Placing a Biography in the Context of History
Immigration was always a question raised by all nations. People strive for better lives from the beginning of times. They are searching more appropriate and favorable objectives and perspectives. For someone, this step is a start for a new and better life span; for the other one, this is the way directly to the slavery. For the rest, it is just changing their regular climate zones and customs.
In general, almost every event in the world is created by the history of migration. One of these people is also Alya Jeng, an immigrant from Japan, who has migrated with her family from Ofuka in the early 70s to the United States.
The Japanese migration to the United States of America began in the early 19th century. A major amount of immigrants were concentrated in Hawaii. Almost all of the Japanese were working on the sugar plantations. They had been doing good job for low wages. As a result, the first antidiscrimination protests had started. The Americans were afraid that the cheap labor would take away their work places (Takaki).
People are always afraid of everything unknown. As this was the unknown nation arriving, the natives were anxious about them.
These immigrants were the good and reliable workers providing the work done always on time. This was a major advantage for the companies. The United States was and is a fast developing country searching for the fresh laborers derived from other nations and origins. This advantage is also the most popular reason for the people coming from other parts of the world to the Unites States. It was also true for Jeng’s family.
Alya’s parents were coming from a mountainous country. Her mother and grandmother worked on the plantations; her father worked at the railway station. The money was always a problem in the family made of 3 children and 3 adults. As she mentions of her childhood is that, “being a little girl in the family of simple workers was always actually a fun for me. My brothers were helping mainly the parents with the housework; and I was always protected by my grandma who repeated to all every time that I had the whole life to work. This was actually the true words.”(Jeng).
The family was living a simple life with no comforts. They were dwelling at a little house with a kitchen and one room, where everybody were sleeping and keeping their personal things. The children were going to school. Education was always of a great importance for the culture of all the Japanese. Their devotion to learning is one of the things everyone should be jealous for.
Alya recalls that, “Parents never wanted to move to other place. I always did”(Jeng). Maybe, this is just the nature of a young spirit wishing to travel. Almost each young person would love to see the world too. Going to a local school and learning all the things, including the traditions protected for the centuries by her nation was a routine for her. She wanted to see something better in future.
The plan of immigrating to another country was actually an idea of one of her brothers Kaede. Kaede was the one that, “loved the stories about traveling, I loved to hearing to them” (Jeng). So the young population in the family wanted to change something in their life direction First of all, it immigrated to a bigger prefecture starting to visit a new school there and to live with their uncle.
Kaede was the one who had introduced to Alya her future husband, Michio. Together they wanted to immigrate; and this became possible only after their wedding. They immigrated together with two families illegally moving on one of transfer ships. The one assisting them in the search for money to the transporters was Alya’s uncle.
Not an easy way to start a new life as “…the journey was horrible. We knew that we were travelling to other country, but mostly, as all people; we tried to see it as a good experience. However, it was not. Almost all of the people got sick”(Jeng). They were supposed to be taken by their far relatives from the docks but unfortunately the family of immigrants meeting Alya family had been robbed that day and had no money to give back to the transporters that had arranged that journey. “So we became the slaves of workers”, stated Alya (Jeng). Working for the money was the hardest time in their life. This is horrible to recall all of this. It is not the people’s nature of the Japanese nationality to talk about their feelings.
At this time, there was no slavery any more as it was deleted from the pages of the United States’ history in1865. However, it is going on sometimes until today (Tabuchi). The new immigrants did not have valid documents or any opportunity to get help and were forced to do everything said to them. The slavery had lasted for 3 years. If this question could be bring to light at that time and reflect the major public, maybe, a lot of people would reconsider the way of treating such people like things. By this time, the Vietnamese war had been going on. Many people looking at the person of the Chinese or Japanese origin were immediately accused of being the enemy for the American people. “Sometimes I was afraid to listen to the conversations with the workers. They were talking about that they could kill us if we did not do what they had demanded; and they would get a medal because they helped their country to get rid of us. My brother worked as their personal cook. He had to sleep, eat and live at their tiny kitchen. My husband and I were often beaten by workers. Thankfully to our uncle, we got free of this as he had raised the money from all our relatives to help us. So these bad times were over” (Jeng).
In a while, the war was over but not the accusations and problems of the illegal immigrants. The only work that they could find was the work at the slaughter house and or at the laundry. Nobody would allow them to work in a restaurant or as providing a cleaning help.
People are distrustful to someone they do not know and especially to new immigrants. That’s why, some of them being even the best specialists do not get a chance to work by their occupation and to be good at what they have learned for to do. Alya’s brother being a good cook would be a great help working at many places. However, he could not get any job with his Japanese certificate. The best thing to do was to try getting in contact with his previous immigrants from Japan. So they did in such way.
“We lived together with another family at one room; and it was really hard for them, because they did not have a job, only their father. So their children often stole our food, and our things were missing”. This was not a pleasure from the neighbors. “As soon as the war came to an end, I thought people would stop looking at me like at the enemy only because my skin was different. But they did not”(Jeng).
