September 11 Digital Archive

Guo Gan Yan

Title

Guo Gan Yan

Source

transcription

Media Type

interview

Chinatown Interview: Interviewee

Guo Gan Yan

Chinatown Interview: Interviewer

Florence Ng

Chinatown Interview: Date

0000-00-00

Chinatown Interview: Language

Cantonese

Chinatown Interview: Occupation

Waiter

Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)

Q: Mr. Yan, please tell us when is your birthday and your life in China?

Yan: I was born on March 18th, 1950 in Guangzhou, China.

Q: How was your life in Guangzhou?

Yan: I lived there for a few decades. I lived through the Cultural Revolution, a very difficult period. However, we were optimistic and happy. We had many hobbies. We liked sports, entertainment, and played various musical instruments.

Q: How was the environment of your home town? How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Yan: My father was a sailor when I wan born. He sailed in passenger ships mainly between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Later, he sold small stationery.

Q: How was the living environment?

Yan: Guangzhou had many people but few lands. Thus, living spaces were scarce and expensive. We had a family of six. Our parents and four brothers and sisters lived in a 20 sq. meter space. To increase space, we built an attic. The space was sufficient.

Q: How was your study?

Yan: I studied in a nearby school from elementary to high school because Guangzhou’s schools adopted a zoning system.

Q: What did you like to do when you were young?

Yan: I was very active. During my elementary studies, I loved playing Ping pong balls and the other sports. In my high school years, I played basketball, swimming, and ice-skating. I also played Chinese and Western musical instruments.

Q: China has experienced many political movements, such as the Cultural Revolution. How did they affect your studies?

Yan: I ran into Cultural Revolution when I was in the 2nd year of my intermediate school and we had to stop studying. We were seriously affected. I only studied intermediate school for less than 2 years. All schools throughout the nations stop schooling. After the Cultural Revolution, school returned to normal, we had to graduate from high school. We had to leave because the younger students were moving up. Hence, I actually finished one year of intermediate school. Later on, I compensated my study at the workplace. Ha! Ha!

Q: What did you do during Cultural Revolution?

Yan: When school stopped, we scheduled ourselves a lot of activities: sports, swimming, ice-skating, fishing, and playing cultural musical instruments and western instruments.

Q: Did you have a hard time?

Yan: Not hard time at all. I was young and relatively active. We played happily.

Q: How was your family affected by political unrest?

Yan: Cultural Revolution eliminated businessmen and peddlers. My father lost his stationery stores. We lived by renting out public phone, at a few cents per minute.

Q: Your father rented out phone lines. What did your mother do?

Yan: My mother helped in housework and in selling stationery.

Q: What did your siblings do?

Yan: My brothers and sisters worked in garment and mechanics industries in Guangzhou city.

Q: Describe your life in the factory or being “sent down” to the village.

Yan: I wasn’t sent down to the village, because my elder brother was sent to the village in Hainan Island. My parents were too old and sick and I would have to stay to take care of them. Hence, I was assigned a job in a factory.

Q: When was that?

Yan: I was assigned to a factory in 1969.

Q: What did you do in the factory?

Yan: I repaired machines. Later on, I was responsible for planning entertainment events and sports, contests and night concerts.

Q: What factory was that?

Yan: That was called Guangzhou Cement Factory. Now it is called Guangzhou Cement Company Limited.

Q: Mr. Yan, you had to work during day time and organized entertainment activities at night time. How did you arrange your schedule?

Yan: At first, I used the leisure time after working hour to swim and ice-skate. Then we formally established our own propaganda teams as a political mission. We then took business leave to rehearse, perform and participate in contests. Even though we had privileges to take leave, we worked in one of the 3-shifts in the factory. Sometimes we rehearsed in the morning and worked on night shift. We continue to work as much as we could.

Q: What kind of views your close friends and relatives hold when they learnt about you organizing events?

Yan: My father was easy going. He let us express our wishes freely. He did not oppose us playing musical instruments. I became a para-professional later on. I organized activities. I assumed the roles of a coach, team member, team leader and back stage coordinator.

Q: How long did you work in the cement factory?

Yan: I worked for almost 30 years, until I came to the United States. It should be exactly 29 years.

Q: In these 29 years, you had to take care of both working and organizing social activities?

Yan: In the latter year of my job, I was solely responsible for entertainment and sport. I did it at any time of the day, day or night. I was involved in festivals, parties, inter-factory contests, employee Lunar festivals, and for retirees, family members and kids. We had prize games and simple contests.

Q: Of the many activities that you organized, did you have any memorable moment?

Yan: From my experience, I was able to organize games according to age characteristics of the participants. If elderly could not move freely, they could not play the games that young people played. At the same time, we had to show respect and not bored them. The ideal games should be simple contests with appropriate prizes.

For ladies who dressed up and wore high heels, they could not play ‘musical chair’, nor could they play ‘bursting the balloons’. They should not play games that they get stepped on or could cause tripping. The floors could not be slippery. The ideal games would be guessing riddles and idioms.

Q: What kind of games did you organize?

Yan: If workers played outdoor, but did not have props yet wanted to play, I took a nylon rope and cut them into a few one-meter pieces. Then, I arranged them into 3 to 4 person teams. The team who tied the longest rope would win. The game was called ‘long strings of love’. It was a simple game.

Some games were more complicated and were called ‘walking like a king crab, blocking all the way’. The game was interesting and the name carried moral meanings. I would specify before the game that ‘the contestants will be awarded for blocking the ways at the game tonight. But in real life, we should be modest. The contestants were divided into two teams and were assigned to the two ends of the place. In the middle was a destined line. Each group of 3 to 4 teammates were lined up and tied on the outer ankles by rope and little bamboos. The whistle blew and every one walked sideway towards the middle as fast as possible. People would win if they walk like a crab. At the game that night, they could walk like a crab, but in daily life, they should be modest. Since this happened, I reminded them the morals of the games.

