My Chinese Thanksgiving

America is a country founded upon immigration and a myriad of cultures with nowhere to go, hoping for a better opportunity. We were all immigants at one point in our family history. Benjamin Franklin’s father was an Englishman. President Obama’s father was Kenyan. It is in our history to be from other places, but we are all still American.

While my parents immigrated from China nearly thirty years ago, they steadfastly held on to the roots and culture of the Chinese. It comes as no surprise that the most important holiday of the year in my family is still the Chinese New Year. However, they’ve lived in America for nearly thirty years, and we’ve had to assimilate–especially when both my brother and I started learning about all these American holidays when we started school, and not quite understanding why we didn’t do anything for Christmas.

Of course, assimilation in my family did not mean taking the culture and values of Americans and using that as the standard for our household. Instead, as Chinese people have done for centuries, milleniums even, we take parts of other people’s culture and make it our own. We just celebrated Thanksgiving last night, just like every year for as long as I clearly remember celebrating Thanksgiving. Every year, We have a turkey, ham, and sometimes yams. That is where we stop being American and we deviate into Chinese culture.

Chinese Roasted Pork - picture from culinaryescapade.com

Chinese people, particularly Chinese people from Southern China, tend to like our food cooked and warm. This means that we do not eat salads. We saute our lettuce with garlic instead of adding dressing. We add shrimp to our broccoli because shrimp is also something that is nearly always present in large family meals. At our Thanksgiving, we will have bok choy without fail. Having any sort of family dinner without bok choy at the table is just unthinkable–at least to me. Another food item that always seem to be present is the roast pork. No, this is not a roast pork as the Western culture sees it but roast pork as you would see at a luai where the skin is crispy and the meat is moist and delicious. This is our chinese version of roast pork. When you read that, you’re probably thinking that there aren’t any carbs in our menu. When you’re having a Chinese meal, the carb is nearly always rice (again, this is southern Chinese). Soup is crucial to any meal when you’re in a Chinese household; we had lotus root soup last night.

It’s not the traditional American Thanksgiving I see on television shows, nor is it like what my collegues talk about–instead my family celebrates a very Chinese-American Thanksgiving and I like it just fine.

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Rite of Passage of a Parasite-Single

First step of the parasite single

Never in my life have I worked in proper customer service. The first job I ever got was working as a clerk in an office environment. My work and educational background basically programmed me to have all the skills required for office or administrative work; not customer service. Every CS job I have ever applied for has failed to return my inquires and outright ignored my resume. The best response I ever received was an email from the clothing retailer H&M that I was overqualified to work in a sales position. At that point, I became a discouraged worker.

Now that I have a bachelor’s degree and I am once again living at home, I have become an unemployment statistic of the US Department of Labor. What’s worse is that my title has been demoted from “university student” to “parasite-single.” What is a parasite-single? According to Wikipedia the parasite-single is a Japanese term for a single person who lives at home until their late 20s or early 30s. Basically, someone who leeches off their parents (thanks for letting me do this, Mom and Dad!).

The problem is, being a parasite single would not eat away at my conscience if I made some sort of income contribution to the household. According to the lack of responses from my job search, I am either overqualified thanks to my degree or underqualified as a result my lack of relevant work experience. So what is an early 20-something recent university graduate supposed to do? Apparently, keep on truckin’ and you will eventually find someone who will hire you.

For example: after two and a half months of epic job searching, a retailer finally hires me as part-time with nearly 40 hours a week. A job! In this day and age, having a job in itself is a cause for celebration. Yet as I stand behind the register gaining retail experience, I realize that I am not being challenged to think or use my mind. There is also little to no chance of me being promoted from my parasite-single title with the wage I am getting.

So my first step as a recent college graduate in a failing economy is pretty much taking any job I can get. Is this attributed to a lack of talent, or luck? Perhaps a bit of both; however, I like to think that it is a rite of passage.