Life Story Library

ABOUT LIFE STORY LIBRARY

As part of the Life Story Club experience, each storyteller is given the opportunity to record audio of one or more of their life stories. Recording days are intimate but also social and fun, and are considered by most to be a highlight of the club experience. The clubs’ digital recordings are then uploaded and transcribed by Life Story Club facilitators and added into the password-protected Life Story Library. Storytellers are given the support and tools they need to easily share their club stories with friends and family.

 

Privacy Statement: Trust and respect for storytellers is at the heart of the work we do at Life Story Club. All recordings in the library are password-protected, are not searchable on Google, and cannot be shared without the consent of the storyteller.

SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE LIFE STORY LIBRARY

Club members have begun recording their stories together, and asked us to share them with you here.

FRIDAY FRIENDS

Introduction

For the past year, our Life Story Club has met every Friday to share stories in community. Now, we’re delighted to share a few of these stories with you! Some are funny, others painful, each are memorable, all are true. They are some of the countless small moments that make up our lives. We offer them to you, with love. Thank you for listening!

THE MAN ON THE HORSE

RAGAA M.

quotesThey came to ask me if they can borrow my swimming costumes. I couldn’t say no.

 

My name is Ragaa. I was born in Egypt, Cairo. My mom came from a French background, but she was born in Egypt. My dad was Egyptian. 

Every year during the school vacation, the summer, we have three months, my father would go and rent a chalet on the water for us, and then go back to Egypt and leave me and my sister and my brother, or my sister and my brother and me, and mommy in Alexandria. And he would come back on his vacation, which is the last month of ours, and he would be with us, until we go back all together to Cairo. 

I had two swimming costumes, so I was very happy to go every day with the family to the beach. My father was not minding that, and my family, we all together go always in the water without so many thoughts or anything. 

But when I got married, I asked my husband, “I have two swimming costumes, what do I do with them?” 

He said, “Take them with you, because the girls have swimming pools in the school. It’s an English school, and you can go with the girls. My two sisters will be able to have you.” 

I said, “Oh, great, wonderful.” But none of that happened. 

I went to the Sudan and they never asked me to go with them. And I was very angry that I wasn’t able to go with them. But they came to ask me if they can borrow my swimming costumes, so that they can go. Although I felt shy and I couldn’t say no. 

I said, “Why not?” I gave them the swimming costumes. They went and they did whatever they did, and they came back and they washed them and put them on the line in the backyard.

So my father-in-law was walking and he came across them on the line in the backyard. He asked them, “What are these?” 

They said, “They belong to Ragaa.” 

He came to me in the room. He always wanted his respect, so he came and stood next to me and he said, “George is talking: stand up!”

So out of respect, I stood up. Ok. He said, “What are these things on the line?” 

I said, “What things?” 

He said, “These two things,” and he pointed with his cane at the line. 

I said, “Oh, these are my swimming costumes.” 

“What are they doing here?” 

I said, “I was cleaning the closet and I found them dusty, so I said I’ll wash them and put them on the line to dry.” I did not get his two daughters involved, so they will not be in trouble.

So he said, “Oh, did you have this to wear? What are these exactly? Who do they belong to?” 

I said, “This is when you go to swim, it’s called swimming costumes. You wear them and go in the water.” 

He said, “You wore these two rags?!” 

And I said, “Yes!”

He said, “Where?” 

I said, “To swim.” 

He said, “And the whole beach looked at you?” 

I said, “No, not the whole beach. We used to go from eight o’clock to ten o’clock, because from eight to ten the beach is left for women and girls only, females. And then after ten o’clock everybody can swim.” 

He said, “And who made this rule?” 

I said, “The government got a guy on a horse, and he told the whole beach going back and forth: ‘No man is to walk on the beach until these females go out.’”

He said, “Oh my God.” 

I said, “What?” 

He said, “You want to tell me that the man on the horse saw you wearing this thing???” 

I said, “Yes, well, I don’t know.” 

