Family Bonds & Cultural Preservation

“I believe that moving to America did not affect my cultural practices. Our children still follow their culture; knowing the fundamentals are an important part of our heritage.” – Chung-Yun Yu

Story By: Wei-Shuen Yu

Photo Credits: Bobby Gutierrez

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Hui-Ming Lee-Yu

My name is Hui-Ming Lee-Yu; I am originally from Taipei Taiwan. The reason why I decided to move to America is because of the opportunities that could benefit my children as they grow up. I am currently fifty-eight years old, the age that we decided to move to America I was thirty-eight years old. When we first arrived in America we lived in Sedona Arizona, the reason why we lived there was because of work. I was working for a friend at their restaurant, my husband would work the kitchen as I was a waitress in the front. We were working to provide for our three children, my two sons and one daughter. We lived in Cottonwood, Arizona for a couple of years before we moved to New Mexico. We wanted to move to a location that we thought was best for our family at the current time, and I believe that God wanted it to be New Mexico.

Coming to America my family did not support the idea, they thought that the risk of moving to America was too big and wanted us to stay. As the only daughter in my family it is tradition for me to take care of my husband’s family, and so if I moved to America I couldn’t fulfill my duties. My father believed that my husband would be able to take care of us though, he liked my husband he thought he was strong and reliable. Although I married to a man with no money, he was a man with ambition, and my father told me in many ways that is worth more than money.

I don’t regret moving to America, my children were the reason why we moved here in the first place and I don’t feel as if they let me down. They are good people, they didn’t break into society’s norms of drugs, and they still listen to me and my husband, so overall I don’t think I regret moving to America. American economy compared to Taiwan economy is very different, it is easier to earn money in America. If you work hard you will have the money to spend, if you don’t work hard then you have no money to spend. I was never scared either to move to America, I knew that all I needed was my husband and my children.

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Cultural & Language Challenges

Some of the struggles I experienced were related to language situations. My English isn’t terrible, most conversations I can understand and am able to reply. Although if the English is more advanced I am not able to understand what the person is trying to tell me. Other struggles where who would take care of my children when my husband and I worked, would we have enough money to provide for my children. I remember hiring babysitters to look after our children, but it was hard to afford them after a long period of time. One of the biggest struggles were when my husband and I decided to open up our first restaurant. My English was bad, and my husband’s English was worse, we put our entire life savings into the trusting words of a man in Angel Fire. Our trust was put into the wrong place, that man tricked my husband and I out of all of our money, and even in the end we weren’t able to open up our first restaurant. Our family was broke financially, and we couldn’t apply for housing because we didn’t have the necessary income for it. That is when I believe God was listening to us, after that incident we were able to meet consistently nice people that were willing to help us. We soon opened our first restaurant in Angel Fire, and we were even able to buy a house that we permanently live in.

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I believe that a mother’s duty is to her family, without my husband by my side I don’t think I could have achieved all that I have. He was there when I was sick, when my heart was broken, he was there to raise our children to be the best they could be. Many people only see the sacrifices that mothers make, but not many people see the sacrifices that a father makes too. One duty that I did not do as a mother is teach my children more of their Chinese culture, the way they speak, the way the present themselves is as if they are ABC’s. (American born Chinese) To obtain one gift, one must be sacrificed. In exchange for the life in America our children had to give up their life in Taiwan, they grew up without experiencing the joys that my husband and I were able to enjoy. I blame myself for this, if we lived in Los Angelus, California or Phoenix, Arizona in the bigger cities then my children would have experienced more of the Chinese culture.

Coming to America I have discovered that differences between Taiwan and American culture. I firmly believe that the culture in America is too open minded. At the age of eighteen some parents throw out their children to live on their own, as a mother it is my duty to protect my child and always be there to help them no matter the age. In America I also experienced slacking mothers that spoil their children too much, and in the end the children control the household not the parents. Children at the young age of sixteen are becoming parents, it is disgraceful for a mother to be that young. Not only do you have to think about the child’s future, but you have to think about the mother’s future too. At sixteen what can you provide for your family, what job can you successfully accomplish while you are nursing your baby? It is hard for me to see this because the statistics of a household becoming successful when the family is so young is very low. There is a Chinese saying, “If you give birth you raise it, if you raise it you raise it right. If you don’t want to raise it, don’t give birth to it.”

My dreams when I was younger weren’t much, I was very bad at studying, and my test scores weren’t good enough to enter a university. So my dream was to marry a good man, and have good children that would listen. I was very lucky to have my dream fulfilled. I am now in America, I am an owner of small but successful restaurant, have a beautiful home, loving husband, and respectful children. I don’t think I can ask God for anything more.

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Chung-Yun Yu

Hello, my name is Chung-Yun Yu I was born January 2nd, 1960. So I am 57 years old, I have three children; two sons and one daughter. I moved to America when I was about thirty-three years old. My story starts with my ancestors, originally my bloodline is from mainland China, my father was originally from mainland China but because of the political views and disputes of China and Taiwan my father left and migrated to Taiwan. At the time I wasn’t born yet, my father met a Taiwanese woman and married. He had three sons and one daughter. I was asked if I regret moving to America, and my answer is no. My ancestors moved for the better of their children, and I made the same choice for my children. I don’t believe the choice I made was a sacrifice. It was the decision that had to be made so I have no regrets. Before we made the big decision final I had a family member invite me to America to explore, to see if we actually wanted to move there. So my wife and I decided to take a trip and see if we it was worth moving.

