Growing up, my life was centered around the people and events happening around Boston Chinatown. Every single weekend, Saturday and Sunday, I was there, at 90 Tyler Street, for Chinese dance, Chinese music, and Chinese language classes. From kindergarten until the summer I graduated college, Boston Chinatown was my second home.
Of course, initially, it wasn't by choice. What kid wants to spend all their free time cooped up at lessons? I have my parents, and especially my Mom, to thank for that. My parents were petrified that I would lose my "Chineseness." That I would become so American that I wouldn't be able to speak Cantonese, or that I wouldn't understand the customs and manners Chinese people have (i.e. receive items given to you by elders with two hands). I'd think it was such a trivial concern, obviously, paled in comparison to the seriousness the concerns of a middle schooler. Retaining a "Chinese" identity while living in the US was not a concern for me at the time. It's a different story now- a story for another post, where we can discuss the issues surrounding identity.
When I got to high school, I began to really appreciate the impact that being immersed in the Boston Chinatown community had on me. I embraced all the classes and performances we had as part of the Chinese-hammered dulcimer group. It was fun hanging out with my friends who were all part of the same thing. I was proud to have such in-depth knowledge about Chinese culture that most of my Chinese-American friends didn't have. In fact, I was just in Hong Kong this past summer, and I realized I had even more knowledge of Chinese stories and myths that even my born-and-raised-in Hong Kong friend did. Maybe it's a generational thing because I certainly held a conversation with her mother about it.
Anyway, I realize I had an interesting childhood- one that shaped my personality and my skills. My current public speaking abilities most definitely stemmed from the countless times I had to present myself on stage, answer interview questions, or give speeches. Sure, I would have loved to sleep in or have a free weekend now and then, but being around Boston Chinatown made me feel like I was part of a community, a community that I will always hold fond memories for.