He said, “If I ever knew that before you got married, I’ll never ever let my son marry you!” 

How could his son marry somebody who wore these rags on the beach and the whole beach saw me – no not the whole beach, just the man on the horse, that is enough! Hahaha!  

Here you have all the freedom, all the freedom, you do what you want and nobody tells you anything. 

TWO MINUTES

ANNE S.

quotesThat was my dilemma, the biggest dilemma in my life.

 

108-DSC06627 2

Hi, I’m Anne, and I’m from Guyana originally, but I’ve been living in the United States for the past 39 years. So here I am, telling you about my little story that I have. 

I came to this country by myself, and then I did a sponsoring job, and I brought my husband and my children back. So we’re all over here now. 

But my son – that was a very bad experience for me – my son, when we came over here, he worked it out very hard. They all did, they all went to college, and they worked. But then, two years ago, he complained for chest pain. He was driving home, and he just feels sick that he had a little chest pain again. He said it was a different kind of pain. So instead of coming home, he drove himself to the hospital. When he got there, right away, they had to take him down and give him the open heart surgery. Then he came back home. Everything was good, thank God. 

Then last year, a year and a half now, he was home. We were getting dressed to go to my sister’s wedding anniversary, her 60th wedding anniversary. And we were getting ready to go there. And then all of a sudden, he said he doesn’t feel right. And I hear his wife telling him, “Don’t worry, just put your shirt on and we’ll go.” 

So I said, “Where are you guys going?” 

And then she said, “Oh I’m going to the hospital with him.” 

I said, “What happened?” 

She said, “Nothing.” 

So I said, “OK, I’m coming.”

So by the time they run down the stairs, I put on my dress and I ran down. As I ran down the stairs, I saw them pulling out and driving away. And I keep waving my hand, but nobody would take me on. So I called my grandson. I said, “Come on, let’s go!” The two of us take a taxi and we went over to the hospital. 

Oh yes, I was very angry with her. I was crying all the way in the taxi going to the hospital, and I’m saying, “Why couldn’t she just wait for us? Why couldn’t she just wait for a second”

When I got there, he was lying on the stretcher already. And the doctor says, “Oh, you can’t come in to see him.” 

I said, “But I’m his mother, I want to know what’s going on!” 

Then he said, they have an emergency, he has to go right away into surgery. Then I break down. I start crying, because I didn’t know what was what. His wife went to park the car. So by the time she came back, he was already gone. 

So we sit, the two of us went up and we sit down with his son. We sit in the waiting room and I’m crying, she’s crying. And anyway we start praying and his son was crying too. We’re praying. 

Then the doctor came out and he said “Everything went well. He had seven bypasses.” And then he said, “Thank you guys for bringing him so fast in, because in two or three minutes, if he had stayed away, he would have passed away.”

And I break down some more, at what I’d done. Because I was very upset with my daughter-in-law too; I didn’t tell her at that time but in my heart I was. Because I said, “She could have waited that minute more. Just let me come down the stairs to go in the car.”

But then when the doctor told me that, then I realized that minute could have taken my son’s life away. God knows best, you know? I’m very thankful to her for that. I am obligated to her for the rest of my life for that, as a matter of fact.

So I turned around to her and I said, “Thank you very much for doing that. I am not mad anymore, but I’m so thankful that I don’t even have enough thanks to tell you.” 

So that was my dilemma, the biggest dilemma in my life. I never want anyone to go through that. It was hard. But right now he’s doing good! He’s back on his toes and working and living a normal life again. He’s just had a new baby too! So they’re doing good, thank God. 

That was my little story. Thank you guys for listening. 

THE RING

LENA P.

quotesAnd sure enough, I was his wife.

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I’m Lena. My story is, I was a teenager, I walked from West 4th Street to 132nd Street and Lennox Avenue with my boyfriend. I didn’t get tired. We stopped on the way, looking in the windows on Fifth Avenue, and then we kept on walking.

