My friend Victor: Ok, so, what story do you want to know?
Me: How long have you been to the US?
My friend Victor: Almost 12 years (2008). But before I came to Tennessee, I lived in Quebec, Canada with my mom.
Me: When did you go to Quebec?
My friend Victor: When I was in fourth grade at elementary school (2006).
Me: So your mom wanted to immigrate to Canada?
My friend Victor: Yes, but my mom actually wanted to come to the US. She knew that it may be hard for us to directly immigrate to here, so she thought we can go to Canada at first, and then come to the US.
Me: Where are you from in China?
My friend Victor: Beijing.
Me: What do you remember when you arrived in the US on the first day?
My friend Victor: Strange. I came to a totally different place. The US customs were strict and look scary. I’m afraid that they won’t let us stay and banish us. I was in the “black room” once I came back from China, I don’t know why, but I was terrified. Ever since then, I had terrible images of the customs. I thought I couldn’t see my mom again. The first day I arrived, everything was unfamiliar but new. We don’t look like other people, I didn’t understand English. I didn’t know what people were doing. It’s so strange.
Me: Do you know what immigration means when your mom told you that we need to go to another country and live there?
My friend Victor: No. But I thought it’s ok, you know kids are always excited about new things and as long as you are with your mom, your family, you always think it’s ok.
Me: Do you want to go back?
My friend Victor: As a child, yes. But as time goes by, I get used to it to stay here.
Me: How does it feel move from country to country? Do you like it? Or you hate it?
My friend Victor: I was too little. I couldn’t feel anything. All I knew was “oh, we are going to another new place. What does it look like? Is it fun?” But I don’t like the people where I lived when I came to the US. Tennessee is not a big state and I live in a small town. It was a long time ago. People were not happy for outsiders. So we were not welcomed there. And when I went to school there, kids were not nice either. Even the teacher said we don’t like Chinese people, Chinese people are not welcomed here. (Victor is a little angry here).
Me: How does that make you feel?
My friend Victor: Well, I’ve always been a cool kid, so I was like ok, I don’t like you people, either. Who cares?
Me: (Laugh). So have you ever felt suffered or couldn’t bear with it anymore and wanted to leave?
My friend Victor: We didn’t live there for a long time. I guess my mom couldn’t bear with it. She never talked about it, but you know, adults can feel. So we moved to Chicago before I went to middle school. And since then, we settled in Chicago until now.
Me: Do you want to go back to Beijing?
My friend Victor: I know many people get used to living in another country and feel like they have become a part of the country. They think everything they immigrated for is worth it. But I don’t know. I always feel I’m not part of it. I always feel I’m different from other people here. For me, I never got used to it.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.