Kelly’s Migration Story

My name is Kelly Wu and I have lived in New York City all my life. As a result, I know where the best restaurants are, I know when is the best time to go to Central Park, and I have perfected the art of zoning out when using the MTA transit system. All in all, these qualities should give me the label as a “true New Yorker.” However, my family was not originally from New Yorkand it took many different stops at a variety of places in order to get to the “Capital of the World.”I come from a line of seemingly average people whose situations made them strong and able to persevere in the face of adversity. Like many other immigrant families, my family was also influenced by a number of push and pull factors. This notable journey to the United States began with my grandmother.

My grandmother was born and raised in Guangdong, a heavily populated province in China. At the time, during the end of WWII, Guangdong was going through a period of turmoil, feebly struggling to recover from the Second Sino-Japanese War. My grandmother can be is typical of Chinese mothers of her time, constantly struggling to provide a living by farming for her family. Not so typical about my grandmother was that she was also a single mother with two young kids. Day after day, night after night, the struggles of war and poverty continued to wreck havoc on her life. One night, looking at her almost starving children, she decided to take a risk and immigrate to Hong Kong in search for better economic opportunities. Looking back, my grandmother says that she “lacked the courage” and insists that she probably would have stayed in Guangdong if she did not have my mom and aunt to take care of. For a woman who claims to lack courage, she showed it at the most critical time, looking out forthe welfare of her children even when her own survival was equally uncertain.

After she arrived in Hong Kong, my grandmother started to work as a housekeeper for a wealthy family. The job was menial at best but she put a lot of effort into it, knowing that her family’s survival was dependent upon her job. She did not need to drastically change her beliefs or cultural values in order to assimilate into the Hong Kong culture, seeing that Hong Kong was very similar to China.However, one thing that she did change was her language.Previously only speaking Hakka (a dialect of the Chinese language), my grandmother now speaks Cantonese. However, to this day, she still has a lingering accent of the Hakka dialect, which resurfaces occasionally at family gatherings.

On the other hand, my parents’ journey to America started with a love story that’s quite different from my grandmother’s. My mother met my father while they were working together at a manufacturing company in Hong Kong. My father was the manager at the time and hired my mother for one of the jobs. They constantly argue over who fell in love first, a subject that remains unclear to this very day. While this love story was taking place, my grandmother decided to move to the United States in an attempt to attain the American dream. My mother then followed her to the United States. My father, trying to avoid the heartbreak of a long distance relationship, also immigrated to the United States.Arriving to America, my parents experienced a bit of a culture shock, complaints were specifically directed towards the food. They settled in Chinatown, a neighborhood dominated by Chinese immigrants in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Throughout the years, my family moved a few times but we always moved within New York. My family was attracted to the level of diversity that only New York seems to offer. Now, we live near Clinton Street, a place near Chinatown but not the heart of it. Now, we call ourselves true New Yorkers because we live and breathe the air of New York. However, the real reason as to why we still live near Chinatown is because that place reminds my family of where everything started, of where it all began.

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