But then one store we stopped and I said, “Oh, that’s nice!”

So he said to me, “Oh, you like that?”

I don’t even know what I said was nice. He said, “You could get anything you want.”

I said, “No, I don’t want nothing.” That’s because my mother raised me: ‘Don’t be taking things from men, you don’t know what they’re up to or whatever.’ He was really a new boyfriend, not somebody I knew a long time. And I didn’t want to say “I want something” because I didn’t know how he was going to take it.

So he was a good friend to my brother. And we went uptown. And then he said, “You all walked all the way from 4th Street up here? You’re not tired?”

We said, “No, we’re not tired.”

So he said, “I asked your sister what she wanted, when she was looking in the window, if she wanted anything, and she didn’t want anything.”

I said, “‘She didn’t want nothing?’ You had no money to buy anything!”

He said, “Yes I did. I had $600 in my pocket.”

I said, “Well, too late for that now. Keep your $600.”

And we went on and had a little fun uptown. And we came back home on the subway and that was it. But I often think about that. I said, “This man had all this money in his pocket: $600! And he asked me what I want and I didn’t get nothing! You are crazy, Lena.” That always stuck in my mind.

Then he came one Sunday when I was coming from church. He came to the house at dinner time. So we sat down.

I said, “Sit down and eat.”

So he said, “OK.” 

So what happened was, I already had cooked that morning before I went to church, because I was cooking since I was ten years old. My mother made me cook. That Sunday I had prepared a Sunday meal before I went to church. And so he sat down and he said to my mother, “Thank you very much for this, it’s very nice.”

She said, “Don’t thank me. Thank Lena.”

He said, “Thank Lena?! What for? What am I going to thank her for?”

She said, “Because Lena prepared our meal today. This was her Sunday to cook.”

He said, “Lena ain’t cooking no meal. She can’t cook.” That’s what my husband said. He said, “She can’t cook. She ain’t cook nothing. She doesn’t know how to cook.”

My mother said, “Oh, yes, she can cook! She cooked since she was ten years old. And I didn’t teach her how to cook. She just went to the store and started cooking.”

And then after that went to the movies. And then he wanted to go someplace, and I told him, “No, I’m not going there. We’re going to the movie. So he grabbed me by my hand. I said, “We said we’d go to the movie, and that’s where we going.”

Make a long story short, he said, “OH COME OVER HERE.” Just like that.

I said, “What do you mean, grabbing me like that?!”

He said, “I don’t care if you don’t want to go. You’re going to be my wife.”

And I said, “Did I tell you I’m going to be your wife?”

He said, “No, but you’re going to be my wife.”

And sure enough, I was his wife. It was something about him that… I don’t know how to say this really, but it’s something about him that I really had loved.

A couple of months later, he gave me an engagement ring. I said “Engagement ring! Wow! He gave me an engagement ring!” So I hid it from my mother. I didn’t tell my mother. I hid it.

And I think it was a couple of weeks later, it was my birthday, so she said, “Well, what did he give you for your birthday?”

I said, “He gave me a ring.”

So she said, “A ring? That ring is an engagement ring. That’s not a birthday present.” Just like that.

I said, “Well, the birthday present is going to come later.”

She said, “That’s an engagement ring.”

I said, “Yes. I know.” I said, “I didn’t know how you’d take. You’re probably going to be beat me.” Because my mother didn’t spare the rod on me at all, because I was the only girl. I got more beatings than my brothers did. She wanted me to be a nice woman when I grew up, that’s what I got old enough to realize. That’s why she would beat me more than she did the boys.

My mother had remarried. My stepfather said, “I don’t know what no boy give a girl a ring, and ain’t coming to ask for a girl. What he mean giving you a ring and didn’t ask for you?”

I said, “Well, I don’t know.” Like I say, I was young. I didn’t know what’s going on with no engagement, what men had to do or whatever. But my mother and my stepfather, they were from the old school. That’s how they was brought up, that they had to ask for the woman and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t know about that.

