Man keeps busy working in family restaurant
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
For most first-generation American families work has always been the one constant, 12-16 hour days, six to seven days a week. Andy Chen came to the United States six years ago from China. He was 19. Here he talks about work and family.
Gallacher: Do you remember how you felt when you first arrived in the United States?
Chen: Yes, I was very excited, because I hadn’t seen my mom for a few years. She was at the airport waiting for me. She was excited to see me, too. I stayed in China with my aunt when my mom came here to work. My aunt is very nice; she is like my mom. She always treated me like her own son.
Gallacher: Do you miss China?
Chen: I miss my family, my aunts and my cousins and my friends. I still have my best friends there. And I miss my hometown Chinese food, too. I really like pickled vegetables and dried fish the way it is made in my hometown. I don’t know how to make it. So every time I go home to China I eat a lot.
The food here is very different. In China we don’t have steak and burgers. Here there is no smoking in the restaurants but it is allowed in China. Here, when people are having dinner in a restaurant they turn off their cell phones, but in China it is different. People there always talk on their phones very loud. There is a lot more noise in restaurants in China, people talking and eating.
Gallacher: Does your family work in the restaurant?
Chen: Yes we all work together and live together. When I was little I didn’t work. I was just like any other kid. I went to school and played games and had fun. I never worried about my family. My family always took care of me.
But now I am a man and I have to be more of a part of my family. I have to work and help them. I can’t just go away and do what I want. I have responsibilities. I work every day and I save my money for trips back to China to visit my family and friends.
Family is very important to us. My mom has worked 30 years already, nonstop. I have to help her and make things easier for her.
Gallacher: Is it hard to see your mom work so hard?
Chen: Yes. Especially the times when she is sick but she still has to work. She never takes a day off. She never takes a vacation, only a couple days a year. She only leaves work sometimes for a few hours in the afternoon, after the busy time in the restaurant.
I still have one grandma who is in her 70s and she lives with us. My grandmother doesn’t speak English, so my mom takes her to the clinic and the stores and translates for her.
Gallacher: Do you hope to get married and have a family someday?
Chen: Not yet because I work too much. I don’t have time to go out and find friends. When I finish work I just go home and take a shower and relax.
Gallacher: What is your dream?
Chen: My dream is to have everybody healthy in my family. I hope I can take care of everything and my family can stop working so hard and do what they want to do. It is time for them to relax.
Immigrant Stories runs every Monday in the Post Independent.
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