September 11 Digital Archive

Meiling Tse

Title

Meiling Tse

Source

transcription

Media Type

interview

Chinatown Interview: Interviewee

Meiling Tse

Chinatown Interview: Interviewer

Val Wang

Chinatown Interview: Date

2004-01-30

Chinatown Interview: Language

English

Chinatown Interview: Occupation

high school teacher

Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)

Q: A little bit about where you were born and the story that your dad told you.

Tse: Right, well, I grew up –

[Interruption]

Q: I’m Val Wang.

Tse: You need to put your face in the camera.

Q: And I guess if you could introduce yourself a little bit, your name and where you were born and your age. Your age? And say where we are right now.

Tse: I don’t have to say my age, do I? Okay, I’ll say it, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t show my students. They think I’m 25. Okay, should we start? Or should we just answer?

Q: Yeah, just name, age, where we are.

Tse: Well, my name is MeiLing Tse, it’s my last name. I was born in Hong Kong and I immigrated to the United States with my entire family when I was 4 years old. I have two older sisters and a younger brother. When he came, he was one years old and I’m 35 years old now and I’m teaching at Lower East Side Preparatory High School and I was born in Hong Kong, like I said, and the way that my family immigrated to the United States was through my father’s – some connection between my father and his job. And so I tell my students this really interesting and fabulous story of this generous guy who was my father’s boss who just kind of sponsored my entire family to come to the United States so that my father could work for him in the restaurant, so the boss, the guy opened the restaurant in Brooklyn and my father started to work for him. He was a loyal worker for many years until he retired and my family grew up in Brooklyn near my boss in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. And went to high school – to elementary school, started kindergarten, actually, in the United States without knowing a single word of English because when I immigrated here, I didn’t know a word of English. My parents didn’t speak English, didn’t have any friends who spoke English. So, even though when you’re playing with your friends, you learn English, but because I didn’t have any friends who spoke English, I went to school without any English language skills. The school I went to, I remember, didn’t have any bilingual – no Chinese in the school, no bilingual classes as we have today and I remember the first day of school I was so scared because I didn’t understand what anyone was saying and I remember the end of the day I was hiding in the closet and the teacher had to fget me out to go home. And so those were my earliest memories and I tell my students the story just to put them at ease that every person that comes here really has a very difficult beginning. It’s not easy to assimilate and even for me, at age five, four or five years old, it was so hard and, so jumping forward, I learned English, went to high school and college ---

Q: How long did it take you to learn English? Or, how long was it until you felt comfortable here?

Tse: I remember reading, well the early years after that first memory was kind of blurred, but I remember reading books on my own in third grade, in third grade, just going to the library and taking out tons of books to read in the summer. And so I would say that I could probably read at a third grade level by the time I was eight years old, so I would say that between those first three years, it was very critical. I did learn somehow. How I learned, I don’t remember.

Q: At home, what were you speaking at home?

Tse: At home, my parents spoke Cantonese and that was the only language we used.

Q: How was their English progressing during that time?

Tse: Well, my parents were blue-collar workers. My father worked in a restaurant. He was a waiter and my mother was a seamstress, so they really had no use for English, so basically, they took classes and they tried to learn, but even up to today, they really have no use. They’re in their own community, there’s no really reason for them to use English, so they haven’t --- I don’t think they can really converse in a conversation with an American. So we’ve basically kept – they’ve been kind of shelled in their own little world all these years, actually.

Q: You mentioned that the area you grew up in didn’t have many other Chinese kids. So what was that experience like growing up, surrounded by people who weren’t Chinese?

Tse: Like I said, I have two older sisters and a younger brother, so basically, my family, we basically kept to ourselves and played with each other. We had friends, but basically, they were like school friends, like after school, we really didn’t hang out with them. We came home like obedient kids. We were latchkey kids, so we let ourselves in the house. We played in the house, went to the library. My sisters were my friends, so we played together, basically.

Q: Did you have any contact with the Chinese community in Chinatown, in Brooklyn, or in Queens? When did you ever come in contact with them?

Tse: Well, there was a big contact because my parents, my mother especially, worked in Chinatown and as we got older, my older sister actually went to Chinese school on Mott Street, CCBA [The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association] and my second sister did and my younger brother. I was the only one who didn’t go to Chinese school and my mother’s side of the story is that I refused to go so she let me go, according to the story, so I never learned Chinese that way, to write and read. But getting back to your question, we would go out every Sunday because that was family day and that was the place where my parents were very comfortable and we would go out to eat for dim sum, hang out with his family friends in the neighborhood, and basically, yeah, that was our contact, coming out every Sunday, just to eat, go shopping, hang out with my mother’s friends and my father’s friends.

Q: So you mentioned you didn’t have family here. How did they meet people? How did your parents meet people?

Tse: Basically from their, well, it’s not a hundred percent true that they didn’t have any blood relatives, but like family friends, like my mother’s workers became very good friends. We had some distant cousins here and basically, there was an association that my father was affiliated with, people who came from the same area in China got together, and so there was this organization called the “Tees” group, the T-S-A group, you’ve probably seen it in Chinatown, on Division Street and my father would go up there and they would gamble and men would get together and just talk and just hang out, so there was an association there and he would bring the family around, the kids, just to meet his friends, so they could see, Oh, these are your daughters, these are your lovely daughters and your good son, kind of show the family off, so, that was important for us to, to realize that there were other people who were concerned about us.

Q: So what part of China was that, were those, was that group of people from?

Tse: Mostly from Canton, Guangdong, in China.

Q: I guess if you could talk more about growing up and high school and then going to college and that whole process of where you went to college and how you made those decisions.

Tse: I went to a local school, after elementary school, I went to the local high school, which was Midwood High School at Brooklyn College and there were more Asians there, but I wouldn’t say that there were new, first-generation Chinese. I mean, there were definitely Chinese there whose families were wealthier, I remember, kids whose families were in the medical profession, people who were pretty well-off, probably second or third generation in America and I just remember they were still no ESL [English as Second Language] classes, but I remember in my sister’s grade there was a new immigrant, she was Vietnamese and my sister became sort of like the surrogate parent for that young girl because we understood what it meant to be an immigrant and I remember my sister would bring her friend home to kind of do homework together and kind of be together and so I remember my sister kind of taking on the role, kind of like teacher-slash-friend for this newcomer. For the most part, most of the Asians in the school were pretty much like second or third generation, I would say. And then later on I decided to go to New York University and followed my sister’s footsteps, because my sister went there first, I have to say. And then, at NYU of course, there were people from all over the world and that’s one of the things that attracted me. I wanted to find a school where people have similar experiences, but also people with wide experiences and wanted to get to know more, different people. So, of course everyone knows New York University has students from all over the world, from many various different backgrounds. And I had a really great experience there.

Q: So, say, like, your friends in high school versus your friends in college. How were they different?

Tse: Actually, it’s kind of funny. In college, I would say was the first time I met friends who spoke Chinese, who were new immigrants and who were probably first generation Chinese-Americans and I spoke Chinese in school. It was the first time, really that I made friends there who were Chinese, who spoke Chinese.

Q: And how did you decide to become a teacher? Can you talk about that whole process?

Tse: Well, actually, going back to high school, during the summers there was a program called SYEP [Summer Youth Employment Program], which the government funded to have students work in different areas in the city, so somehow I, the company or I guess the organization which sponsored the program, was in Chinatown, so I ended up working in Chinatown when I was 14 years old when I got those papers, my working papers and all my summer jobs from the age of 14 to 18, during my high school years, were in Chinatown. So I worked at the Chinese-American Planning Council, every summer, working at their summer youth program. I was either a - what was I – a counselor. There are really big titles, but to a 14-year old, we were really assistant counselors. There was somebody in charge of us. We didn’t have that many responsibilities, but we, you just kind of work with, pretty much like babysitting, watching the kids who were younger than we were. So most of my jobs have been working in the Chinese community since I was 14. And the last year in high school, I remember, I was placed in a program where were worked with kids who were slightly older, they were high school kids, so they were almost the same as I was. And most of those kids were in school in Chinatown and they didn’t speak English. So then I started really tutoring, working with the students in another level and from there I got interested to, in education and thought in college that this was something I would study, so when I got to NYU, I continued, actually, to work at the Chinese-American Planning Council, getting other kinds of jobs in different areas and kind of stuck with that company for a while.

Q: And then you said after you graduated college, you started teaching? Is that --

Tse: Yeah, well, actually, after college I got a degree in elementary ed and I taught sixth months in kindergarten, in Brooklyn, didn’t enjoy it. The kids were very tiresome and somehow I found myself taking time off and I came back to work at CPC as a full-time, for a year. Then in that time period I decided to go back to get my Master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. And so then I applied to get a job at NYU, so I worked at NYU full-time and taught a writing workshop to students and then I started to pursue my Master’s and one year later, I interviewed at this school and got a job here and here I am about ten years later and still here, still enjoying it. The students are, as I put it before, they are about, the school is about 70 percent immigrant students and of those 70 percent, I would say 60 percent, 60 65 percent Asian immigrants. Asian, Chinese immigrants. So, it’s kind of like going back full circle to my background.

Q: Can you tell a little bit about the class that you teach and about the problems that the kids have and how you work through a lot of their issues?

Tse: In this school, we have a really good ESL program. We have all levels of ESL, starting with beginner and it used to be that 10 years ago we used to accept students who were at the really basic literacy level learning English, so I remember doing very basic, just going over the alphabet, A B C. Of course now, with the English Regents, we don’t accept those kinds of students anymore. We still have beginning level learning students, so that’s ESL 1, 2. We also have Intermediate 3 and 4. Five and 6, 7 is a transitional English class, English as a Second Language into a mainstream English class. And so I’ve taught every level of ESL, from beginning to intermediate and advanced and it’s really amazing to see in a really short amount of time, from students can be here from three months in this country, from three months to two years and they have to learn a lot. A lot of skills, a lot of language skills. And the ultimate goal is, for them, is to learn enough English to pass the English Regents, which is mandated of every student in New York City in order to receive the high school diploma. So that’s a big challenge, a really big challenge and they rise to the occasion. I mean, that’s what’s amazing that in two years, that they can learn such an incredible amount. I mean, if you think about it, if you were to, if we were to go to another country and could we master a language in two years? That’s mind-boggling, yeah.

Q: And so can you say, in the ten years that you’ve been here, what you’ve seen in the changes in the students, where people are coming from and what kind of English they come with or what kinds of problems you’ve seen that have changed in the last ten years.

Tse: As I said before, ten years ago we actually accepted students who were at the literacy level where we started with the alphabet and at the same time, we also had students who have incredible amounts of grammar and English levels, and most of the students came from Hong Kong ten years ago. If you look at today’s student population, most of our students come from more rural or small town farm areas in China, Fukian, especially. I would say 80% of our students are from Fukian today, yeah. And I would say of those students, about half of them don’t have more than a sixth grade education, so that’s another challenge that’s come up that they don’t have the literacy skill in their own language so it’s hard for them to actually transfer their knowledge of language into their second language or their third language.

Q: What do their parents usually do, here?

Tse: I would say probably 99 percent of their parents are blue-collar workers, work in factories, restaurants. There are a minority number of students whose parents were at the technical level, doctors, perhaps, nurses in China, but of course after coming here, they have to get jobs to support themselves, so again, they are kind of working blue-collar jobs.

Q: And so what kinds of difficulties do you see them having here and how do they kind of compare to the difficulties that you had when you came?

Tse: Their difficulties?

Q: Yeah.

Tse: Well, it’s interesting, because thinking back now a lot into the things that we were missing as a child, we didn’t have dolls, we didn’t have money to buy certain things. My clothes were all secondhand because I had two older sisters, so when I tell my students this, they’re like, What? How could you like, didn’t you want more? Didn’t you have your parents like give you stuff? So when I see a lot of students these days, actually I would say are better off or at the same level that my parents were at. I think you have to look at it in perspective, when you live in a certain time period, you don’t think of the things you don’t have because you don’t have them, but if you’ve had them before and then all of a sudden you don’t have it, then you compare and say, Oh my god, what happened? You know, why is our life worse? Or, you know, what has changed for us? So I think that for most students, because they didn’t have much before, and I would say I would know at least a couple families who told me that, you know, when they were in China, they really, they didn’t, their parents didn’t work, you know, they really just stayed at home, and every day was just passing by. They are so extremely grateful to be here that they really, they really don’t care about the clothes that they are wearing. The education is really the most important thing to them.

Q: Interesting. I guess we can talk a little bit about, should start talking a little bit about 9/11 and you were pretty close to that area. I guess first a little bit about that day and where people were, if people were here and then more about what happened afterwards and how the school dealt with it and the kids and if there were any changes that happened because of it, at the school and any counseling that the kids went through, or the teachers. So I guess a little bit about what happened that day, or where you were or where the kids were.

Tse: Two years, last year, we did a little write-up, kind of like memorial of the day and one of my students handed in this essay on that day, he was on his way from China to come to the United States and the plane was stopped and they had to re-route and stop in California because of what happened here and he remembered that it was, not so much scary, but a sense of not knowing what is going to happen to you, so in his essay he writes they were just stranded in this one place and nobody knew what was going to happen and now all the dreams and excitement of coming here, you know, kind of like fell backwards, you know, are we going to have to go back to China or are we going to move forward? So it’s kind of interesting in retrospect those students who came here during that year probably had a really amazing memory of probably what happened. For us, that day, it was in the morning, and it was, from one of the classrooms, you could see the smoke and you could see one of the towers missing, and we remember, the entire school would try to like move the entire student body into the auditorium so that people would not go crazy or panic. We were just waiting word to see what happens, you know, was it just a plane or was it something else. And of course when we found out, you know, we couldn’t leave school, there were no train available, so we thought we were going to camp out in school that night. You know, the students were kind of, we were all shocked, but we didn’t, most of the people here in our school didn’t know anyone personally who was in the buildings. So I guess it was, the shock was so great that we didn’t really think about the reality of what was happening. We were just stunned, you know, classes didn’t go on. We just basically sat around and waited. The students, no one talk about it. They try to, try to continue the day but not really knowing what to say. So it was a really hard day, so –

Q: Most of the kids weren’t from around here, you said? They couldn’t just walk home, or –

Tse: Some of the students were able to go home, you know, within walking distance, but the rest of the students kind of waited. We had all of the TVs on, just kind of waiting word to see if the trains would go on, whether we should let the students go at 3 o’clock or not, yeah.

Q: And the rest of the week, did there, were there classes? Or what happened, sort of just with the class, with the school?

Tse: Well, we were told to try to continue things, as much as possible, but of course when you go home and you realize what happened, you know, and a few days, as time passed, two days or three days later, when it really sets in about the reality of what happened, it’s really hard to just continue. And I would say, we had a social worker at the time and she did go around to talk to the students in each classes and really appreciate that she brought up certain things that the teachers, you know, did not feel comfortable talking about or did not know how to approach it. And it’s really hard because you put your own personal opinion about what happens and we had some Muslim students in the school as well.