So that died down, it went on and on. We made a date for the wedding and that was that. 

When I got the ring, I was 17 years old. My mother was very strict with me. Very strict. I was almost 18, I mean, 19 when I got married, though. I was very young and crazy. Didn’t know nothing about life, or men, or nothing like that.

LOS SABROCITOS CLUB

Introducción

Bienvenidos a nuestro “Club Los Sabrocitos”, donde encontrarás mucho sabor, música y ricas historias de nuestras vidas. Durante diez semanas, un grupo vibrante de personas de Holmes Towers e Isaacs se reunieron una vez por semana en la oficina de Sandra P para compartir historias sobre las canciones que eran significativas para ellos. Esperamos que disfrutes escuchando sus historias y sus canciones.

FIESTA – GATO BARBIERI

ALBERTO M.

quotesTrabajé con cosas en tiendas de disco y en discotecas de DJ

Trabajé con cosas en tiendas de disco y en discotecas de DJ a cosas así..La canción se llama Fiesta por Gato Barbieri, Argentino. Y esa canción para mí, perdón decirlo con toda franqueza, ese disco entero es pasión. Yo me enamoré con ese disco porque era algo, es aspecto de música de jazz, pero no es jazz típico como, entre otras más, de otra generación. Este disco es del 77, más o menos algo así.

I worked with things in record stores and in DJ clubs and things like that… The song is called Fiesta by Gato Barbieri, Argentine. And that song for me, sorry to say it quite frankly, that whole album is passion. I fell in love with that album because it was something; it is an aspect of jazz music, but it is not typical jazz like, among others, from another generation. This album is from ’77, more or less something like that.

EL AMOR DE MI VIDA- CAMILO SESTO

AMERICA P.

quotesCuando yo cumplía años, él me llevaba a restaurante y pedía que me pusieran siempre esa canción, por Camilo Sesto.

 

Voy a hablar de la canción que me cantaba mi esposo, que murió hace cuatro años. Cuando yo cumplía años, él me llevaba a restaurante y pedía que me pusieran siempre esa canción, por Camilo Sesto, “El Amor De Tu Vida.” Mi esposo era puertorriqueño, yo dominicana. Solo teníamos 40 años de casados, pero creamos una niña y fue muy bueno.

I will talk about the song that my husband, who died four years ago, sang to me. When I had a birthday, he would take me to a restaurant and ask that they always play that song by Camilo Sesto, “El Amor De Tu Vida.” My husband was Puerto Rican, and I was Dominican. We had only been married for 40 years, but we had a daughter and created a good life together.

MADRE – ISMAEL MIRANDA

AMPARO C.

quotesY cada vez que oigo esa canción siempre me acuerdo a mi madre.

Dos años tiene mi madre de muerta y es como si fuera el primer día. Y cada vez que oigo esa canción siempre me acuerdo a mi madre. Y no quiero llorar, porque yo sé que ella está en un sitio bien, yo sé que ella está en un sitio donde no siente dolor, donde no siente nada. Pero es triste. 

My mother died two years ago, but it feels like it was the first day. And every time I hear that song, I always remember my mother. And I don’t want to cry because I know that she is in a good place; she is in a place where she doesn’t feel pain, where she doesn’t feel anything. But it’s sad.

前進的旅程 A JOURNEY AHEAD 2022

歡迎您 Welcome!

