reality. Since I began working at City College of San Francisco, I have met a lot of friends who are immigrants to the United States. Kat, a Vietnamese who has recently arrived, is always busy working two part-time jobs as well as studying as a full-time student. Although she is always busy, she is optimistic and smiles all the time. Therefore, when I was assigned an oral history project, I wondered what her story was about how she ended up living in San Francisco. She was willing to share her story. In the article “Immigration and Integration in Post-Industrial Societies,” Naomi Carmon discusses changes in immigration flows and their impact on the receiving countries. Carmon notices that “the majority of immigrants to the United States are seeking ample opportunities, better jobs, economic advances, and upward mobility for themselves and their children when they decide to move to the United States” (13). As with other immigrants, Kat has dreamed of coming to the United States to achieve her American dream, receiving a great education at a renowned university, launching a professional career, and supporting her family financially. Although Kat came alone to the United States at a young age, full of excitement for the American Dream, her forced return to Vietnam due to her family’s financial difficulties lead her to have fear and uncertainty when she later immigrates back to America with her family; however, because she believes that living in the U.S. is the best opportunity for herself as well as her family, she has an even more optimistic on fulfilling her dreams than before.

Kat was born in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in 1997. With her uncle’s sponsorship, her family files for a family visa to the United States in 2003. When she is fifteen years old, Kat decides to study the 10th grade in the U.S. Kat studies at a private school as an international student for a year. She has a wonderful experience when she is at school. However, due to the costly tuition of a private school and family issues, she is forced to go back to Vietnam even though she does not want to. After she returns to Vietnam, she focuses on her life in Vietnam. In 2015, as the family visa is finally approved, her family decides to come to the United States and she has to follow her family to the U.S. in 2016. As she stays in America, she makes her future plans and currently looks forward to the future.

As Kat’s family files for a family visa to the United States in 2003 with her uncle’s sponsorship, they have a strong desire for the American dream in their minds. Many Vietnamese refugees have migrated to the United States escaping the Vietnam War and the fear of the communism since 1980. In the article “Vietnamese Americans,” Do Hien Duc explains the pattern of Vietnamese refugees arriving to the United States. Do mentions that a large number of Vietnamese refugees have come to the United States since 1975 to seek for asylum, and the U.S. government has enacted several policies that help refugees, such as a family reunification program. Because a lot of Vietnamese settle down in the United States, the majority of the Vietnamese who live in the home country, like Kat and her family, have fantasies of living in the U.S. Kat said, “If you ask any Vietnamese, they will say going to the United States of America is a wonderful choice. I mean, in the U.S. you have a better environment, work, and pay.” Like other Vietnamese people, her parents believe that immigrating to The United States is a better opportunity for Kat and Kat’s sister. As Kat has grown up, she has always dreamed of coming to America for better life. From when her family filed for the family-based immigrant visa to when she came, Kat prepared to come to the United States. For instance, she had a private English tutor and watched a lot of American dramas to learn about the U.S. culture. As she became familiar with English and the American culture, she felt excited that her dream was getting close. Like most Vietnamese, Kat and her family always kept their American dream deeply in their minds.

Although Kat’s American dream seems to be right on track, she is forced to go back to Vietnam due to her family issues, which breaks her American dream. Because her aunt convinces Kat’s mother to let Kat study in the U.S, Kat’s mother thinks it is a good opportunity for her future, so Kat decides to study for 10th grade at a private high school in Sacramento. Kat recalls her high school experience in Sacramento by saying that “there were no problems in my school. School was actually fine. Most of [the students there] are international students, so we were on the same page. It was easy to make friends, and I hung out with a lot of Vietnamese friends.” Because she has prepared for coming to the United States with her family visa, her English is not a problem in assimilating into a new culture. As she enjoys studying in the U.S., she feels that her American dream, getting a great education, starting a career, and supporting family, is getting closer. In the article “International students’ reported English fluency, social support satisfaction, and social connectedness as predictors of acculturative stress,” Christine J. Yeh studies what factors cause international students acculturative stress. Yeh mentions that “research investigations on international student populations have reported a variety of mental health and personal concerns including language barriers, financial difficulties, racial/ethnic discrimination, loss of social support, alienation, and homesickness” (16). After she hears that her parents no longer support her expensive tuition, ten thousand dollars a year, it causes her to suffer a tremendous stress level. She sorrowfully remembers this period as “a mental and emotional break time.” She cries every night at the kitchen because she doesn’t want to face the fact that she has to go back to Vietnam. She tries to find various ways to stay in the U.S., but the only way is to be an undocumented student. However, she is so scared of being an “illegal” immigrant and worries about having a dark future. Eventually, she is asked to come back to Vietnam due to her family’s financial difficulties as well as her relationship issues with her aunt, her guardian in the United States on the behalf of her parents. Before she came to the U.S, she had plans for her future, but now she needs to go back without accomplishing anything. The first experience of staying in the U.S. has shrunk her high expectations of the American dreams.

