One Chinese Story
Mei* walked onto American soil two and a half years ago, the bride of a native Knoxvillian. She came from China. Here’s an interview with her, edited for length.
1. Briefly explain why you immigrated.
I met my now-husband on the internet. After a few months, we fell in love. He quit his job and moved to China to be with me. Occasionally, we had a hard time understanding each other due to the language barrier, but our relationship grew fast as we shared everyday life together. We eventually got married. After my husband had lived with me for 14 months, we decided a move to the United States was better for both of us.
2. When you arrived in Knoxville, what was your first impression?
We took a 25-hour flight to Knoxville--the longest trip of my life. My parents-in-law picked us up at the airport. When I saw them, I burst into tears before I could say a single word. I felt like a fish out of water. Everything was so different for me, and I was the only one different from people around. On the way to their house, I saw no buildings (In China, “building” means multiple floors.), only bungalows. On the road, only cars, no pedestrians, no sidewalk. The most interesting thing to me was the restaurant drive-through. I was like, “You don’t even need to get out of the car to get your food?” I am used to these now, and when I think back, it feels funny that these daily life activities would fascinate me.
3. What do you enjoy about living in Knoxville?
One of the things I enjoy most is the quietness here. I like the country life. Wherever you go, there’s “green” in your sight. I like that you plan your life here because you make appointments for almost everything. The public library is one of my favorite places. One important thing for me about living here, not just Knoxville but anywhere in this country, is that people are free—free to move around and free to express their opinions.
4. What do you miss most about your life in China?
I miss the diversity of Chinese food. I miss that you can walk on the road almost anywhere without worrying about being hit by a car. I also miss the easily accessible public transport.
5. What would you like to say to people who perhaps (a) have never met anyone from China or (b) are afraid about COVID-19?
a) Chinese people are not different from any other nationality, even though they have different skin color, eat different food, and have different habits. The majority of them are nice people, just like the majority of Americans. They deserve to be treated well, just as any American needs to be treated well. The Chinese government (or CCP) is not the same as the Chinese people. Please be aware, the Chinese people do not have as many choices as American people do. They do not have freedom of speech; they don’t know how to get information from outside China, and they don’t understand any language other than Chinese.
b) You don’t need to panic about COVID-19. However, you do need to take it seriously. Practice social distancing and follow the guidelines from the CDC. Watch the news, but not too much. Read the science behind the virus and keep up with the latest research results if you can.
READY TO GET INVOLVED?
Some Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants have experienced increased prejudice since the outbreak of COVID-19. Please DO NOT direct fear or blame toward people who look like they are from East Asia. Some of them have resided in Knoxville all their lives! Now is the time to reach out to our international neighbors and coworkers even more than we did before.
*Name changed for privacy.
(photo by bongkarn thanyakij, from Pexels)