I have to do an Oral History paper for my Asian American
History course on someone else's life placed in a larger historical context. First, I had to interview someone of asian
ancestry and later use that info as the basis for my paper. The required sources are very specific: Two books and the interview itself. Here are the titles of the two books:
"Strangers from a Different Shore: a history of Asian Americans
" by Ronald Takaki
"Major Problems in Asian American
History" documents and essays edited by Lon Kurashige and Alice Yang Murray
So this is a research paper that encourages critical thinking about Asian
and Asian American
experiences. All historical info have to come from those two books listed above (no online websites). I'm also sending the paper's official instructions via e-mail in case of any confusion. The copy of my entire interview is below (use it to write the paper), thank you very much!
What's your name?
December 21, 1953
AnShan Liaoming Province (Northeastern China)
How was your life back in your country?
Had a miserable like back when she was young since China was very poor (economically): Not enough nutrition; milk, eggs, meat..etc. Also, it was during Mao's communist reign (he was like a dictator) and nobody had much contact with the outside world (no information, nothing). Pretty much lived in seclusion.
Hoping for a good education and to one day become an engineer. She was able to fulfill her dream.
When come into U.S.?
Left China for West Germany in 1986 (Summertime) (overall, lived over 20 years in the west). First came to the U.S. in October (end of), 1988.
Main purpose of coming to the U.S. is to attain a better way of life and also to make comparisions between life in the U.S. as opposed to life in China. She was curious since nobody living in China knew much about the west back then -only heard stories.
Husband wanted to come here to study and managed to attain a student visa and Ping, who was his wife, naturally was able to get one as well. Upon arriving in the U.S., She and her husband studied English and then attended college at Suny Newpaltz as graduate students (having already studied as undergraduates back in China) where they both eventually received Master Degrees in computer science.
Was it difficult living here?
Extremely difficult because of language barrier (she knew no english) and lack of working permit and driver's license -she practically started out with nothing. Both she and her husband were on their own: they had to study and work very hard to support their lives. Started out working odd-jobs 7 days a week. Occupations alternated between waitressing, working as a motel maid(includes taking care of an old lady) and various other laborious work -she mentioned practically trying out everything in the labor department. Though she studied English back in China as preparations for living in the U.S., it was all limited to text-book technical work: She was only able to read some sentences (though there was a lack of understanding) and had no listening or speaking comprehensions. Americans
couldn't undertand her when she attempted to communicate. As a result, she had to listen to the radio and watch tv as well as get help from her professors at the University in order to improve (advance her english comprehension skills). Later on, Ping also counted on her two daughters when she needed help.
When did it start getting easier?
After her husband got his first break by receiving a job opportunity at the New York Power authority in 1991
Did you understand much english then?
Did anyone in particular help you get settled?
Difference btw U.S. and China?
20 years ago due to communism, Chinese people had equal standing (jobs for everyone with same pay): Their occupations designated by the government (nobody had a choice). However, in the U.S., she had to send her resume to various companies and wait for their feedback (though there's a choice, this process doesn't guarantee a job). This was a huge challenge for her especially because of her language barrier. Still, she'd rather be in the U.S. despite the hard times in the beginning since at least there's a chance for progression. Back in China, though there's no job challenge, everyone's forced to receive the same amount of wages regardless of education or ability. Every job offers the same minimal wages. Though Ping had a good job, she still couldn't afford more than the necessities (she couldn't buy a single house or anything beyond food). This triggered extreme feelings of unsatisfaction, which prompted her to come to the U.S.. In America, Ping was eventually able to climb out of poverty and buy her own house and car, achieving a reasonable way of living (similar to American
In addition, asian
(China-born) hate waste because of how hard life was back then. Ping recalled a time where she was working as a waitress (way back when she just started living in the U.S.) and witnessed an american
worker dumping a whole pot of leftover rice into the garbage! Her eyes nearly bulged out of her head for she most certainly would have been willing to save all of it herself rather than see it go down to waste. Eventually, she realized that because of America's affluent situation, most of its citizens are pretty casual about their belongings and necessities. They'll never be able to understand the insatiable hunger that plagued most Chinese people back in China: This issue lies in the culture of both countries.
Were you discriminated here?
Though no one was overly mean, she did face discrimination in the career world as interviewers would pass her over because of her Chinese ethnicity (skin color) and accent. Ping felt that Americans
didn't really believe in her even if she was qualified for a particular job.
What was your first satisfying job?
Her break came in 1993 when she got a job offer at some consulting company.
Was it easy making friends?
Did anyone give you a hand?
Her husband's cousin helped them by recommending them to Suny Newpaltz (helped them with the I20, which is necessary in order to study there) as well as getting him his first job.
Who did you feel was helpful?
Compared to the Japanese and Korean (asian
), was your life any more difficult than theirs?
She felt that her life was more difficult since back then (10 years ago), Japanese and Koreans were held in higher regard than the Chinese. Americans
would automatically ask whether she's Japanese or Korean (never Chinese) and she'd answer with her true ethnicity; she felt no shame in her culture although it was considered inferior to the Japs and koreans (to her) by Americans
. Ping thinks that Americans
assume that Japanese and Koreans were both richer than the Chinese (China more or less symbolized poverty and primity 20 years ago).
Who did you associate more with in the beginning, asians
Because of her limited English, she associated a lot more with other asians
: She made friends with other Chinese students at her graduate school and later at Chinese church.
Did you form groups with other asians
or did you live completely separate from them?
When she and her husband first came to the U.S., they lived in a room as big as a balcony in New York City. The room was in an apartment shared by several other Taiwanese people (shared the limited facilites such as one kitchen -everyone pretty much got along). However after about a year, her husband was accepted into the University and they moved more upstate. Besides that one year in the city, they never lived in any Chinese communities and chose instead to settle in communities where occupants were mainly Americans
. Though they've moved several times before settling in their current house (which they bought), they always remained in New York. So they've lived in this state for about 20 years.
Compared to other Asian Americans
, do you consider yourself lucky?
Ping considers herself in-between: Not really lucky or unlucky. She was able to make a reasonable way of living, but that came slowly and required an immense amount of patience, hard work, and perseverence. However, life did become immensely better after she and her husband got their computer science Master Degrees and found good jobs.
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