“Born and raised in Hong Kong, China, I came to America in 1968. I earned my bachelor degrees in biology and psychology in 1972 at the University of Oregon together with a State of Oregon K-12 teaching certificate. My graduate degree was in Interdisciplinary Studies in Psychology and Sociology. I started as faculty in Psychology and Sociology at Lane Community College and am now faculty emeritus after almost 40 years of service as the longest serving member of the Psychology department.
The late 60’s were an interesting time to “land” in Eugene. It was a small town with a single corridor called Willamette running down the middle of the city. It was dotted with drug stores and tiny businesses. On the weekends, college students and young adults would drive their cars down ‘the drag”, as it was called, to socialize and hook up. We Chinese students, spent most of our time studying and working, mostly in food service in the dorms. Our life was pretty much limited to campus. Like my peers, I worked like crazy to simultaneously to get a scholarship and picked up a job as a mop-boy at the school cafeteria. I took the maximum number of credits allowed so as to finish earlier. In the summer, many Chinese students went to work in the casinos in Nevada or the cannery in Salem to make up for their annual expenses.
My first summer job was as a camp counselor in the local YMCA. It was also the first time I was exposed to the wild side of the 60’s youth culture of America (drugs, sex, and rock & roll). I spent my free time practicing Taiji and reading Chinese poetry at the UO library. My social life was limited to the Chinese student body on campus. Through the years I held multiple jobs, often concurrently. In retrospect, like my early ancestors who came, I was determined to make something of myself. Like them, I too believed at the time I would return home to resettle in the old country. I became an immigrant citizen only recently in 2014 (46 years later). In writing this, I can intricately see the shadow of my Chinese heritage in my blood. As an immigrant from the early 60s, it is practically impossible to erase that from one’s psyche.
In finding my true place in what was once a foreign land, I have experienced many things across the spectrum. There was that time in the 70s when I was working in a Salem cannery; an older man on the bus told me to ‘go the hell back to China’ when I asked him whether the seat next to him was taken. There was also the time when Mrs. Lechman from the Foreign Student Office kindly called me in to explain at length that I was not allowed to take a class in ROTC because I was not an American citizen. In reflecting upon our current time as an immigrant today, there is intense anxiety still mixed with great opportunity and hope. We need to focus on the belief that we and our ancestors and are conduits to the past and bridges to the future. Our future is undeniably intertwined with that of America. We have no choice but to work progressively and mindfully to help this land we call America to evolve into a true tapestry of uniquely woven fabrics with all peoples and cultures represented in all their diverse beauty. I say…
Thank you, Mother America for adopting me. I will continue to honor the constitution that you are built upon with the wisdom that you have afforded me. Thank you China, my Birth Mother for giving me true life with the heart that you have blessed upon me. I hope my children and theirs will continue to contribute as Americans, while honoring our Chinese heritage to carry on the hopes and dreams that my ancestors first came to this country with.”