Q: Your work provided relaxation to people’s stressful lives. Did it spice up the lives of the grass root workers?

Yan: Workers performing boring tasks would repeat the same action over and over again. On the other hand, our bodies need more exercise and stretch our limbs from time to time to maintain a healthy life. If a group of muscles was overused, it will hurt and result in occupational disease. I held sport activities to make our workers healthy, to minimize occupational disease, and to provide leisure and healthy hobbies for workers. Activities such as fishing team and non-Olympic games encouraged people to exercise and be happy. If you organize appropriate contests, people who do not exercise enough would participate.

Q: You organize a lot of games. Do you remember some games that gave you the deepest sense of achievement?

Yan: Nan Fang Daily in Guangzhou reported my company’s events. Departments of the city government would invite me to chair and organize [events]. They thought my activities were more lively and catered to all age groups, such as evening parties for all seasonal occasions, Lunar festival parties for children, “Respect the elderly” festival for retirees, social dance for employees, karaoke contest and simple events such as flower arrangement contest or even fashion contest for female workers. Sport contests were often held, occasionally we had non-Olympic games. The employees were pleased with it. The employees have different likings and love to have assorted choices, many workers were very satisfied.

Once there was a worker who had not joined our activities for decades, because the tickets were limited and they were all taken away by leaders from the management, pioneer workers, superviors and model workers. No tickets were left to the workers. Hence I broke the tradition, on May 1st International Labor Day, no tickets were issued and all the worker could join in.

A “South vs. North contest” was held in the hall, with singing. The success of the party relied on interaction between those performed on stage and the audience below the stage. The audience below the stage was usually not so keen, but whenever I organized the “South vs. North contests” , audience from both sides could participate. At the same [I would announce] that if the audience from the northern gate won, the prizes for those both on and below the stage would be much more. That helped make the audience get more involved and promote interaction between them. The cheerleaders of course put in a great deal of effort- this is just some of my experiences.

Q: You led a colorful life in China. Why did you come to the United States originally?

Yan: It was mainly due to the fact that my brother was in the United States. He applied for us 11 years ago. I did not want to come because I was passionate about my job there and I had assorted hobbies. Later on, it would be better for my children’s education. My friends also persuaded us to come, for the sake of my children’s education.

Q: Before you came, what was your impression of New York Chinatown?

Yan: I had heard about it. I already knew coming to the States was not to enjoy a luxurious life, life could be a bit boring . [It was because] I had this thinking initially and also because I don’t know English, only a few words.

Before I came to the United States, some people already warned me that Chinatown was very dirty. I witnessed it indeed after I came.

Q: When did you come to the United States?

Yan: In 1999.

Q: Where did you live when you came here?

Yan: I have been living in Brooklyn ever since. I worked for a restaurant.

Q: What kind of restaurant was that?

Yan: A restaurant in Chinatown.

I never worked in the catering business before and was referred by others. Since I don’t know English, I work in Chinatown.

Q: What did you do initially?

Yan: I was a busboy.

Q: Was United States the same as what you expected?

Yan: I knew I had to work hard [in the United States]. I did not want to come because I’m old, and am not able to work hard because I’m stamina is limited. The biggest barrier was not knowing English. Being here is like living in another society, [I’m] not accustomed to many things because of the difference in skin color. Had to find jobs that can do without English.

Q: How big was the restaurant?

Yan: It was a banquet restaurant which served dim sum and meals.

Q: How long you worked?

Yan: For almost 4 years.

Q: What was your salary?

Yan: It was hard to compare. If we earned and used money in the same place, the standard of living would be the same in different places. The basic salary plus tips varied each month. The more banquet orders, the more the tips. Tips earned during the dim sum shift were less. [It happened that I earned] less than $1000 a month, and even $800. On average, $1200.

Q: Was the salary enough? Did your wife need to help out?

Yan: Definitely. She also worked in a restaurant.

Q: Was your restaurant affected by 9/11?

Yan: The economy after 9/11 was bad. [The restaurant] was closed for a while, then reopened for a while, then closed for a while, in the end it shut down.

Q: When it was closed, did the employer give you any severance pay? How did the company treat its workers?

Yan: No severance payment. [Our] wages were still owed. Ha! Ha!

Q: After it was closed, the employers fled. What happened to the wages of so many people?

Yan: The workers were scattered everywhere, they were owed a few months worth of salary.

Q: When you worked in the United States and were mistreated by Chinese employers. How did you feel?

Yan: At the time, it would be nice to meet people from my old culture in a different land. So I was deeply [hurt] when I ran into a heartless employer in a foreign land. In fact, in US, the Chinese community is very complicated.

Q: Protests were staged at the New Silver Palace restaurant. Did you participate in the protest to fight for your benefits?

Yan: We are new immigrants, we did not know the history of this place. I just wanted to look for a job and live a stable life. Ever since 9/11, it was very difficult to find a job.

Q: Later on, did you try looking for jobs elsewhere?

Yan: People would ask you where you worked before, once they heard it they would ask you to leave a phone number, but there’s [always] no news. A lot of people are unemployed these days . Job hunting is hard, it depends on your age. When they looked at me and asked you to put down the phone number…Unable to master basic English, not knowing a few phrases of simple English, [it was] impossible to find a job.

Q: When comparing before and after 9/11, was it harder to find a job[after 9/11]?

Yan: Definitely. Many restaurants and garment factories [closed down]. A lot of people were unemployed. Now my wife is the one has a job.

