I have always had a good
relationship with my father, but I knew little about his life other than as my father. My goal was
to change that as I sat down to breakfast with him one Sunday morning. For as long as I could
remember, he has always been the strong, dependable adult in my life. When I was little, I thought of
him as the respectable man who knew everything there was to know about math and riding bikes. Now
that I am older, I realize that at one point my father was a child. Although this is hard to
picture, I feel that the time has come for me to know about his life before the one he leads
Good morning, Fubao L. What do you do for a
living? In other words, what do you do during the day while your kids are busy at
I am a research scientist. I work at the university in the
Department of Dermatology. What we essentially do is try to find methods of increasing the speed at
which wounds heal. It is actually very
When did you decide this is what you
wanted to do for a living?
I think I always knew that I wanted to do
some kind of research. I thought of science as something that affects people's lives, and hopefully
one day it could save lives. I've always found that very appealing. I attended the Medical
University of China in Beijing, and I think that that is when I knew for sure that medical research
was what I wanted to do.
The Medical University of
China in Beijing ... Did you grow up in China?
I did. I only came to
America in 1989.
I'm assuming that your childhood in
China was very different from the childhood of someone who grew up in America. Tell me about
Yes, my childhood was definitely very different from an American
one. I lived in a small village about a 30-minute drive from Beijing. You could never tell it was
near the capital though. My village was one of those communities where you knew everyone's name and
family history. It was like a giant family, you could say.
My parents owned a
small shop where everyone went for snacks and fast food. It was great, because I could always get
snacks free. I especially remember the ice cream. It was so good, and I could have it whenever I
wanted. All the kids at school were so jealous of
Sounds good to me. Was school difficult
for you?Were you interested in science back then?
I was one
of those kids who loved school, and I was a superb student. All the other kids would come to me
for help on homework and some would want to pay me to do their homework. I guess that's one of the
things that is the same in China and America.
Yes, I always loved science, but I
remember back then, my real thing was math. Math was my favorite and I always placed high in the
county championships. Subjects like history and language didn't come as easily for me. I found it
difficult to memorize all those dates and people and words!
But the subject that
really was my weakest was music. I remember we had to sing these patriotic songs, and I just
couldn't! It wasn't that I didn't try, I just had the worst voice ever. I would always dread music
Did you have such luxuries as school buses
No way. No school buses, which was tough since school
was at least a mile away. All the kids would get up at the crack of dawn and walk to school
together. A mile sounds like a long way, but we had so much fun talking and laughing that it didn't
seem far. Winters were very harsh in the northern part of China, and it would get down to maybe 20
degrees below zero, not to mention layers of snow and chilling winds. I don't know how we did it,
but we somehow managed to walk to school in that weather, and now everyone makes a big deal out of
it. It seems like people were a lot tougher in those days!
As for television, we
didn't have any. We didn't even have a telephone. We didn't really need television though, because
we were always busy playing outside. As I said, the whole village was like a giant family. I would
alway splay outside with the other kids. There was a river right near our village, and we played
there all the time. I remember the waters being crystal clear. We could swim and fish, too.
It's sad though, how much has changed. A few years ago, I went back to China and
visited my family who is still living in that village. Chang Bai He has changed so much. The water
is muddy brown and is so polluted that dead fish float on the surface. What a
That is very sad. Has all of China changed in
I cannot say about all of China. I've only been back to the
northern part. In some aspects, things have changed for the better, and in other ways, for the
worse. Today, people have televisions and telephones and school buses and all the modern
conveniences that people in America have. However, the air and environment are becoming more and more
polluted. The air is very thick and filled with dust, so dusty that you do not even need sunscreen!
I guess that is good, but seriously, it's a shame what happened to many natural aspects of China
like Chang Bai He. It used to be beautiful, and now it is like a
That is a shame. Your daughter is a
teenager now. Tell me what you think is different about today's teenagers compared with teenagers in
Well, actually, I don't think things are that different.
There are the supposedly "bad" kids, but most teenagers then balanced healthy fun
with schoolwork, which was very important. It was my top priority, but I was one of the nerdy
Although what was trendy or popular has changed, I think that
teenagers will always be teenagers. Teens like to be rebellious and independent and to have fun. I
totally understand that, and I am okay with my kids being like that as long as they are not harming
themselves and are still on top of their schoolwork.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.