Although she worries about her return to Vietnam, her life regains a sense of normality, as she feels safe and comfortable with her family; as a result, her strong desire for the American dream fades away. Before she returns, she is very afraid of what other people think about her return. Kat says, “When I go to America, a lot of people know, right? It’s kind of embarrassing to go back. Like a lot of questions happened. ‘Why did you come back?’ So it was a very hard for me.” Once she is back to Vietnam, just like she had been concerned about, her friends wonder why she had to come back just after one year of staying in America. She feels uncomfortable and a lot of questions boost her stress level. Moreover, since she left for America right after she graduated middle school, she now not only has to take the high school entry exam, but also needs to study with friends who are one year younger than her. On the first day of school in Vietnam, she says, “Somehow people knew about the fact that I was back from the United States. I didn’t tell anyone.” For the first couple of months, a lot of attention is drawn to her; however, unlike her anxiety, the majority of them are so impressed that she stayed in the United States and no one is disrespectful to her. As time goes by, she is so busy focusing on her high school life in Vietnam that her American dream in her mind is gradually erased.

Her previous experience makes her hesitate to come to the United States a second time when her family visa is approved in 2015; while she needs to come with her family, it is with less eagerness than the first time. In the article “Homeostasis, stress, trauma, and adaptation: A neurodevelopmental view of childhood trauma,” Bruce D. Perry explains how traumatic childhood events influence the brain. Dr. Perry deduces that “use-dependent internalization of elements of the traumatic experience can result in the persistence of fear-related neurophysiologic patterns affecting emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and social functioning” (33). Because her emotional breakdown experience shapes her memory, she feels worried as her bad memories overlap in her mind. Therefore, when she hears that her family visa is approved, she says, “If anybody asked me that question that do you want to go to the U.S., I would say I don’t want to go. That is 100% of my answer. I do not want to go.” She re-thinks the American Dream and she does not want to experience the solitary relationship problems with her cousin’s family, and a lot of financial difficulties. However, the whole family immigrates to the United States for the second time, so she feels less pressure and fear of doing it all by herself. Still, she is under a huge pressure, but at the same time, as she follows her parents, she has a little excitement that this time will be better than before and she will have a better future and a new life in front of her.

When Kat finally settles down in downtown San Francisco, she feels a little bit disappointed about the new circumstances; however, she is more eager to have a plan for her future again. Kat remembers her home in Vietnam: “We lived in spacious house. And when we come to America, like, we live in downtown San Francisco. It is like a very, very, tiny apartment. I share a bed with my sister in the closet. My parents and my uncle, all live in a small room.” Although different circumstances make her frustrated, they actually awaken her eagerness for the American dream. She clearly knows how much her parents sacrifice for her to come to the United States. Also, it is the starting point of her family’s American life; she believes that as long as she sticks her neck out, her American dream will be accomplished. She starts finding jobs to lessen her parents’ burdens, like paying rent, etc. She finds a job at City College of San Francisco as a student worker; this is helpful for her to manage her study and work at the same time. However, due to her financial aid, the hours that she is able to work at school are restricted. Therefore, she needs to find other jobs off campus. After she completes a lot of interview processes, she finally gets a job at UNIQLO for 16 hours per week. Although having two part-time jobs and maintaining good grades at school makes her overwhelmed, she is still positive because she believes that success is proportional to her efforts and pain.

As Kat’s passion and desire for the American dream is even stronger than before, she feels like she is getting closer to achieving her aspirations, becoming an ESL teacher. In the book They Take Our Jobs!: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration, Aviva Chomsky introduces 20 misconceptions about immigration. In the chapter “Today Immigrants are not learning English and Bilingual education just adds to the problems,” Chomsky points out that immigrants are eager to learn English by showing the reader the “jam-packed” ESL classes. Unlike the common misconception that immigrants don’t want to learn English, Kat’s parents enroll in an ESL course at City College of San Francisco and study every night in order to make an effort to assimilate into the U.S. culture. Because she knows that learning English is hard for their ages, she wants to help immigrants who are in the same situation as her and her parents. Kat currently volunteers at Project Shine, a service-learning program for immigrants and elderly students at City College of San Francisco. “I want to teach English for immigrants like my parents. So, they can adapt to American life because without English they can’t do much. I actually haven’t decided my major yet, but I am thinking about linguistics now” (Kat). As she volunteers, her hope gets bigger and firmer. “I have a mixed feeling that it is not like I don’t want to go back as much as I want to before.” No immigrant wants to go back to his of her hometown without accomplishing anything. Kat also may want to go back to Vietnam after she succeeds in her education and goals. This is the way that she can tell her friends and her remaining family members in Vietnam that she has fulfilled her dreams with much effort. So far, she has been living in America for two years. She is gradually approaching her future goal and moving forward with her stronger desire.

Although she came to the United States full of potential opportunities, the experience of her forced migration back to Vietnam due to her family’s problems made her less excited to have a second chance of the American Dream; she is overwhelmed by her workload and life in the U.S. but looks forward to seeing her bright future. Since many immigrants consider the United States as the land of freedom and opportunities, millions of people from all over the world are willing to seek their “American dream.”

Works Cited

Aviva Chomsky “They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration. Beacon Press, 2007 – Social Science – 236 pages

“Interview with Kat.” Personal interview. 19 April 2018.

Carmon, Naomi, ed. 1996. Immigration and Integration in Post-Industrial Societies. New York:   St. Martin’s Press.

Do, Hien Duc. “Vietnamese Americans.” Encyclopedia of American Studies, edited by Simon Bronner, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1st edition, 2018. Credo Reference.

