As I immerse myself into rebuilding a life in Michigan, there are times when I miss my friends from Taiwan. In the six years of my life there, there were so many special people that entered my life: students, colleagues, neighbors, store owners, and coffee shop customers. Through email, Facebook, and Skype, I’m able to keep in touch with many. And I have many mementos from many of them. And in spite of all the good intentions, the connections aren’t as strong as they were when I was living there. I still catch up with a few people here and there, but the daily connections have largely been transferred back to the people here in the US.
However, I still get some really nice surprises. A few weeks ago, a student who became a friend and stayed involved in my life beyond our teacher/student relationship contact me. She sent me a file on Facebook that she wanted me to read. It was an autobiography that she was doing for one of her classes. She focused on her family, and most of what was written there I knew about, although there were a few new details that were new to me. Dante’s parents are divorced, but she does an amazing job of being part of both families that allows her to be an integral part of both.
Here is the first part of her story.
My name is Dante Chiang. I am a girl who loves cute stuff, watching cartoons, and playing video games (and I enjoy every part of it). Besides all of these, I want to tell you my so-far story. This may not be the usual way to begin, but I want to share with you the three families who make up who I am.
When I was 11 my parents got divorced, and since that time, I have been living with my father, my granny and my younger brother. My father and my granny try their best to take good care of me and my brother; however, because my brother is about 10 years younger than I am, and because of my father’s busy career, I have to help them to do house chores, baby sit my brother and also take good care of myself. I started to do part time jobs after high school just so that I could help support myself and not have them worry about me. I’ve worked in a steak house and a stand as a server; I’ve worked at the Bank of Taiwan, helping with student loans. I’ve also worked in a fishing market, and since my freshman year in college, I have been working part-time in MCU’s General Affairs office.
My father’s house is located in a small fishing village in Keelung, facing the Pacific Ocean and backed with mountains. Because of the fine natural environment, the local schools often have their students out for field trips, teaching them about the local ecosystem and how to protect their hometown’s environment. And I was one of those students. As a result, I am a nature lover and an animal lover. When I was a high school student, I rescued a kitten, abandoned by his mother, and kept him as my own pet and as a friend. Ever since his appearance, I became a cat lover. As a result of these experiences, I learned to take care of not only people but also animals, and I learned the way to ease people’s worries.
My second family consists of my mother and my younger sister, who is now studying in nursing school. My mother raises my sister and provides her a nice, warm home. Although my parents are divorced, my mother still shows her care for me. She calls me regularly and answers my calls whenever I need her. She encourages me to be strong and independent like she is so that I can sail through my problems without any tears. I admire her as a mother and as a woman.
Although she wants me to be strong, my mother also encourages me to follow my interests and passions. When I was 18, my choices were military school in order to support my father financially, or study in a regular college and major in what interested me. My mother’s advice was: “Don’t think too much. Just choose what you love. I will be here and help you.” And, I am here. In a regular college, majoring in English.
But it was the next part of her biography that was the real surprise to me.
My third family might be considered unusual by some, but I consider Deborah and Dave as my American mom and dad. I met Deborah when I had her for my second-year writing teacher, but our relationship became much more than just teacher and student. When I was in Deborah’s class, Deborah invited me to her weekly writing group that met at a local coffee shop. And, soon, we became friends.
When Deborah’s previous assistant was in her last semester before graduation, she became too busy to help anymore, so I was invited to be Deborah’s new assistant one or two days a week. I thought this opportunity would be cool and helpful for myself as well, so I nodded. Sometimes we met at her house and worked there; sometimes, we met at a coffee shop, worked, and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee. I helped her with school work, helped to work on the textbooks she was producing, and became her personal interpreter. Whenever I went to her house, dinners were included in exchange for my help. Her husband, a great cook, made delicious American style meals. Deborah also asked me to be one of her TAs when the Japanese students from Tottori University came for their three week English program. Deborah taught them writing, and I assisted them in class and helped explain class materials to them. It was cool that I could help some Japanese students with their classes.
Through the time we spent together, we talked a lot. As we became closer, I could talk to her about any problems in school or in my family. Deborah comforted me, gave me advice, and even encouraged me to go to graduate school. “I will definitely write a recommendation letter for you whenever you need it.” Thanks to my American mom and dad, I am hopeful that I will someday go back to school and study translation.
Eventually, Deborah and Dave left Taiwan because they still have their families back in the U.S. When we saw each other for the last time before they left, it felt so much more than friends, more like parents and daughter. I will always remember the time we spent together, the times I interpreted for them, and the fun we had. Hopefully, one day I can visit them in America. In the meantime, we can stay in touch online, because we will always be family.
These three families all are part of me and who I am. I feel very lucky to have not one, but three families who care for me.
Thank you, Dante! You will always be a part of my life. Even though there are many miles between us, the bonds that we have made will always keep us close. ❤