Q: How did they experience 9/11 or what was their experience after 9/11?

Tse: They were quiet about it, actually. I mean, later on, the following years, a year later, because we heard about the hatred and what was happening in their neighborhoods, but at that time, it was just, I think we were all just stunned. There was no blame, there was no animosity towards them, but we try to keep things in the low-key, just try to move on.

Q: Did they talk about what had happened in their neighborhood? What were they saying about their experiences?

Tse: They just, well, from what we heard in newspaper, you know, that they were being shunned or, it wasn’t so much that they, since I guess they, this school’s a pretty safe environment, so we really tried, I mean most of the students know each other. It wasn’t so much that our students were picking on the other students, but when they went home to their own worlds, I guess they had a different experience and it wasn’t so much shared in the school. Little bits and pieces came out afterwards. You know, like especially a year later, little things came out. They didn’t talk much the first year, about their personal feelings or like what happened to them afterwards.

Q: So, after a year, how did it come out? Was it in counseling steadily for a year or how did that work?

Tse: There were a few students who actually met with social workers on a one-to-one basis, who got counseling, but some of the teachers addressed it to the entire class. We spoke, we sat in a circle the second or third day and we talked about what happened. It’s just still, like, for the students, I don’t think they really want to talk about it. I don’t know whether it’s the age or whether they don’t think it really affected them, but they just didn’t want to talk about it, just wanted to move on, it’s like, Miss Meiling, can we just get back to what we were doing before? Just really just kind of want to forget about it, just kind of move on.

Q: Have they been like that the whole time? They’ve never wanted to talk about it, or --

Tse: The second year we had a memorial. Like each 9/11, the school, we put a memorial. We have students come up to a wall and write things, write their memoirs, write what they felt, what happened that day. And for that one day, I would say, it’s still so much like, it’s a one-day deal and after that, they don’t really want to talk about it.

Q: What about you, your experiences that day? How were you feeling or how did you react or –

Tse: Well, my sister actually worked in that building and her company actually moved out of that building a few months ago, so like I, I didn’t personally know anyone who worked there, except my sister who had moved out, so I was very relived, but I remember just like a blackout, you call everyone you know and want to find out if they’re okay, but itwas, it’s still hard, like for everyone else and you stay glued to the TV to hear the news.

Q: Was, were any of your students affected in terms of their parents losing jobs or any of those kinds of effects?

Tse: Well, I know, like, there was a big drive to really help the students fill the forms so they could get from FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], the aid they needed. A lot of students who were concerned about their parents were lost jobs in this area. Even the students who didn’t live in this area, in the Chinatown area, their parents worked down here, so parents who lost their jobs, the social workers would try to help them to apply for aid, to help them get financial assistance.

Q: So what kinds of aid programs were there? Because I’m not too clear about what kinds of aid programs there were.

Tse: There’s the FEMA program. So, I mean, we all knew it personally, so we tried to send the students down there to get the forms and they would come back here and ask us to help them fill it out. I had a friend whose son actually worked in the office, so I had some connections there and I got some forms for them. I had a, they actually had, they were, I mean it was translated in Chinese, so it was, there wasn’t so much problems in filling out the forms, but actually getting people there to stand in lines, reassuring that it was okay to go there and get help from other people.

Q: Was there a lot of reluctance to do that? To get help, to go seek help?

Tse: I think they were appreciated at the end, appreciative, the students. In the beginning, it was, like, they weren’t, they couldn’t believe it, I would say, there was such a thing existed in the United States, where they can get all this help. But they did bring the information back to the parents and you know, back and forth, the information got to the parents and somehow, they got the assistance, some of the students got the assistance they needed.

Q: And who was eligible for it and how –

Tse: In our school, we have a free lunch period for a hundred percent of the students, so I would say 99.9 percent of the students probably qualified.

Q: To get the free lunch?

Tse: Right. And probably for other assistance programs.

Q: So after 9/11, were there other assistance programs? Did the school apply for any money or were there other extra programs here?

Tse: Our school wasn’t directly affected by what happened, but I know that there were other funds. We did get, I mean this was, I guess, you know I think about a year later or within that year, we had, you know, different organizations approach us, with different things. We brought a hundred kids to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. Yeah, yeah, that was from one of the organizations which, you know, really felt for our school because we were so close to what happened. And there were a couple things that, you know, that we were able to achieve. I mean, , some of the, you know, benefits, I guess you can say, unfortunately, through what happened.

Q: So what organization did that, the Beauty and the Beast?

Tse: I think it was the Broadway, I don’t know the organization, the artists on Broadway, something like that.

Q: They just gave you guys a hundred tickets?

Tse: Yeah, to bring the kids to see the show.

Q: How was that experience?

Tse: The show, I mean, that’s great, I mean, anytime you get to take a bunch of kids on Broadway and just the show itself is very entertaining. And we told them, it’s because of this reason and they were very appreciative, that people were thinking of them. I mean, I was very appreciative that, you know, that we were able to take a hundred kids on Broadway for free. That’s not easy to come by.

Q: Yeah, that’s, that’s good. So, were there any other also effects in terms of health after 9/11? From the, were there more cases of asthma from the fallout from the World Trade Center or also from pollution in the, in this area?

Tse: Well, we noticed that the air [unintelligible] quality was not as a good. You know, on some days, especially in the first few weeks, it’s like evidently there was something in the air and we were asked not to open the A/C because the filter was probably contaminated. I tried not to open my windows at all just because, like, you never know, like if you hear about it and you feel afraid, you’re not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t think the kids really, like, you know, other people, especially the students, were that concerned about. They didn’t think about, you know, probably long-term effects. And they didn’t really feel that there was any danger you know in the air. I know there was a big push to get air filters and different things in the school at that time, but due to our lack of funds, we didn’t go that far. I think they only clean out the air-conditioner filters and that was it.

Q: So does the school have a lot of funds, you said there was funding problems. Are there, can you talk a little more about that?

Tse: The funding problems in our school?

Q: Yes.

Tse: Well, I think it is just the way the, comes from the top. It depends how they decide to, where they decide to spend their money. I mean, teachers don’t, we really don’t get a say in how the money is spent in school, whether we should have, hire more teachers or other support staff. We don’t really have a role in that. If we did, probably things would be run a little bit differently. But you were saying, do we have more support? Well, I can say that our school is probably much better off, I mean we have no problems in terms of chalk, missing chalk. There is always lack of books, you know, if we want to get a few more copies of a certain book or we want to try to use a new book, we would have to wait and wait and then wait until there are funds for it. So definitely textbook money is hard to come by, [unintelligible]

Q: So, actually, I don’t know if we’ve talked about this being –

[Lan asking to stop the tape to adjust the lighting after a light blew out.]

Tse: It’s not going to go on, though because it probably blew out.

[Consultations]

Tse: That’s not the first time it happened. It just goes out and either it comes back on or we have to call the custodian. They’re not going to come today.

Q: As long as it’s not flickering, I guess.

[Break in tape]

Q: Okay, I guess we were kind of at a stopping point, so if we want to go back now and talk more about your childhood and what you remember about coming to the States and why your parents came and why they chose New York. And a little bit about what you remember about being really young in Hong Kong.

Tse: Well, when my students ask when I immigrated here, 1972 was the year and we do a little research into history and that was the time when Nixon was president and welcome arms. They wanted immigrants. The immigration door was wide open and it was relatively easy for us to come here. My family was sponsored by my father’s boss who had a business connection with my father. It was under his kind graces that he sponsored us and actually probably paid for our entire passage to America. My family consists of my mother, my father, my two older sisters and a younger brother and myself, that’s six of us, couldn’t have been that cheap and my father worked for this person for the last, I guess, 25 years until he retired and until the guy passed away. Getting back to your question of why did my parents come here, my parents were born in Toisan (??) which is Toisan, you know, Toishan is the way you say it in America and they immigrated to Hong Kong during the wartime and my parents met in Hong Kong and had all four of us there before the opportunity came up for them to immigrate to America. We were the first part of our family to come here, my mother’s sister’s family is still there in Hong Kong. On my father’s side of the family, they went to different places. They went to Holland. We have two of my brothers live in Holland. We also have some half-brothers who are in the United States, but pretty distant relatives and we don’t really get together. But my parents immigrated here for, of course, a better opportunities. They understood that if we stayed in Hong Kong probably that was not the way that my parents wanted to raise us. They wanted to give us more opportunities to, in this new land. And probably all the stories about America, you know, the golden gates, the gold on the floor, the clichés about America, you know, that was true for my parents. They believed in it, they believed in the American dream. And even though my father would have to take a low-paying job when he came here and my mother didn’t know what she would do when she came here, they decided take the risk and all of us came over here at the same time. We were probably lucky that we all came here together because some of my students today, some of my students are here by themselves or some of the students, their parents have come earlier than them because they haven’t, due to paperwork of some sorts, they weren’t able to come together as a whole family and so that kind of disbalances the family unit and I think we were lucky that my entire family were able to come at one time and of course at that time there were probably programs for people who came in, to help us out. I don’t remember any specifics, I just remember there were a lot of people who did help us out. My father’s business, his boss and friends which they made later in the neighborhood, the Chinese families, were probably the main people who helped us get grounded in our new life here and --

Q: What did your dad do when he was in Hong Kong?

Tse: He was a sailor and when he came here, because of some connections he made with a person he knew there, the person trusted him and trusted him, I guess, a lot and when he came here, he worked for him.

Q: So he was a sailor and he would leave Hong Kong a lot to go on trips?

Tse: Right, right.

Q: And do you remember being in Hong Kong?

Tse: My parents had a small soda shop there, so we have a few pictures from Hong Kong where my two sisters and I are sitting at the front doorstep of this candy shop and black-and-white pictures and at the garden, and different places. My sister remembers more because she was actually seven when she came. I was four when I left so I don’t have many memories. There are a couple, few memories, places, because I did go back to Hong Kong twice, as an adult and don’t remember the places. It’s very a big city, it’s similar to New York City, 42nd Street, so it’s not that big of a change.

Q: So can you talk about going back actually, your experience? What was it like going back?

Tse: Well, my mother’s sister still lives there with her family so when I went back, I contact them and they brought me to some places I didn’t remember. I mean, the places were very different. My mother has actually gone back to Hong Kong before I went back and basically things in her hometown haven’t changed much. In the way you had to walk to get to certain place. Still very poor living conditions, but in the city, if you were to stay in the city, in a hotel, I mean it’s no different from New York City. Yeah.

Q: So did you go back to her hometown as well?

Tse: I didn’t know anyone there, so when I went back to Hong Kong, it was with friends and it wasn’t a visit with my mom. So if I were to go again, a trip with my mom would probably be more meaningful it terms of searching my family’s roots. But my mother’s sister was there and her daughter was about the same age as me, took me around, she took me around. Her mother’s not well, so she couldn’t tell me much about her, their life there. But Hong Kong is a very hip city. It’s like New York City. She grew up in the city. They really have no desire to immigrate to United States. I asked her once, before ’97, I went back and they’re pretty happy there. They have a whole life there. There’s no reason to leave. They’re professional people there, so I mean if they were to come here, it would be just to visit.

Q: Did you feel a connection to her or, because you’d never met her, right?

Tse: Only through pictures.

Q: So what was that like?

Tse: It was amazing. We connected. Even though we’re family, we haven’t really seen or spoken, just through parents’ letters, we kind of knew of each other and what we studied and what we were good in and what our parents thought of us and so we met. It was more of, because we were blood that really we connected and kept in touch.

Q: Was she the same age? What did she do there?

Tse: She was a graphic designer and her older sister worked with her husband in their own business and her other sister was an aspiring dancer at that time. [Laughs.] I think she’s a housewife now, but they all were, they had big dreams, you know, but to pursue them in Hong Kong, not with any intention of leaving that place.

Q: So what surprised you most about going there?

Tse: That there wasn’t much of a difference compared to New York City. Of course there was the language, people spoke Cantonese more and really appreciated that we spoke Cantonese with them. We spoke English with them in some places, which was fine because they spoke English.

Q: What surprised you most about going back?

Tse: What surprised me most was that Hong Kong wasn’t that big of a surprise in terms of, if you were to travel to another country, you would think that things were really different and there wasn’t really. It was a big city. I stayed in the main part of the city, in a hotel. If you traveled to some of the poorer places, of course life is very different. Wild dogs there and the place you go, the cemeteries, the old style cemeteries are probably places you want to visit just to see, you know, there’s a hint of the old lifestyle there, but in the city, there’s not much different from New York City.

Q: Did you, I was going to ask, did you feel like it was going home? Or where do you feel like your home is? Did you feel at home there?

Tse: I was a tourist. I was a visitor. I mean, I don’t have any, I haven’t been there for the past, since I came here, with my mother’s sister’s family, my aunt’s family who were there, I wouldn’t have anyone to visit there. I would say because I’ve been in America for such a long time, you know, actually went through the whole citizenship process when I was 18 years old and was sworn in in a courtroom and everything. I would say that I consider myself a Chinese-American.

Q: And what about your parents? What do they feel about what they are?

Tse: I think as most families, if you live in a place long enough, even if you don’t consider it your home, you know, if you’ve been in a place long enough, it’s hard for them to consider any other place to live. I remember when we were younger, they would say, Oh, when we retire, we’re just going to go back to Hong Kong and live there and leave you guys here, you know. But I don’t hear them say that anymore and I think it’s because they’re so used, and they like living here. They have their family, they have their life here. If they were to move back to another country, back to Hong Kong, or China, they would have to start over again with their friends and settling down. Everything is just so convenient here. My parents are pretty traditional people. I mean, they don’t have any American friends, basically, and they live really in their own world, very sheltered world. But I would say that they’re very comfortable. They know how to get on the subway and go to places where they like to go, go to the park, Central Park or go to Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, so there are certain places that they know how to get there, and, you know, Chinatown is always there and they’re just very comfortable where they are. They consider, I think they consider America to be their home.

Q: And, I guess if you also talk a little bit about sort of your process of what Lan was saying about becoming American, sort of the difficulties in that and what point you felt like, or if you can remember any specific incidents where you felt, like, okay, actually, I belong here now or I feel American now? Or not?

Tse: Well, the term “what is an American?” is very philosophical and there are many ways to answer it. I think my best answer is, came about when my students asked me, so what, of course with the intention of thinking, what should we consider ourselves? and so if you had to answer that question, you had to be very careful with what you say because you’re influencing someone else and that’s scary, right? But I would say I’ve always considered myself a Chinese-American. Chinese because of my cultural background, you know, the way I look, the way I was brought up, the values my parents instilled in me, and I would also say I would attach the American too because this is the country that you live in and there are other values, other behaviors, other cultures that you added onto yourself to make you the person you are today. So I wouldn’t say, completely say that I’m just Chinese because you know if you live in China, you might say that you’re just Chinese, right? Just because you live in America doesn’t mean that you’re just an American because you have other historical links to yourself. So we say America is a melting pot. America is not just one kind of person or, you know, you’re not just one kind of person, you’re always linked to another country or another cultural background, so even if I think two or three generations down, you know, like my children’s children’s children, I would teach them to be Chinese-American. I would like them to consider themselves Chinese-American.