Q: Where does your wife work?

Yan: In a restaurant, in Brooklyn.

Q: What were you doing when 9/11 happened?

Yan: When 9/11 happened, I had a day off and rested at home. We didn’t turn on the television, since we don’t know English. It was from long distance phone calls from Hong Kong and Guangzhou which [they] told us not to go out because New York was being attacked, they watached the planes crash. Originally, I planned to take pictures on that day but rescheduled it to Wednesday, September 12th. So I stayed home. After the phone call, I took out my camera and wanted to take photos, but the traffic was already dead. Because of my passion in photography, out of a photographer’s instinct I would capture the breaking [news] events [with my lenses], but I didn’t realize the incident was so serious.

Q: When 9/11 happened, did the restaurants stay open?

Yan: [They were] shut right away, but not closed down, after a while [they] reopened. When the restaurant shut, I waited for a few months for it to reopen, no income for those few months.

Q: Were there any community groups [offering] such as disaster assistance fund?

Yan: We did not know English, applied very late. But did apply, such as [benefits from] Red Cross, Safe Horizon. But that was the second year after the events, many months later.

Q: Was it because [you] did not know that application were available or were there other reasons?

Yan: No, I learnt it from other co-workers.

Q: How much was the subsidy?

Yan: Safe Horizon [offered] $2500, and there was Red Cross and Food Stamp.

Q: Could you make it through?

Yan: The restaurant re-opened but the business was sluggish ever since. Later, I got some subsidies, last year I received subsidies to learn English, applying through Safe Horizon.

Q: Did you expect the economy could be so bad?

Yan: It was beyond my expectation. New York was a tourist city, without tourists, the restaurant industry would collapse and many would close down.

Q: When 9/11 happened to the United States, has it changed your impression of the United States? What kind of revelations do you have?

Yan: It is beyond my imagination to see such a huge terrorism attack happened within the United States and the degree of terror of the terrorism event. It was out of my mind, unthinkable.

Q: Do you still love the United States, the country?

Yan: United States itself is very democratic, she may have accumulate some resentment from the Arabic world for favoring one side and make the other side of the Arabic world anger. I don’t know much about politics.

Q: After all these years in the United State, do you consider the United States as your home?

Yan: My whole family emigrated to the United States, United States is my home.

Q: After your arrival, what was your first impression of Chinatown?

Yan: When I first arrived in New York. Two main features of my impress - good air quality and orderly traffic, better than that in mainland China.

Q: What is your impression of the Chinese community?

Yan: Chinese people are faced with serious language barrier in the United States, [at least] in the hearts of local Americans. Used to hear that [the Chinese are] turning into third class citizens in United States, I have mixed feelings [on that] after I came. Part of the big reason is that others see you as third class citizens since you are not doing good enough [to attain] social moral, professional ethics. For example, when boarding the subway, the Americans would [let others] off first then get on, very polite. But when it comes to some Chinese people, they swarmed in that outrages the Americans and leaves an impression that the Chinese are impolite. Besides, spitting on the ground, littering, ignoring the traffic signal are common phenomenon. Before I emigrated, people already say “Chinatown is the dirtiest”, this is a problem with our cultural standard. It affects civil virtue and professional ethics.

Q: You organized a lot of activities before, did you utilize your expertise in the United States?

Yan: We don’t know English. I am not familiar [with the country]. I don’t get to know a handful of people, no clue [as in how to start].

Q: You led a hard life here. What do you think is the difference of quality of living here?

Yan: It is hard to judge the quality of living. [You] enjoy life in China with [whatever that is available to you] , in here, [you can] enjoy [whatever is available to you here]. But since we don’t know English, we cannot enter the mainstream society, no enjoyment, no night life. But Americans [do have it] - the night scene at 42nd Street, Soho area is very lively. Because our and theirs living habits are different, [and we] don’t know English, no night life. Also, we finish work late, unlike the 8-hour shift system in China- [be it] 9am to 5pm or 8am to 4pm. In China, usually [we] have dinner at 6pm, then karaoke after the meal, the cultural life [there] is lot more lively.

Q: As you see, what is the main entertainment [here for the Chinese]?

Yan: The best entertainment is watching video tapes, renting video tapes is the most popular entertainment.

Q: Without exercises, what kind of effects it will have on physical and mental health?

Yan: Working for more than ten hours then head home to watch video tapes is not so good. Life is all about moving, with enough exercises it will benefit the body and helps with work [efficiency]. It is because at work, [we often] repeat a certain movement. Sports mean movement for all of the body, balancing all the bones and exercises muscles. [It] Lowers the chance of occupational ailments such as erosion of waist muscles [and] back aches.

Q: You worked in the restaurant business before. What are the common occupational ailments there?

Yan: That area is not my expertise, but I have heard that in restaurants, [workers] suffer mostly from waist and leg pains. Working more 10 hours [really] hurt the feet of the waiters. Inactivity can lead to the so called waist and leg pains.

Q: Mr. Yan, you came with your wife and daughter. How did you get to know your wife?

Yan: Referred by someone.

Q: What was her occupation?

Yan: At that time, she was a “Zhi Qing”, sent down to the country. An educated youth who spent time in rural village.

Q: Did she work in the factory or other organization?

Yan: Even after the referral by others, she still had to work in the countryside at the time. She returned to the city later and worked in the factory.

Q: How long were you married?

Yan: We were married for 22 years.

Q: When you told your wife that you were coming to the United States, how did she feel? Was she willing to come?

Yan: She was not willing to come at all.

Q: How did you convince her?

Yan: I said that the child could have a better education. My big brother already filed the application for us. My parents [already] passed away, [with] no brothers in Guangzhou. My sister emigrated together [with us], so the siblings all go to the United States together.

