Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The Land of Milk and Diplomas
The pull of America had little to do with money (i think) and much more to do with degrees and education. My uncle Daniel was the first to make his way to America, receiving a scholarship to study at Heidelburg College. Uncle Samuel moved away from Hong Kong to get his college education in Japan (a pretty dramatic decision given the Japanese invasion was less than two decades old) and went to Rutgers for his graduate studies in Biochemistry. My father, Moses, got a scholarship to go to Bridgewater College in 1967 (he chose the school partially because the name sounds nice in Chinese). And my Aunt Julia came to the United States in either 1968 or 1969.
My popo and yehyeh (grandfather) was living in Hong Kong away from their own families, and all their children were in a strange and foreign land. When my uncle Daniel got married, my grandparents were unable to afford to fly to the United States, and so instead had a Wedding Banquet in Hong Kong in their honor.
The parents and children communicated on a weekly basis using "aerograms". I have wondered what it must have been like for my grandparents. Apparently all the children were encouraged to pursue their studies, and back in that time, there was no better place in all the world to get an education than in the United States. But, how strange! how utterly exotic and foreign it must have been, to send your children across the oceans. They both had been forced out of their hometowns and native country, forced to live away from and even communicate with their siblings and parents. Yet, here they were encouraging all of their children to make their way to a land that couldn't have been stranger.
Did they think that my uncles and aunt would return to Hong Kong at some point? Did they dream about their own trips to the United States? This was the Age of Aquarius in American cultural history, and i can't help but wonder what my grandmother thought of hippies, free love, and drug use.