Q: What do your students, what is your students’ take on that? Are they eager to be American?

Tse: They think I’m, they view, in the beginning, yeah. They were surprised I speak Chinese. Even though I look Chinese, in the class progressed, they think I’m totally American. So they would consider me as an American. It’s only after my speech or after getting to know me, probably two or three months later, that I’m very Chinese in certain ways and have similar values or understand where they’re coming from, that they begin to realize that, oh, you’re Chinese too. So probably Chinese-American.

Q: So when you say you feel very Chinese, what is, how does that, how do you experience that or how do you feel like you know that?

Tse: Well, I don’t want to go into any stereotypes of what it means to be an American, but you can look at certain behaviors of the Chinese-American who grew up here, the teenagers who grew up in New York City are much more verbal, not to say I’m not, but just that they’re behavior, who they hang around with, their living conditions, their environment, influence them to be who they are, the TV they watch, the friends they hang around with, the books they read, if they read at all. I think that those external factors influence them more than the internal factors and the fact that probably their parents are more, you know, assimilated in society that they’re more external, they’ve accepted the external parts more, too. So I think compared to my students, who only been in America two years, this is, all who they are has been from their upbringing and they’ve been brought up in China all these years, so they haven’t assimilated yet, even though their forced to do certain things, but they haven’t totally accepted it or you don’t have to like it, but maybe not even understanding it could be problem for them too, to consider themselves an American yet.

Q: So growing up, what I guess, if we could go over what, growing up, in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, was different from kids who immigrate here when they’re five and grow up here now? Just how it was different culturally or socially?

Tse: I would say, I want to talk about the similarities first because as I said before, I tell my students I remember going to school and not understanding the teacher. I remember learning A B C from the beginning. I even though the age, there’s an age difference, I was four and they’re sixteen, seventeen, there are similarities. The struggle of first having to speak English, not understanding other people, not understanding the context of culture or [unintelligible] whatever, the difference is that I was younger and probably was able to play without using language, probably able to blend in, things weren’t that academic at that point, when you’re four years old, five years old and things are different for students now. Students who are 13, 14, coming to America, are probably at a crossroads in their lives because they’re coming of age, they may, depending on their level of English skills, I would say most of our students have some kind of background in English. They’ve studied English as a foreign language in their country, so, they’ve learned some grammar rules and depending on how much they’ve learned, sometimes does influence how successful they’re going to be here. Because of the age and pressures of finishing high school, how much, how many friends you make here, American friends you make here will also influence how much you push yourself into the American culture, I think. So, the differences are, in terms of the age, I would say, the environment is very different. I remember, we were able to play out in the streets until I don’t know what time and that, of course, understanding, I grew up in, not a great neighborhood, but a pretty decent neighborhood. I remember a time coming home I had to be chaperoned because the people were hanging out on the stoop and of course if you go to New York City that’s not a big deal because lots of people hang out on the stoop, but for my parents, they were like, bad people hang out on the stoop after 9 o’clock, so we were never allowed to go out certain times. But again that’s in my parents days, they were very traditional and they were very, since they didn’t know anyone in this country, they were very protective and their rules were very strict for us. I think our students today, the rules are a little looser. Pretty much they’re on their own. They learn to be independent, they are independent. Probably in China before they came they were independent. A lot of our students went off to school, didn’t live at home and they had to learn to cook and clean for themselves, so it’s almost, it’s almost a blessing for them coming here with those skills because now they have to learn to be independent and to take on a lot of responsibilities and practically become mature overnight. They have to learn to do all these things on their own without their parents’ help or advice.

Q: Did you, so you said you were less independent, you said, growing up than a lot of these students?

Tse: Yeah, totally.

Q: Did you ever go through a period of rebellion where you, you know, had friends who were more, you know, had looser parents and you wanted to be more like that?

Tse: I would say I didn’t really connect with that many friends who were outgoing in school but I can tell you about my sister who was very rebellious and I remember she ran away from home twice and we found her at an American boy’s home and they were just friends and we knew the guy later on, a few years later, and they were just friends. That was junior high school. She was probably 12 or 13 years old and there were certain things that my parents didn’t allow her to do, probably stay out later than she wanted, you know, come home earlier than she wanted to come home or do certain things like go to parties or do certain things that she wanted to do. So she was the rebellious one. She would run away or stay out late, intentionally not come home with me, you know, those kinds things, just to tell my parents, hey, I don’t want to follow your rules. I was a good one. I basically listened to my parents. I did well in school, I studied hard. I read books. Books were really my friends. I did a lot of reading. I listened to my parents.

Q: And you had a brother also.

Tse: I had a younger brother.

Q: Was he rebellious?

Tse: Not really. I would say, we were, I wouldn’t say sheltered, we were kind of sheltered. You know, our family did things together, like on Saturdays we would play ball together. We would go out as a family and kind of stay together, because my parents didn’t have many friends then either, so we hung out together. My parents tried to find things for us to do together and we became, we became friends, each other’s company.

Q: So where is your younger sister now?

Tse: My brother?

Q: The rebellious sister.

Tse: Oh, she’s married. She lives in Queens and she works in a law firm. My older sister is also a teacher. She teaches in Harlem. She teaches elementary school.

Q: And where’s your brother?

Tse: My brother’s unemployed right now. He’s in the computer field, so they’re having a hard time looking for a good company who will support what he’s interested in doing.

Q: I guess, can you, let’s see. I don’t know if you have anything else to say about the difficulties of just coming here and just from the time you came to high school, what sorts of difficulties you had in feeling assimilated or comfortable in the society?

Tse: I would still say, like, growing up, as a first generation, as you know, with my parents still being a very strong influence on my life, that we didn’t, you know, the things that were important to American teenagers weren’t that important to us, going to the prom or – I went to graduation, but I didn’t go to prom. Those things weren’t that important to me and you know, just hanging out, having slumber parties, things that the typical, what you would say the typical American students are doing, just hanging out on weekends, were really not that important to me. And I think it was probably because of my parents’ upbringing, you know, my upbringing under of my parents’ eye and I think it was the time period was very different. Yeah, I don’t know what to say about that.

Q: You think different than now?

Tse: Yeah.

Q: In what way?

Tse: Well I think because the very strong and structured family, right, I grew up with. I think the students today, they, even though the family is still very important and a lot kids still have both parents at home, yet there are other kids who don’t or who have one parents and that definitely influence the way they think and the way they live their lives.

Q: How would you say it influences them?

Tse: Well, in terms of knowing who they are probably. The way – you can tell by the way they dress, if they go shopping at certain places. And they’ve only been here for six months, but they know where to buy clothes. Or they have a certain kind of clothing because they want to fit in and they never had this before and now they’re here alone or they have one parent and they need to – and they can probably persuade a parent to get something for them because there’s only one parent that they can probably get it. A lot of our students also work, too. They get part-time jobs, working in bakeries or as waiters, part-time and so they have a little bit of cash flow. The school is an alternative school, which means that we have older students. Some of our students graduated from high school, a small percent, like 2 percent, actually graduated from high school in China and are ready to go in college, but because they want to get their high school diploma here to, to also improve their English, they come to this school. So the goals are a little different. I would say that the students here are a little more mature than other students because of their age and a lot of them are here alone. They live here, they have to support themselves. They have different concerns and goals in life.

Q: So how would you say their self-image differs from yours when you were their age because you said they have a lot of obsession with clothing or with fitting in.

Tse: Not all, I would say some. There’s a group of students in this school from Hong Kong and they’re all very chic and you can just tell, when you walk in the hallways, if you didn’t know them, they were from Hong Kong, just by the way they’re dressed, the way their hair is styled or the way they talk. Of course, speaking Cantonese gives it away too. But just their personalities is a little different. They were their pants like down to their hips. They try to be very Americanized. There are certain t-shirts they wear, Stussy, this new brand that came out that’s very popular. They spend stuff on jewelry. They have earrings. They have necklaces. They’re a different breed than the students who came from China who probably – their parents grew up in more traditional, very small, maybe come from the farm, rural areas in China. Life is very different for them.

Q: So how do these groups interact in school?

Tse: Just like in high school, where I grew up, there are different groups of people, different cliques, different groups hang together and here, it’s no different. People hang, group together based on where they grew up. Either it’s language or sometimes, very rarely, personalities. You know, you have the Hong Kong group, the Cantonese group, the Fukienese group, you have the group who’s very smart and just loves to study, doesn’t matter where they’re from, they stick together, there’s a group who love to speak English and they find other friends who have similar interests. So it’s no different from high school, but, well, there’s no jocks. I don’t see any Chinese jocks here. So that’s, that group is missing. But very similar to any teenager growing up, they’re, you know – people find friends who have similar interests or background as them, so, that’s not very different.

Q: And so when you were growing up, you said that – was it strange to be one of the only Chinese people in your high school?

Tse: I didn’t say I was the only Chinese. I would say I was one of the – probably one or two immigrant Chinese families who went to school there. As far as the other Asians, I didn’t really consider them Chinese, more like Americans because they didn’t speak Chinese or if they spoke Chinese, they basically acted differently. All their friends were friends with other Americans, people who were very popular in school, that kind of teenaged life. They did things differently. They were in different clubs, different social groups.

Q: So did you not – you didn’t have much relationship to the other –

Tse: I did. With one girl I did, but it was more platonic relationships. Because we were in the same class you kind of shared similar – I didn’t want to say homework, share homework, but we shared some conversations about the class, but I wouldn’t say we, after class, we went to lunch together.

Q: And what attitudes did your parents have towards dating or that kind of stuff?

Tse: Yeah, well, their attitude was – we had to secretly date, secretly have crushes or secretly go out with our friends. Everything was secretive because our parents just never addressed the issue. You can marry after college or something like that and, in one way, they pretty much were liberal in letting us find out for ourselves. On the other hand, I would think they didn’t want us to find out, so that’s why they didn’t ever talk about it. And I think kids today are a little more sophisticated, because they started dating when they’re 16, 17 years old or even if they haven’t done it, they know about it. They’ve seen their friends who’ve gotten pregnant or gotten abortions or whatnot or even divorces. Different social problems have forced them to accept these ideas. They’re a little more sophisticated than I was.

Q: So your parents never talked about it?

Tse: They never talked about it. Well, even we tried to bring it up. My sister had a boyfriend when she was very young, I think the first year of high school and it wasn’t the house she ran away to, not the boy that she ran away with, but my parents would say, like, You can date anyone who’s not Chinese, you know, let alone marry. But like you know, you really shouldn’t date a person who’s not Chinese because you might – with the assumption that you might end up marrying him. So my sisters and I would secretly date.

Q: Did you date people who were Chinese?

Tse: In the beginning, yes, but later on, in college, we would date outside our race. I mean, our parents never knew. Yeah, it wouldn’t sit right with them.

Q: So even now, how is their idea about that?

Tse: Now, they are become more flexible. They just want – my sister did marry a Vietnamese-Chinese guy, so, you know, they’re very happy about that. But I think their views on marriage is – they would probably prefer – I’m still single, but if – they would probably prefer me to marry a Chinese-American person rather than anything else, but you know, they knew I was dating a Caucasian person. They didn’t say anything about it. They went, Mmm hmmm. They didn’t say much. They didn’t say, “Yeah, this is great!” but they didn’t say, “Oh, no, you shouldn’t do that.” They didn’t say that, they didn’t resist. I think it’s probably because they themselves have gotten used to maybe hearing different things or they’ve gotten more relaxed with their values about what should – you know, things aren’t so black and white anymore for them. I think they were very protective in the beginning because everything was very new to them. They were really just trying to protect us. They were trying to figure out things for themselves.

[END TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE; BEGIN TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO]

Q: I guess more about dating. What about your other sisters or your brother – are they married?

Tse: No, they’re still single, but basically, I haven’t seen them with anyone else other than Chinese, so I guess they’re pretty much dating Chinese people.

Q: Do they feel more comfortable that way, or –

Tse: I didn’t ask them about it. I – for myself, I think there’s – it just kind of depends who the person is and who you associate yourself with. So if most of their friends are Chinese, they probably – that’s their circle of friends.

Q: And how about you? Do you feel more comfortable dating Chinese-Americans?

Tse: It’s not a matter of comfortable. I think it’s more convenient, like if you’re going somewhere and you want to – because I speak Cantonese and some of the guys I’ve dated who are Chinese don’t speak the language very well and I always say something to make fun of them and, you know, it’s kind of fun to have some kind of commonality, even though they’re not fluent. You can say something. There’s a joke. You say something that you don’t want someone else to hear. It’s kind of nice. It’s kind of like a secret language or something you both have in common. It’s just kind of fun.

Q: Do you feel like it’s easier to connect with people who speak Cantonese as well as English?

Tse: Well, if their background, their growing up is similar, I think definitely there is connection there instantly, but not necessarily. There are other things that are important, your values and basic chemistry.

Q: And so how connected do you feel to the Chinese community either here in Chinatown or where you live?

Tse: Well, the area where I’m living right now is another growing Chinatown, so I kind of feel like I’m living in Chinatown because there are Chinese restaurants all around, Chinese Laundromats, Chinese supermarkets, Chinese groceries. There’s everything there and it’s actually in the last five years. I’ve lived there all my life, but that community is actually growing. There are more Chinese moving in so – they speak the same language I do. I’m kind of hesitant to say this, but I’ll say anyway. I kind of feel like I’m looking for another place to move where there’s not so many Chinese just because there’s just like I think I want a place quieter. Not that I want to move away from Chinese people, but I think one of the reasons I moved into this neighborhood was because it was nice and quiet. Sometimes when you want to – you know, after work or you just want to kind of move away from your job and I’ve worked in Chinatown, near this area, Lower East Side, my entire life and I went to school at NYU, very close to Chinatown and a lot of times a lot of my social activities have been in this area, so it’s very convenient, it’s very comfortable to be in this area. At the same time, as you grow older, you realize that there are other places to go visit, other people to meet, other challenges, other people you definitely want to meet, other things to do besides in your community, so while, yeah, I feel like I’m going to work in this community, I’m going to help this community grow, at the same time, part of the American Dream, part of the society is to really understand America is not just Chinatown, it’s not just this area. And you want – I want my students to understand that too, where they can always come back to. I always joke about it with my friends, like, we come to Chinatown to eat, to take advantage the cheap prices, the groceries, and then we go back to our homes. But it’s kind of true, in a way. We want to connect to our Chinese roots, but on another level, we want to be in mainstream American society where, you know, there are other things in life to be enjoyed and to be discovered, too.

Q: How do you feel like you came to that kind of understanding?