Q: What does your older brother do in the United States?

Yan: My older brother works in the restaurant industry.

Yan: Yes.

Q: Did he own his business, or …..?

Yan: He works [as an employee].

Q: Do you have other job besides? Or your brother found a job for you?

Yan: My brother referred me to the job. When there was a vacancy, I was asked to work there.

Q: How old is your daughter?

Yan: She is 19 years old.

Q: Is your daughter studying?

Yan: She is in high school.

Q: How is her education environment? She grows up in a foreign environment. Does she know Chinese?

Yan: Yes, she writes and reads Chinese. I asked her to practice more writing Chinese at home and use English more often to communicate with American students outside home, but she likes to stick with Chineses [here].

Q: Where is she studying?

Yan: She [is studying] in Brooklyn. According to the zoning system, the arrangement is called bilingual education, I am not so clear about this. At the beginning, she did not understand certain lessons and the teacher went on and did not care whether she understand or not. As time went on, it actually improved the standard of her English.

Q: Do you hope that your child retain her Chinese tradition and at the same time wish her enter the mainstream. How do you manage that, any challenges are faced with?

Yan: I want her to communicate more often with American students and raise her English standard. But she likes to stay with Chinese students. The school environment encourages desegregation. People gathered by groups. Chinese stayed with Chinese and did not mingle with western students.

Q: Which school is your daughter studying at?

Yan: On 86th Street further away from Avenue U. It should be Lafayette High School.

Q: Is that the school which had violence incidents recently?

Yan: Probably the one.

Q: Are you worried?

Yan: So I asked her to watch out, leave right away after school, don’t walk alone, and don’t stay for long after school. Harmony is foremost important, if any argument occurs, just don’t bother with trivial matters. On top of that, she is pretty quiet, not very sociable.

Q: What is your expectation of her?

Yan: I don’t have any expectation of her. She has her own thoughts. She hopes to be an artist, fashion design. I let her decide according to her wishes.

Q: A lot of Chinese want their children to become doctors or lawyers. You give her a lot of freedom?

Yan: She decides and I give her advice.

I will not force my view unto her. Nothing should be forced, the more [you] force them, the more the children will rebel against [you]. For example, a friend of mine who used to learn musical instruments with me is now threatening his son to play violin with a stick if he doesn’t like to play certain instruments. The son does not learn it heartily, [whenever] the stick is there, he can play the whole songm but when his wife teaches the kid, he only played a small section. [The more] the force is, it will only drive him to lie to his parents.

Q: The restaurant closed down and owed you wages. Have you ever thought of claiming back the unpaid wages?

Yan: We came here and are strangers here. If [we are] being cheated, we may as well let it be. Since a lot of people say so, it is impossible to get it back. We are not the first case, we heard of it happened from time to time. Once the bosses shut down [restaurant] and went bankrupt, even if there were auctions, the priority of loan returns would go to the big debtors first. After a long while, it won’t even reach the workers.

Q: How many workers were there in the restaurant?

Yan: I did not count, but it should be less than a hundred, with 70 to 80. The dinning area has several dozen people. There were also kitchen, dim sum and dish washing departments.

Q: After 9/11, you went through unemployment when the restaurant closed down. Do you think the government or grass root organizations had provided enough help to new immigrants?

Yan: The grass root organizations had helped 9/11 victims tremendously with donations. However, we were not proficient in English and we did not understand a lot. We can only hearsay and apply. For some [of the benefits] we have no clue where to start from. I know I may be eligible for food stamp. I just don’t know where to apply.

Q: Have you got your green card?

Yan: We received our green cards as soon as we arrived in the United State.

Q: [You] can travel in and out of the United State. Have you ever gone back to China [to visit]?

Yan: Yes, I went back before.

Q: When you returned to China, how did your friends and relatives see you? “Oh, you went to the United States!”?

Yan: In China, the Chinese nowadays are more familiar with the United States. Many had emigrated to United States and returned. Mainland Chinese people know bits and pieces of the United States, just as I knew about the United States by watching video tapes.

Q: Before, it was difficult to come to the United States. Once you arrive in the United States, they think perhaps you have won the lotto, do they envy you?

Yan: Some of them. Some people did not want to come even if they were invited. These are the people who are already wealthy. Some people would like to come if they have the chance. Both kinds of people exist.

Q: In retrospect, do you think you’ve made a right choice to come, or are you regretting it?

Yan: I never regret anything I did, such as my [choice of] profession. The simplest example would be traveling. Some people say they regret traveling to some place because it was not fun. I did not feel that way. I think traveling itself is an enjoyment, don’t moan about it being not fun. The act itself benefits your mind and body. If we travel with this intention, [there will be] not regret.

Q: What is your expectation of the future of your America life?

Yan: I hope [I can] find a good job but the main [problem] is I don’t know English.

Q: How is you English class?

Yan: I have, well , finished the course. But we have no basic training [in the first place] and therefore, did not quite get it. I only know how to say greetings and asking for prices when shopping.

Q: Does it help at all?

Yan: Somewhat.

Q: Do you have anything to add?

Yan: No.

Q: Thank you!

Yan: Thank you!