Perry, B. D., & Pollard, R. (1998). Homeostasis, stress, trauma, and adaptation: A neurodevelopmental view of childhood trauma. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 7(1), 33-51.

YEH, CHRISTINE J., INOSE, MAYUKO. “International students’ reported English fluency, social support satisfaction, and social connectedness as predictors of acculturative stress.” Counselling Psychology Quarterly. 2016, Vol. 29 Issue 3, p15-28. 14p. 2 Charts.

 

Sample Transcripts

Me : Introduce yourself?

Kat: My name is Kat. I’m 20 years old. I’m currently a student at City college of San Francisco. My major is an education. My family and I came to the USA on March 11 2017. I’ve been to the US for 13 months now. I came with my mom, dad and my uncle.

Me: How could you decide to come here?

Kat: Actually I didn’t decide to come. It was um…It just because my parents already get sponsorship with uncle. We filed the paperwork 12 years ago. When it finally came, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So we just come here

Me: What do you think it is a good opportunity to come to USA?

Kat: If you ask any Vietnamese, they will say going to the USA is a wonderful choice. I mean in the U.S., you have a better environment, better work and better pay. And better education, too. So, one main reason my parents want to come here is for my education. Um.. They want me to have to study in the best environment. Out there. After that, I can get a good job and I can have a good life. So, it is more like my parents sacrifice for me. That way I think it is a good opportunity to come to the USA.

Me : do you think it is better choice to come here?

Kat: My impression of America wasn’t good before I came here. I came to the U.S when I was 15. I studied 10th grade as an international student in the U.S for a year. And that was a kind of dark time.

Me: Why it was a dark time?

Kat: At that time, it was my first time of America. And I was so excited. Because as a kid, I always tell everyone that I want to go to America to study. I was so excited, but then ..I mean when I came, I went to a private school, and the tuition was very expensive. When I first came, I went to a private school. So there was a lot of international students. The school is very small, it is only 60 students. And like ten students are international vietnamese students. So I hung out with a lot of my vietnamese people. There were other international students too. There are 40 international students, so we were basically on the same pages. So it was really easy to make friends and hang out with them. There was no problem at school, just I have a family issue.

Me: Where was the location? In California?

Kat: Yes. It was in Sacramento, California. The tuition is like 11 thousand dollars a year. My parents thought they could afford it. But then it terms out it kinds of bad. A lot of family issues happened. That’s why I had to go back to Vietnam. So during that time, it was a very emotional..dark time for me.

Me: did you come here alone at first time?

Kat: Actually, my parents came with me at that time. They were for traveling. For me, it was just for school. They stayed for 4 months with me. And they go back to Vietnam and I just stayed here. Actually, I stayed with my uncle family though. I wasn’t like that bad. I wasn’t alone. But still, I just remember that at nights I just went the kitchen and cried whole night. Because I felt very lonely. I had to face the reality of going back to Vietnam and staying in America.

Me: So at that time you don’t want to go back to Vietnam? Do you want to stay in America?

Kat: No. I don’t want to go back. Like the reason why I don’t want to go back is because when I go to America, a lot of people know right? It’s kind of embarrassing to go back. Like a lot of questions happened. Why did you come back? So it was a very hard for me. Then, I also have to face that what if I want to stay in America? Like if I stay in America, I don’t want to pay expensive tuition. I have to do it with illegal ways. I asked myself ‘Do I want to do that?’ But I was 15 years old. I was too scared like if I stay here, it is going to be illegal. I’m sure that I will have a really dark future. So that way I just have an emotional and mental break time at that time. So I decided to come back.

Me: language barriers?

Kat: My English was pretty good. I was able to study and communicate pretty well. Both me and my sister study English at very young age. Not only because we know that we will go to the U.S., but English is also an international language. So I actually study.. I actually have a private tutor who come to my house to teach English when I was like in 3rd grade. I had it until 5th grade. I also study English in middle and high school. But I didn’t learn a lot at school. But I actually learn a lot by listening to music and watching movies.

Me: Challenge living in the U.S?

Kat: In Vietnam, we lived in spacious house. And when we come to America, like we live in downtown San Francisco, it is like a very tiny apartment. I share a bed with my sister in the closet. My parents and my uncle, all live in a small room. I mean the life is definitely the opposite to life in Vietnam. But I mean I don’t really mind about it. If we live in a small space, that means we are gonna no such things of privacy but it’s kind of connecting family. That is how I try to make it positive. And in Vietnam, I didn’t have to work even though I was old enough to have a permit to work. But If I were in Vietnam, my parents would allow me to work anyway. In Vietnam, a lot of student do not have to work because their parents support them financially. Here in America, what amazed me is that everyone is really independent. They have to have part-time jobs and have to pay for rent and pay for their own things. So for me, right now I have two jobs, a student worker at office at CCSF and also worked at Uniqlo 24 hours a week as a part-time job to help paying for rent and for my own living expenses.

Me: Do you feel overwhelmed working 2 different part time jobs and studying as a full-time student?

Kat: When those days I work and when those week when I work is 22-34 hours, I definitely feel overwhelmed. Um.. I don’t have time to study and I always feel tired the whole time. But I want to cut down my hours so I can finish school. Because my parents always remind me that school is the most important things that I should focus on. And I always can make money later.