Tse: I guess probably through friends, if you go to certain restaurants, you venture our of your neighborhood to try something new. Like when the first time I went rock climbing and then you think, okay, what else am I going to do next? You kind of stretch. Once you stretch, you think of more things to do and you kind of step outside your circle, your box. And I think that’s very important, too. If you always stay inside your circle, you’re not going to grow and you have to compare. You have to look at your life in retrospect with everything else in your whole world.

Q: So what was your neighborhood before it became more Chinese? Maybe like 5 or 10 years ago?

Tse: There were some Chinese living there, but on my block there were two Chinese families. Mostly Jewish people, Russian people in the area, I would say. Some Italians.

Q: So now is it people who are just coming to the States or is it people who’ve been here for a while?

Tse: I think it’s a mix. There’s a mix of business people who are opening the restaurants and there are a mix of new immigrants. Some of my students live in my neighborhood, so I know that there are new immigrants too. So it’s mixed. And it’s kind of nice to see a different mix, instead of just one type of socio-economic group.

Q: So how do you feel like your sort of generation who has been here longer interacts with the newer generation?

Tse: I think we – I think for myself, I can’t speak for others, there’s still a very strong connection because I still speak the language. I understand what’s going on, that when you hear the problems or you hear the issues that they’re – or the challenges they’re going through, you know, you’re reminded of something very similar. So you’re not that far, you know, far off. But I think for most of us, as we grow older, like my sisters and I, we’re more compassionate towards new immigrants and, you know, even though we joke, okay we were in the same situation, we wore secondhand clothing or sometimes our parents didn’t have presents, like we didn’t have presents. We had to bring Christmas to our parents. Like, that kind of thing, [unintelligible] the students and newcomers today. But at the same time, because we’re at a different level, our lifestyle is different, we’ve, you know, we’re making money, we’ve quote-unquote arrived. You do feel a sense of compassion who are now just, just coming across these challenges. I mean I’m sure they have different challenges today, as growing up as teen. There are probably things they don’t talk about that’s on their minds, but there’s a lot of similarities. I don’t think there are that many differences. There are differences, certainly, but I think for any group coming from one place to another, there aren’t that many differences.

Q: So you talked about not having new clothes and not having Christmas. Are there other things you really remember growing up that were kind of – that you remember, just about immigrating here?

Tse: Well, I would say the food, the food. I didn’t grow up on McDonald’s but I remember going to McDonald’s was a big treat and I think that’s one thing a lot of kids enjoy. Maybe it’s instilled in them, oh we’re going to McDonald’s, it’s your birthday, so – when you become a teenager you like the taste of burgers and fries instead of rice [laughs] and vegetables and fish. But my parents always cooked Chinese meals at home. We never ate any other kind of food and there were even strange foods that they made that we ate and we liked and even today, if I went to a restaurant, I would order something, ask for a certain dish, like bitter melon and people would say, like, “Why would you eat that? That’s disgusting! That’s bitter!” or that’s a food that’s not acceptable to the American palette, so it’s very strange, in a way, but it all comes because of our upbringing. I know some of my friends whose children who were born in the United States. Their palette is totally different. They can eat hamburgers every single day. They can go by, you know, once without rice. I would say my diet consists a lot – at least 50 percent of rice. And my mother’s generation, they would not go through a day without rice. They think they would die tomorrow if they did not have a bowl of rice today. [Laughs] So their thinking, their eating habits, their thinking, is quite different.

Q: So do you remember, what kinds of treats did you have, if you didn’t go to McDonald’s when you were little, what was like a really special occasion when you were little?

Tse: Going to a restaurant and eating Chinese food [laughs] was a special occasion. Really. We didn’t go out much. You know, money was pretty scarce and we had to save the rent and things like that. We didn’t have much to buy.

Q: So what was your – did you live in an apartment or did you live in a house or –

Tse: We lived in an apartment for at least 15 years. In high school, we finally moved, my parents moved into a house. We spent the entire family savings. When I say entire family savings, I mean including the children’s savings, like every, all our summer jobs, you know or any other money we got from relatives or friends, New Year’s, like all that, every single dime went into buying that – our house, which is of course, like, every Chinese dream to own their own land, to own their own house. Sixty-eight thousand dollars isn’t much today, but in the ‘80’s, that was a lot to my parents, so, we had a mortgage then and we all helped to pay for it when we got jobs during summers, to help pay for it.

Q: So what was the house like?

Tse: Very Buddhist, you know. My parents still live there. It’s on top of a store, so I mean, they’re very financially wise and rent out the first floor, you know, and they have a mortgage and they live on the second floor. Recently, they renovated the entire place. For the first time they actually stripped the walls since we moved in and they were able to do that because all of the kids are grown up and we can retire them and what else do they need money now for? We can go out every day to eat if they wanted to, but basically they’re very comfortable there. They’re well off now, they have a place to live without a mortgage. They have social security to live off and they have all their children to, for all the extras that they need.

Q: So was the house – did you each have your own bedroom or how big was it? Or –

Tse: I think our first apartment was bigger than our house. I remember we had like two bedrooms in our apartment but those rooms were really big. Sixty-eight dollars a month, I remember, in the ‘70’s. [Laughs] We were paying the highest rent, sixty-eight dollars. I remember my neighbor paid about 20 dollars for rent. [Laughter] And, really big apartment, that apartment has actually been demolished. They built a school there, but I remember like the reason that we moved. We didn’t actually want to move. We were forced to move. We would just run wild there. It was a really big place. Big living room. Two big bedrooms. A bathroom. Big kitchen. When we moved into our house, it’s actually smaller than our apartment, but it was our own and that’s important, to have something that you’re not kicked out. Nobody has anything to say about what you’re doing there, too.

Q: So what did you, did you live together with your sisters or in the house, what was the –

Tse: What was the set-up? There were actually two bedrooms there, but since my parents had one bedroom and my sisters and I all shared the second bedroom and my brother was sleeping in the living room, until he went off to college. So that was a good thing he went off to college otherwise I don’t know where he would live. And when I actually started teaching, I moved out myself because there just wasn’t enough room in the house. It’s really small. So, yeah.

Q: So were all your sisters living there also?

Tse: Yeah, yeah, throughout high school we had fights in there. Can you imagine three girls in one room? Bunk beds. Okay, I’m taking the top, you take the bottom. Switch the other days. Yeah, not, not easy, but if that’s all you had you didn’t think otherwise. Like now, I could never share a bedroom with my sister or, like, you don’t want to share with somebody else. And also imagine a bathroom sharing with six people. Like, I have my own bathroom now, like, if someone else comes in, I’m like, there isn’t room here for two people. So, you know, again the idea of if you never had it before, you don’t miss it. You don’t appreciate it either.

Q: Do you have any other memories of that house or sort of growing up in that ---

[Discussion of lighting]

Q: Do you have any other memories just growing up there?

Tse: A lot of memories. That was the house, my sister got married there, we put our first carpeting, wall-to-wall carpeting. It’s like as we did better, our family did better, you know, a lot of improvements made to the home. Our first big purchase was the ceiling fan. It was really, you know, like a big thing. The kids, like, we all chipped in and bought a ceiling fan, you know. [Laughs] That was a big thing. So just like, growing up, those memories, the little things that we could do to, to, to make our parents happier, to make our lives easier. Those were the enjoyable moments, like when we had Christmas, we would buy all the presents for ourselves and our parents [laughs]. You know little things like that were good memories.

Q: Can you think of other memories like that, or other milestones in your growing up?

Tse: In growing up?

Q: Growing up, or just living in this house and just what kinds of things you remember, like buying the ceiling fan or these moments where you just, or just that you think fondly of?

Tse: I have to think for a while. There are so many things. Good and bad things, that you experience with your family. I think we lived in the house the same amount of time -- no probably we lived in the apartment longer than in the house, so I think there are more memories in the apartment, at least more special memories I think you would say because we kind of played together with my sisters, or like you know, we played house or pretend things on the floor or just grew up in that apartment. When we moved to the house, our life kind of ventured outside of the house, you know. We went off to college, so we did things – or high school first. We did more things outside the house than in the house, whereas growing up as a youngster, we stayed in the house more than went out, so it was quite different.

Q: Did your grandparents ever – were they still in Hong Kong? Or were they still alive?

Tse: They never came to this country. They were still in Hong Kong and my grandmother passed away about five years ago and she’s –

Q: Did you know her at all, or –

Tse: Through the pictures and on the phone. Hearing stories about her. She was the tallest one in our family. Little things about her, but I didn’t know her personally.

Q: She never came to visit.

Tse: Yeah, she didn’t want to come. It was too long of travel and she had family – I mean, her other daughter and family were still there, so they were taking care of her.

Q: Was that your mom’s mom or your dad’s mom?

Tse: My mom’s mom. Yeah. My father’s side of the family kind of scattered. He has half-brothers and sisters. He had a difficult childhood. His family is not all together. You know, it terms, they’re not really friendly towards each another. So he doesn’t talk about it. But he has some half-brothers in the United States and some half-brothers in Holland and, we keep in touch more with the ones who are distant, yeah, than the ones who are close by.

Q: Distant like Hong Kong or distant –

Tse: Holland, yeah.

Q: So do you know them?

Tse: Yeah, actually, they came to America twice, so we actually know them better than the ones who live in New York City. Yeah, and they’re doing very well. There’s one, two of the sons are studying to be doctors in Holland, so that’s a big thing. You know, like, especially for my parents. We have two doctors in the family now, that’s a great thing. That’s too bad they’re in Holland, they can’t help us here. But it’s just good to hear that we’re all professional people working towards big goals and what my parents, you know, their parents had, you know –

Q: Let me think. If we can talk about patriotism and how patriotic you feel about America, especially after 9/11 and how that changed?

Tse: Well, even before 9/11, when I got my citizenship at 18 I had to go through the whole testing, the interview and then finally the swearing-in. I mean, that whole experience really touched me. And then later on, going to jury duty, you know, sharing those experiences with my students, you know, what does it mean to – what are certain things that an American is responsible for? You know, I don’t take it lightly. It’s something that a lot of people, maybe even Americans, don’t think of it as something that’s really necessary and take it that seriously. But I do take it very seriously and I’m very, when I go into jury duty I kind of hope I’m chosen so I can sit on the case and hear it and see what’s going on. I have been chosen for one and the last two times I wasn’t, so it’s just an experience that you really feel like, this is what it means, like you have the right to decide on the fate of another person. You know, the little things like that, if you didn’t, when you just study or hear about it, you kind of take it for granted and you don’t know what it really means until you’re in a position and even for our students like when you give them that situation. You’re the juror, you decide on the fate of this person. Wow, that’s empowerment. Did you think you would ever get the chance anywhere else in the world? So I do take that and I try to instill it in my students too, just this sense of – not only responsibility, but what does it feel like to be this, to be a part of this culture and to live in this country. What are the things that you need to do to be responsible and to be a citizen?

Q: So is that, I mean that’s different from how your parents view living here?

Tse: I think so, I mean, they’re, I mean, for my parents as real immigrants, true immigrants struggling with a family to feed, probably their goals, their world looks a little different from mine. I grew up, you know, wanting – I mean, them wanting the experience of the American Dream, but me experiencing the American Dream is different.

Q: So do you feel patriotic or how do you feel about this country, especially after 9/11, I guess.

Tse: You’re asking for my political views?

Q: No, I guess just how you feel as a citizen living here, especially seeing what you’ve seen.

Tse: I think many Americans mentioned it, but I also strongly feel that we take freedom for granted and I feel like it’s something we really need to revisit and think about because people have died for our freedoms to be living here, to be walking around with all of our freedoms, to be able to speak what we think and to be able to walk on the streets safely, relatively safely, at night. I mean, like something we take for given, Americans. And I think especially immigrants, coming here, there are a lot of things they’re pleasantly surprised about – oh, wow, we have this, we have this, like you know, TVs, there’s so many TVs and we can get Broadway shows for free, like all these incentives and all of these opportunities which they couldn’t get anywhere else. I think they really appreciate it and they really see the value of, you know, living in this great country. And I think one more thing to say about the immigrant experience is that if you ask my students, you know, where they’ll be in five, ten years, some students will say, you know, depending how long they’ve been here, even on average some students will say, I see myself here, working here. Some students say they seem themselves back in their country, like when their chance comes, after they’ve gotten their education, their degree, they’re going to go back and do something else. It’s really interesting.

Q: Yeah, that is interesting. Do you feel like you’ll stay here in New York?

Tse: [Laughs] Yeah, I love New York. I grew up in Brooklyn, but like New York, I’m a New Yorker, yeah. If I could afford it, I would live in New York City.

Q: Yeah, it’s hard. I guess that’s about all unless you have anything else to say?

Tse: I’ve said so much. I can’t even remember what I’ve said.

Q: I think that’s about good. Thanks. Thank you.

END OF INTERVIEW

Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)

<p> 問﹕請簡單講一下你是在哪里出生的,以及你父親跟你講的故事。</p>
<p>TSE:好的,我在---</p>
<p>[中斷]</p>
<p>問:我是Val Wang。</p>
<p>TSE:你要衝著攝像機講。</p>
<p>問:請稍微介紹一下你自己,你的名字,你在哪里出生,以及你的年齡。你的年齡?以及我們現在是在什麽地方。</p>
<p>TSE:我不用講自己的年齡吧?好吧,我告訴你,沒有關係。只要你不讓我的學生知道就可以。他們以爲我25歲。我們可以開始了嗎?還是我可以回答了?</p>
<p>問:可以了,只是姓名,年齡,我們所在的地方。</p>
<p>TSE:我名Mei Ling,姓Tse。我出生在香港,在我四歲的時候,我和我全家人移民到美國。我有兩個姐姐和一個弟弟。我們來這裏的時候,他只有一歲,我今年35歲。我在Lower East Side預備高中教書。正如我剛才所講,我出生在香港,我們全家是通過我父親移民到美國來的 – 是因爲我父親的工作。我是這樣跟我的學生描述這個有趣而又難以置信的故事的,我父親的老闆非常慷慨,爲了讓我父親在他餐館裏打工,他把我們全家申請到美國來。<br>