2022年夏季,我们有幸在Grand Street Settlement与Baruch Elders Services Team和Life Story Club合作,举办了一系列充满心意的讲故事活动。每周,我们都会与来自Two Bridges和唐人街的一群热情洋溢的中文長者聚集在一起。这些社区成员在这个地区生活了二十多年,与我们分享了丰富多彩的人生故事——他们谈到了童年的回忆、在曼哈顿下城的服装厂工作的岁月,以及都市生活的多种面貌。 这里的故事捕捉了二十位参与者中七位的生活,每个故事都是他们的坚韧、文化传承和他们所培养的社区深厚情谊的见证。 感谢您的聆听! During the summer of 2022, we had the privilege of hosting a series of heartfelt storytelling sessions at Grand Street Settlement, in collaboration with the Baruch Elders Services Team and Life Story Club. Each week, we gathered with a warm and vibrant group of Chinese-speaking elders from Two Bridges and Chinatown. These cherished members of our community, who have called this area home for over two decades, shared a rich tapestry of life stories with us – they spoke of childhood memories, years spent in Lower Manhattan’s garment factories, and the many facets of urban living. Stories here capture the lives of seven out of the twenty participants, each narrative a testament to their resilience, cultural heritage, and the deep bonds of community they’ve fostered. Thanks for listening!

孝碧:我來自福建省福州市

XIAO BI.L

quotes大家好,我是大陆福建到美国来!我想分享一下我到美国来的经验。我们到美国来的时候坐在飞机上,看到这下面很漂亮!美国的灯光很漂亮!最后到了美国的时候,到了家里的时候,哎呀那个房子很小!一个房间住着十几个人,上上下下。哎呀,我说怎么这就是美国嘛!我们在大陆好像是想的是美国是天堂,到了美国是地狱。

最后去做工,来了两三天就去打工。到衣厂去打工很辛苦。晚上要做到十几点回家。十一二点还没有饭吃!回家还要做饭,还要洗衣服。真的很累,美国很累。你看孩子三个孩子要读,他们也不会做的。 晚上十几点回去煮饭还要洗衣服,什么都要搞是不是啊?白天去上班回到家里 腰痛死了!爬不起来,躺在床上是我老公把我拉起来。很痛,这个腰啊!老板还要骂你,我们不会做吗。不会做老板还骂: “你做什么?你这个赚的钱能吃吗?你有钱买东西吃吗?” 不会做没办法。没人教啊!我们也没有亲戚,也没有朋友在这里是不是啊。到衣场不会做!老板还要骂你,你还要受气。哎呀回到家,我就哭啊!哎呀,为什么要来到美国呀?哎呀,是我老公移民把我弄出来的!我说不是移民,我根本就不道美国来。真么辛苦!

那个时候我都想回去。看到孩子小……算了算了。在餐馆里,在衣场里做了几年。最后又到餐馆里做。餐馆里也做了10年,啊也是很辛苦的!很累的!餐馆里切菜,切肉。还要炸那些东西,还要配菜到外面去,跑来跑去累死了。太累了,美国太累了。

但是小孩子现在大了。他们都自己创业了。我们现在都退休了。我们现在就是要过好自己的晚年了是不是啊?美国政府还好。我们老人家还有什么粮食捐给我们是不是?还可以,可以。现在基本上还可以。

Xiao Bi: I came from Fuzhou

Hi everyone, I’m from the province of Fujian in China. I’d like to share a bit about my experience coming to the United States. When I first arrived in the U.S., looking down at the city lights from the airplane, I thought the lights in the U.S. were especially beautiful. When we actually landed and arrived at our home, my god, the place was so small. One room housed about a dozen people, top to bottom. I thought, how was this what the U.S. was like? In the mainland we thought that America was like heaven, when we arrived we realized it was hell.

Within a few days, I went to find work. My time at the garment factory was especially difficult. I worked until 10pm, some nights even until midnight, and I’d still need to eat. I’d come back home and still had to make dinner, do laundry – it was exhausting. America was exhausting. Our three kids needed to study, they couldn’t work. I needed to do everything. I’d go to work during the day and come home with such intense back pain! I wouldn’t be able to get up. I’d lay in bed and my husband would pull me up. Such incredible pain.

Our boss at the factory would yell at us. We didn’t know how to do our jobs. He’d yell, “What are you doing? Can you even make a living like this? Do you have enough money to buy food?” We didn’t know how to do it. No one trained us! And we had no relatives or even friends here. When our boss would berate us, I’d run home and sob. Why did we even come to the U.S.? It was my husband who brought us here. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have come. It was exhausting!