Me: feeling when you heard that your visa was processing that you were waiting for 15 years?

Kat: Right after I finish my high school, I know that my paperwork is almost done. So, I didn’t go to the University in Vietnam because I know that I am not going to study in Vietnam and I just have a whole gap in Vietnam. For the feelings, that was a mixed feeling. I kind of want to go but I don’t want to go because of my bad experience before. Actually, if anybody asked me that question that do you want to go to the U.S, I would say I don’t want to go. That is a 100% of my answer. I do not want to go.

Me: But this time, a whole of your family is moving to the U.S. But you still feel that way even though you don’t have to stay alone?

Kat: This time is better because whole family but actually my uncle he doesn’t want to go. This time my dad, mom, my uncle, and me came together. Four people. My sister came first. She came here as an international student in 2011. And then she got married. And she got a permanent resident in 2013. She was already here.

Me: any discriminations?

Kat: I actually have not experienced any racism and discrimination yet. A serious one yet. Because there are Vietnamese communities and a lot of Asian Americans in San Francisco. So I think my situation is alright, pretty good. And then like sometimes, I really feel like isolated and it’s kind of small in a group of non-Asian people. Like at school and work.. When I just walk down on the street, it is more myself that I kind of just feel less confident. Not necessary that people make me feel bad. It is just like me, it’s more likely me.

Me: things to miss the most in Vietnam?

Kat: the things that I miss the most is that my grandparents in Vietnam. My family there. Because my grandparents are old, so I want to go back and just spend the last year of their lives with them. Also, the food too. I don’t think the food here is as good as in Vietnam. Also, my friends. I cannot wait to go back and hang out with them.

Me: future goal? Your major?

Kat: I want to be a ESL teacher. Teach English for immigrants like my parents. So, they can adapt to American life because without English they can’t do much. There are education programs for children, but that is not what I want. For ESL teacher, you have to get a bachelor’s degree first. Any bachelor’s degree is fine. Then you need to get Master degree and get the teaching credential for ESL. For right now, I actually haven’t decided my major yet. It could be anything. I am thinking about linguistics now.

Me: Do you want to go back to Vietnam? Work in America?

Kat: That is what I have in mind too when I decide to my goal. Um.. If I am going to teach English, I can do it in both in America and Vietnam. But for me right now, I have a mixed feeling like It is not like I don’t want to go back as much as I want to before. But like if I go back, I don’t mind. If I live here, it is okay too.

Me: about your hometown?

Kat: I was grown up in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is in south and it is the most modern and energetic city. It is a big city. My life was so good. I would say I had a very comfortable life in a spacious house. Like I have everything that I need there. I have money to go out with my friends over the weekend. I got a tutor for English class. It was a good life.

Me: How do your parents adapt to American culture. Unlike you they haven’t studied English at a young age. They were speaking fluently when they came to the USA?

Kat: Before coming to the USA, my dad actually took some English classes. He was a level 5. He was proud of himself. But because he learned it in Vietnam, he was taught by Vietnamese teachers, so they didn’t focus on speaking part a lot. His speaking skill wasn’t very good. I can barely understand what American people say now. When he came to the U.S., he couldn’t speak in English. Right now, my parents are taking ESL classes in city college. They are in level 2 now. They kind of have graphs about English now. They learn English every day.

Me: How was feeling when you land in SFO?

Kat: First thing was like air was so fresh. Back in Vietnam, air was polluted and so humid. Air was the best thing. I was kind of rough back memories for me because it is my second time I want to US. At the same time, I was so excited too. I’m going to have a whole new life here. My sister and my family came to greet us, so I was so emotional to me.

Me: Any hobbies?

Kat: I really like singing and playing piano. In Vietnam, I always sing and play piano but then now we are living in an apartment in San Francisco, it is so small that I can’t play anymore.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Two Homes

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Two Homes

by Vanessa Tso, May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Cited

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

University Press. 2014. Print.

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

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

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

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

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

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

of the University of California. 1990. Print.

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

Kong and Singapore.”

First 10 min. of the interview – transcript

Where are you from?

I’m from Hong Kong.

Describe that place.

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

What was it like when you were a child?

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

How was your childhood?

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

When was your first time to America?

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

What was the first impression?

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

Did you have any impression?

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

When was the whole thing started?

The beginning of the application?

No the first time…

Oh submit the application….

Yeah, when?

Ah, it was 21 years ago.

So it was before I was born

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

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

Two years?

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

So 14 years, really?

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

The wait? So different relationships are different…

Yeah, different relationships have different waiting.

And at that time, why do you…

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

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

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

But I was not even born yet!!

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

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

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

That will be the time to start making the decision.

What are the difference between Hong Kong and America?

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

Where do you like more? To live…

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

Why?

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

Do you consider United States as your home?

Yes, because I’m United States citizen.

So…

My family is here

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

Eh… Hong Kong is my second home.

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

Yes

Okay, done!

