Thursday, April 30, 2009

Funny Chinese Comedian

This guy is really brave and funny! He came from Rice University, made a very unusual career.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu & SARS

This morning the breaking news was that there is a suspected case of Swine flu in an elementary school in Chicago. It reminds me of SARS. I was in the center of that pandemic a few years ago. Guangzhou was close to Shenzhen, where the disease was originated, and had a lot of casualties. But unlike Beijing, our metropolitan area wasn't shut down. Southern Chinese just have a much pragmatic way of dealing with sufferings in life. I still needed to take the bus to go to work. Few people were wearing masks on the street. It seemed to me that after the first couple of weeks of panic, people just realized that life has to go on. Everybody dies, one way or the other. What is the use of being afraid all the time?

More importantly, it's the lesson we need to learn as a species. Those whom were infected with SARS and didn't die ended up being disabled the rest of their lives because their lungs were collapsed by the disease. It's their lives we need to care about, not the sensational death tolls.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Continent and New Allergy

There are a lot more allergy medicines on the American market and I was wondering why. First I thought Americans are a bunch of spoiled kids that complain about everything, even the slightest irritation in life. Come on! You can't be seriously allergic to water melons!

However, something must be quite potent on this continent. The second spring after being here, I started to have dry, itchy eyes, coughing, runny nose, stuffy throat, slight headache: all severe symptoms of allergy. I've caught the "Chinese immigrant disease": spring allergy.

Interesting thing is, I was perfectly fine the first year. When you think you should have been assimilated to the surroundings, bang! This irritating thing hits you out of the blue. I still don't understand why there is a delay in the reaction.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Helping Others and Felt Stupid

A few months ago I was buying breakfast at a McDonald's at O'Hare Airport. A Chinese man, who spoke no English at all, was trying to buy a hamburg. Seriously, he couldn't even say "hamburg", he said "han bao" in Chinese! The cashier seemed to be quite experienced with international travelers so he just brought out a menu with pictures. Of course, this man didn't know there were so many different "han bao" in the US. So being the good Samaritan, I tried to help, talked to the cashier to help him make the order while talking to him in Mandarin.

This man didn't look at me at all the entire time, nor did he talk to me directly, let alone saying "thanks". He's got his food and went back to his table, where a couple of same mid-age Chinese men were sitting, without food.

I don't know if he felt "losing face" because a young Chinese woman helped him, or he was used to have others' service, or he was just not used to express appreciations like many Chinese, whatever reasons, I felt really stupid for helping this stranger. Well, it turned out that I didn't stop helping wandering Chinese tourists later, but I was deeply saddened by this incident.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sunny! Better carry my umbrella!

This is the first real hot day in Chicago (80F) this year. It was very sunny and I saw a lady holding an umbrella walked down the street. Hey, that must be a new immigrant from Southern Asia! People here rather put chemicals on their skin than holding an umbrella to protect them from ultraviolet. They even think getting artificially tanned is normal. It takes a lot of courage to hold up that umbrella and insist on the Asian aesthetics: pale skin is beautiful.
I have mixed feeling about this: I love the diversity of aesthetics in this new country. But people are still conforming to a certain set of standards.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Watching Hometimes so I could be a good immigrant

My boss was chatting with me one day: "You know, over 70% immigrants are doing hard-labor jobs in the States, such as construction and farming. No Americans wants to do those things anymore. That is really a problem".

I smiled and replied: "Oh yeah, that is why I am watching Hometimes DVD at night so I could be prepared for that."

There are less than 1% of the populations have a PhD, the same applies to immigrants.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not a Penny Less

While walking with my American friends, I am always amused by our encounters with the pan-handlers on the streets of Chicago. The beggars never ask me for money, they usually bother my friends. One of my white male friends was very pissed about it when he realized that I can just walk on by while he will be stopped every time. He actually yelled at the beggar for not bothering me.

I reckon the assumptions that's critical to beggars survival are:

A. Chinese people can't understand what they were saying (slang or plain English).

B. Chinese people are poor and have no change.

C. Chinese people have money but they never give to the beggars anyway.

Oh yeah, I can pretend that I am all of the above.

While I am digging hard on this land of gold, your Americans citizens take my tax dollars without extending me the right to vote and threaten to throw me out if I lose my job. Now you want my sympathy too?

Hell no.

Stop holding my hands, I know how to do it!

Last weekend I was in a pottery shop for a friend's show. The shop owner (I assumed) kindly showed me how to use some of their salt & pepper shakers. Oh yeah, you've guessed it, that ain't no rocket science. I was just curious about their shapes (being a designer you see). After he demonstrated how to put salt into that little hole in the bottom of the shaker, he poured some out in my hand, and I rememebered that Chase commercial I've seen on TV: one is supposed to throw the salt over his/her shoulder. Trust me, I was about to do that when he firmly grabbed my wrist and "helped" me throw the salt in the "right way".

As always, I smiled and said "thanks" while deep down inside I was insulted. So what if I didn't do that? So what if I didn't throw the salt over the "right" shoulder and it will bring me bad luck? It's my own fate and it's of no concerns to him! OK, OK, here is the point: just because I am a Chinese woman, look much younger than I really am, and always smile at strangers, doesn't mean I am an idiot.

Welcome to Daily Immigrant Blog Site

I was at an interview dinner with a few of my colleagues a few days ago. One of my lovely, highly educated colleauges was talking about a book she has been working on. It was about the African American immigrant experience in the US. As the usual observer, I didn't say a word and was patiently waiting for her to take notice the fact that if she needs the firsthand data about race, identity, and everything comes with being an immigrant in the US, she could just ask me about my daily struggle. Well, I don't know if she was trying to avoid offending me, she didn't seem to raise any questions. Of course, being the non-typical Chinese, I started to talk about my visa situation, my fear of being kicked out of the country, etc. etc. That always seems to fascinate people who have no idea of that daily experience of being an immigrant.

Hey, I thought to myself, why can't I start a blog about it? I like to document this experience before I am completely "assimilated" into this society and it might someday become an interesting book. Someone needs to know the price we pay for working and living in this "free" country, of course, nothing is free, anywhere.

This is not a blog about "political correctness", warn you. But I promise you this will be an interesting journey.