November 8, 2015
Hola amigos! As I write this, I’m at the most wonderful place. If you ever get a chance to come to Lake Atitlán, stay at the Maya Moon Lodge. But I’m sure every place here is just as great so you probably can’t go wrong. But before I share with you everything about my experience here in Guatemala, I want to talk briefly about my 2 weeks home with mi madre.
I spent just about 2 weeks in South Florida at my mom’s house before venturing off. During that time, I wanted to make sure all my affairs were in order and that I obtained everything I needed for my trip. What I expected were the usual questions and concerns from my traditional Chinese mother: Do you have a girlfriend?; When are you getting married?; Where are you traveling?; You’re going where?!; Isn’t it dangerous?!; You’re going alone?!; And most importantly, are you hungry? Those are questions any mother would be asking before her only child takes off for a whole year (She didn’t know I would be gone that long. whoops!). What I didn’t expect was a bit of culture shock: both revelational and embarrassing.
One night we had dinner with an old family friend and her family. There was a lot of discussion about my trip and my plan afterward. My mom had told them all about my plans to live in China and learn Mandarin. They said I’ll never want to leave, I’ll have all the attention of the ladies, and will probably meet my future wife. But as the conversation turned to my career, I saw raised eyebrows and scowls. I felt uncomfortable as my mom danced around the subject. Now, the Chinese, especially the Wenzhounese, take lots of pride in finding success in entrepreneurship of all kinds. There are tons of Wenzhounese around the world who are living upper-class lives doing “Import/Export”; as they call it. Don’t tell the IRS. One industry they look down upon is the restaurant industry. Mainly because that’s where many Chinese started when they emigrated, including my parents. They know it’s hard work and not very financially rewarding. The prime example they pointed to was my own father. He currently owns a small restaurant in New Jersey. Like my past profession, the Chinese like to be risk-averse. But one thing that I’ve learned in life is that there are no sure things. If my parents didn’t take the risk to come to America, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel and see the world. I will take all the criticism as extra motivation to not necessarily prove them wrong but to make them proud of me as a Wenzhou-Chinese-American.