Feeling Whole: From Jordan to Palestine to San Francisco

Feeling Whole: From Jordan to Palestine to San Francisco

by Jose Castillo, May 2017

Being in exile in a foreign country tends to affect immigrants’ identities giving them international perspectives because it brings back memorable and hard memories as they imagine their futures. When people are in exile, meaning separated from their countries, leaving home involuntary, or by force of circumstances, it affects people’s perspectives. Many immigrants who are in exile in the United States also experience memories of their homelands, international perspectives, and legal or human rights abuses, since they are affected due to the political situations of poor countries. Abdul, a nineteen-year-old, my research partner from Jordan, describes how he was affected when he came to the United States by saying, “When I came to the Unites States, it changed my….my action, values slightly…your life changes. When I was home, and when I was just at home, life changes.” It is common to see an immigrant being affected while he experiences some personal changes when arriving in the United States. It is clear that personal values can also change, but also comparing his new life with his life in his home country, his life has changed because of a political conflict. In his country he was struggling with his family to defend his land from military invaders. Abdul claims that he was armed to be brave as an adult, ready to defend his family and land. This is a real story of a young man who immigrated to the United States in order to seek a better education, and the immediate challenge he faces when dealing with his immigrant identity, as well as legal and human rights violations while he is in exile. The human rights abuses he faced in Palestine, which lead to his exile, forced Abdul to immigrate, and affected his personal identity. This made him feel like he had two conflicting identities here in the United States. This transition proves that Abdul’s memory has gone through certain changes while in exile and left him fragmented; However, Abdul’s memory has been through a healing process that has allowed him to feel whole.

Abdul’s human rights were violated when he was unlawfully arrested, which left him traumatized while living in his native country. Today, many immigrants relate how oppressive their governments were while they were living in their home countries. Oppressive governments are those that have authoritarian law and oppressive system, which is the main reason people seek political asylum as refugees in distant nations. From my interviewee’s perspective, he relates how he was affected while living in Palestine when he says in a worried tone:

“Ah…I want to talk about as I mentioned before I am Jordanian, but also my background is Palestinian, and when I was back there…ah…the military was taking my land…they were offending me by shooting in the air. They also entered our own house and arrested me and my family, and they also occupied my house and stayed there for three days. Can you imagine the military staying in the house for three days like you cannot do anything right?…and it…it is just really super abusive and affects emotionally…its my land, and I was just fighting back for my land…”

Frankly, this statement explains a difficult situation, because it narrates an oppressive situation that affects people’s lives while they are detained inside of their own homes by a suppressive military that does not want people to protest for their human rights.

In addition, Abdul’s human rights were violated when the military invaded his homeland. When foreign militaries invade an outside territory, they take land and scare people. In many countries where there are conflicting military conflicts, military invader governments do not care about territory, whether it is independent, or has a limitation of sovereignty.  Likewise, Peter Orner, a professor and writer at San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing Program, worked with Voice of Witness to collect and edit the personal undocumented stories of immigrants in the United States. He shares the story of Diana. Through her story, Diana exposes violations to her human rights such as an arrest and harassment by ICE agents when they were asking persistent questions to her, and she was in arbitrary detention for not having right the documents. In her words, Diana explains the illegal actions against her:

“The agents put the fingerprints into a machine and asked me where I was from. I felt calm, more and less, I said, ‘No, I need my lawyer, I have a right to a lawyer. I have the right to make a phone call.’ They told me I’d get a lawyer and my phone call later and   asked me again where I was from. But I refuse to tell them. ‘Cooperate with us,’ they said. ‘Why are you making this so hard?’ But I insisted on the rights I knew I had’.”

Obviously, there was not a reason to answer these types of questions, since Diana knew that she did not have the appropriate documents.  If she had the right documents given by the U.S. Immigration Department while she was in exile, she would gladly have given her recognition before the arresting agent. Otherwise, human rights violations against immigrants and my interviewee make no sense. When we see The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2 of this declaration states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind of race, (…) Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of territory” (UDHR).  This article clearly shows the right of freedom people deserve without the political oppression of an outsider military government, who wants to oppress an independent community. It is true that it is something unusual, because it makes people leave and go into exile instead of risking their lives in a dangerously militarized land. This transition proves that certain aspects while in exile left Abdul fragmented; therefore, Abdul’s memory has been though a healing process that has allowed him to feel whole.

Learning English has been difficult for Abdul because he has become an adult and has worked through this by taking some English classes while he is in exile in the United States.  Learning the English language is a way to communicate important issues because it is the way people or society give and exchange information and ideas with each other.  Immigrants in exile notice the difficulty of learning the English language because in order to learn the language, they need to have a little backup, or a little information in order to know more about it. Abdul says in his own words, “Ah…It was very hard the English language…the first language…when I was young was very good, I had a little back up of the English language.”  This means that some immigrants experience difficulty when they do not know the language, but also not all have difficulty if they have a little knowledge of the English language. The effects can be reduced if they have a little important information that might help them when learning at a later time, or when they go into exile. According to Becky H Huang, a Harvard professor, and Ah Jun, a university linguist, in “The Effect Of Age On The Acquisition Of Second Language Prosody,” in which they emphasize how an exploratory analysis of the age of arrival effects the production of a second language and affects Mandarin immigrants:

“Owing to its theoretical implications for the mechanism of second language (L2) acquisition and practical implications for L2 education, the age-related decline in ultimate second language (L2) attainment is one of the most controversial topics in the L2 acquisition field. Among the various L2 linguistic domains, phonological production is arguably the least controversial candidate for an age of learning effect.  In fact, Scovel (1988) argued that the age effect exists only for phonology because the ability to master the sound patterns of an L2 is susceptible to neurological development.” (388)

For the same reason, this statement proves the variables in which my interviewee’s perspective is affected by his learning of the English language while he is in exile. Also, many immigrants are affected in other areas like: writing, speaking, and reading, when they are told to interact in these areas just like native students do, who are less affected. For this reason, learning English has been a difficult process for Abdul because he has become an adult, and has worked through this by taking some English classes while he is in exile.

