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The Adventures of Choran
Author's note: I was really into the culture of China and I found it very fun to research about these immigrants in school. My fellow buddies Kai and Mikio was also part of the production of this novel about a brave boy.
Before the diary:
I was sick and tired of life here in China. Everything was terrible. Our country had a dreadful economy, and the president was just as bad. To top it off, droughts were also a major effect on our crops, causing us to starve, and causing poor farmers like ourselves to not be able to sell important food such as rice. Our economy was bad because we lost the war against the British. Now the British claimed to have the upper hand against us.
My family was in deep economic trouble as well. The majority of our farmland had been destroyed by the war, and all that was left were the remains of the drought. Food supply was very scarce, and there was a major famine across the country. I saw people starving and on the street- many people I knew that used to have homes. My family told me many stories of friends dying, due to starvation. After these sad stories, my family always told my little sister and I about how America was superior, and the land of dreams and opportunity. My birthday came, and I got a diary. I hated writing but I decided to write about my experience, so that I could see what I wrote about back in the day.
(Many of Choran’s diary has been translated from Mandarin to English. This book was published in 2013, but was first written in 1871.)
“Thanks for the journal, mom and dad! I promise to update this journal about everyday.”
That’s the first thing I said, when I got this, my birthday present. Yes, its my birthday!
I had a wonderful day today. Despite all the drought problems we had, things were fine. My best friend Cho came over. He brought me a great birthday present... a chinese drum. We had some sesame chicken Baba had managed to buy. It’s been awhile since I had such a nice meal. Best day ever!
Mama and Baba came up to me today. They told me to sit down, and have a talk. Baba seemed quite serious at first, but once my sister, Primo, and I sat down, Baba smiled and stood up. “ Children, listen. I have important news to announce.”
Primo and I looked at each other, and then back to Baba.
“ What is it, Baba?” I asked.
“ We’re moving to America!” Baba said.
“ I’m sick off all the issues we’ve had to go through in China, and I want food!”
Primo and I clapped and cheered, and we all happily ate a small dinner together.
Today was the third day of packing. I had already packed my clothes, but I didn’t know what items to bring. Should I bring photos of my friends? Should I bring toys from my childhood? I knew that I would miss my stuff, but I also knew that I would probably get a ton of new toys and clothes. I decided to bring the things that were most important to me. Oh, and diary, you are one of these things.
I couldn’t sleep all night. I was thinking about what it might be like in America. Would I fit in with American kids? Are they nice? Did they have a lot of food over there? I don’t know, but I’m scared. I can’t even speak english.
Today was the day. We were sailing to the land of dreams and opportunity! In a few hours we will be on a boat to america. I have never been on a boat. This is exciting!
Sailing wasn’t like what I thought it would be like. The way this boat rocked back and forth made me sick. Also, we had to sleep at the bottom of the boat, whe
re it was dark, damp, and CROWDED. There were at least 400 people down here. Why so many? I’m guessing we weren’t the only ones that were frustrated with life in China. I see many kids on the boat, but many seem to be very shy and timid. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make some friends before I go to America.
Everyday is the same. I have already thrown up many times. The food we get is terrible. I will not be updating my journal for the next 3 months because everyday is the same on this stupid boat. If anything exciting happens though, I will be sure to inform you!
FINALLY!!!!! WE ARE IN AMERICA!!!! Enough of that boat life. America is just like I expected it to me. The land of opportunities and dreams. Many of the people on the boat ran off the boat and kissed the ground and prayed to Buddha. Baba did the same. I have a feeling that I’m going to like this place.
So right now we’re in this really nice place and I can’t wait to sleep in this bed. They should have had this on that boat. Soon we’ll be moving into our house on the San Francisco bay. A lot of our friends were living there too. The SF bay is really popular to Chinese. There are also a lot of white people over there, and hopefully I’ll be able to get over my cultural differences, and become friends with them.
Today we are moving into the new apartment area that was built for us while we were on the ship. Seemingly, we are starting a whole new Chinese American village! I hope I get to meet new kids and have new friends on the trip.
We moved into our new Chinese American village, and it wasn’t as nice as I thought it was. I’ve heard of huge mansions with big swimming pools, but this was nothing like that. When we were moving into the village, many white people were looking at us weirdly. It made me have a weird feeling inside; a feeling that made me nervous. Had I done anything wrong? I asked Mama and Baba about it, and they just brushed the thought aside, saying,
“ Relax on your first day in your new house Choran! Everything will be fine!”
I thought we would have the house to ourselves like we did in China. But boy, had I never been so wrong. We had to share the hut with two other families of four. The hut was very small and it took a lot of time just to get from our family’s room to the living room because there were so many people in the hut. At least the two families were friendly though. There was a boy about my age. His name was Yao Lin. It was nice to be able to make a friend in America.
I found out that I was not going to school. I was going to be homeschooled with the Zhang and Xíao family. Our teacher was my mother, or was we called her during “school”, Mrs. Sun. My mother was very nice at home, but when it came to school, she became very strict. She assigned us lots of homework to do at home, while our father looked for a job.