Moving to America in the beginning was extremely nerve racking. I left my home of thirty-three years. I didn’t know anyone, I couldn’t speak the language, and I didn’t know what tomorrow brought. I didn’t know if moving to America was the wrong decision, if my family would have food on the table, or if we would have a place to sleep. Regardless of the fear I had, I still thought that America was worth the risk. I knew that if I worked hard to earn money, to provide for my family it would all work out somehow. I still have trouble reading English after all this time, but speaking has gotten easier for me. I can have nice small conversations with people I know, but it is still hard for me to understand everything. Moving to America meant that we had to move away from friends and family, which was hard. We couldn’t eat the same food that we grew up eating, and we couldn’t celebrate the good that was happening to our friends and family. The one thing that I probably do miss of all things is that I couldn’t go home to see my family when things got tough. Family emergencies occurred but because of the price of flying, on top of missing work, we couldn’t go and help. We would miss weddings, funerals, and more. It is hard to choose the life you live now and the life you left behind.

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Challenges in the U.S.

Since the first time I lived in America I have experienced discrimination, but it has a lot to do with location. How I saw it was, it was inevitable. When you enter a place that has a population that assumes they own everything, then of course you’ll be seen as an outcast. I realized that everyone has good aspects, Blacks, Whites, Mexicans. Everyone has so much to offer, and because of that those that discriminate will always be jealous, they are threatened by what we can do. It doesn’t make me mad when people bully me. It is natural for those that are jealous to undermine those that work hard. It is just part of life, let them speak what they want, who cares what they say. They are who they are, I am who I am. As long as they don’t interfere with my life, my family; I won’t interfere with theirs.

Overall I enjoy living in America. There is a reason why it is seen as a great nation. There is more diversity here, Mexicans, African-Americans, Whites, Asians, all races can live together. This is what makes America great. We can put down pride and live together as a structural society. Evolving our way of thinking and living, this is a good thing, this is what I wanted my children to realize. It may not be perfect, but with newer and newer generations come the more open our eyes will become.

Do I have regrets about coming to America? No, why would I have any regrets. I came here to better the chances of living a good life with my family. Truthfully my life in America is much easier than the life I had in Taiwan. In Taiwan I would have had to worry about money to provide for my family. Would I have enough money to send my children to school, can I buy a house, will we be able to make enough money to provide meals for my children and wife? These are the questions I would have to ask if I lived in Taiwan but here in America I don’t have to worry about that. Taiwan’s economy is hard to live in, but in America it is easier. Here I can provide food, shelter, and send my children to school. Here I can buy cars with ease and drive them, too. If I want to go on vacation with my family, I can. But in Taiwan it would be more difficult. Houses are almost impossible to buy and if you buy a car you have no place to put it. If you want to go and enjoy nature it is impossible because almost everywhere in Taiwan is crowded.

It is hard to say where I would rather live. I can’t choose because they are all so different and all have their purposes. Angel Fire is quiet and peaceful. It is a place where I could relax. Taiwan has my friends and family; it is the place where I grew up. Arizona is bigger, it is easy access to things you need, shopping, eating, and everything else. Angel Fire is a place where I have lived for twenty some years and it is a place I wish to live for the rest of my life.
The hardest struggle during my life would have to be raising my children. I worry about how my children grew, if they are respectable, and if they are successful. Coming to America and learning English was easy compared to raising children. You don’t know how they will grow up, what they will become. If they are good people that help others or if they are the people that hurt others to gain what they wish for. It is always a parents dream to see their children succeed.

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My dreams when I was a child was to be a peanut grower and seller in Taiwan. My dreams as a young adult was to one day be on the road with my wife in an RV, or a motorcycle, a Harley Davidson motorcycle. My dreams for the future is the same. To have my children have a good life, good job, good marriage. Then I want to drive my Harley to my truck then drive my truck to my RV. That is my dream for the future.

I believe that moving to America did not affect my cultural practices. I still practice every day. My wife and I try our best to reflect what we know onto our children. Our children still follow their culture; it might be the basics but knowing the fundamentals are an important part of our heritage. I have no problem with our children knowing other cultures. It is okay to practice them, too. But once my children are home they have to follow our ways of cultural practices. It is important because we always have to remember where we came from.

My job now is I am a restaurant owner with my wife. I am the head chef at the back of the kitchen. The reason why we chose to have a restaurant is because jobs are limited when you don’t have credit. Banks wouldn’t give money out to those that don’t have a certain amount of credit. At that time even if we could borrow money from the bank it would be too little and the interest was too high to afford. So we decided to open up a small restaurant, something we can afford and keep until we can retire.

I wouldn’t change my life decisions. I look at what I have, good children, a comfortable living life, loving family. I have everything I need; I suppose it is based off of personality if one enjoys their life or not. In my heart and mind, I believe that my decisions were worth the outcome, and no, I wouldn’t change it given the opportunities. Everyone has different opinions of their life. If I was the type to want more money I suppose I would change it. But I’m not. I have a good medium income and it is enough to live a life of content.

Wei-Shuen Yu

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