Experiencing a different type of lifestyle, or assimilation, is another challenge for my interviewee’s perspective and affects him because it takes time for him to assimilate while he is in exile in the United States. While Abdul continues his life in America, he experiences a new culture inhabited by diverse people from other cultures, which America requires him to integrate with. The difference with his culture and his homeland is that his school and values are drastically connected to his culture. Abdul, in his own words, says, “When I came here into the United States, I feel like I was at home” (4). This statement means that despite coming to America, Abdul as an immigrant still feels attached to his culture and homeland rather than feeling as an American, or telling anyone he feels as an American resident. Also, he might feel half assimilated to the American culture just like when he was in his country, or not at all. In “The Lebanese Diaspora: The Arab Immigrant Experience in Montreal, New York, and Paris,“ by Abdelhady and Dallas, they say, “I could not explain this dilemma to the receptionist. I could not tell her that I had never felt American, despite the various indictors of my successful assimilation” (1). Obviously, it is hard for an immigrant to feel that he or she has become part of the American culture, because his or her roots are still attached to their culture. Of course, it will take time for them to assimilate into the new lifestyle of the American culture when they are submitted into the assimilation process like Abdul.

Abdul has become culturally integrated by participating in a new society while he lives in exile.  When people are integrated into a new culture like Abdul, they have to identify themselves with the new people, which is one of the new challenging situations that has affected Abdul’s identity while he lives in exile in the United States.  Exile means to be separated from one’s country or home involuntarily or by force of circumstances, which affects people’s perspective while they live differently in other countries. For instance, Abdul, my interviewee from Daly City, has to experience some changes as a result of exile, which affects his entire identity.  When I asked him the question “How does exile affected your identity?”, he replied with a kind of worried tone.  On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at 5: 23, he responded regarding the effects on his identity, and states as follows:

“Ah…so…basically…ah…when the first time I came here, I just certainly… When I came to the United States, it changed my action, values slightly…ah…I am just feeling the life out…your life changes. When I was home, and when I was just at home life changes.  Identity is one of the challenges that affects immigrants because it changes the way they act, their values, and they feel that their life also tends to change to a certain degree.”

Practically speaking, it is obvious to see these changes that people have to go through when they integrate and move to another region. They go through changes in values and are often surprised by the new amazing changes they go through, because it is not easy to make changes immediately. Once immigrants arrive and integrate in the new region, the process of change takes place in their identity. This means that immigrants or groups of people who immigrate to another nation due to any oppressive circumstances, have to face the causes, effects, and circumstances, which shape their new identities while they are in exile. For example, in modern times, many Jewish people are separated from their ethnic community, and have suffered a horrible persecution, which also affects their identity while they are in exile for a long time. In the section “Jews,” in Funk &Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, it says, “Modern Jews are members of a separated ethnic community or fellowship rather than of a race, a community that, in the face of incessant and terrible persecution, has maintained its identity for almost 19 centuries, from the final dissolution of the Roman province of Juda in AD 135 to the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948” (Funk &Wagnalls). As has been noted, people from different backgrounds and religious cultures also face some challenges of oppression, and no one disputes the fact that it affects their identities while they are in exile just as it is with my interviewee. At the same time, Abdul’s integration into the new culture has made him participate in the society and feel whole.

Another challenge that Abdul has faced is how he deals with his reminiscences about his past while he lives in exile in the United States. Many immigrants tend to have memories of what their past lives at home was like, or their schools before they went into exile. Being at home means being in one’s native country, thinking of what kind or school or university people would like to go to study before exile takes place. For example, Abdul has experienced some memories when he was in his country, and remembers where he wanted to study before his exile, which affects his identity. When I asked him the question, “How do you envision home?,” it logically made him remember his school life from his native land, and where he wanted to go to study. He replied enthusiastically by remembering his fresh memories of these thoughts during the interview. He states, “Ah…so when I began my school I was thinking like…where I wanted to go to study at university abroad or home, or so I was thinking in the United States, because when you graduate you have a good jobs you know, a source of jobs any time.” Thinking is a way to remember, to consider when there is an opportunity to choose a better place to go to study, since memories affect immigrants who are in exile. The use of memory has fostered a healing process and helped Abdul to feel whole.

In the same way, Abdul as an immigrant is affected because he uses his imagination to interpret his memories about his family while he is in exile in a distant homeland. Many immigrants tend to have imaginations about critical moments with their families when they were in their homelands. For instance, Abdul used to have imaginations about difficult moments with his family in Palestine when he was invaded at home by the military. In his own words, “…They were offending me by shooting in the air, and they also entered our house and arrested me and my family.” Immigrants like Abdul almost always tend to have imaginations about some hard moments together with his family in Palestine, a place where he grew up to adulthood. In “Child of Two Words,” the author, Andrew Lam, has on imaginative interpretation of his memories of his mother’s words during his childhood back in his native homeland, Vietnam. He recalls her saying, “’Your umbilical cord is also buried in an earthen jar in our garden,’ she said. The incident and the knowledge of my own earthly ties made a strong impression on me; our ways were sacred and very old” (1). It is obvious to think that a part of oneself is buried in a place where we lived before, and is not forgotten, because there is always a strong imagination of what happened in the past, but also there is the effect of his memories while he is in exile in the United States.