Who knew that I had to go to school in America as well!
America is a disgrace. I went to a market close to the village today by myself with Yao Lin. We went to go buy fruits for our family. As we walked, kids on the street stopped talking and looked at us and laughed. Many said, “ Ching chong”, or things that made no sense. Hearing this made me angry. I clenched my fist. These kids were Irish. They were just scared that they were going to get picked on, so they picked on other immigrant races.
“Calm down, Choran,” Yao Lin whispered, “If we fight them, we’ll get in even more trouble than they will. We can never win.” Many kids placed their hands on the side of their eyes and stretched them outwards and stuck their tongue out at us. I was better than these kids.
One yelled, “ Get off our sidewalk! Haven’t you heard about the new law, you pig!”
Yao Lin and I ran home mad as can be. I quickly said bye to Yao Lin and went into my room and slammed the door.
My dad came home today. He didn’t look as happy as he did when he went to go find work. He went straight to sleep. Primo and I looked at each other confused, and my mom scrambled over to their room to see if he was ok. I’m scared. Oh, and I checked what law those kids were talking about. It was called the “The Sidewalk Ordinance” law. This law had to do with Chinese people walking with long rods. I was infuriated. I wasn’t even holding a long rod last night. That law had nothing to do with me. I decided not to tell Baba, Primo, and Mama about my incident.
My dad was mad because my father became a railroad worker. He was mad because he thought he was going to become a gold miner, but seemingly “chinese” people weren't allowed to have that job. I’m scared to leave the Chinese village. Americans seem like scary people, who just don’t like our race. I hope I don’t have to leave the village for a while. I’m kinda starting to miss China.
Today, my dad came home in a great mood. He said he got a job at a Chinese restaurant called Zhao Long’s Kitchen. I was glad that he was able to find a job. I was scared that my dad would be used in the railroads for a cheap wage. That was what I heard. And I didn’t want my dad to look for gold because that was a very low chance that he would find gold since he didn’t know how to mine or use the hydraulic method to dig gold.
I had my first meal at Zhao Longs Kitchen. I had a great time. We ate Chow Mein with some sesame chicken. My dad seemed to be going along great with the other employees. They were all chinese immigrants. All his other friends in the village worked at the railroads. I’m happy Baba got a job here instead because it was a much easier job, and there my dad worked with a fair wage.
Now immigrants are getting a foreigner tax. All immigrants are supposed to pay... but realistically, Chinese immigrants are the only ones who pay. How unfair is that? Unbelievable. It seemed like everyone was looking down at us. When Baba heard this, he just looked down and sighed.
“ We’re running out of money already... there has to be another way to gain some cash,” he had said. He looked really tired.
Today we are going to the post office to send money back to our cousins back in China. I hope they are doing well because I heard terrible things about the economy in China, and the droughts that caused my cousins crops to fail, causing them to not gain much money... once again this year. I miss China but it’s a good thing we came over here. I’m more than happy to send them money though because we make a lot in America, and if you think about it, family comes first-Great Baba.
Today I felt quite suspicious. I’ve been noticing that Baba has always been going to Zhao Longs Kitchen. He always looked around before he went in. I also noticed Baba come out with a few different americans yesterday, out of Zhao Long’s kitchen. I might just be paranoid, but if I’m right, something funny’s going on. I have to get to the bottom of this.
Since I was 13, my mother started teaching us health today. She first taught us about drugs, and how tobacco and cocaine and other drugs were very bad for you. I learned that another way to say Cocaine was “ candy ”, or “coke.”
Tonight, Baba brought a weird looking brown sandbag from the kitchen. Wierd huh? I reached out to touch it, but he slapped me. I have never been slapped by Baba my entire life. What's going on?
(Later on that day)
I found out what’s so special about the sand bag. I sneaked into Baba's room when he was at work, and opened the sand bag. It was labeled, “Opium.” I don’t know what it is, its just powder.
I went over to the kitchen today. I was the only one inside. I looked around, and then went into the basement. Sandbags everywhere. What’s going on with Baba, Zhao Long, and the sandbags?
It was December and it was getting colder and colder everyday. And as days passed, Baba came home later and later. A few days earlier, Baba came home very very late. It was over three hours after my bedtime. When I went over to the kitchen yesterday, all the sandbags were gone. Did someone take them?
I was getting worried about these sandbags and I informed Mama that the sandbags were gone. She quickly went into Baba’s bag to look for his wallet. It was loaded with cash. Mama went running to her room, crying. I was scared. I followed her into the room.
“What is that Mama?” I questioned.
“It’s a drug, Choran. It kills you but it makes you feel happy when you use this.”
“Does Baba use this?”
“No, he trades them for money.”
“Then how is it bad? He’s helping us make a lot of money.”
“It’s illegal to do this! You’re giving toxic to people, Choran!”
I realized how serious this was. Mama was sobbing now. I needed to stay away from the opium bags. If it was illegal, our whole family could get caught and be sent to the railroads. Mama looked up at me and held my hand. She was shaking with fear.