(END OF SESSION)

Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)

<p> 問:嚴先生,可以講一下你的出生日期及大陸的生活?</p>
<p>嚴:我出生於1950年3月18日,在中國廣州出生。</p>
<p>問:你在廣州的生活如何?</p>
<p>嚴:在廣州生活,經過幾十年,經過一個困難的時期,文化大革命,但是我們比較樂天派,有多方面的愛好,熱愛體育文藝﹑各種樂器,比較開心。</p>
<p>問:你在家鄉的環境如何?有多少兄弟姐妹?</p>
<p>嚴:我出生時,我爸爸是行船的,主要來往香港及廣州之間的客輪,後來賣小文具,書簿筆墨。</p>
<p>問:你的居住環境如何?</p>
<p>嚴:廣州地方寸金尺土,居住的地方不大,父母及四個兄弟姐妹,6人共用20多平方公呎,搭建一個閣樓,算是可以。</p>
<p>問:你以前讀書如何?</p>
<p>嚴:讀書從小學到中學,在居住地附近讀書,因為廣州按地段分配就讀學校。</p>
<p>
問:小時喜歡做什麼?</p>
<p>嚴:小時好動,小學喜愛打乒乓球及其他運動,中學打藍球﹑游泳﹑滾軸溜冰﹑奏多種樂器﹑中樂﹑西樂都玩。</p>
<p>問:中國經歷多次運動,如文革,對你學習方面有什麼影響?</p>
<p>嚴:文化大革命時我剛讀初中二,受的影響比較大,因為上初中剛讀了一年多,遇上文革大革命,全國全面停學,到革命完開始復課時,我們已經到畢業年齡了,因為後期升級,我們就要走,真正初中只讀了一年多,後期在單位補讀高中課程。哈哈!</p>
<p>問:文革時,你做些什麼呢?</p>
<p>嚴:停課時,我們一味搞體育﹑游泳﹑滾軸溜冰,釣魚﹑奏樂器﹑玩民族樂器及西洋樂器。</p>
<p>問:你沒有苦難的日子?</p>
<p>嚴:不算苦難的日子,因為那些年齡比較好動。大家都玩得開心。</p>
<p>問:政治的動盪對你家庭有什麼影響?</p>
<p>嚴:文化大革命取消小商販,父親賣文具店當時取消了,只有租用公用電話維持生計,每分鐘幾分錢。</p>
<p>
問:那你爸爸經營電話,媽媽呢?</p>
<p>嚴:媽媽做家務。賣文具幫手。</p>
<p>問:你的兄弟姐妹後來大概從事什麼職業?</p>
<p>嚴:兄弟姐妹在廣州做過車衣及機械。</p>
<p>問:講述你入廠或上山下鄉的生活?</p>
<p>嚴:我沒有上山下鄉,因為當時我哥哥上山下鄉,我父母年紀比較大,有病,兩兄弟中哥哥已去了海南鄉,我家要我留城照顧雙親,分配入廠。</p>
<p>問:那是什麼年份?</p>
<p>嚴:是1969年分配入廠。</p>
<p>問:在工廠你做什麼工作?</p>
<p>嚴:搞機器維修。後期負責文娛體育活動,組織比賽,策劃晚會。</p>
<p>問:那是什麼廠?</p>
<p>嚴:前身叫廣州水泥廠,現在叫廣州水泥有限公司。</p>
<p>問:嚴先生,你白天要上班,晚上搞活動,你是如何分配你的時間?</p>
<p>
嚴:我們初時下班游泳﹑滾軸溜冰,是業餘時間,曾經有宣傳隊,算是政治任務,有公司假排練﹑演出,比賽,不用上班,但在輪三班,不影響工作時,有時返夜班,日間排練,如可以返工,就繼續返工。<br>
問:你身邊的朋友﹑或你的家人,對你負責搞活動,有什麼看法?</p>
<p>   我父親一向隨和,一個讓我們自由發揮,不反對我們玩樂器,後期半專業,負責組織策劃﹑由教練﹑隊員﹑領隊﹑後勤工作各方面的都兼顧。</p>
<p>問:在水泥廠做了多久?</p>
<p>嚴:做到出國,差不多30年,應29年。</p>
<p>問:這29年來,你兩面工作都兼顧,一面工作,一面搞活動?</p>
<p>嚴:後期,我專職文娛體育工作,沒有計算時間,日夜都做,各大節日聯歡晚會,單位之間的聯歡晚會,職工員工春節園遊晚會﹑供退休工人﹑家屬及孩子,有獎遊戲﹑簡單的比賽。</p>
<p>問:你安排的眾多活動中,有沒有難忘的經驗?</p>
<p>嚴:經驗最重要是按年齡特點安排遊戲節目,如老人家行動不方便,不能玩後生的遊戲,但亦不能大枯燥,搞敬老節,簡單的比賽,適當的獎品。<br>