Being in exile is not an easy challenge because it affects people’s identities, since most immigrants who are in exile in the United States experience hardships. These challenges include: effects on their identities, human rights violations, and effects on learning the English language, since they are affected by their personality’s perspectives while they are in exile. Some may say that immigrants are affected when they go into exile, and face issues like identity fragmentation, education, and challenges of human right abuses, since they do not expect them while living abroad. The United Declaration of Human Rights declares that people should be protected anywhere living in their homeland or abroad, or regardless of identity. Regardless of the UDHR, there will people who don’t agree that immigrants should be protected when they travel abroad. What was described is a real story of a young man who immigrated to the United States in order to seek a better education, and who has faced challenges when dealing with his immigrant identity.  As we can see, there are certain aspects that have affected his personal identity while he was in exile, and caused him a challenge issues in the United States. Immigrants like IAbdul have to pass through a process of challenging effects in order to begin healing as a whole human being.

Works Cited

Abdelhady, Dalia, The Lebanese Diaspora: The Arab Immigrant Experience in Montreal, New York, and Paris, NY: NYU Press. 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 1 May. 2017.

Green, Penny, and Amelia Smith. “Evicting Palestine” State Crime Journal.  5.1. (2016). 81.Vocational Studies.  Complete. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Hasler, Beatrice. S, et. al.  “Virtual Peacemakers: Mimicry Increases Empathy In SimulatedContact With Virtual Outgroup Members.” Cyber Psychology, Behavior, And Social Networking 17.12 (2014): 766-771. MEDLINE.   Web. 1 May. 2017.

Huang, Becky H., and Sun-Ah Jun. “The Effect Of Age On The Acquisition Of SecondLanguage Prosody.” Language & Speech 54.3 (2011): 387-414. Academic Search Complete. Fri.5 May. 2017

Lam, Andrew.  “Child of Two Worlds.” “Perfume Dreams.” Jun. 1998.

Orner, Peter. Editor. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives.  McSWeeney’sBooks.   2008.

“Jews.”Funk&Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia(2006). 1p. 1. Funk &Wagnalls New WorldEncyclopediaAcademic Search Complete. Web. 1May. 2017.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  60th Anniversary Special Edition, 1948-2008. [New York]. United Nations Publications, 2007. eBook Academic CollectionEBSCOhost)   Web. 1 May. 2017.

Sample Oral History Transcripts

Jose Castillo: Hello, today we are makig an interview. Today is Tuesday. Its 5:23 PM in the afternoom, March 14 of the year 2017. We are makig an interview with Hashem’s friend, and his name is Adbul. He replied:

Jose Castillo: What is your name?

Abdul: Abdul.

Jose Castillo: Ok, nice to meet you Abdul. Ah..How do you feel today?

Abdul: I’m feel very good.

Jose Castillo: Oh that’s fantiastic that’s great.

Jose Castillo: What is your age?   He replied, I am nineteen years old.

Jose Castillo: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic.

Jose Castillo: Where are you from?

Abdul Ihsun: I am from Jordan.

Jose Castillo: That’s fantastic, That country is so beutiful. That’s wonderful.

Jose Castillo: Lets see and let me asking you some few question during the interview. How does it feel to be in the middle of a war?

Abdul: Ah does it feel unsafe…I mean…like your life is under threat under any time, and you doesn’t feel any safe right?..

Jose Castillo: Ok..and the…

Abdul: Do you want to be find again…like…?

Jose Castillo: Oh right!      Yeah, I know that people have that kind of feeling about to be in the middle of a war.

Jose Castillo: Ok…ah..the next question is…What make you to come to the United States?

Abdul: I came for the main reason to study for a bachellor degree, and civil engineering study, I am curretly enrolled at City College , and I am taking basic to tranfer to San Francisco University State, and also working a part time job for a secure restaurant.

Jose Castillo: Whoa, I can see you can management your time to work.

Jose Castillo: The next question is: How does exile have affected your identity?

Abdul: Ah…so…basically..aahh…when the first time I came here, I just certainly    When I came to the United States, It change my..my action, values slily…ah…I am just feeling the life out..your life changes. When I was home, and when I was just at home life changes.

Jose Castillo: Ok..that’s fantastic. Because at the same time for surely you can fell the emotional way when you were back home you can  feel the safety here in the United States, and is a great opportunity where you can developed a more a…, a more emotional time for your can develop your personality, your idetity, and the same way you can see how the cultura here in the United States is about you know…you can learn or even assimilate your own cultura where there is another opportunity where you can see both sides of the point of views in the cultures in the country, because we live in a country where there are  so many diverse cultures comming from around the world. But at the same time, I see that your immagination of your identity has been affected…your security here away from a situation of a war where there is situation that put life in danger, but here you have an apportunity where you can have a life to study of your wonderful profession, and to apply with your own identity, and  I think that that is very interesting.

