Peopling of NY Paper

Family History of Matias Tong

Matias Tong is the son of two immigrants to the United States, making him a first generation citizen in his family. Matias’s mother came to the Unites States from Taiwan in the 1990s, and his father came to the country in 1988. Both mother and father have very interesting stories behind their fairly recent immigration.

Matias’s mother actually was not the first person in her family to come to the U.S.; her sister had also emigrated from Taiwan with her husband. When his mother wanted to come to the Americas, she actually did not intend to stay in the country; she intended to study film in Canada. Besides this, she wanted also to see new places and have some adventure. When she told her mother that she wanted to go to school in the Canada, the first question her mother asked her was, “Are you sure you really want to go?” and the second question when she had responded that she desperately wanted to travel there was, “How much is this going to cost me and your father?”

His mother was excited about the prospects of traveling abroad and going overseas to an entirely new area of the world. She did fail the TOEFL test, and she was a little insecure about her English speaking skills, but she remained, nevertheless, excited to go to a different country. Matias’s mother flew into Canada, where she went to college. For some time she did study film in Canada. During her schooling, she worked in a beading factory for a little while to make more money to support herself. Unfortunately, the manager of the company let her go because he said she was young and could be doing better things. Without a job, Matias’s mother was able to find a temporary home in a pastor’s house in Canada with his family. One time they played a joke on her, and for breakfast only put out milk and cereal. This was amusing because she had told the family how food is valued in Taiwan and they enjoyed full meals. The family then showed her that they had a full breakfast ready. She really appreciated the time she was able to spend with that family. Some time later, she was living with another Canadian family. Becoming great friends with the daughter of this family, Matias’s mother had a premium opportunity to pick up some very important English words and language skills.

While in school, she did, however, receive word from her parents that they would no longer be able to support her and pay for her tuition at school. His mother had two choices now: stay in the Americas and find some way to support herself or return to Taiwan and most likely never have the chance to travel again. At this time, she received an important phone call from her friend in the United States. Her friend said that she was getting married, and she wanted Matias’s mother to come to the country for the wedding. The friend ended up paying for her plane ticket, but she was able to come for the wedding. Matias’s mother has since told him that had she gone back to Taiwan again, she never would have been able to leave from there again.

After the wedding, Matias’s mother was able to live with her own sister in the United States. The sister had come over from Taiwan with her husband because they wanted the better education system that the country had to offer. They had a young son and daughter. While the schools in Taiwan were still strong in sciences and math, they believed that the American school system also pushed for students to be creative and think in different ways, something that was not especially advocated in schools of other countries. She lived in her sister’s house for a while, and it was actually her sister who worked in the post office in town who introduced her to her future husband, Matias’s father.

Matias’s father is from Hong Kong, but the immigration story for his father’s side of the story actually begins with Matias’s aunt, his father’s sister. The sister had come to the United States from Hong Kong in 1975 as a tourist, but she ended up liking it so much that she decided to stay and live in the U.S. permanently. Like many other people other people during the past hundred years, she saw the U.S. as a place of opportunity where she could find a job, earn more money, and hopefully one day fly the rest of her family over to live with her. She worked as a housekeeper for a little bit, but the work was very hard for one house, so she was forced to quit. Soon after, she found another job as a housekeeper, this time working with another woman in a Connecticut household where the workload was much more manageable. She continued working in the household for eight years, and the owner of the house eventually helped her get her green card so she could legally stay in the country for as long as she wished.

When she had made enough money, she sent word back to Hong Kong that she could pay for the rest of her family to come over including Matias’s father. His father was a little hesitant at first; he had a good job in Hong Kong as a Second Marine Engineer, and he didn’t speak much English at all. On the other hand, his job limited his interactions with other people and it was beginning to get lonely, so he finally believed it to be in his best interests to come to the United States with the rest of the family. Matias’s father came to the country in 1988 with his mother, who was 71 years old at the time, and with his sister’s son who was about 18 years old and had been living in Hong Kong and had not been with his mother in many years. The family was able to fly into the country, and they luckily purchased a house where they could all stay together. Fortunately, the sister found a listing for a house in Elmhurst, Queens, where Matias actually lives today.

At first, life in America was challenging for Matias’s father; he didn’t know many people or the language very well, so making connections was a lengthy process. He read the newspaper to try to learn English quickly, and it was in doing this that he one day spotted a job listing for a position in the Frick Museum. Language was not a main factor for the job anyway as he would be working as a refrigeration operator in the museum, which is basically maintaining the air conditioning systems of the building. Later he found a better job working for the post office, which is how he met the sister of Matias’s mother, and eventually was introduced to the mother. The two dated and married, and they continued living in Elmhurst.

Matias’s mother still speaks Mandarin and some Taiwanese. His father speaks Cantonese, but he learned English after being in the United States for a while, and he also decided to learn how to speak Mandarin so he could speak to his wife in her own language. Both parents still miss certain aspects of their home countries even today. One major feature that they miss is the food that they used to have in their countries which is a little more difficult to come across over here. Matias’s father takes Matias to China town in the city very often to try the food, which isn’t exactly the same as back at his original home, but they still serve many of the unique dishes and foods that would most likely be found no other place in the country. Each region of China and Taiwan had its own distinct food or dish, and luckily, many of these foods are still made in China town, where many immigrants and Chinese Americans spend time to remind them of their home country.

Matias’s mother was very glad that she came to the United States, because it did give her the chance to travel in a land she had never been before. One regret she did have was at one point while she was living in America, she received word that her father had died. This was an upsetting event to happen to her and she really wanted to go home even though she had only been in the country for a couple of months at that point. Her mother called her and assured her it was okay that she missed the funeral because airfare from the U.S. to Taiwan was incredibly expensive, and coming home meant that she would not have the money to go anywhere again. In the end, she did stay in the country and miss the funeral, but she says that is the one thing she wishes she could have attended more than anything else.

Today, Matias identifies himself as Taiwanese still even though he was born here. He was able to visit Taiwan and Hong Kong, and he greatly enjoys the time he can spend in the countries while visiting relatives who continue to live there. The only members of the family who came to the U.S. are his parents, his mother’s sister, his father’s sister and her husband with their two children, and his grandmother; he has other relatives who chose not to come to America. Although there were many difficulties and emotional tumults along the way, Matias’s family came to the U.S. to find better work and opportunity, and they now have a new place to also call home.

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