Of course, I wanted to go back to Fujian. But my children were so young…forget it, I’d think. After a few years at the garment factory, I started a new job at a restaurant. I worked at the restaurant for 10 years..that was also difficult. I was so tired. I had to chop vegetables, chop meat, and I also had to carry large buckets of food. I was constantly running around! Absolutely exhausting. Being in the U.S. is exhausting.

But my children? They’re older now. They all run their own businesses and start-ups. And my husband and I? We’re retired. We’re just happily living out our golden years. The U.S. government isn’t too bad to us. The elderly receive food assistance and benefits to use. It’s alright, it’s alright. Life is alright now.

观娣的高興人生

GON TING. W

來自中國廣東英德市!我叫观娣。 我這一生,我是好高興呀! 我無憂愁的我同你讲! 我來到美國又係無憂愁,我在大陸呢?又是無憂無愁,從小到大都是無憂無愁的,到現在,我都是好開心的。

Wu-Gon-Ting-scaled-e1701133278442

是呀! 我做這份工來到美國呢做搽衣! 而我自己在一間廠, 我一個人搽衣的!什麼工都好, 都是別人cut衣cut到(幾點), 我們還要搽完, 明天還要出衣,無論夜晚加班呀,加班有飯食的嘛!所以我就好高興!我不會車衣,我會搽衣, 我在大陸又是搽衣的。就是說呢…我現在一直到現在都是好開心的人! 一個好開心, 好知足的人。 …怎麼說呢?

 

小朋友小(的時候),我又養我家婆, 養我家公, 又養我先生, 我都不用去打理那些小朋友呀!又不用我煮飯食哈哈哈哈! 是呀,所以我是好開心呀, 哈哈哈! 就只用去做工而已我。我覺得來到美國也很好呀! 好幸福, 是不? 又賺到錢呀我 …你說雖然不是說好多(錢),但是比起中國來說都是好好多啦, 對吧? 所以我來到這裡呢都好高興, 大陸我小時候也是高興的! 我們那些六十幾年才開始做工的, 對吧? 六十年代以後才開始工作 … 但是我還是好高興呢! 年輕的時候又好高興, 因為我們六十年代那時候呢, 哎! 到處都有電影放, 那些六十年代尾, 七十年代頭呢已經有黑白電視啦!都好高興呀! 那時候…我八六年呢就已經有彩電啦,我自己家庭(的)。哇! 全條村的人全來到我家坐著看電視,我自己都不看, 讓別人、成條村的人看。哈哈哈哈! 是呀我好高興呀,所以我真是我呢一生真的好高興。

 

Gon Ting’s Story: A Life of Happiness from Yingde to America

 

I’m from the city of Yingde in Guangdong Province, China. My name is Wu Gon Ting. My whole life, I’ve been very happy. I’ve – well – been very carefree. Let me tell you, coming to the United States, I was carefree. Back in the mainland? I was carefree. From childhood to adulthood, I’ve always been a carefree person, up to now? Well, I’m still pretty carefree.

When I came to the United States, I worked as a garment inspector. I was the only inspector at this garment factory. After others would finish cutting and trimming, I was in charge of inspecting the clothing before we sent them out the following morning. It didn’t matter if I had to stay overtime, we got free dinner for overtime! So I’m a pretty happy person. I didn’t know how to sew clothing, I only knew how to inspect it. I did the same work back in China.

All my life, I’ve been a very content person. When my children were growing up, I had my in-laws and my husband. I didn’t have to constantly watch them or worry about cleaning or cooking. That’s why I’m so happy! I just needed to work. I think I’ve been incredibly fortunate coming to the United States. I worked, I made money. It’s not much, but compared to what I would have made back at home, it’s not bad. 

For people like us, well we started working later in life, but I’ve still been very happy. Because during the 60’s in China, we had movies everywhere. At the start of the 70’s, we already had black and white film in China. In the 80’s, we already had color. At my home, in ‘86 my family owned a color TV. I remember our whole neighborhood would gather in our living room to watch. I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of the screen during those gatherings, I’d let them watch instead.