Jose Castillo: Ok…ah..as we continue our interested interview, and my nex question is: How does this interview envision home?

Abdul: Ahm…can you expaling more?…

Jose Castillo: Lets see in a specific story. What was your specific story if you were in your country at home, and then comming here to the United States? Can you explain?

Abdul: Ah…so when I began my high school I was thinking like …where I wanted to go to study at university abroad or in home, or so I was thinking in the Unites States, because when you gradurate you have a good jobs you kow, a source of jobs any time, ah…to emigrate to the United States, and to have besically…ah…I apply for a lotery and immigrate to the United States..ah..and I just won the visa lotery from the United States. I came here and went to City College and to tranfer to San Francisco State as I mention before to complete my bachellor degree. That’s it.

Jose Castillo: Whao…that’s amazing you envision your story at home, and the way you won the visa lotery. You’re so lucky you won the lotery, since there are many students who envision the same opportunity, but you were selected to come to the United States with the dream to come true. Congratulations to you. As we continue our interesting interview…how does this brochure of perspective of your international has affected you regarding of law of human rights?

Abdul: Ah…I want to talk about as I mention before I am Jordanian, but also my background is Palestinian, and when I was back there…ah…the military was taking my land…they were offending me by shooting in the air, they also entered our house and arrested me and my family, and they also occupaid my house and stayed there for three days.  Can you immagine the military staying in the household for three days like you cannot do anything right?….and it…it is just really supper abusive and affects emotional…its my land, and I just fighting back for my land..

Jose Castillo: Ok…yeah..I can see. You were passing through with your friend and family, and the military violating your rights , and your friends and  your family seeing the military standing there so long…is imposible, because is a condition where people would feel frustrated, and feeling bad because is a severe violation of a human situation. People has the right to protest that even other people don’t like it, and I understand, I know a situation your went through yur family.

Adbul: Ahm…so bacically as I said before myself we were palestinian …ahm..as against human rights…against what the military do against the human rights…ahm..we were throwing rocks at them… and they shoot at us and and a cousing got shot …ahm..we actually went to the hospital…ahm…I mean… there in Palestine you can fight from freedom, which we can fight these country, which is the United States because of the free speech to protest..protest..ahm..you feel whatever you want is right to be yourself, but there  ….    you can not express by yourserlf…ahm..the way you want… because people there are abusing you, because they want to take your land and more and more land and that we wold not except.

Jose Castillo: I see…your frustration is kind of….the opression forcé….I see the moments of desperation, the moments you experience…your friend getting shot…..I see the opposing forcé oppresing you, opressing your family, oppressing your people…they don’t have civil rights to be protected, I see the moments of exesperation because is a time of oppression…whao I can believe how hurful your freind was shot…it was a moment I can see your friend being bloody in a frustrating moments and taken to the hospital and seeking help …

Adbul says in the middle of my talking: they want to take the whole land….

Jose Castillo: Whoa, I can see is a very difficutl situation…ah..at that point I can see…ok..ah… the next question I would like to make …is how hard was for you when comming to the United States without speaking the English language?

Adbul : Ah..it was very hard the English language the first language…when I was Young was very good, I had a litlle back up of the English language. I came to the English schoo before I came here…ah…I learned a lot of skills, listening, writing, lots of skills that were able to speak to people in the community…you know…basically they do not have language can not speak with people because…ah..most people in the United States speak English . As I said before, the English school I was enrolled, I learned a lot of staff right there…ahm….I was able to speak….to speak

Jose Castillo: Oh…I see. That’s interesting to see you already spoke the English language…you know.        , which also is an opportunity…you here in the United States…you know…and find a career and education. That’s interesting, you are part              As far I can see, there is an area you know, a hardest part you strugle..you know…  Adbul say: (to communicate….)   one you communicate, you have the facility to communicate your though..you know…     Adbul : (Caugh…)       where you can find a nice career you know. I see…is something you know, is a hardest countering English language when comming to the United States.  That’s fabulous.

Jose Castillo: Let me see with the last question: how does this interview make you to feel after telling this story in this interview?

Adbul : I feel happy because I told you a really story…the real…ah…the real aspect of my…because when I was…ah…(he looked a Little nervous..)  when I was standing in front of you…ah…I just released the pain by bringing here…ah…also was fun to meet with you…you know…you know…ah… talked about me…ah…yeap.

Jose Castillo: Whao..that’s interesting, you feel a Little…you have come out with a nice talk, you have come out of a liberation..you know…because you were able to tell with confidence…you know…your personal history…you…   Adbul say: (be whatever you want…)  you…have at home..you know…a conflictive situation..and now you are at a place where you feel secure…

Jose Castillo: Congratulations….welcome to the United States, and thank you so much.

Adbul : You welcome.

Jose Castillo: This interview ended at 6: 05 PM in the afternoom of Tuesday, March 14 of the year 2017.

 

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

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

by Pui Man Stephanie Ho, December 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sample Transcript

Pui Man Stephanie Ho: Where did you born?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JH: That time, I was around fifty years old

SH: Did you bring any family members with you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(20:46)

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

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

SH: Have you been influenced by the American culture?

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

(28:44)

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

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

(32:02)

SH: How about any differences in religion?

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

 

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

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

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

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

SH: So you see the bomb in person?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.