晚會女士穿高跟鞋,不能爭座位﹑不能逼爆汽球,不能因高跟鞋而踏傷,也不能讓女士跌倒,不能地滑,反而是安排成語,猜謎語等。</p>
<p>問:你搞什麼類型的遊戲?</p>
<p>嚴:如出外開會,沒有道具,又要組織,找一段尼龍包裝線,分組競賽,每組3,4人,一米一段,分成數段,遊戲謂「誠心意長」,將繩結得最長者勝出。這是簡單的遊戲。</p>
<p>比較複雜的,搞「橫行霸道」遊戲,題目貼切,寓教於樂,我將會說,今晚的晚會可以橫行霸道,但生活做人不應橫行霸道。遊戲分兩隊,中間有通道,每隊三個四個人排成一字,在外足腳眼在小竹縛腳眼。哨子一響,眾人橫跨步,向中央靠攏,誰先佔中間通道者勝出,此謂「橫行霸道」。在晚會遊戲中可以橫行霸道,但生活做人不應橫行霸道,因為有此現象出現,提醒人們做人的道理。</p>
<p>問:你的工作是調劑人們緊張的生活,是否對基層市民,錦上添花?</p>
<p>嚴:通常工人做工比較枯燥,工種比較反覆同一動作。身體需要多點活動,多方面的肢體動作,才能支持。如果反覆同一動作,在某方面將會勞損,產生職業病,多開演這一類的活動有益身心健康,對身體有裨益,減少職業病,提高多方面的興趣,好像組織釣魚隊,非奧運體育會,有工作勞動性及趣味性,適當搞比賽,使未受過適當運動的人都可參加。</p>
<p>
問:你搞很多項目,有沒有一些你感覺成功感,大家都讚同?</p>
<p>嚴:在廣州曾經南方日報採訪過公司的活動,市的部門請我去主持及組織策劃。他們認為我搞的活動比較生動,又迎合各種的年齡層次,好像各個節日的晚會,如小孩的春節聯歡晚會,敬老節給退休人士,員工的交誼舞,卡拉ok的比賽,好像簡單如插花比賽,調劑女工的生活。甚至時裝比賽,經常組織體育正式比賽,間中搞非奧運的體育比賽。員工頗為滿意。員工各種愛好不同,有不同的選擇,他們有很多職工比較滿意。</p>
<p>  其中有一個入廠幾十年都未參加過一個晚會,通常因為發票有限,通常中層領導,先進生產者﹑班組長﹑勞動的模範,到工人手上已經沒有票了。我打破傳統,五一國際勞動節不發門票,凡是工人都可參加,在禮台搞個南北擂台賽,有唱歌。成功晚會視乎台上表演和台下觀眾有否溝通。台下觀眾通常不投入,但我舉辦南北擂台,雙方觀眾都可參加,同時抽獎要說明北看台的觀眾勝出,台上及台下的獎品特多。調動觀眾的積極性,使台上台下互相溝通,啦啦隊自然很落力,這是我的一些經驗。</p>
<p>問:其實你在大陸的生活已經多姿多彩,當初為什麼你們來美國生活?</p>
<p>嚴:主要因為我哥哥在美國,他申請我們,申請11年到期,我當時不想來,因為我熱愛自己的工作,又有多方面的愛好。但後來,想起孩子要來讀書比較好,朋友亦勸我們來,為了孩子的教育就來。</p>
<p>
問:你來之前,你對紐約唐人街有什麼印象?</p>
<p>嚴:都略有所聞。我已經知道來美國是捱世界不是歎世界,生活枯燥點。首先自己有這個想法,因為不懂英文,只懂幾個字。</p>
<p>   未來美國時,已有人警告我說,唐人街很污糟邋塌,來到以後親身經歷。</p>
<p>問:你是何時來美國?</p>
<p>嚴:1999年。</p>
<p>問:你來時住在那裡?</p>
<p>嚴:我來時住布碌崙,之後一直住在布碌崙,在餐館工作。</p>
<p>問:是什麼餐館?</p>
<p>嚴:在唐人街的餐館。</p>
<p>   在大陸未曾從事餐館業,別人介紹去做,因為不懂英文,在唐人餐館做。</p>
<p>問:初時是做什麼工作?</p>
<p>嚴:樓面茶水(busboy)</p>
<p>問:你到來的美國和以前想像的美國是否一樣?</p>
<p>嚴:我說知道要來捱世界,不想來是因為知道自己年紀大,很難搏,因為體力受限制。而最大的障礙是不懂英文,<br>

