Every year since she was four years old, junior Tiffany Yuan has traveled to China. She usually goes for two weeks to a month to see her extended family in Shanghai.
“I think it’s important to go back to see relatives and especially grandparents because you never know when they might leave you, as they are all old in age,” Yuan said via email.
Yuan said China is a very special place to her because of the family she has there. She values spending time with her extended family because she cannot see them often.
Chinese teacher Tungfen Lee also has many relatives abroad in Taiwan, and she said she finds technology helpful to connect with her family because it lets her call her parents almost every day.
“Thanks to technology right now, we can use FaceTime to see each other. I got married and had kids here, so I would consider here to be my first home, but my second home is my hometown in Taiwan,” Lee said.
Yuan also said China holds a lot of childhood memories from travelling there every summer and spending time with her grandparents and other relatives. While she is more comfortable in America, she said having all of her extended family in China makes it very meaningful to her because Yuan associates home with family.
“China is a second home in the sense that a lot of my family is there,” Yuan said. “The time I spent with my grandparents was really special and
meaningful especially because many of them have passed away.”
Yuan said going to China every year has made her want to understand the culture more, so she can better relate to her relatives. While she is fluent in spoken Chinese, she is currently learning to read and write the language.
“Learning to read and write has allowed me to feel a (closer) connection to both my family and culture. I think that communication is essential in understanding my culture as there is so much history and context to Chinese culture. Additionally, simply being able to understand my relatives and hear their stories and experiences in China has allowed my understanding of my Chinese heritage and culture to grow. As a result, I think that my cultural identity is a lot stronger because I feel a stronger connection to my family and China overall,” Yuan said.
Lee agrees with this sentiment.
“Our heritage is where we came from, so it will always be our second home,” Lee said.
Photo by Sara Yung
Away from Home(s)
It’s been a year and a half since sophomore Clara Martiny moved from China. Though she was born in Belgium, Martiny lived in China for 14 years of her life. Over the years, her dad’s work has moved the family around the world.
Martiny said, “The first seven years of my life I lived in Shanghai, and then the next five years I lived in Beijing. The next two years I lived in Shanghai. Then I moved to Carmel, and I’ll probably move to Tennessee after the end of this school year.”
Martiny also spends every summer in France where her parents bought a home in order to have a place where their friends and family could all meet. Martiny said that this makes it easier for her to see all of her relatives and friends.
“We’ve been moving around a lot, so we don’t actually have a house. We’re renting a house in Carmel right now. So the house in France is actually the first house that is ours that we’re not renting.” Martiny said. “My mom really liked the area, and we had been to it before, so we just decided to settle down there in the summer.”
When Martiny goes to France, she goes to many sports camps for surfing and tennis because those are the sports she loves to participate in. She also loves going to the camps to meet Spanish and French peers who introduce her to their different cultures. Martiny is currently learning Spanish in school, so she said she likes to learn street Spanish when she goes to the camps.
Since Martiny experiences so many different cultures—for example, her mom cooks both French and Chinese food at home—she said she finds it hard to pick where her home is.
“I like France because my first language is French, so I’m back in the usual French speakers and French food. Then in China I love the culture, the people, the place and my friends; I have a lot of friends there. I’ll always have nationalistic feelings for Belgium, but it’s not really my home,” Martiny said.
Similarly, Lee said integrating her culture at home and in the community helps her sons relate to their culture and communicate with Lee’s relatives in Taiwan.
“For my sons, we only speak Chinese at home so that they can communicate with their grandparents and other relatives in Taiwan. Our relatives back home cannot speak fluent English, they speak broken English, so my sons speak only Chinese to their relatives in Taiwan. We celebrate Chinese holidays at home and volunteer at Chinese events in the community here because I want my sons to feel like they are a part of their heritage. They don’t even feel like they are learning the culture because they are living in the culture,” Lee said.
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