Although the world was changing, and the old rules of life had been destroyed, each day some people’s conscience stayed the same. After working at the laundry, Alya tried to go to school. Unfortunately, this was a bad idea. Getting an assault every day and being named as a Japan geisha and a prostitute was not easy issue to overcome for a simple girl from the small province. Alya stopped talking with anyone at all. She stated that, “I was not even talking to my husband. Just working, learning, crying; and this was it” (Jeng).
Especially while belonging to the society is related to the issues of identity, belonging and membership. This was totally tearing off young Alya.
The major conflict in the society even today is identity. Everything depends on the level you are related at in the society. Now and then, the Japanese were always the most restrained and work-concentrated people. Mainly, this is the reason of their prosperity and of their country. In other words, people are shaping the country.
There has always been a deem conflict between the Japanese and the American nations. Even though it is not reflected so highly in the society right now, but it remains very important in the policy, economics and development. The USA is totally struggling all the time with the grasp of the technological developments in Japan.
Even at the subconscious level, any person understands that he or she does not want to be a friend to someone struggling against his or her own nation. So Alya’s family always tried to stay more distant to the people of other nations. Even living with one of their brothers in the country they did not shared the experiences with they had during the hard times in the docks.
At the time of 70s-80s, a completely new period in the history started; it was the time of rock-n-roll, the time of peace warriors and fighters for the equality. This was the time of changing the generations. The young generation was more willing to take risks and get in touch with immigrants at schools, universities and work places. Naturally, nobody did not take away the competition but this way the chance for the other nations to try being on the same page as the Americans.
“I tried to enter the university in 1983. This was really a good year I must say. I met a lovely person having passed the entering exams. Her name was Lyly Whine. She became a good friend of mine helping me with the language mistakes and with my learning. I lied of my age. Being a small person I looked as a teenage girl”(Jeng). This was a really good and friendly relationship With Lyly. Ms. Whine’s parents owned their own little business; they were holding a bakery and a little goods shop. So after some years of living in the frame of a tiny box, it was the time for Alya’s family to move to their own rented room. The Whine family proposed a work place for her brother and gave the family a little room behind the bakery.
During the university time, Alya studied accounting. There were so many accidents that she did not even remember them all. But there was one that she had remembered for sure. One of students said that he wanted to be as Lennon and marry an Asian woman. Giving a lot of attention to Alya and to himself, the boy encouraged his friends to help him to get into the relationship with Alya. This was not the pleasure as they tried to scare her.
After 3 years being at the university, Alya still had some problems with finding a job. Finally, she got pregnant and gave a birth to a girl, and, after two years, to a boy. Their children were named as Emily and Dai. Michio was still working at the slaughter house and had to take care of the family. Alya was doing her best to be a good mother. Although not having enough money, she recalled the time as really good, “it was about taking care of children, a husband or making them happy. Right now, it is all about work and earning much more money in order to be capable of buying everything needed. It seems like we are getting lost in this world being so big, and it becomes smaller and smaller every day. I feel crunched at my apartment and at my office work”(Jeng).
The question stays open is that why people in hard times always complain less but when they have a better life their complaints become bigger. “A person for the living needs just a roof upon a head, something to eat and some clothes. All the rest is just the unnecessary things”. But we always want that what do not possess.
The times have changed. Right now Alya and her family are having their own apartment. Their children are going to school and facing some simple problems, like doing their homework or having some love issues. Sometimes they even not really believe in the stories of their parents recalling the hard times they had had before. They are totally devoted to the American style and culture of life like all the rest in the world they are following.
When asking Alya of her thinking about the peacefully life right now she answers that, “Thinking about the times, when all the family was helping each other is being just a vision in dreams right now. Today everybody just cares about himself or herself. Even when you bring your own culture with you, it will be challenge in the society that you are living in”(Jeng).
The children don’t know anything about the traditions of samurais or of tea drinking ceremonies in Japan. They do not care about the history. Mainly, they are happy just to live their lives. ” This is actually the reason of my immigration”, says Alya,”I always wanted my children just to be happy about the very fact of their existence. Of course, it is sad that they do not follow our Japanese traditions but it is good that they will know the traditions of living a good life”(Jeng).
Right now the immigration policy in America is simple. If you are somebody unique, and you are the best specialist in the field you want to do, you will be surely accepted on the best conditions. If this is not yours, you will be accepted any way as the help in the country.
The United States has many more immigrants living there than there in any other country. In general, the whole nation is one big immigration center. The country itself was founded by immigrants; maybe, this is actually the reason why most of people want to start their new lives here. Many populations have their own districts and can live accordingly to their traditions and their preferences. However, most of them choose the American style of life.
Immigration as a process will not stop any way. Actually, it only widens in each new year. Many people are willing to leave their country, their jobs and friends in order to get the new experiences. There are several types of immigration right now. Some of them are the long term immigration, when people stay with their families for the lifetime in other country. Some are short term immigration, when people just change their environments in order to study or work; the rest is immigrating all the time.
No matter what kind of immigration is, it will always include some cultural differences, the problems of understanding and living, and many others. The main thing is that people are able to find their places in the new society.
According to the words of Alay, after some years of being an unhappy immigrant, she found her place in the American society with her family. She has just changed her way of thinking about the life and understood that everything could happen but the main thing was to stay alive and loved.
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