那個老闆在布魯克林區開了一家餐館,我父親就爲他打工。我父親這麽多年來一直是個忠誠的雇員,一直幹到他退休。我們在布魯克林區長大,離那個老闆所在的布魯克林區Sheepshead Bay地區不遠。我在那裏上的高中 – 小學,幼稚園。實際上,我那時連一個英文單詞都不會,因爲我移民到這裏時,一個英文單詞都不會。我父母不講英文,他們的朋友也不講英文。因此,即使在和朋友玩兒的時候,你都在學習英語。但因爲我沒有講英文的朋友,在上學的時候我沒有任何英文語言能力。我記得,我去的那間學校沒有雙語課程 – 學校裏沒有中國人,沒有我們現在的雙語課程。我記得上學的第一天我很害怕,因爲我聽不懂別人講話。我記得放學的時候,我躲在櫃子裏,老師不得不把我擡出來讓我回家。這是我最早的記憶。我跟我的學生講這些是想讓他們不要有太大的壓力,因爲每個剛到這裏的人都會有一段很困難的適應期。的確很難融入,甚至對於我,當時只有四、五歲,也不容易。但後來就好了,我學英文,上了高中和大學---</p>
<p>問:你花了多長時間學英文?或者說,多久之後你才覺得適應了這裏的環境?</p>
<p>TSE:我記得讀---,那些早期記憶之後幾年的事情我就記不清了,但我記得在三年級的時候自己讀書。在三年級夏天的時候,我去圖書館借了很多的書來讀。因此,我差不多在八歲的時候就能讀三年級的書,因此我來這裏的頭三年是很關鍵的。我不知不覺就學了很多。但具體是怎樣學的,我不記得了。</p>
<p>問:你在家裏講什麽話?</p>
<p>TSE:在家我的父母講廣州話,那是我們使用的唯一的語言。</p>
<p>問:在那段時間他們的英語有沒有進步?</p>
<p>
TSE:我的父母是藍領工人。我父親在餐館打工,他是服務員,我母親是裁縫,所以他們基本上用不上英文。總的來說,他們有去上課,想學,但直到現在,他們都用不上。他們在自己的社區裏生活,沒有必要用英文,所以他們---,我想他們還不能同美國人交流。所以,我們基本上---,實際上,他們這麽多年一直躲在自己的小圈子裏。</p>
<p>問:你談到在你長大的地方中國孩子不是很多。那麽在你小的時候,周圍沒有中國人的經歷如何?</p>
<p>TSE:我剛才講過,我有兩個姐姐和一個弟弟,所以我們全家基本上都在一起,和自己玩兒。我們有朋友,但他們基本上是學校同學。放學之後,我們很少跟他們在一起。我們回家後都很聽話。我們父母工作很忙,所以我們大多時間都在家裏。我們在家裏玩兒,去圖書館。我的姐姐是我的朋友,因此基本上我們在一起玩兒。</p>
<p>問:你是否有去唐人街,布魯克林區,或皇后區的華人社區?你是什麽時候去那裏的?</p>
<p>TSE:我們經常去,因爲我父母,尤其是我母親,在唐人街工作。在我們長大後,我大姐在Mott街上中文學校,CCBA [The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association],我二姐和弟弟後來也有去。我是家裏唯一一個沒有上中文學校的。聽我母親講,是我不想去,所以她就沒有管我。據她說,我就是這樣沒有學寫和閱讀中文。但談回你的問題,我們每個星期日都有去唐人街,因爲那天我們全家休息,我父母也喜歡去那裏。他們在那裏吃點心,和附近的親戚朋友呆在一起。基本上,就是這些聯繫,每個星期日出來,去餐館吃飯,逛街,和我父母的朋友呆在一起。</p>
<p>問:你講過你們在這裏沒有親戚。他們是怎樣認識人的?你的父母怎樣認識人的?</p>
<p>
TSE:基本上是從他們---,他們並不是在這裏沒有任何親戚,而且像家裏的朋友,比如我母親和她的同事是很好的朋友。我們在這裏還有些遠房表親。實際上,我父親還參加了一個組織,從中國同一個地方來的人都聚在一起,有這麽一個叫“Tees”的組織,T-S-A團。你也許能在唐人街看到,在Division Street。我父親會去那裏賭博,男人坐在一起聊天。因此那裏有這麽個組織,他會帶他的家人、孩子去那裏,見他的朋友。這樣,他們會知道,哦,這是你的女兒,這是你可愛的女兒和聽話的兒子,向人家炫耀一下自己的家人。那樣才能使我們覺得還有其他人在關心我們。</p>
<p>問:那些人是從中國哪里來的?</p>
<p>TSE:大多是從中國廣東省廣州來的。</p>
<p>問:你能否再談一下你長大,上高中,後來上大學,去哪個大學,以及你是怎樣做那些決定的?</p>
<p>TSE:我去了一所本地的學校,小學畢業之後,我去了附近的高中,布魯克林區學院的Midwood高中。那裏有更多的亞洲人,但不是新的、第一代華人移民。我是說,那裏肯定有家裏很富有的華人,我記得有一些孩子的家裏是醫生,非常有錢,也許是美國第二代或第三代移民。我只是記得那裏沒有ESL [English as Second Language]課程,但我記得我姐姐的年級裏有一個新移民,她是越南人。我姐姐差不多成爲那個女孩子的代理父母,因爲我們知道新移民的感受。我記得我姐姐把她的朋友帶到家裏一起做功課,呆在一起。我記得我姐姐差不多擔當起這個新來者的老師加朋友的角色。我想學校裏大多數的亞裔是第二代或第三代移民。後來我決定步我姐姐的後塵去紐約大學,因爲她先去的那裏。<br>

當然,紐約大學有從全世界各個地方來的人,這是吸引我的原因之一。我想找一間大家都有類似經歷的學校,同時那裏的人都有豐富的經驗,我想認識更多各種各樣的人。當然,人人都知道紐約大學的學生來自世界各地,有很多各種各樣的背景。我在那裏有很好的經歷。</p>
<p>問:你在高中和在大學的朋友有什麽不同嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:實際上,這很有意思。我是在大學後才第一次認識講中文的朋友的,他們是新移民,也許是第一代美籍華人,我在學校講中文。這真的是第一次,我在那裏認識了講中文的中國朋友。</p>
<p>問:你是怎樣決定成爲一名教師的呢?你能談一下整個經過嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:實際上,在高中的時候,在暑假有一個叫SYEP [Summer Youth Employment Program]的專案,政府資助學生在市里各個地方工作,我想贊助這個專案的公司或組織在唐人街。所以,在我14歲的時候,我就開始在唐人街工作。我從14歲到18歲上高中的時候,都在唐人街實習和做暑期工。我每個夏天都在Chinese-American Planning Council打工,我做指導員。這些都是很高的頭銜,但我當時只有14歲,應該算是指導員助理。還有其他人管我們。我們的職責不多,像是和---,差不多是看孩子,看管那些比我們小的孩子。因此,從我14歲起,我的大部分工作都是在華人社區。在高中最後一年,我記得我的專案是帶一些比我稍微大一點的孩子,他們也是高中生,和我差不多一樣大。他們大多數在唐人街上學,但不講英文。於是我就開始做輔導,教些其他水平的學生。自那開始,我對教育産生興趣。在上大學的時候,我就想這是我要學的。<br>

後來到紐約大學時,我繼續在Chinese-American Planning Council工作,在不同的領域做些其他事務,我在那個公司做了很長一段時間。</p>
<p>問:你說你大學畢業之後就開始教書了?是---</p>
<p>TSE:是的,實際上,在大學我的專業是基礎教育。我在幼稚園教了六個月,在布魯克林區,但我不喜歡那裏。那裏的孩子很累人,我正好有機會休假,便又回到CPC,在那裏全職工作了一年。在那時,我決定重返學校,攻讀作爲第二語言英語教學的碩士學位。後來,我在紐約大學找到一份工作。這樣,我在紐約大學全職工作,教一個寫作班,並開始讀我的碩士學位。一年之後,我來這個學校面試,然後便在這裏工作。現在差不多十年已經過去了,我還在這裏,仍然喜歡在這裏做。我以前也講過,這裏的學生---,學校裏大約百分之七十是移民來的學生。在那百分之七十的學生裏,又有百分之六十、六十五是亞裔移民,亞洲,中國的移民。因此,就好像轉了一圈又重新回到我的背景。</p>
<p>問:你能稍微講一下你教的班,孩子們的問題,以及你是如何解決他們這些問題的?</p>
<p>TSE:這個學校有一個非常好的ESL課程。我們有各種程度的ESL班,從初學者開始。在10年前,我們接收一些只有最基礎英語水平的學生。我記得教些非常基礎的內容,比如ABC字母表。當然,現在因爲有English Regents,我們不再招收那類學生。但我們仍然有初級水平的學生,屬於ESL 1,2。我們也有中級,3和4。5和6、7是過渡型英語課,從英文作爲第二語言進入主流英語課程。我教過所有水平的ESL課程,從初級到中高級。我很吃驚看到在非常短的時間裏,一些學生在這個國家只待了三個月,從三個月到兩年,他們要掌握很多技能,很多語言技能。最終的目標是,對於他們來講,學習足夠的英語通過English Regents,<br>

這是紐約市規定的獲得高中畢業證書的要求。這是一個很大的挑戰,非常大的挑戰,他們對此也有很大壓力。他們能在兩年內學習這麽多的知識簡直令人難以置信。想想看,如果我們要去另外一個國家,我們能在兩年內學會一種語言嗎?簡直難以置信。</p>
<p>問:在任教的十年裏,據你觀察,這裏的學生情況有什麽變化?他們從哪里來?他們的英文水平如何?在過去十年裏,你覺得他們有什麽樣的問題?</p>
<p>TSE:我剛才也講過,十年以前我們招收只有基礎水平的學生,我們從字母表開始教起。同時,我們也有英語文法非常好的學生,十年前大多數學生來自香港。如果你看一下現在學生的構成,我們大多數的學生來自中國偏僻的城鎮或農村,特別是福建省。我想我們現在80%的學生來自福建。在那些學生裏,差不多一半沒有上到六年級。這是另外一個挑戰,因爲他們連自己的語言都掌握不好,所以他們很難把他們的語言知識轉移到第二或第三語言上。</p>
<p>問:他們的父母通常在這裏做這麽?</p>
<p>TSE:我想他們父母差不多百分之九十九是藍領工人,在工廠工作,餐館。有一少部分學生的父母是搞技術的,醫生,或許是中國的護士。但當然,他們來這裏之後不得不找工作維持生活,因此,他們也算是藍領階級。</p>
<p>問:你認爲他們在這裏有什麽困難?這些和你當時來的時候所遇到的困難有什麽不同?</p>
<p>TSE:他們的困難?</p>
<p>
問:是的。</p>
<p>TSE:好的。有趣的是,因爲現在回想起當年我們小的時候很多東西我們都沒有,我們沒有玩具娃娃,我們沒有錢買一些東西。我的衣服都是舊的,因爲我有兩個姐姐。當我跟學生講起這個的時候,他們都覺得不可思議。你爲什麽不想多要一些?你的父母不給你買東西嗎?所以,實際上,我覺得現在很多學生的生活要比我當時好,或至少一樣。我覺得你必須要縱向衡量,在一些特定時期,你並不太想你沒有的東西,因爲你沒有。但是如果你以前有過,後來突然間沒有了,你就會開始對比,覺得,啊,天哪,這是怎麽回事?爲什麽我們的生活越來越糟?或者,我們到底怎麽了?因此,我認爲對於大多數學生,因爲他們以前的生活不好。至少好幾家人都跟我講過,在中國的時候,他們的父母都不工作,只是待在家裏,日子一天天過去。他們非常感激能夠來這裏,他們不關心他們穿的衣服。他們覺得教育的確是最重要的事情。</p>
<p>問:很有趣。我想我們可以談一下---,應該開始談一下9/11,你們離那個地區非常近。我想先談一下那天,你們都在哪里。如果大家都在這裏,那麽談一下後來發生的情況,學校是如何處理,怎樣安排學生的,是否後來因此引起學校的一系列的變化,以及是否對學生或教師進行了心理輔導?我想我們都知道那天發生了什麽,你們和學生在哪里。</p>
<p>TSE:兩年前---,去年,我們舉辦了一次寫作,差不多是紀念那一天。那天我的一個學生交給我這篇文章。當時他在從中國飛到美國的路上,飛機停飛。因爲這裏發生的事情,他們不得不改航線在加州降落。他記得,倒不是非常害怕,而是有一種不知道你的命運的感覺。在文章裏,他寫到他們被困在那個地方,沒有人知道要發生什麽事情。滿腦子胡思亂想,不知道要飛回中國<br>

還是繼續飛往目的地。因此,回想起來覺得很有趣,那些在那期間來這裏的人也許對所發生的事情有獨特的記憶。對於我們,在那天早晨,在一間教室裏你能看到煙,看到姊妹塔中的一座已經不見了。我們記得,學校想把全部學生疏散到禮堂,這樣人們不至於發瘋或恐慌。我們只是在等消息,不知道發生了什麽事情,是一架飛機還是其他什麽東西。當然,當我們知道的時候,我們不能離開學校,地鐵也停了,因此那天晚上我們想在學校野營。學生們都---,我們全都被震驚了。但我們沒有,學校裏大多數人都不認識大廈裏的人。因此我想---,如此震驚以至於我們都沒有想現實中發生了什麽事情。我們都傻了,課也不上了。我們都坐在那裏等待。學生們,沒有人講話。他們想繼續當天的事情,但不知道該說些什麽。的確是很艱難的一天---</p>
<p>問:你是說大多數孩子都不在這裏住嗎?他們不能走路回家,或者---</p>
<p>TSE:有些學生能夠回家,他們家就在附近,但剩下的學生只好等著。我們打開了所有的電視,只是等消息說地鐵開通,我們要不要讓學生在3點後離開。</p>
<p>問:那天之後,那個星期還有沒有開課?班裏,或者學校怎樣了?</p>
<p>TSE:學校讓我們盡可能地繼續,但是當然,當你回家後意識到所發生的事情。幾天之後,過了兩三天,你確實意識到現實發生的事情,你的確很難再繼續下去。我們那時有一個社工,她的確有到處走動和每一個班裏的學生談話。我們感謝她和學生們談一些老師不方便談或不知道如何談的話題。的確很困難,因爲你對所發生的事情有自己的想法,而且我們學校也有一些穆斯林學生。</p>
<p>
問:他們是如何經歷9/11,或者他們在9/11之後的感受如何?</p>
<p>TSE:實際上,他們不談這個。我的意思是說,後來,一年之後,因爲我們聽到人們有些仇恨,以及他們鄰近所發生的事情。但在那個時候,我想我們都嚇壞了。沒有責備,沒有對他們的仇恨,我們試圖保持低調,只是想度過那段時間。</p>
<p>問:他們有在附近談論發生的事情嗎?他們是怎樣講他們的經歷的?</p>
<p>TSE:他們只是---,從我們在報紙上看到的,他們都在躲避,他們沒有太---,我想他們---,這所學校很安全,所以我們非常想---,我的意思是說大多數學生都彼此認識。並不是我們的學生在指責其他學生。但當他們回到家裏後,我想他們有不同的經歷,只是沒有在學校裏講。後來他們講了一些出來。特別是一年後,大家知道了一些小事情。他們第一年沒有怎麽講,關於他們個人的感情,以及他們後來遇到的事情。</p>
<p>問:那一年之後是怎樣知道的呢?是不是一年內都有持續的心理輔導,是怎麽回事?</p>
<p>TSE:實際上,只有一部分學生一對一地接受社工的心理輔導,一些教師是向整個班講的。在第二或第三天,我們有坐在一圈發言。我想那些學生實在不想談這些。我不知道是否是因爲年齡差距,還是他們認爲這與他們無關。但他們就是不想談論這個,只是想忘掉它,說,Mei Ling老師,我們能不能繼續做以前做的事情?好像就是想忘掉它,繼續新的生活。</p>
<p>問:他們是不是一直都是那樣?他們總是不想談論這個,還是---</p>
<p>
TSE:第二年我們舉行了一次紀念活動。每年9/11,學校都要搞一次紀念活動。我們讓學生在牆壁上寫些東西,他們的文章,他們的感受,那天發生的事情。只是在那天,只是在那一天,過了之後,他們又不想談了。</p>
<p>問:你怎麽樣,你那天的經歷如何?你感受如何,或反應如何,或---</p>
<p>TSE:實際上,我姐姐曾在那幢樓裏工作過,她們公司在幾個月之前搬出那幢樓。因此,除了我姐姐之前已經搬走以外,我本人不認識在那裏工作的人。因此,我不是很擔心。但我記得就好像是一團糟,你打電話給所有你認識的人,確信他們都沒事。但對於其他人還是很難熬,你整天對著電視聽新聞。</p>
<p>問:你的學生有沒有受影響,比如他們的父母失去了工作等?</p>
<p>TSE:我知道當時大家都被動員起來,幫助學生填表格,向FEMA [聯邦緊急事件管理處]申請補助。很多學生擔心他們的父母失去這裏的工作。甚至那些不在唐人街這裏住的學生,他們的父母在這裏工作。因此,一些社工幫助那些失去工作的家長申請補助,幫助他們申請經濟資助。</p>
<p>問:都有一些什麽樣的援助專案?因爲我不太清楚有什麽樣的援助專案。</p>
<p>TSE:有FEMA專案。我們大家都知道有,因此我們叫學生去那裏拿表格。然後他們回來叫我們幫他們填。我的一個朋友的兒子正好在那個辦公室工作,這樣我在那裏也算是有一些熟人,從他們那裏拿了一些表格。我有一個---,他們實際上有---,他們---,我是說那個表格有中文的,所以填寫並不太困難,<br>