Yes, I’m very happy. Just my whole life, I’ve been very happy.

鳳儀的故事:從中國教師到美國新生活的築夢之旅

FENG YI. T

quotes我的名字叫鳳儀。我从中国温州来美国!那我的女儿带我来的,我是移民过来的。那我女儿在这里读书,嫁人,生了小孩。 她说叫我来帮她带小孩的。那我是到美国来干什么嘛!我心里好害怕那时候。那个飞机场里走进走出走进走出,就是不敢做飞机。我老先生呢:“刚快进去!” 他送我的嘛。“飞机要飞了!你还不进去啊?赶快快进去啊!”我说我去干什么吗?英文也不会。我好害怕!

Tang-Feng-Yi-1-1-scaled-e1701132237886

后来,到了这里看看, 这个唐人街都是中文的!我看看,有救了!我们的中国人的语言能沟通了!也能够沟通,也能够去找工 – 对吗?开始我也没有找工,但是呢后来我想想了。女儿在美国呆久了,她好像自己很骄傲一样,很自豪。对我们态度也不是很好了。我想想我在这里再待下去,不行了。 我要去打工,下面还有几个女儿要等我带,我老公还没来, 也要等我带。那我坐在家里,又没有报税,又没有什么。怎么办呢? 后来我就去那个“移动”下面,去那个找工作的地方就找了一份工作。

他说你这么大年纪了,我五十三岁来美国的嘛! 中国退休才来的吗。他说“你们就是做保姆,做管家没有其他的工作!” 那我说我就是不想做保姆,不想带孩子。 美国的孩子,又不能凶他,好难带的。 我有时候说 “不要吵呀!” 声音又很大,人家以为你在骂他。 我说我不要做这个工。我还是做别的工,工厂的工。后来他就把我派到那个做饺子。做那个花卷。我在中国我当经理的,我也没有做这些东西。我说我不会呀! 不会,不会就学啊!因为我是邮电学校毕业的。后来我在杭州生了小孩,我先生要我调到温州来。 我就到温州去做那个烟糖酒公司。那个时候我们的邮电局也在省人吗,62年。外面来的人不要那没办法就到那边去了。 到那边去就工资是我最高。 经理也没我那没高。后来,慢慢慢慢的就我也当经理了。所以说呢?我不会做。他说 “你真老实, 人家有的人来,不会的都说自己会” 我说那怎么可以说谎呢? 等会儿你叫我做, 我就做不出来了。不会就不会嘛。

后来他说你就打杂吧。我就一盘一盘的肉拿去那边….做了好几个月。 后来我想,我要带人啊。我就问,老板你可不可以帮我缴税呢?他说不可以!我们不可以报税的。那有什么办法呢?我后来又去问别人。别人说你还是去 《华策会》做那个护理。那好像是政府工,能打税的。

那我拼命跑去那边。他们问我,你多少岁呢?我五十四岁。他说,你不行!那个时候做护理,年轻那个时候不可以做的!要五十五周岁!那我没办法,怎么办呢? 又去 Mott 街那个礼品店帮人家看店。“T-Shirt 4 for 10 dollars, T-Shirt 4 for 10 dollars!” 这样!在那边做,做了很长。差不多1年。

过了1年多,我又跑会《华策会》很艰苦!但是呢?我觉得美国很好。我很感谢美国。我一直做到六十六,那个工卡局给我退休了。但是我呢?还在做。我们的负责人,他们对我很好。我调到这里犹太人这了。我在那里做到六十九岁。人家说,啊呀你不要退休了,你天天红红呼呼的。我真的很好,很喜欢做。 我从5块钱做起。他们后来五块六块多,后来升到八块一个钟。后来,等我要退休了, 他们十块钱一个钟!我舍不得退嘛!我还做得动。那么多钱,我还是要做。现在十几块了,十五六块了。

