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.

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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.

 

 

 

War Is Fragmentation, Art Is Construction

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

   War Is Fragmentation, Art Is Construction

By Tim Matakovich, June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Interview Transcripts

Interview Topic:                      Vietnam War and forced exile

Interviewee:                            Ai Le Hua

Interviewer:                             Timothy Matakovich

Interview Date:                       March 19th, 2016

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

Tim: What do you normally do during the day

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

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

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

T: Just whenever

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

T: What kind of exhibitions do you like?

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

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

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

T: Have you always been fascinated by art?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Yes

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

A: I was 3

T: Where were you born?

A: Bien Hoa, Vietnam

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

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

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

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

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

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

T: For your parents it was also easy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Yea.

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

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

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

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

T: When was he in jail?

A: Not jail, but the concentration camp

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

A: Ummm 7 years.

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

A: Yes

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

A: I don’t understand your question

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

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

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

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

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

A: Probably middle school

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

A: Ummmm, In middle school?

T: Yea

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

T: Who were you mean to?

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

T: Why did everybody make fun of him?

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

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

A: Huge, massive. We had everybody.

T: What ethnicity was the majority

A: Asians and Latinos

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

A: What do you mean?

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

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

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

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

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

A: Yea, only when I had to.

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

A: No, same as me.

T: What about religious symbols.

A: What do you mean?

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

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

T: Even on Chinese new year’s?

A: What do you mean?

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

A: No.

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

A: Never.

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

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

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

A: Getting good grades.

T: Why was that the hardest thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: What do you mean?

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

A: Lunar festival, Chinese new year’s

T: How much does your family practice Buddhism

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

T: But your sister is different right?

A: Yea she’s more devout.

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

A: I guess because of her husband.

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

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

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

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

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

A: No, why would she dress more traditional.

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

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

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

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

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

A: What do you mean?

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

A: Yea and she was going to school.

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

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

T: Why were you lucky?

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

T: What do you mean go through?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T: What do you mean they were well off.

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

T: What kind of business was it?

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

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

A: I don’t know.

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

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

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

A: Yea.

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

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

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

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

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

A: Because they were able to escape the war.

 

 

A New Beginning

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A New Beginning

by Jeffrey De Alba, May 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

Hauch, Jasper. Personal Interview. 23 March 2016.

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

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

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

Interview Transcript

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

Jeff – what year were you born and your birthday?

J – I was born July 24th, 1996

Jeff – What school did you go to?

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

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

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

Jeff – so 12 years, 12 and a half

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

Jeff – u20? U18?

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

Jeff – do you have any siblings or?

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff – so two years ago?

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff – So you have family over here too?

J – Yeah, I live with my grandparents

Jeff – in the city?

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

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

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

Jeff – like 20 minutes?

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

Jeff – so about an hour?

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

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

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

Jeff – is it like richer, its just better?

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

Jeff – its better overall, the food or ?

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

Jeff – and the drinking age in Denmark is 18?

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

Jeff – so you can buy alcohol at 16?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff – yeah I wish

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

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

J – besides soccer that’s a hard one

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

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

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

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

Jeff – then what is the name of the team?

J – its JJ United

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

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

Jeff – and you go around and play tournaments?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Freedom to Dream

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The Freedom to Dream

by Anobel Khoushabeh, January 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Cited

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

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

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

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