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stand on Angel Island. I feel the solid ground below my feet, and for the first time in two months, I see life. I smile and tug on Fùq?n’s shirt. “Bà Bà, We’re here.”
We gather our suitcases filled with clothing and food and remember the time before we departed.
“Háizi, we must move to the new country to find better life.” my parents said to me.
“That’s not fair!” I shouted. “Why does it have to be our family?”
“We cannot support us all on little pay under one little roof” they explained.
“I don’t want to leave! I’m not going!”
Before I knew it, we were standing at the dock and were ready to board. We climbed on a ship with a bunch of letters on the side that spelled out “Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company.” I had learned to read a little bit by school; forty-five minutes a day.
I reach in my pocket and remember a letter from my grandfather, who I never met, or will. He had asked Fùq?n to give it to me. It read:
I know small English. I want you to know my job here in America. I work long day on train track for transcontinental railroad. It is dangerful and many my friends die. I come here to find money and better life. I make good money, but not healthy. People talk bad things about my people. I hope to meet you soon.
I pocketed the note and a tear suddenly fell down the side of my cheek. I wished I could’ve met him. I also felt unsteady about leaving the one and only place I could call home.
I stood at the dock and felt the cool wind blowing in my face. I reach in my other pocket and find a single American dollar bill and a fruity chew candy. We had traded some of our yuan into dollars. The candy was something the whole family got from Hong Kong for good luck.
I turn around and take one last glance at my used-to-be home. But we are going to find a new one. A better one.
We board the ugly ship. It was disgusting. It was hot, stuffy, and had a stench of urine and vomit. M?q?n was hyperventilating. “M? M?! Take deep breaths!” we all cried at her. We were all afraid. We took her to the corner and after a few minutes, she was better.
I tried to stay away from the sickly environment. I stayed in a small corner away from all the other people.
I stand on Angel Island. I feel the solid ground below my feet, and for the first time in two months, I see life. I smile and tug on Fùq?n’s shirt. “Bà Bà, We’re here.”
We gather our suitcases filled with clothing and food. Now that we have all successfully arrived, it was time to have another inspection. We prayed to Buddha that we would pass. We have gone too far to turn back.
Terrified and nervous, we were called in one by one to be examined. They asked me for my name and age. “Hui Liang Chang, 11.” They checked my body for any signs of disease. Then, they checked my face. They checked my eyes and the back of my throat. After many deep breaths and heart-pounding minutes, it was finally over, they told me I was fine and told to be seated on the bench outside to wait as my parents got their inspection.
Fùq?n joined me about fifteen minutes later. We didn’t say much while M?q?n took her turn other than the crowding of immigrants here. We waited for about thirty minutes but she didn’t come out of that room. We were then told twenty minutes later that M?q?n couldn’t pass. She had caught typhus. The nurse said it was a disease spread by lice or fleas. She had a high fever, low blood pressure, and a red rash on her body that slowly spread.
We decided to wait until she got better before she would get sent back to China. We checked on her everyday to see if she was improving. She was put on a few antibiotics, which we paid a lot for. Within the next two weeks, she was released. We all cried out of joy and relief and for the first time since we left home, we laughed.
After walking and walking, we settled in a small neighborhood with people like us. We learned that it was common in America, to be in groups with people of your own kind. They spoke Chinese and they walked over and greeted us. We didn’t say much because we were afraid to trust anyone.
We climbed up into our cramped and dirty apartment building. We unpacked and went to sleep for the night. It didn’t take long before we were all snoring away.
The next morning, we made breakfast.
“N?'ér, what would you like to eat?” M?q?n asked.
“Nothing, M?m?. I’m not hungry.” I replied.
She knew that was my usual answer in the morning. She fried three eggs, for each one for the family. Then she went to look for a job. We stayed at home organizing the house, wondering how M?q?n did.
Rejected. What did we think? We could come here and find a better job? It was all a waste. Our 28 days spent in that filthy chicken coop have gone to waste!
Then next day, she tried again. She found one in a stuffy factory. She had a really mean boss, who took away her salary for laughing behind his back. She worked really hard. She eventually stopped talking and she would sit on the unstable chair and rest her eyes for a little bit and end up asleep. She then stopped eating and got high fevers and colds.
We got help from the benevolent societies, who helps in case of death, sickness, or unemployment. They tried to help her, but it couldn’t be cured. We waited weeks, and prayed each day, giving her all the love and support she can get. She got better each day, and soon, she was able to get up on her feet.
I hoped to live a better life than back in China. M?q?n almost died, and our house is terrible, but through everything that has happened over the past three months, we still stuck together. I learned that if we stay together, we can accomplish anything. I figured this was a good time for the lucky candy. I put it in my mouth and savored the sweet taste of the confection that had traveled so far. I threw away the wrapper, and gave both my parents a big hug, looking up out the window smiling, knowing that Buddha was watching us.