但主要是讓人們去那裏排隊,跟他們講去那裏獲得別人的幫助沒事。</p>
<p>問:人們都不想去嗎?獲得幫助,去尋求幫助?</p>
<p>TSE:我想他們最後都很感激,學生們很感激。我覺得起初他們都不相信美國會有這樣的事情,他們能得到這些幫助。但是,他們都有跟父母講,這樣一來一去,家長們都知道了,他們得到了幫助,一些學生得到他們需要的幫助。</p>
<p>問:誰有資格申請,以及如何申請---</p>
<p>TSE:在我們學校,有一段時間所有的學生都有免費午餐,因此可以說百分之九十九點九的學生都有份。</p>
<p>問:吃免費午餐?</p>
<p>TSE:是的。還包括其他一些專案。</p>
<p>問:在9/11之後,還有其他資助專案嗎?學校有沒有申請資助?有沒有其他額外的資助?</p>
<p>TSE:我們學校沒有直接受到事件的影響,但我知道有其他基金。我們確實有拿到---,我想大概一年之後,或在同一年,有不同的組織跟我們聯繫一些事情。我們帶了一百個學生去百老彙看“美人和野獸”。那是其中一個組織辦的,因爲我們學校離出事地點這麽近。我們還有做了其他一些事情。我想,可以遺憾地講,我們通過那個事件得到了一些福利。</p>
<p>問:是哪個機構組織看“美人和野獸”的?</p>
<p>
TSE:我想是百老彙。我不知道是那個組織,百老彙藝術家什麽的。</p>
<p>問:他們給了你們一百張票?</p>
<p>TSE:是的,帶孩子去看演出。</p>
<p>問:那個經歷如何?</p>
<p>TSE:演出棒極了,我是說,每次你帶些孩子去百老彙,演出本身就很有意思。而且,我們有跟他們講這些票是怎麽來的。正是因爲這個原因,他們非常感激,知道別人在關心他們。我也非常感激他們能讓我們帶一百個學生到百老彙免費看演出。這是很難得的。</p>
<p>問:是的,很不錯。在9/11之後,有沒有其他健康方面的影響?世貿大廈的倒塌以及這個地區的污染有沒有造成哮喘病例的增長?</p>
<p>TSE:我們注意到有一些空氣污染。有幾天,尤其在最初的幾個星期,很明顯空氣裏有些東西。我們不能開空調,因爲篩檢程式有可能被污染。我儘量不打開我的窗戶,因爲你不知道---,如果你聽別人談起,你會很害怕,不知道會發生什麽事情。我想大家,尤其是那些孩子,確實無所謂。他們沒有太考慮一些後遺症,不覺得空氣裏有什麽有毒物質。我知道當時學校鬧著買空氣篩檢程式等東西,但因爲缺乏資金,我們沒有做這麽多。我想他們只是清掃了空調裏的篩檢程式,僅此而已。</p>
<p>問:學校是否有很多資金,你說資金不夠?你能再講詳細一些嗎?</p>
<p>
TSE:我們學校的資金問題?</p>
<p>問:是的。</p>
<p>TSE:我想這是上面的問題。這取決於他們要怎樣---,他們要把錢花在哪里。我是說,教師不---,我們的確沒有權力決定如何支配學校的錢,是否應該雇更多的教師或其他輔助人員。我們確實沒有這個權力。如果我們有的話,也許事情會不太一樣。但你在問,我們是否有更多的資助?我想我們學校還算不錯,我是說我們粉筆方面沒有問題,不缺粉筆。但書總是不夠,如果我們要多搞一些書,或使用新教材,我們必須等啊等啊,直到有了錢去買。因此,主要是買教科書的資金比較難解決,[聽不清楚]</p>
<p>問:因此,實際上,我不知道我們是否已經談過這個---</p>
<p>[Lan要求停止錄音,調整一下光線,一個燈滅了]</p>
<p>TSE:燈亮不了了,可能壞了吧。</p>
<p>[一起談話]</p>
<p>TSE:這已經不是第一次了。燈滅了之後不久又會自己亮起來,要不我們就不得不叫管理員來。他們今天不會過來修的。</p>
<p>問:只要不閃就可以。</p>
<p>[錄音暫停]</p>
<p>
問:好的,我們剛才已經告一段落。那我們現在再談一下你的童年,你是否還記得來美國的情景,你父母爲什麽來這裏,以及爲什麽選擇來紐約?再稍微講一下你所記得的小時候在香港的事情。</p>
<p>TSE:當我的學生問我什麽時候移民到這裏的時候,我說是1972年。我們查了一下歷史,那時候尼克松當總統搞軍備。他們想要別的國家的人來這裏移民。移民大門已經打開,那時候我們來這裏也相對容易一些。我們全家是我父親的老闆申請過來的,他和我父親有商業聯繫。他非常慷慨地申請我們過來,實際上還支付了我們來這裏的費用。當時我們家裏有我母親,我父親,我的兩個姐姐和一個弟弟,還有我自己,一共是六個。沒有比這更好的事情了,我父親爲這個人工作了25年,直到他退休,直到那個人去世。接下來講一下爲什麽我父母來這裏。我父母是在臺山出生的,在美國叫Toishan。在戰爭期間,他們移居到香港,我父母是在香港認識的。在他們有機會移民來美國之前,我們四個已經出生了。我們是我們家族裏第一批來這裏的,我母親姐姐一家當時還在香港。我父親那邊的親戚各自去了不同的地方。他們去了荷蘭,我有兩個表兄弟在荷蘭。我們在美國還有一些表兄弟,但都是遠親,我們不常來往。我的父母移居這裏當然是想有更多的機會。他們不想讓我們在香港長大。他們想讓我們來這個新的國家,能有更多的機會。可能還有那些關於美國的說法,金色的門,地板上的黃金。關於美國的傳聞,我父母是信的。他們相信,他們相信美國夢。儘管我父親來的時候不得不做廉價工,我母親來的時候不知道要做什麽,他們決定冒這個風險,一起來這裏。我們也許算是很幸運,能夠一起來這裏。而現在我的一些學生,他們自己在這裏,或一些學生的父母先到這裏。因爲他們沒有---,由於一些手續問題,他們不能全家一起來,只好兩地分居。我想我們很幸運能夠<br>

全家一起過來,當然那個時候有些幫助我們這些新來人的專案。具體的細節我已不記得了,我只是有些印象,當時有很多人幫助我們。我父親的生意,他的老闆,在附近交的朋友,中國家庭,主要是他們幫助我們在這裏安頓下來的,開始新的生活---</p>
<p>問:你父親在香港時做什麽?</p>
<p>TSE:他是船員,當他來這裏時,因爲他在這裏認識一個人。那個人信任他,而且我想非常信任他。當我父親來這裏時就爲他工作。</p>
<p>問:他是船員,那他經常跑船,不在香港?</p>
<p>TSE:是的。</p>
<p>問:你是否還記得小時候在香港的事情?</p>
<p>TSE:我父母在那裏開了一家小糖果店,我們有幾張在香港時的照片。我和兩個姐姐坐在糖果店的門前,是黑白相片,還有在花園,和其他不同的地方。我姐姐記得多一些,因爲她來這裏時已經七歲了。我離開時四歲,所以記得不是很多。只是有一點記憶,一些地方,後來我長大後又回了兩次香港,已經不記得那些地方了。香港是一個很大的城市,就好像紐約市42街,所以對我不算是很大的變化。</p>
<p>問:你能談一下你回去的經歷嗎?回去的情形如何?</p>
<p>TSE:我母親的姐姐仍和她一家住在那裏。我回去的時候有和他們聯繫,他們帶我去了一些地方,但我不記得了。那些地方很獨特。實際上,在我回去之前,我母親已經回去過香港,她老家基本上沒有什麽改變,比如你還能夠找到以前的一些地方,<br>

生活水平仍然很低,但是在城市裏,如果你呆在城市的賓館裏,我想和紐約市沒有什麽區別。是這樣的。</p>
<p>問:你有沒有也去她的老家?</p>
<p>TSE:我不認識那裏的人,我去香港是和朋友一起去的,不是和我母親去的。如果我再回去,和我母親一起去尋根可能會更有意義一些。但我母親的姐姐在那裏,她的女兒和我一樣大,她帶我出去逛。她母親身體不好,所以她不能多跟我講他們那裏的生活。但香港是很現代化的城市,就像紐約一樣。她在市里長大。他們的確沒有移民美國的想法。在97年以前我有回去,我問過她,他們在那裏生活得很開心。他們全部的生活都在那裏。沒有理由離開那裏。他們在那裏有正規的職業,我想他們即使來這裏也是來旅遊。</p>
<p>問:你感覺和她親近嗎,還是說你以前從來沒有見過她,對嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:只是看相片。</p>
<p>問:感覺如何?</p>
<p>TSE:令人吃驚的是,我們很親近。我們像是一家人,儘管我們沒有見過面或講過話,只是通過父母來往信件。我們好像彼此都很瞭解,我們所學的專業,我們的擅長,我們父母對我們的看法,等等。因爲有血緣關係,我們的確很親近,後來也一直有聯繫。</p>
<p>問:她和你一樣大嗎?她在那裏做什麽?</p>
<p>TSE:她是圖形設計師,她姐姐和姐夫有自己的生意,她的另外一個姐姐那時是個年輕的舞蹈演員。[笑] 我想她現在是個家庭主婦,但他們全都有自己的夢想,但都是在香港,沒有任何要離開那裏的想法。</p>
<p>
問:你去那裏感到最驚奇的是什麽?</p>
<p>TSE:和紐約比起來,那裏沒有多大差別。當然語言不同,那裏更多是講廣州話,他們也高興我們跟他們講廣州話。在一些地方,我們也跟他們講英文,這也沒有問題,因爲他們懂英文。</p>
<p>問:你感到你回去最驚奇的是什麽?</p>
<p>TSE:使我最驚奇的是香港並沒有很大不同,如果你到國外旅行,你以爲那裏會很不一樣,但確實沒有什麽不同。這是個很大的城市。我住在市中心的一家賓館。如果你去一些較貧窮的地方,當然那裏的生活是很不同的。那裏有野狗,如果你去墓地,那種傳統風格的墓地,你也許能夠看到一些舊的傳統,但城市裏和紐約沒有太大差別。</p>
<p>問:我想問你是否有回家的感覺?或者你感覺哪里是你的家?你在那裏是否感到像在家裏一樣?</p>
<p>TSE:我是個遊客。我只是去那裏旅遊。我是說,自從我來這裏之後,我一直沒有回去過。如果沒有我姑姑一家在那裏,我不會去看任何人。因爲我這麽長時間都在美國,18歲的時候在法院宣誓入籍。我想我認爲自己是美籍華人。</p>
<p>問:你父母怎麽樣?他們認爲自己是哪里人?</p>
<p>TSE:我覺得對於大多數家庭,如果你在一個地方住了很長時間,即使你不把它看成你的家,如果你在那裏呆了很長時間,他們很難再在其他地方生活。我記得在我們很小的時候,他們說,退休之後,我們要回香港住,要把我們留在這裏。<br>

