The stench of vomit and unemptied pots had become overwhelming in the cabin I thought to myself while looking at the ceiling. The living space was very small and had no privacy and I see another man curled up in the corner as a result of seasickness making very vulgar noises. The stench has become unbearable. The storm outside had become so bad that my bed is sliding around the room.The waves are hitting the boat vigorously I thought as my bed moved across the room again. I had come on this journey to reach America, to find gold nuggets found in Californian river.
“Hey!” shouted a man from the room next to me.
“Why do you have to be so obnoxious Zhang?”
“Sorry, I was just making sure sure you were still here” he exclaimed. Everybody in my room has died”. I'm starting to wonder if this was a good idea-
“Of course it was” I yelled cutting him off. “After all we have been through how could you possibly think that”. “Would you rather be back at home working on a farm all day and night wanting to collapse at night”, I said passionately. “This gold can give us a better opportunity at life, and supporting our family” I said to Zhang. Zhang back at home had always been lazy and not wanting to work. His family is very poor(even poorer than mine) and the opportunity at gold had become very seductive to him. “Whoa” I said as the boat came to a fast halt. “What was that?”
“We have arrived in America”shouted a booming voice through the walls of the ship.
I jumped up from my bed and ran out the door of my cabin and saw a skyline of cities and factories. “This is where we're going to make it” I said to Zhang. We then stepped off the boat onto American soil and prepared to strike gold.
Two Weeks Later..
It has been two weeks since we have gotten off the boat in California. Zhang and I have been working with these two brash American gold seekers. They saw Zhang and I arrive off the boat, and being the only relatively healthy men we were right for the job.The first man is named Alex Smith. Smith is tall and has a deep voice. When he bellows out orders we can't help but do what he wants. Smith's partner is named Jim Brown. Brown is a short and stocky fellow who is not capable of the physical work that needs to be done to find the gold. Because Zhang and I practice Buddhism the Americans have become both annoyed and intrigued.
“What is that crap, that you two are talking about” said Smith.
“It is Buddhism” I said to Smith trying not to get angry. It is our way of belief back in China.
“What's that about, I mean who are you praying to” said Smith.
“We don't pray to anyone I said, It is more a belief system”. “We believe in living a peaceful life and in nirvana.”
“Living peacefully” said Smith. “What is that mumbo jumbo” aid Smith who started laughing uncontrollably. “No” said Smith “that's not real. “You guys need to convert to Christianity” “You know the religion where there actually is a God” said Smith.
“You know the religion where there is a purpose” said Brown, not that “lets live life in peace and harmony nonsense.” They both started laughing with tears coming out of their eyes. Zhang and I looked at each other and I could see the anger in his eyes. I mouthed to him don't worry about it, because after all finding gold is the most important thing. Petty arguments over differences in religion are of no concern to me. The only thing of concern is getting gold, and they can help us.
Three months later:
I have now been in America For over three months and we have yet to find gold. Smith and Brown have become increasingly agitated and are growing restless. I have not been able to contact my wife or children back in China. Every time I begin writing a letter to them Smith comes over and tears it up.
“Don't worry about them” Smith exclaimed “you only have one job and that job is to find the gold and if you want to see your family again get back to work” he would say.
“Yes sir” I would say. I would respond as if I am his slave. We have been struggling to work together as a cohesive unit. The Americans appear to think less of us, as if we're some inferior race. Ironically we are the ones doing all of the hard work in the partnership. If I make an error in a sentence or use a word incorrectly (English is not my native language) he begins to laugh
“Look at this, Jim” he would said “ these animals come over from some distant country and can't even speak proper English!”he said “It's insulting to be working with them” Smith would say in between drinks of his booze.
Ironically Zhang and I are the ones actually working I would think to myself, not daring to say it to him. This is becoming very strenuous work and even I am begging fro think of Zhang was right. “Maybe this wasn't such a good idea” he had said back on the boat, a notion I originally scolded at. Zhang may have been right.
Six Months Later:
It had now been six months since arriving here in America. I have still not found gold. My body has become increasingly fragile and weak after all the strenuous work that Smith and Brown had put us through, the work becoming increasingly difficult. Zhang after being worked to hard with no breaks or water suffered a stroke. Zhang is resting in a cabin and will not be able to work for sometime. As the heat of the sun stares down at my back with the intensity of 1,000 degrees I had an epiphany.Being that Zhang and I are Chinese we never had a chance at being taken seriously by the Americans. We were always just a means to an end for them, nothing more than an animal pulling along a carriage.
As I presented this idea to Smith he responded “That is not true” he said “we see you just as any other man.” “In Fact you have taught me many things across our tenure working together”he said in an almost convincing way “you have shown great hard work and dedication on these grounds”. “ Any two races can work together and understand each other in any given situation.”
Before I could respond my legs began shaking and I collapsed.
“GET UP” screamed Smith.
As I staggered to my feet I picked up my shovel and in an act of defiance threw it at the ground.
“What was that?” Said Smith as he jumped up and grabbed his shovel. Smith and brown began vigorously digging at the ground.
Dink Dink Dink
I too grabbed a shovel and with all my might lifted up at the ground and out came 3 gold nuggets.
“YES” shouted Smith at the top of his lungs. He rushed over to me hugged me with the force of a bear and put me down. “We did it, see I told you two different people can coexist.”
I took Zhang's and my share off the gold and I rushed to get Zhang. After I got Zhang(who was still unconscious) I began off to the nearest port.
“I'll take you there” said Smith overjoyed with happiness.
At the harbor Myself and Smith exchanged good byes and I was off back to China, back to my family.
After Weng and I discovered the gold I took Weng to the port where he came from. After sharing goodbyes government officials arrived at the port and abducted many Chinese men to work on the new transcontinental railroad. Weng was among them. His friend Zhang was not taken do to him not being in working condition. Weng gave Zhang a letter to his family and his own share of the gold to deliver to his family. While working on the railroad Weng collapsed and suffered a heart attack. Weng died without any attempt at help from the American workers. I cannot help but feel responsible. Working him to hard. I remember Weng's words now “Two different people will never truly understand each other” he had said. My foolish pride shot down this notion. But as I sit here I now realize that Weng was correct; no two different people will truly be able to work or respect each other.