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#growingupchinese Chinese American Dream Part 2
The Chinese American Dream is a series of stories that have been shared with me for public distribution. We share the story of a young man growing up in rural China, and his journey to the United States. The stories are told as if he were speaking to you as the events take place. These are all true stories to the best of my knowledge, only the names have been changed to protect the subject’s privacy.
After a long day of school, chores, then comes the time to do my homework! Using the very same stool that I carry back and forth with me to school, (we don’t have seats in school) I sit down and begin working on my assignments for the evening. It’s getting darker now, so I have to use the kerosene lamp for light while I do my homework. It is not uncommon to look out the window, and literally see all the kerosene lamps lit in every house that has children. We are pretty much all doing our homework at this hour. We follow a very similar routine.
My father is the village accountant. In America, being an accountant is a respected job. They make good money there, and they are regarded as working professionals. Though his role is a necessary one, it is frowned upon by the other villagers. Why you ask? Well, because it isn’t a job that requires using your hands for physical labor, in the same way the other jobs did. There is a saying in Chinese Village Life, it goes: “if you are not using your hands, you are not eating!”
In fact, my dad not “using his hands” made it so that we are one of the few families that doesn’t have a buffalo. On the bright side, I don’t have to feed and take care of a buffalo. Also, that’s more food and time for Missy! She’ll get fatter, and turn us a bigger profit at the butcher’s shop when I take her in 4 months! On the downside, I don’t get to ride the family buffalo like the other village kids do. There are pros and cons to everything I suppose, but I wish we had a buffalo!
Many of the things you take for granted today, are unheard of to us. We don’t have hot or cold running water like you do. When we require water, we grab a bucket and hump it to the water well and retrieved some. Bath, cooking, whatever the reason, we have to hump it back and forth to the well. There is no central air conditioning for the blistering summer heat. If it gets too hot, well, find the shade! Oh, oh, here comes the cold weather. Sorry, heaters don’t exist here. We light a fire or something, I don’t know what to tell you. When we need to use the bathroom, we grab a leaf and go find the hole in the ground!
Ipads? Iphones? I still remember when I first saw a television! It was a tiny black-and-white television. We would only see it when we went to the town square, perched up high, with everyone crowding around it. I recall looking at this magic box and wondering to myself “How do they get all those people to fit in there?” Bear in mind that back in those days, we didn’t even have electricity! A television, not matter how tiny was a major luxury that we could not afford, especially when we couldn’t even have a family buffalo of our own!
The other way that we saw the movies, was that periodically the large town’s people would set up a makeshift movie theater with a little projector. I believe it was once a month, and people from all the smaller neighboring villages would come to the larger town to watch the movie. It would get so crowded, but I will never forget that time. There is nothing like the excitement of youth, and seeing all these amazing things for the first time!
That’s a taste of what my Chinese Village life was like. Stay tuned for the next installation of my Chinese American Life.
Growing Up Bronx