但我不再聽到他們那麽說了,我想是因爲他們已經習慣了這裏,喜歡在這裏住。他們在這裏有家,有他們的生活。如果再搬到另外一個國家,回香港,或中國,他們需要重新開始,交新的朋友,需要重新安頓下來。這裏一切都很方便。我父母非常傳統。他們沒有美國朋友。基本上,他們生活在自己的圈子裏,非常閉塞。但我認爲他們過得很舒適。他們知道如何坐地鐵去想去的地方,去公園,中央公園,或者布魯克林區植物園。他們知道怎樣去一些地方,他們隨時可以去唐人街,他們現在過得很舒服。我想他們也認爲美國是他們的家。</p>
<p>問:你能否也談一下Lan所講的成爲美國人的過程,其中的困難,在什麽時候你感到---,或者你是否記得一些個別的事件使你覺得自己是屬於這裏的或感覺現在是美國人?或不是?</p>
<p>TSE:“什麽是美國人?”這個問題很有爭議,有很多種解釋。我想最好的回答是當我的學生問我,當然是作爲思考的問題,我們應該怎樣看待自己。如果你要回答這個問題,你要十分小心,因爲你會影響到其他人而引起驚慌,對不對?但我想說,我一直認爲自己是美籍華人。中國人是因爲我的文化背景,我的外表,我成長的方式,我父母向我灌輸的價值觀。但我想我也有美國化的一面,因爲我在這個國家生活,受到其他價值觀,其他行爲,其他文化的影響,從而造就了今天的我。所以,我不能說我只是中國人,因爲你如果生活在中國,你會說你只是中國人,對嗎?並不因爲你在美國生活就是美國人,因爲你有其他歷史的聯繫。所以,我們說美國是一個大熔爐。美國人不僅是一種人,你也不僅是一種人,你總是與另外一個國家或文化有聯繫。因此,我認爲,即使兩代或三代之後,比如我孩子的孩子的孩子,我要教他們做美籍華人。我想要他們認爲自己是美籍華人。</p>
<p>
問:你的學生怎樣對待這個問題?他們渴望成爲美國人嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:他們起初是這樣想。他們很驚奇我講中文,即使我看上去像中國人。慢慢地,他們認爲我是地道的美國人。所以他們認爲我是美國人。只是在我演講之後,或認識我兩三個月之後,他們覺得我在一些方面很中國化,有相似的價值觀,或懂得他們的背景。他們才開始意識到,哦,原來你也是中國人,或者說是美籍華人。</p>
<p>問:你爲什麽說你自己非常中國化,或者你是怎樣知道的呢?</p>
<p>TSE:我不想談典型的美國人是什麽樣子,但你可以觀察在這裏長大的美籍華人的一些行爲,在紐約市里長大的青少年比較能說。不是說我不能說,只是他們的行爲,和他們交的朋友,他們的生活條件,他們的環境,這些對他們個人有很大的影響。他們看的電視節目,他們在一起的朋友,他們讀的書,如果有讀的話。我認爲那些外部因素對他們的影響超過內部因素的影響。他們在表面上更加融入社會,他們更加吸收了一些外表的事物。和我那些只來美國兩年的學生比起來,他們這些年來都是在中國長大,所以還沒有被同化。即使他們不得不做一些事情,但他們沒有完全接受,或是說你沒有必要喜歡它。也許一些事情他們也不理解,不會認爲他們自己也是美國人。</p>
<p>問:你認爲那些在七八十年代在這裏長大的和現在五歲的時候移民到這裏的孩子有什麽不同?在文化上和社交方面有什麽不同?</p>
<p>
TSE:我想先談一下相似之處,因爲正如我先前所講,我跟我的學生講我上學的時候聽不懂教師講課。我記得開始的時候是從ABC學起。而且有年齡差距,我當時只有四歲,他們是十六、七歲,這是相似之處。首要的問題是學英文,聽不懂其他人講話,不理解文化背景,或[聽不清楚]。區別是我當時很小,玩兒也用不著講話,也許能夠在不知不覺中學,那時還沒有這麽正規,那時只有四五歲。現在學生們的情況就不一樣了。那些十三、四歲來美國的學生也許正處在他們生活中的交叉路口。因爲他們已經成年,根據他們不同的英文水平,我認爲我們大多數學生都有一些英文基礎。他們在自己的國家學過英文。因此,他們懂得一些語法規則。有時他們在這裏成功與否取決於他們的英文程度。因爲年齡和高中畢業的壓力,你在這裏能交多少朋友。我想,你在這裏認識的美國朋友會或多或少使你更加融入美國文化。因此,區別在於年齡,我認爲環境也有很大不同。我記得,我們能夠在街上玩兒到很晚。當然,儘管我沒有在很好的地區長大,但也是不錯的地區。我記得有一段時間,我回家必須要有人送,因爲街邊有些閒散的人。當然,這在紐約這算不了什麽,因爲很多人都在街邊閒逛。但對於我父母來說,他們認爲九點以後只有壞人才在街邊閒逛,因此一些特定的時間我們不能出去。但同樣,這是我父母那個年代的事情,他們非常傳統,非常---。因爲他們這裏誰也不認識,他們的保護意識很強,對我們的管教非常嚴格。我想我們的學生現在所受的約束家比較少。他們差不多都是靠自覺。他們要學會自立,他們是很獨立的。也許他們來之前在中國是很獨立的。我們很多的學生以前住校,沒有在家住,他們不得不學做飯,自己打掃。因此他們很幸運,來這裏的時候就已經有這些技能了。因爲他們現在不得不自立,要承擔很多責任,差不多一夜之間就變成熟了。沒有父母的幫助和建議,他們不得不自己摸索學習所有的事情。</p>
<p>
問:你說你成長的時候不如這些學生獨立?</p>
<p>TSE:是的,沒錯。</p>
<p>問:你是否有過一段叛逆時期,想交一些家長管得不嚴的朋友,想和那些人一樣?</p>
<p>TSE:我覺得我不太像那些在學校裏很活躍的朋友,但是我姐姐非常反叛。我記得她兩次離家出走,我們在一個美國男孩家裏找到她,他們只是朋友。後來,幾年以後,我們也認識那個人,他們只是朋友。那是在初中的時候,她差不多有12或13歲。我父母不讓她做一些事情,大概是不能太晚回家,她想在外面呆更晚,或想去晚會,或做她想做的事情。她是很反叛的一個。她離家出走,或很晚回家,故意不和我一起回家之類的事情。只是想告訴我父母,嗨,我不想遵循你們的規則。我是好孩子。我基本上都聽我父母的話。我在學校成績不錯,我努力學習。我讀書。書籍確實是我的好朋友。我讀了很多書。我聽我父母的話。</p>
<p>問:你還有個弟弟。</p>
<p>TSE:我有個弟弟。</p>
<p>問:他反叛嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:沒有。我覺得我們很閉塞。我們一家在一起做事情,比如星期六我們一起打球。我們一起外出,在一起。因爲我的父母那時也沒有很多朋友,因此我們總是在一起。我父母想找些事情讓我們一起做,我們成爲了朋友,彼此做伴。</p>
<p>
問:你的妹妹現在怎麽樣了?</p>
<p>TSE:我的弟弟?</p>
<p>問:那個反叛的姐姐。</p>
<p>TSE:她結婚了。她在皇后區住,在一家律師樓工作。我的大姐也是教師。她在Harlem教書。她教小學。</p>
<p>問:你的弟弟呢?</p>
<p>TSE:我的弟弟現在沒有工作。他是搞電腦的,他很難找到一個好公司,做他感興趣的事情。</p>
<p>問:我想,你能否---。我不知道你是否有其他什麽關於來這裏的困難要講,在你上高中的時候,你遇到的融入社會的各種各樣的困難?</p>
<p>TSE:我認爲,作爲在這裏長大的第一代移民,我父母對我生活的影響很大,那些對美國青少年重要的事情對我們沒有那麽重要,去舞會或---。我有去畢業典禮,但沒有去舞會。那些事情對我不太重要,還有在一起閒逛,去別人家裏睡覺,那些典型美國學生做的事情。周末在一起閒逛對我確實不是那麽重要。我想這也許是因爲我父母的教育方式,我是在我父母眼皮底下長大的,我覺得那段時期很特殊。我不知道該怎麽講。</p>
<p>問:你現在不這麽認爲嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:是的。</p>
<p>
問:在哪些方面?</p>
<p>TSE:我想我是成長在很有凝聚力的家庭裏的。我想對於現在的學生,即使他們認爲家庭很重要,很多學生還是和父母住在家裏,但其他的一些孩子是家裏是單親父母,那肯定會影響他們的思維方式和生活方式。</p>
<p>問:你認爲會對他們有什麽樣的影響?</p>
<p>TSE:比如要瞭解他們自己是誰。你可以從他們的穿著看出來,他們去一些特定的地方買東西。他們只來到這裏六個月,但知道去什麽地方買衣服。或者他們穿特定的衣服,因爲他們想融入。他們從來沒有穿過這些,現在他們自己一個人,或有單親父母,他們想要---。他們也許能夠說服單親父母給他們買些東西,因爲只有那個單親父母才能給他們買。我們很多學生也有工作。他們做些半職工作,在麵包房工作,或當服務員,做零工。這樣他們會有一點零錢。學校是第二學習場所,即是有年齡大一些的學生。我們一些學生高中畢業,很少一部分,差不多百分之二,實際上在中國高中畢業,準備上大學。但因爲他們想在這裏獲得高中畢業證書,同時也提高他們的英文,他們來到這個學校。因此,他們的目標有一些不同。我認爲這裏的學生比其他學生成熟一些,因爲他們的年齡,以及他們很多都是自己一個人在這裏。他們住在這裏,他們不得不維持自己的生活。他們有不同的想法和生活目標。</p>
<p>問:你認爲他們對自己的看法同你在他們的那個年齡有何不同,因爲你談到他們比較看重服裝和時髦。</p>
<p>TSE:並非所有的,只是一部分。在這個學校有一部分學生是從香港來的,他們都很時髦。你能看出來。當你在樓道裏走的時候,如果你不認識他們,你會知道他們是從香港來的。只是看他們的穿著,他們的頭型,或走路的樣子。當然,從他們講廣州話也可以看出來。他們的個性也有些不同。他們的褲子垂到屁股上。他們想非常美國化。<br>

他們穿特定的體恤衫,Stussy,這是新出來的十分流行的牌子。他們花很多錢買首飾。他們戴耳環。他們戴項鏈。他們同那些來自中國的學生截然不同。那些學生的父母成長在中國很傳統的、很小的地方,也許是農村,鄉村地區。他們的生活是很不同的。</p>
<p>問:這些不同的學生在學校相處得怎麽樣?</p>
<p>TSE:就好像在高中,在我那個時候,學校裏有不同的學生,不同的派系,不同團體混在一起,這裏也同樣。在同一地方長大的人在一起。或者是因爲語言,或極少時候是因爲個性。這裏有香港幫,講廣州話幫,福建幫。一些人很聰明,喜歡學習,不管是從哪里來的,他們總是在一起。有些人喜歡講英語,找其他有類似的興趣的做朋友。因此,和高中沒有什麽兩樣。但是沒有喜好運動的。我沒有看到中國的運動員。這是這裏缺少的一個團體。和其他成長中的青少年一樣,他們找有共同興趣或者背景的人做朋友,所以沒有太大的不同。</p>
<p>問:在你長大的時候,你說---,你是不是覺得自己是高中裏唯一的中國人很奇怪?</p>
<p>TSE:我沒有說我是唯一的中國人。我是說我是---,那裏差不多有一、兩個中國移民家庭的孩子。對於其他亞裔,我不認爲他們是中國人。他們更像美國人,因爲他們不講中文。即使他們講中文,基本上,他們的舉止也不一樣。他們所有的朋友都是美國人,在學校很活躍的學生,那種青少年的生活。他們舉止不同。他們屬於不同的團體,不同的社會團體。</p>
<p>問:那你沒有---,你和其他人沒有太多來往嗎---</p>
<p>TSE:我有。有一個女孩子是我的朋友,但只是一般的朋友。因爲我們在同一個班,有同樣的---,我想不應該算是作業,我們一起做作業,<br>

我們談一些班裏的事情。但下了課之後,我們很少在一起吃午餐。</p>
<p>問:你父母對你談戀愛等持什麽態度?</p>
<p>TSE:他們的態度是---,我們不得不秘密約會,偷偷地喜歡別人,秘密地和朋友出去。一切都是秘密的,因爲我們的父母從不談這個問題。你可以大學畢業後結婚等。從某種意義上來講,他們很開放,讓我們自己選擇。另一方面,我想他們不想讓我們談戀愛,所以他們從不談論這個問題。我想現在的孩子更加複雜,因爲他們十六、七歲就開始拍拖。即使他們沒有做過,他們也知道。他們看到自己的朋友懷孕,流産,或離婚。不同的社會問題迫使他們接受這些想法。他們比我考慮的更多。</p>
<p>問:那你的父母從未談論過這些事情嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:他們從來不談論這些,即使我們試圖談這個話題。我姐姐很小的時候有一個男朋友,我想是高中第一年,不是她離家出走去的那個,不是她離開家投奔的那個。但是我父母說,你不能和不是中國人的男孩子拍拖,更何況結婚。但是,你不能不和一個不是中國人的男孩子拍拖是因爲你可能---,好像是說你可能和他結婚。所以,我和我另外的姐姐只好私下拍拖。</p>
<p>問:你是否和中國人拍拖?</p>
<p>TSE:開始時候是的。但後來在大學,我和其他種族人拍拖。我是說,我父母從來不知道。他們會反對的。</p>
<p>問:他們現在的態度如何?</p>
<p>
TSE:他們現在變得更加靈活。他們只是想---,我姐姐的確嫁給了一個越南華僑,他們很高興。但我想他們對婚姻的看法是---,他們也許更加喜歡---,我還是單身,但如果---,他們還是想讓我嫁給一個美籍華人,而不是其他什麽人。但他們知道我在和一個白人談戀愛。他們沒有說什麽。他們---,他們沒有說什麽。他們沒有說,“好極了!”但他們也沒有說,“啊,不行,你不能這樣做。”他們沒有那樣講,他們沒有反對。我想有可能是因爲他們自己已習慣聽到各種各樣的事情,或者他們變得對一些價值觀無所謂---。很多事情對於他們來講並不再是黑與白。我想他們起初是很袒護我,因爲一切對於他們都是很新鮮的。他們確實是想保護我們。他們想自己摸索。</p>
<p>[第一盤第一面結束;第一盤第二面開始]</p>
<p>問:我想再談一下拍拖的問題。你的另外一個姐姐和你弟弟怎麽樣?他們結婚了嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:沒有,他們還是單身。但基本上,他們都和中國人在一起,我想他們基本上和中國人拍拖。</p>
<p>問:他們是否覺得那樣更好,還是---</p>
<p>TSE:我不過問他們這方面的事情。對於我自己,我想這取決於對方,以及你交往的圈子。因此,如果他們大多數的朋友是中國人,他們可能---這是他們社交的圈子。</p>
<p>問:那你呢?你覺得和美籍華人拍拖心裏會感覺舒服一些嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:這不是舒服不舒服的問題。我想這是是否方便的問題,比如你想去某個地方---。因爲我講廣州話,我約會的一些中國人講得不好,我經常取笑他們。有時和他們交流很有意思,儘管他們講不流利。你講一些東西,就會鬧些笑話出來。你想講些不想讓別人聽到的話就很方便。<br>

好像是秘密的語言,或共同的東西。就是很有意思。</p>
<p>問:你覺得和講廣州話的人交流要比講英文容易嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:如果他們的背景,他們成長的環境和我相似,我想立刻就會有感覺,但也並非如此。有其他重要的事情,你的價值觀和相互是否吸引。</p>
<p>問:你覺得你同華人社區,唐人街,或者你住的地方,是否很密切?</p>
<p>TSE:我現在住的地方是另外一個日益擴大的唐人街,因此覺得像是在唐人街。因爲到處都有中國餐館,中國人的洗衣店,中國超級商場,中國雜貨店,什麽都有。實際上,就是這近五年才有的。我一輩子都住在那裏,但實際上那個社區在不斷擴大。有更多的華人搬過來,他們跟我講同樣的語言。我有點不願講這些,但我還是說吧。我想搬到其他中國人少的地方住,因爲我想找一個安靜一些的地方。倒不是說我想遠離華人,但我想我搬到這個地方的原因之一就是因爲這裏很安靜。有時你如果想要---,下了班之後,你就是想要遠離你的工作,而我一直都在唐人街上班,離這裏很近,Lower East Side。我在紐約大學讀書,離唐人街也很近。大多時候,我的社會活動都是在這個地區,所以很方便,在這裏住很舒服。同時,當你長大的時候,你意識到你可以去其他地方玩兒,認識其他人,面對其他的挑戰,其他你想認識的人,在其他社區做的事情。我想在這個社區工作,幫助這個社區發展。但同時,我有我的美國夢,要真正意識到美國並不僅是唐人街,並不只是這塊地方。你想---,我想要我的學生也懂得這一點,這樣他們總能記住。我經常和我的朋友開玩笑,跟他們講,我們來唐人街吃飯,因爲這裏的價錢便宜,買蔬菜,然後回家。但在某種程度上這是事實。<br>

