In my summer bucket list, I talked about how I want to finish interviewing my dad. We’ve been sporadically doing this for over a year now, and we only made it to his thirty-year-old self yesterday. That means he’s about to finally start talking about how he came to America, which I think will be some of the most interesting stories. They’ll have some pretty strong competition though. Here are a few of my favorites that he’s told so far.
A Strange Coincidence
While Mao Zedong was in control, every student in China had to memorize this thing called the Little Red Book. Basically it was a bunch of sayings about how great Mao and his advisors were.
One day, my dad took his two-year-old sister with him to school because the adults were all busy, and she ripped out the fifth page from his book, which was about how great this general was. In other words, she was a normal little kid, but in China at the time, this would have been seen as serious disrespect towards the general. If you were already from a suspicious family, it could even be taken as a criminal act of revolt. That was why my dad got very nervous about it and either tried to fix it or keep it a secret.
But then a few months after the accident, Mao thought that the general was trying to usurp him. The general tried to flee by airplane to Stalin because he was on good terms with the USSR after giving advice to the military in WWII (which is a crazy story by itself), but the airplane crashed in Mongolia. Everybody died in the crash—his wife, his son, all the people closest to him. It was a big, big deal.
After two or so weeks, the Chinese government officially announced that Lin Biao had try to run away as a traitor and was now considered an enemy of the country. And then everybody had to rip out the general’s page from their Little Red Books.
What A Nerd
When he was in middle school, he would think about math problems while taking the cows out to graze. His reasoning for why he did this was because there was only so much he could do without paper or pencil or anything else, but I would probably have thought about nothing before I thought about math problems.
Then in college, he reviewed over the summer what he was going to be studying the next year. It wasn’t required, but he did it because there wasn’t much to do and it made the school year easier.
Actually a nerd.
Confused By My Mom
During dinner one time, my mom was crying inconsolably. She cried for around half and hour to an hour before she was finally able to tell him what was wrong. It was because her roommate’s sister’s husband had died. My dad doesn’t remember what he actually said, but he remembers feeling bewildered about why she was so upset about it.
First Impressions Of Japan
First, an explanation: in America, there’s always a connector between the airplane and the airport, but in other places, sometimes there’s a bus instead. When my dad arrived in Japan for the first time, that was the type of plane he was in. It was raining really hard, and as the passengers got off the plane, the stewards stood on either side of them, holding umbrellas over the customers while letting themselves be soaked.
Brush With Infamy
While he was still in China, my dad went on a few business trips to America. During those visits, he and his co-workers visited engineering labs to check out the products their company was planning to buy. Each time, they met up with a Chinese man who acted as their guide/translator.
This was in the 1990s, and at the time (and probably today still), America had rules that some of its products—especially those used in the military—could not be sold to China. The deal that the man had helped arrange between the company my dad worked at and the company he visited in America was fine, but the man arranged illegal deals for the Chinese government as well. Because it was so dangerous, the man made bank.
My dad found all of this out later in 2005. He had moved to the US by then, and while reading the newspapers, he saw that the man had been caught by the FBI.
Do you remember any of your first impressions of new places you’ve visited?
What’s the nerdiest behavior you’ve ever heard about? Mine is when my physics teacher told us that during war movies, if a bomb drops a mile away but you hear the sound at the same time, he thinks about how the sound should be delayed.
If you had to guess, where would you put yourself on the feeling spectrum on a scale of 1 to 10?
P.P.S. More stories from my dad.