來到這裡是另一個社會的生活,各方面都肯定不習慣,因為膚色不同。要找一些不懂英文都會做的工作。</p>
<p>問:你的餐館多大?</p>
<p>嚴:叫酒樓,有茶市有飯市。</p>
<p>問:有了多久?</p>
<p>嚴:做了差不多四年?</p>
<p>問:薪金多少?</p>
<p>嚴:很難比較,因為在那裡賺錢,在那裡用錢,到處差不多。底薪加花厘,每個月不同,酒席多,花厘多,茶市較少,每月試過不足$1000,甚至800都試過,平均有1200。</p>
<p>問:那薪金足夠嗎?要太太幫手嗎?</p>
<p>嚴:那肯定要,她也在餐館工作。</p>
<p>問:9/11後你的餐館有沒有影響?</p>
<p>嚴:911以後經濟一直差,停業了一陣,又開一陣,又停一陣,最後關門。</p>
<p>問:關門時有沒有遣散費?公司如何如置員工?</p>
<p>嚴:沒有遣散費,人工尚欠。哈哈!</p>
<p>
問:執笠之後,老闆走人。你們多人的工資怎算?</p>
<p>嚴:工人各散東西,都欠個多月的工薪。</p>
<p>問:你在美國打工,被華人僱主對待,你的感覺如何?</p>
<p>嚴:當時,原本是他鄉遇故知就更好,他鄉遇無良僱主感觸很深,如果實際在美國,華人社區很是複雜。</p>
<p>問:新銀宮酒樓示威,你有沒有示威,爭取過自己應有福利?</p>
<p>嚴:我們是新移民,不知道這裡的歷史,本來隨便找一份工作,安穩地生活。可是自從9/11後很難找工。</p>
<p>問:後來你有沒有試過尋找其他工作?</p>
<p>嚴:別人問你在曽經在那裡工作,聽後叫你留下電話,就沒有消息。現在很多人都失業,找工作難,要看年齡,當時看你樣子,叫你寫下電話,基本的英語一句都不會,連起碼簡單的英文都不懂。根本找不到工作。</p>
<p>問:9/11之前及9/11之後比較,找工是否更困難?</p>
<p>嚴:肯定,很多餐館及衣廠執笠(關閉),很多失業。現在我太太一份工。</p>
<p>問:你太太在那裡做工?</p>
<p>
嚴:在餐館做,在布碌崙那面。</p>
<p>問:9/11發生時,你正在做什麼?</p>
<p>嚴:9/11發生時,我正休息在家,我們沒有開電視,因為不懂英文,反而接到香港及廣州的長途電話,叫不要出街,因為紐約受襲擊,他們看見飛機撞了,本來當天約了同事拍照,後來改在星期三,9月12日,故此留在家中。聽了電話以後,取照相機,想拍照,交通已經癱瘓,因為當時自己愛好攝影,突發事件都叫我本能地拍攝,但不知道後來事件這麼嚴重。</p>
<p>問:9/11發生時,餐館有沒有開店?</p>
<p>嚴:馬上關門,沒倒閉,關了一陣子重開。酒樓暫時關閉的時候,我幾個月,等開門,那幾個月沒有收入。</p>
<p>問:有沒有民間團體,譬如賑災基金?</p>
<p>嚴:我們不懂英文,很遲才申請,但申請過,好像紅十字會﹑安全線,當時已經是事發後第二年,是幾個月後的事情。</p>
<p>問:那是因為不知道有得辦,或是其他?</p>
<p>嚴:不知道,是聽工友講才辦。</p>
<p>問:補助有多少?</p>
<p>嚴:安全線有$2500,其他紅十字會,糧食券。</p>
<p>
問:當時還可以?</p>
<p>嚴:因為餐館又重來,但以後很淡,後來拿過一些補貼,去年津貼讀書學英文。辦安全線。</p>
<p>問:當時有沒有想過經濟可以這樣差?</p>
<p>嚴:當時有沒有想過,因為紐約是一個旅遊城市,既沒有遊客,餐館業垮下去,很多甚至關門。</p>
<p>問:美國發生9/11事件,你對美國的印象有沒有改變?對你有什麼啟示?</p>
<p>嚴:在美國本土出現這麼大的恐怖襲擊,不可思議,又看到恐怖事件的恐怖程度,真的是不可想像,無孔不入。</p>
<p>問:你還喜歡美國這個國家?</p>
<p>嚴:本身美國很民主,她可能對亞拉伯世界國家的積怨,因為支持某一方面因而得罪另一面亞拉伯世界,政治上的事情我不太懂。</p>
<p>問:來了美國這麼多年,你有沒有當美國是你的家?</p>
<p>嚴:整家人移民來美國,當美國是我的家。</p>
<p>問:移民來了,你對華埠的第一印象如何?</p>
<p>嚴:剛來紐約,第一印象有兩大特點,空氣素質很好,交通秩序很好,比大陸好。</p>
<p>
問:你對華人社區的看法如何?</p>
<p>嚴:華人在美國語言障礙很大,在美國本土人心目中,以前聽聞在美國變成三等公民,來到後感觸良多,但別人是否視你為三等公民,是自己做得不好,才是其中一大原因,對社會公德,職業道德。如生活上乘地鐵,老番在地鐵先落後上,很有禮拜,但相當一部份的華人,一窩蜂踴入,使美國人不滿,變了華人沒有禮貌的印象。此外,隨地吐痰,丟棄雜物,不看燈號,這些現象很普遍。我未移民時已有人說,唐人街最污糟,是文化素質的問題,影響到社會公德,職業道德等問題。</p>
<p>問:你以前搞活動,你在美國有沒有運用這方面的專長?</p>
<p>嚴:我們不懂英文,人生路不熟,不認識幾個人,茫無頭緒。</p>
<p>問:你來到覺得在捱世界,你覺得生活質素有什麼不同?</p>
<p>嚴:生活質素很難評定,在大陸生活有大陸的享受在大陸生活,在這邊有這邊享受,但是我們不懂英文,不能打入主流社會,就說沒有享受,沒有夜生活。但美國人在42街,蘇豪區,夜市很熱鬧。但因為我們和他們生活習慣不同,不懂英文,沒有這夜生活。而且我們做工下班比較遲,不像大陸的8小時工作制,朝九晚五或朝八晚四,大陸通常六時晚飯,飯後卡拉ok,文娛生活比較豐富,</p>
<p>問:你所見,最大的娛樂?</p>
<p>
嚴:最大的娛樂是看錄影帶,租帶看是最大的樂趣。</p>
<p>問:沒有做運動,對身心的健康有什麼影響?</p>
<p>嚴:返工做十多點鐘,回家看錄影帶,不太好。因為生命在於運動,如適當運動,對身體有好處,對工作上幫助很大。因為通常工作是重覆某個動作,運動才是全身運動,整個人的骨骼﹑肌肉運動,比較均衡,減少職業病,甚至腰肌勞損,腰腿痛之類。</p>
<p>問:你曾在餐館工作,他們最大的弊病或職業病是什麼?</p>