所以说,真的很好我在美国。一开始很害怕,不想来。但是现在想想呢,来到美国学了很多东西。英文 a little bit 也是学一点点!有时候人家讲什么能听得懂。但是自己讲不出来,但也没关系。单词有几个会讲,也没关系人家也会理解。那我就考公民, 我还考了一 百分。我的那个律师,他都说我聪明。我真的,我对生活也很热爱 。我感觉啊人有劳动,很开心。我很感谢美国,我很喜欢美国。

Feng Yi’s Story: From Teaching in China to Building a New Life in the U.S

My name is Feng Yi. T. I came from Wenzhou, China to the United States. My daughter brought me here. My daughter came to study, marry, and have children. She wanted me to come to help take care of her children. But I thought, what would I do here! I was very terrified. I paced back and forth at the airport terminal – I didn’t want to get on the plane. My husband was yelling “Get on the plane!” He had come to see me off. “The airplane is about to leave! You’re not getting on?” I yelled back, “What would I do there?” My English isn’t great. Oh, I was so scared.

Afterwards, when I arrived, I saw that Chinatown was full of Chinese people. I looked around and thought, there’s hope! I can communicate in Chinese, I can find work! At first, I couldn’t find work so I thought about going to my daughter’s. But I remembered that she’d been in the United States for a while. She seemed to have grown prideful and developed an attitude towards us. I couldn’t stay here like this – I needed to work. I still had other daughters who relied on me to immigrate. I still had my husband who needed me. I was at home, not working, I had no record of tax payments. So I went to look for a job at an employment center.

The worker there said, “You’re already so old!” I came to the U.S. at 53, right after retiring in China. “People your age take care of grandchildren, or become housekeepers.” I didn’t want to be a nanny, I didn’t want to take care of children. The kids here…you can’t yell at them. If you raise your voice, people think you’re scolding. So he sent me to work at a dumpling factory. I told him I didn’t know how to do this type of work. “Then learn!” he retorted. In China, I was a manager. I’ve never done these things before. I graduated from a telecommunications college. Later, I gave birth to my children in Hangzhou. Then my husband asked that I come to Wenzhou, where I worked at a tobacco, sugar, and liquor company. It was 1962, and the telecommunications bureau was downsizing around 1962. They didn’t want outsiders working there. When I started working in Wenzhou, my salary was the highest, even higher than the managers. Eventually I worked my way up to becoming a manager. So? I didn’t know how to work at a factory. They said I was honest about admitting to that.

I was assigned to organize and carry trays, trays of meat. I did that for several months. Then I thought, I needed to help my family immigrate here too. I asked if my boss could help me file taxes. He said of course not! So I asked around, and someone recommended I go to the Chinese-American Planning Council to work as a home attendant. It seemed like that job filed taxes. So I quickly ran over to CPC. I was 54 then and they said I was too young to work as a home attendant, I needed to be 55 to qualify. So what can I do? Eventually, I found a small shop on Mott Street and worked there. “T-Shirt 4 for 10 dollars, T-Shirt 4 for 10 dollars!” I was there for a long time.

After a year, I ran back to CPC to apply. It was difficult. Being in the United States was hard, but I loved it here. I’m thankful to this country. I worked until 66 and my retirement benefits came in, but I still wanted to work after. My boss was very kind to me. I was transferred over to a Jewish senior center to work. By then, I was 69. I started with five dollars an hour. They later raised it to six, then eight. Later when I was about to retire, it went to ten! I couldn’t leave! I still had energy. No matter how much, I still worked. Now it’s at 16 an hour.

It’s been great being in the United States. At first, I was so scared and dreaded coming. Now as I reflect, I realize I’ve learned so much here. As for my English…I still learned a bit! When others spoke, I could understand! I just couldn’t quite respond. When I took my immigration exam, I scored 100%. Even my lawyer says I’m smart. I really — I love my life. I’m grateful to this country.

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