“ We’re going to leave this place, Choran,” she said, “ It’s our only hope.”
Mama could still work and still make enough money for us. I hated Baba for doing something that could kill so many people. I had to pack up my things. We were moving to Sacramento near the river.
Today was the big day. We had to run away without Baba noticing. But the only route we could go through to get to the North was through the street with Zhao Long’s Kitchen. We had to wear a shawl over our head’s to not get caught. We headed to the street and immediately saw one of the employees there but we kept walking straight. Just when we thought we were clear, the employee went inside and came back with Baba. We were scared and walked faster and faster.
“Kuai Hua! Where are you going?” Baba shouted at Mama.
Mama kept walking forward. She never stopped.
“Kuai Hua, what did I do wrong?” Baba screamed.
“Everything! You plan to make money out of other people’s deaths! Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself? Wo Tao Yan Ni!”
With that, my mother and I walked off down the street. The rain poured on us, as we walked forward. I couldn’t help but look back. Baba just looked at me and put his hand out in my direction. His hair was sopping wet, and he was shivering. Tears flowed down my eyes and blocked my vision as I took a last glance towards Baba.
“ No! Baba!” Primo yelled, as she looked back. Mama was also crying. We were all sobbing as we walked off, step by step. Baba was on his knees, head down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I sprinted forward and ran ahead of Mama, who was holding Primo’s hand. I was screaming in frustration and depression. I fell down and cried and cried. I didn’t even know if the puddle that formed around me was made out of rainwater or teardrops. My life had just been changed forever. I contained myself by the time Mama and Primo walked past me. I could not remove the image of Baba’s face from my head. We walked through the rain without saying a word.
We arrived in Sacramento yesterday. We walked around five to six hours a day. Primo’s legs were tired since she was only nine. Sacramento was a beautiful place. Here, there were very few Chinese people. Mama did not need to find a job. She was going to grow cherries. Mama knew that no one knew how to make cherries in Sacramento. We were going to grow the trees next to the river. Sadly, cherries took about a year to grow. Therefore, we had to have another factor of making money. I knew that this was my time to step up. I told Mama and Primo that I’d get a job. Mama started to cry and she hugged me. Primo seemed proud. This week I’ll go out to go find a job.
Today was christmas, according to American traditions. It was the day where Santa Claus would leave presents for kids overnight but kids who were “naughty” didn’t get any. I thought I was quite a patient boy this year but this morning there was nothing there and I was a bit disappointed. I guess Santa thought I wasn’t a good boy this year. Or maybe he only give gifts to Americans, I’m not sure.
Happy new years everybody! Today I sent out postcards to old friends back from China.
I finally got my job today. It was at the railroad construction. A lot of people worked there, including many of my Chinese friends from my old village. When they saw me their eyes widened.
“ Why are you here?” One of them said, who I thought I recognized.
“ I’m here because I need to support my new family,” I clearly stated.
The two workers looked at each other, and then shrugged.
The two workers names were Yao and Chee. The three of us became quite close, although they were a few years older than me. Today they asked me where I lived. They seemed trustful so I told them about the place I lived in Sacramento, and how long it took to come all the way here.
Seemingly Chinese Americans were starting to take over politically. We were taking many jobs causing the prices of jobs to go down. This is crazy. This will make more people hate us. I don’t even know what to think anymore.
Tomorrow is Primo’s birthday. I decided to buy her something special, so that I could make the day for her special. When I went to the railroads today, I told Yao and Chee and they just smiled at each other and said, “ Whatever feels right.”
I think I know what I’m going to get her.
Today was Primo’s birthday. Today was a miracle. My mind still cannot process what happened. Primo, myself, and Mama all sat down at the dinner table as Primo was about to blow her candles on her cake. She closed her eyes and made a wished. Once she opened her eyes I walked up to her and gave her a bag.
“This is for you,” I had said.
She opened it and took out the new diary I had got her.
“ Thank you Choran!”, she had said, “ I will cherish this for the rest of my life.”
Just as we finished off our cake there was a knock on the door.
“ I’ll get it!” Primo had said, as she dashed off to the door. When she opened it, she started to cry. Guess who was out there. It was Baba. Yao and Chee were behind them, smiling. Baba looked at all of us and looked down.
“ I’m sorry for selling opium and being a disgrace to the family. While you guys were gone I remembered an important lesson my own Baba once taught me. He taught me the true values of family. Family first...you know the rules,” said Baba.
Baba was in tears, and so was I. Tears slid off my cheeks like raindrops on a cold winter day. My mother soon burst into tears and ran across the room towards Baba. I followed her, and the next thing I knew,asllt time we had a family group hug was when we left China.
“I love you Baba! This is the best birthday ever!,” whispered Primo.
“Me Too,” said Mama.
“I’m so sorry guys,” said Baba.
We were still hugging each other...soon Yao and Chee joined in. Baba was right after all. Treasure your friends and family. Always.Forever and ever.
25 years later...
“Baba, I’m going to go to school now!”
“Sure, take care Chorin!” I replied.
I looked over at my beautiful wife, Min Yun smiled.