In wake of rising anti-Asian hate, students interview Chinese elders on their immigrant experience

A rise in anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Equally Informed team to think of ways to feature Asian immigrant stories to humanize storytelling. With the help of Resolve Philly’s community partner the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC), high school students met with elders in their community to interview them.


Vivian Liu—a conversation with her great-aunt (姨婆)

When my great-aunt first came to America, she felt uncomfortable and it was hard for her to adjust. But as time went on, she acclimated. Communication was a problem for her because she didn’t know how to speak English when she first arrived in America. So she had to teach herself. It was hard for her to adapt to a new environment because it was a new place and everything was unfamiliar. To keep the family together and maintain cultural traditions, she tries to have family gatherings where relatives can talk and have fun together. She likes food from China and recommends people to go visit her hometown. Since she has lived in America for a long time she misses home. It’s difficult to contact friends because they’re in another country and in a different time zone. Even though some people may think that the virus had come from China to America, she thinks that every country has the possibility of starting the virus because viruses can’t just originate in one specific place. She works in a restaurant and has adapted to most of American traditions and practices here.


(IMAGE: Dragon Sculpture | 9th and Arch Streets, Philadelphia Sculptor | Ward Elicker ) 

姨婆刚来美国的时候感觉很不舒服,很难融入。但随着时间的推移,就开始融入进了现在的生活。沟通对她来说是个问题,因为她刚到美国时不知道怎么说英文。所以她在美国生活时不得不自己学点。她很难适应个新环境,因为这是一个新的地方,一切都是陌生的。为了让家人团聚 还有持续中国传统文化,她尝试举行更多的家庭团聚.亲戚们会聚集在一个可以一起聊天和玩乐的地方。她喜欢中国的食物并推荐人们去她的家乡看看。现在她在美国很久了,她确实很想家。 她的朋友很难联系到他们,因为他们在不同的国家,还有时差。虽然很多人可能认为COVID是从中国传到美国的,但她认为所有国家都有传播COVID的可能,因为病毒不可能只起源于一个特定的地方。她在美国的一家餐馆工作,适应了美国人的大部分传统和风格。


An La—a conversation with Pei Xing Tan

Pei Xing Tan was born and grew up in Hong Kong. She moved to America because her child was studying abroad. She didn’t feel nervous or scared when she moved, which was quite different from some other immigrants. It had been so long since the first day she stepped foot in America that she doesn’t even remember how long she has been here. Because her children were studying, she spent most of her time taking care of them. I came to understand how difficult that period of time was for her as she was describing it. Now, Xing Tan is over 90 years old and lives at On Lok House, a senior living facility in Chinatown. Her children have all been busy since they graduated so they can’t come to visit her often. Her daily routine at On Lok House is pretty simple, she said. She used to watch TV or just walk around in her own room and keep herself busy, since her children didn’t really want her to go out by herself because they are afraid that she will be in danger. She also told me that she used to dance with her friends back in China when she was still young, but it is hard to do that now since she is aging. When I asked her if she wanted to come back to China to visit her friends, she responded, “A lot of my friends have now passed away, so there is no reason for me to go back to China anymore”. Throughout our conversation, she kept saying, “I always want to, but I’m powerless now.”

Pei Xing Tan在香港出生長大,後來因為孩子出國留學而移居美國。她來到美國的第一感覺與其他移民人截然不同。她沒有感到緊張或害怕。她說從踏入美國的第一天开始算她已經来了很久了。时间长到她甚至不記得自己在這裡待了多久了。因為孩子在讀書,她把大部分時間都用在照顧上。當我聽到她的描述時,我才知道那段時期有多艱難。而現在Xing Tan已經90多歲了,住在安樂楼一所养老院。她的孩子們畢業後都很忙,不能經常來看她。她說,在安樂樓的一天非常簡單。她常常看電視或只是在自己的房間裡走動,忙於自己的事情,因為她的孩子們真的不想讓她一個人出去,怕她會有危險。她還告訴我,她小時候經常和她在中國的朋友跳舞,但現在已經開始變老了,很難做到這一點。當我問她是否想回中國看望她的朋友時,她回答說:“我的很多朋友都已經去世了,我沒有理由再回中國了。”在整個談話中,她總是說 “我一直想,但我現在已经無能為力”。