我們想和我們中國人的根有聯繫。但在另一方面,我們想融入美國主流社會,享受和發掘生活裏的其他事情。</p>
<p>問:你是如何有那種想法的?</p>
<p>TSE:我想大概是受朋友影響。如果你想去餐館,你不會去在你家周圍的餐館,這樣可以有些新的嘗試。就像我第一次去攀岩,總是在想,我下一步還要做些什麽?你是在向外伸展。一旦你伸展到了,你想做更多的事情,好像邁出了你的圈子,你的小盒子。我認爲這也是很重要的。如果你總是生活在你的圈子裏,你不會有發展,你必須要對比。在你探詢人生的時候,你要看到你整個世界中其他的東西。</p>
<p>問:你家附近在很多華人搬來之前是什麽樣的?大概在5年或10年以前?</p>
<p>TSE:有一些華人住在那裏,但在我的那個街區有兩個華人家庭。我想那個地區大多是猶太人,俄國人。有一些是義大利人。</p>
<p>問:現在的那些居民是剛剛來到美國的,還是來這裏已經有一段時間了?</p>
<p>TSE:我想都有吧。有些是在這裏開餐館的生意人,有些是新移民。我的一些學生也住在鄰近,所以我知道也有新來的移民。因此,兩者都有。能有這種混合、而非單一的社會群體倒是件好事情。</p>
<p>問:你覺得你們那一代老移民和這些新移民之間的交流怎麽樣?</p>
<p>TSE:我想我們---,我只能談我自己的觀點,這並不代表其他人。我想還是有緊密的聯繫的,因爲我仍然講他們的語言。我知道所發生的事情,<br>

你聽到一些問題或---,他們面臨的挑戰,也會使你聯想起一些類似的經歷。因此,你和他們並不是那麽格格不入。但我想,對於我們大多數人來講,當我們年紀大的時候,比如我姐姐和我,我們對新移民更有同情心。儘管我們開玩笑,我們有相同的處境,我們穿舊衣服。或有的時候我們父母沒有給我們買禮物,我們沒有禮物,我們要給父母買聖誕禮物,這類事情。現在的學生和新移民[聽不清楚]。但同時,因爲我們的水平不同,我們的生活方式不同,我們在賺錢,我們是所謂的“已經先到的”。你確實感到對那些面臨挑戰的人的同情。我是說我肯定那些人在他們十幾歲成長的時候也有各種不同的挑戰。也許他們腦子裏考慮很多事情,只不過沒有講出來,但都有很多相似之處。我想沒有太多的區別。當然區別一定會有,但我想對於那些從一個地方搬到另一個地方的人來講,區別不是很大。</p>
<p>問:你談到沒有新衣服和聖誕禮物。你是否還記得你長大的時候其他的事情---,關於移民到這裏的?</p>
<p>TSE:我想是吃的,食物。我小時候並不經常吃麥當勞,但我記得去吃麥當勞算是很不錯的了,我想這是很多孩子都喜歡的一件事情。也許他們腦子裏就是有這種想法,喔,去麥當勞一定是因爲你過生日。因此---,在你十幾歲的時候,你喜歡吃漢堡包和炸薯條,而不是米飯,[笑] 蔬菜和魚。但我父母經常在家裏做中餐。我們從來沒有吃過其他食物。他們還有給我們做很奇怪的食物,我們甚至今天還喜歡吃。如果我去一家餐館點菜,我會挑一些特定的菜,比如苦瓜。別人會問,“你爲什麽吃那個?真噁心!太苦了!”或一些美國人不吃的東西。所以在某種意義上很奇怪。但這完全是因爲我們成長的環境。我有一些朋友,他們的孩子在美國出生。他們的食譜完全不同。他們能每天都吃漢堡包,可以不吃米飯。我想我的飲食包括許多---,至少百分之五十是米飯。對於我母親那一代人,他們一天不吃米飯都不行。他們覺得,<br>

如果他們今天沒有吃米飯,明天就會死的。[笑] 因此,他們的想法,他們的飲食習慣是非常不一樣的。</p>
<p>問:你是否記得你小的時候,如果不去麥當勞,還有什麽食物算是比較隆重的?你小時候有什麽比較特殊的場合嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:去中餐館吃中餐[笑]是一個特殊的場合。真的。我們不經常出去。我們沒有錢,我們必須存錢付房租等。我們沒有錢買很多東西。</p>
<p>問:什麽是你的---,你們是住公寓樓還是房子,或者---</p>
<p>TSE:我們在一間公寓樓住了至少15年。在高中的時候,我們搬家了,我父母搬到房子裏住了。我們用了家裏所有的積蓄。我所講的家裏所有的積蓄包括孩子們的積蓄,比如我們打暑期工掙的錢,還有過年親戚朋友給的錢。所有的錢都花在買房子上的。當然,這是每個中國人的夢想,有自己的土地和自己的房子。六萬八千美元在今天算不了什麽,但在80年代,對於我父母來講是很大一筆錢了。因此,我們那時申請了抵押貸款,我們夏天打工掙來的錢也用來付房款。</p>
<p>問:那個房子怎麽樣?</p>
<p>TSE:很佛教化。我父母現在還在那裏住。下面是一家商店,他們很有經濟頭腦,把一樓租了出去。他們要還抵押,所以在二樓住。最近,他們重新裝修了整個地方。自從我們搬進來之後,他們第一次把牆皮剝了下來。他們之所以能夠這樣做是因爲孩子們都長大了,他們能夠退休了,現在沒有什麽地方需要用錢了。如果他們想的話,我們每天都能出去吃。但基本上他們在那裏住得很舒服。他們現在生活很好,有地方住,用不著還抵押。他們有社會安全保障,需要一些額外的也可以靠孩子。</p>
<p>
問:那房子---,你們是否都有自己的臥室,房子有多大?或者---</p>
<p>TSE:我想我們住的第一所公寓房間比我們的房子都大。我記得我們房間裏有兩個臥室,但都很大。在70年代,我記得是六十八美元一個月。[笑] 我們的房租最高,六十八美元。我記得我們鄰居的房租是20多塊錢。[笑聲] 非常大的房間,那個公寓實際上已經被拆了。他們在那裏建了一所學校,我記得就是因爲這個我們才搬走的。我們實際上並不想搬,但不搬不行。我們在那裏住得很寬敞。的確是很大的地方。大起居室,兩間大臥室,一個洗手間,大廚房。當我們搬進房子的時候,實際上還沒有我們公寓房間大。但那是我們自己的,能有自己的房子住,用不著擔心被趕走是很重要的。沒有人干涉你在裏面做什麽。</p>
<p>問:那你怎麽---,你有沒有和你的姐姐一起住,或者房子裏---</p>
<p>TSE:你是問格局嗎?那裏實際上有兩間臥室,但因爲我父母住一間臥室,我和我姐姐住另外一間,我弟弟在上大學之前一直在起居室睡。所以,他上大學是好事,否則我都不知道他要住在哪里。我教書以後就自己搬走了,因爲房子太小了。非常小。是這樣子的。</p>
<p>問:那你姐姐也在那裏住嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:是的,整個高中階段我們都在那裏打架。你能想象一個房間裏住三個女孩嗎?上下鋪。我睡上鋪,你睡下鋪。睡一段時間再換床。這並非容易。但如果你就是這個條件,你不會有其他的想法。好像現在,我不會和我姐姐再睡一個房間。你不想和別人住在同一房間。還有,六個人同用一個洗手間。我現在有我自己的洗手間。如果有人進來,我會說,這裏不夠兩個人的地方。因此,還是那句話,如果你以前沒有過,你不覺得失去了什麽,你也不會珍稀它。</p>
<p>問:你是否還記得其他關於在那個房子裏長大的--- </p>
<p>[
討論光線]</p>
<p>問:你是否還記得其他在那裏長大的事情?</p>
<p>TSE:很多記憶。我姐姐是在那裏結的婚,我們鋪了第一張地毯,牆對牆地毯。就好像我們發展得更好後,我們家裏也會有改善的,家裏添了很多東西。我們添的第一個大件就是天花板風扇。的確是很大一件事情。我們這些孩子都有湊錢,買了天花板風扇。[笑] 那是很大的事情。就是這些成長時的回憶,我們能夠做的一些使父母開心、使我們的生活更方便的小事情。這是一些愉快的時刻,比如我們過耶誕節時,我們給自己和父母買很多禮物。[笑] 就是這些小的事情,是很好的回憶。</p>
<p>問:你有沒有其他一些記憶,比如你成長過程中的里程碑?</p>
<p>TSE:在我小時候?</p>
<p>問:在成長的時候,在這個房子裏住,你還記得的事情,好像買天花板風扇這些美好的回憶?</p>
<p>TSE:我得想一會兒。家裏發生了很多事情,好的和壞的。我想我們住房子和住---,可能我們住公寓的時間要比住房子久。所以,我對公寓的記憶要更多一些,我想至少一些特殊的記憶,因爲我是和姐姐一起玩兒的。我們做遊戲,或在地板上扮東西,就是在那個公寓長大的。當我們搬到房子裏住的時候,我們有到外面去。我們上了大學,因此我們做了---,或先是高中。我們在房子外做的事情要比在房子做的事情多。但在小時候,我們大多時候不出去,呆在房間裏。因此是很不一樣的。</p>
<p>問:你的祖父母---,他們還在香港嗎?他們還在世嗎?</p>
<p>
TSE:他們從來沒有到過這個國家。他們仍然在香港,我祖母大約在五年前去世了,她---</p>
<p>問:你有沒有見過她,還是---</p>
<p>TSE:看過相片,通過電話。聽過關於她的一些事情。她是我們家裏最高的。關於她的一些瑣碎的事情,但我從未見過她。</p>
<p>問:她沒有來過。</p>
<p>TSE:是的,她不想來。路途太長,她有家庭---,我是說,她其他的女兒和家人還在那裏,他們照料她。</p>
<p>問:是你母親的母親還是你父親的母親?</p>
<p>TSE:我母親的母親。我父親那邊很分散。他有同父異母的兄弟姐妹。他的童年過得不好。他們一家人不在一起。彼此不太友好。所以,他從不談這些。他在美國的同父異母的兄弟多過在荷蘭的兄弟。我們和比較遠的親戚的聯繫多過和近的親戚的聯繫。</p>
<p>問:“遠”指的是香港還是---</p>
<p>TSE:是荷蘭。</p>
<p>問:你認識他們嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:認識,實際上,他們到美國來了兩次。所以,實際上,我們跟他們比跟住在紐約的親戚還要熟。他們在那邊過得不錯。兩個兒子在荷蘭學醫,是優秀的。尤其對我父母來講,現在我們家裏有兩個醫生,這是很不容易的。可惜他們在荷蘭,<br>

不能夠幫到我們。但的確很高興知道我們都是專業人士,有很大的目標,跟我父母,以及他們的父母比起來---</p>
<p>問:讓我想一下。我們能不能談一下愛國主義,以及你覺得你有多愛美國,尤其是在9/11之後,以及有沒有什麽變化?</p>
<p>TSE:即使在9/11之前,我在18歲申請公民身份的時候,我必須通過所有的測試,面談,以及最後的宣誓。整個的經歷確實觸動了我。後來,我去參加陪審團,我和我的學生分享那些經歷,它意味著什麽---,作爲一個美國人的職責是什麽?這些我都是很重視的。很多人,也許甚至美國人,認爲沒有這個必要,或覺得無所謂。但我是非常認真的,當我被要求做陪審員的時候,我希望自己會被選中,能夠審這個案子,瞭解一下過程。我已被選中了一次,最後兩次沒有抽到。這種經歷的確會使你懂得,你有權決定另外一個人的命運意味著什麽。如此之類的小事情。如果你沒有去,只是學過或聽到過,你會想當然,而不會確切知道這其中的涵義,直到你親自做了,甚至對於我的學生,當他們處在那個位置的時候。你是陪審員,你決定這個人的命運。喔,是政府的授權。你認爲你會在世界上其他地方有這樣的機會嗎?因此,我的確是這麽想的,而且我盡力向我的學生灌輸,就是這種感覺---,不僅僅是責任,而是做的感覺,成爲這種文化的一部分。要成爲有責任感的公民需要做些什麽事情?</p>
<p>問:這同你父母住在這裏的觀點不同吧?</p>
<p>TSE:我想是的。我是說,他們,我是說,我父母是真正的移民,要努力奮鬥養家活口。也許他們的目標,他們的世界跟我們不太一樣。我在成長,想要---,我是說,他們要實現美國夢,但我的美國夢是不同的。</p>
<p>問:那你認爲你愛國嗎?或者你對這個國家的感覺怎麽樣,尤其在9/11之後?</p>
<p>
TSE:你是問我的政治觀點?</p>
<p>問:不是,作爲在這裏生活的公民,你的感覺如何,尤其是看到所發生的事情之後。</p>
<p>TSE:我想很多美國人都提到過,但我也強烈地感到,我們總是覺得自由是想當然的。我覺得我們確實需要重新考慮,認識到很多人爲了我們能在這裏自由地生活而付出了自己的生命,從而我們才能擁有自由,能夠發表自己的言論,在晚上能夠安全地,相對安全地,走在街上。我是說,作爲美國人,我們以爲這些都是理所當然的。我覺得對於那些來到這裏的移民,這裏有很多他們覺得很不可思議的事情---。啊,我們有這個,我們有那個。比如電視機,這裏有這麽多電視機,我們能夠免費去百老彙看演出。所有這些吸引,這些機會在其他地方都是沒有的。我想他們確實非常感激,他們確實能夠看到生活在這個偉大的國家是來之不易的。關於移民經歷,我要講的另外一件事情是,如果你問我的學生,在五年、十年之後,他們會在哪里。一些學生會說,這取決於他們在這裏呆了多長時間,甚至一半以上的學生會說,我會留在這裏。一些學生說他們要回自己的國家,比如一旦他們有機會,在這裏讀完書,拿到文憑之後,他們要回去做些其他的事情。這確實很有趣。</p>
<p>問:是很有趣。你認爲你會繼續在紐約住嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:[笑] 是的,我喜歡紐約。我在布魯克林區長大,但喜歡紐約,我是紐約人。如果我有錢,我要住在紐約市。</p>
<p>問:這不太容易。我想已經差不多了,你還有別的什麽要補充的嗎?</p>
<p>TSE:我已經講了很多。我甚至都不記得講了些什麽。</p>
<p>問:我想可以了。謝謝。感謝你。</p>
<p>採訪完畢</p>

Citation

“Meiling Tse,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed April 3, 2020, https://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/88953.