<p>嚴:在這方面,我沒有深入研究,但也略有所聞。餐館工作腰骨痛及腳痛最嚴重,如企檯10小時工作對於腳很傷,如不活動就有後患,所謂腰腿痛。</p>
<p>問:嚴先生,你和太太及女兒一起來,你如何認識你太太?</p>
<p>嚴:在廣州由別人介紹。</p>
<p>問:你那時是什麼職業?</p>
<p>嚴:那時是知青,上山下鄉,到農村的知識青年。</p>
<p>問:她是廠或什麼機構工作?</p>
<p>嚴:在別人介糿之下,她那時仍在鄉下,後來回城,入廠工作。</p>
<p>
問:你們結婚多久?</p>
<p>嚴:結婚至今已22年。</p>
<p>問:那當時你說來美國,她覺得怎樣,願不願意來?</p>
<p>嚴:本身她不想來。</p>
<p>問:那你如何說服她?</p>
<p>嚴:那我說孩子可以讀書,大哥申請我們,父母又去世了,已經沒有兄弟在廣州,姐姐又一同移民來,都是全家兄弟姐妹一起在美國。</p>
<p>問:你兄長在美國做什麼?</p>
<p>嚴:我哥哥在美國做餐館工作。</p>
<p>嚴:是的。</p>
<p>問:他是自己開抑或其他?</p>
<p>嚴:打工。</p>
<p>問:你有沒有做其他事,還是哥哥找工作?</p>
<p>嚴:哥哥介紹我這份工,有位就叫我去做。</p>
<p>問:你的女兒多大?</p>
<p>嚴:我的女兒19歲。</p>
<p>
問:你的女兒讀書?</p>
<p>嚴:她讀高中。</p>
<p>問:你覺得女兒的讀書環境如何?因為她在外地環境長大,她懂中文嗎?</p>
<p>嚴:懂。她會講會寫中文,我叫她在家多練中文多寫,外出要求和老番學生多溝通,但她喜歡和唐人圈子在一起。</p>
<p>問:她在那裡讀書?</p>
<p>嚴:她在布碌崙這一邊,當時按區及安排叫雙語教育,我不十分清楚。開始時,她也有些科聽不清楚,不過老師照講,不理會她是否聽明白,時間久了,反而她對英文的能力提高了。</p>
<p>問:你希望你的子女保留中國傳統,同時又希望她融入主流,管教上有什麼心得或困難?</p>
<p>嚴:我要求她在學校多點和美國學生溝通,提高她的英語水平,但他們華人學生走在一起,學校的環境如是,物以類聚,人以群分,唐人和唐人群在一起,沒有和外國學生在一起。</p>
<p>問:你的女子讀那一間學校?</p>
<p>嚴:86街過了U大道,應該是拉菲逸高中。</p>
<p>
問:那是不是那間傳出暴力事件的高中?</p>
<p>嚴:應該是。</p>
<p>問:那你不擔心?</p>
<p>嚴:那我就叫她留意一下,放學就離開,有事不要一個人,不要在學校逗留長時間,萬時以和為貴,萬一有事有爭拗,如小事就算數,加上她的人平時比較安靜,不好交往。</p>
<p>問:你想她怎樣?</p>
<p>嚴:我不想她做什麼,現在她有自己的想法,她想從事藝術,時裝設計,我隨她心意發展。</p>
<p>問:華人父母不是想她做醫生﹑律師,你對她很自由?</p>
<p>嚴:她自己選擇,只不過我和她分析一下,這方面的發展及強逼程度,因為不可以強逼,越是強逼孩子越會有反叛心理。如果她不喜歡某種樂器,像我朋友自少和我一起學樂器,現在拿著藤條教兒子小提琴,兒子學得不深刻,有藤條在他可以彈一整段曲,但由太太教小孩時,拉一段就說完成了,強逼反而會欺騙父母。</p>
<p>問:酒樓關門欠你們薪金,現在有沒有想過要索取欠薪?</p>
<p>
嚴:我們來到這裡,人生路不熟,給欺騙了就算,知道追不回來,很多人都說,就這樣算了,也不是我們第一宗受騙,時有所聞,老闆一關門破產就沒有了,就算變賣﹑拍賣也會先還給大債主,很久也不輪到工人。</p>
<p>問:餐館多少人?</p>
<p>嚴:我沒有統計,但應該沒有一百,也有70至80人,光是樓面幾十人,還有廚房部﹑點心部﹑洗碗部。</p>
<p>問:經過9/11後,你經過失業﹑茶樓關閉,你覺得政府對新移民的幫助或民間團體做得足夠嗎?</p>
<p>嚴:民間團體對於9/11受害者的捐助或幫助很大,但我們不懂英文,很多不知道,過後聽聞有得辦就去辦,有些辦不到,無從入手,好像現在有糧食券,我也不知如何去辦?</p>
<p>問:現在你的綠卡已辦了沒有?</p>
<p>嚴:我們一來美國就有了綠卡。</p>
<p>問:可以出入美國,有沒有回去?</p>
<p>嚴:有,回去過。</p>
<p>問:你回去的時候,親戚朋友如何看你?噢,你去過美國!</p>
<p>
嚴:國內現時已對美國比較熟悉,很多移民到美也回去過,大陸居民對美國不知一二,也知三四,好像我以前看錄影帶知道美國的部份。</p>
<p>問:以前來美國比較難,如你來美國,他們可能覺得你中了六合彩,他們有沒有羨慕你?</p>
<p>嚴:都有這些人,但有些人請也不會來,他們已經有錢,一般人都說有機會會來美國,兩者都有可能。</p>
<p>問:回頭看來美國的決定時,你覺得是正確的決定,或是你覺得有點後悔?</p>
<p>嚴:我從來做事沒有後悔,如職業等,最簡單舉例說旅行,人們說去那裡,說很後悔,沒有好玩的。我不以為然,因為本身旅遊就是一種好享受,就不要怨不好玩,本身旅遊就是身心愉快。抱著這個想法,不會後悔。</p>
<p>問:以後對美國生活的期望?</p>
<p>嚴:期望找一份好工,但主要不懂英文。</p>
<p>問:你讀英文的情況怎樣?</p>
<p>嚴:叫做讀完。但我們本身完全沒有基礎。所讀的不三不四,只有問候語,購物問價錢。</p>
<p>問:有沒有幫助?</p>
<p>嚴:有些少幫助。</p>
<p>問:你有沒有什麼要補充?</p>
<p>嚴:沒有什麼。</p>
<p>問:多謝你。</p>
<p>嚴:謝謝!</p>
<p>(完)</p>

Citation

“Guo Gan Yan,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed April 2, 2020, https://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/88955.