Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thoughts On Growing Up Around Boston Chinatown

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.
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