Overcoming Adversity in a Foreign Country

Most people do not realize that their grandparents are oftentimes, some of the strongest people they know. They are more than trustworthy sources of spoil, love, and good food. They are the people that have braved the storms of this life, paved a path in this world for themselves, and learned valuable lessons that they long to share with their children, and with future generations. The same is true of my grandparents. In 1972, my grandmother immigrated from Taiwan, which is an island off the coast of China, to America. She faced challenges that all immigrants are confronted with; challenges such as language barriers, cultural adjustments, and financial predicaments. As an immigrant, my grandmother, Sou Yuin, overcame adversity because she was coachable, patient, and willing to let others help her.
Sou Yuin left her bicycle propped up against the corner of the building, and stepped through the door of Krystal. The world outside was asleep, wrapped in the darkness of the night. Exhausted from a full day of studying at the Sante Fe Community College, Sou Yuin reminded herself that working the overnight shift at Krystal, a fast-food joint, was a way to provide for herself in America. Inhaling deeply, she headed towards the kitchen where she knew undoubtedly, an obstacle waited for her to hurdle. Krystal’s extensive menu posed a severe problem for the 26-year-old girl from Taiwan. She did not know how to cook American food. Sou Yuin stared nervously at the menu, and her mind spun at the variety of foreign breakfast foods like biscuits, waffles, hash browns, sausages, over-easy eggs, and bacon. Terrified at the prospect of losing her job because of her lack of experience in cooking American meals, Sou Yuin turned to the morning shift manager, a sweet woman named Maria. Maria nodded knowingly when Sou Yuin humbly explained her unfamiliarity with the meals and agreed to help. Immediately, Maria brought Sou Yuin into the kitchen where she gently instructed her on how to fry over-easy eggs, bake waffles, and cook greasy bacon. Appealing breakfast smells wafted through the air as Maria and Sou Yuin worked tirelessly together in the kitchen. Because of Maria’s patient presence and precious instruction, and Sou Yuin’s willingness to learn a new way of cooking, Sou Yuin slowly adapted to her job at the American fast-food restaurant.
A year later, Sou Yuin was working in the graveyard shift, which was the overnight shift, at Krystal. Grease from dirty frying pans clung to the air, the black, red, and white leather booths and stools were littered with crumbs and crumpled napkins left by careless customers, and the insistent humming of the refrigerator filled the void of silence between Sou Yuin and her fellow co-workers as they quietly cleaned up the abandoned restaurant. Around 5 a.m., in the morning, the manager, a particularly formidable woman, approached Sou Yuin in front of the rest of the staff and declared in a condescending tone, “Business is slow. We do not need you right now. You can go home.” Nobody stood up for Sou Yuin, and nobody defended her against the manager’s rudeness. An icy moment of silence ensued, broken only by Sou Yuin’s quiet voice, “Okay.” There was nothing she could do except respectfully submit to her manager’s demand without protesting or fighting. Without any support, acknowledgement, or compassion from her co-workers and manager, Sou Yuin obediently packed her things together and prepared to leave.
Sou Yuin hesitated at the door. She peered through the grimy window at her bicycle, her only mode of transportation, which was sitting in a lonely corner of the building. The empty street was cloaked in darkness, illuminated only by the subtle, flickering light of a streetlamp. As Sou Yuin gazed out, through the glass window, at the streets of a foreign country, a paralyzing fear clutched her. The thought of riding to her apartment alone, on an isolated road through the woods, in the darkness of the night was terrifying. She turned away from the window towards the bulky, black work phone that rested on a nearby desk. Calling her good friend, Hung Sung, who had also immigrated from Taiwan, Sou Yuin related her predicament to him. At 5 a.m., in the morning, Hung Sung abandoned the comfort of his bed, mounted his bicycle, and sped to the Krystal restaurant. He pulled into the dark parking lot to escort Sou Yuin home, as she rushed gratefully outside to meet him, comforted by the presence of a friend and no longer feeling alone. Together, on their bicycles, Hung Sung and Sou Yuin pedaled away from Krystal, down the dark streets of a country, foreign to both of them, safely to Sou Yuin’s apartment.
One year later, Hung Sung and Sou Yuin happily married. The selfless love and trust exhibited by them through the bicycle incident, demonstrated their strength and courage as immigrants in a new country. Now, they have three wonderful children and eleven precious grandchildren. They have handed down their phenomenal work ethic, respect towards other people, and commitment to helping each other, to their children and grandchildren. This story may seem small and insignificant, but through it, my grandparents have shown to me that overcoming small adversities leads to great victories that can effectively inspire future generations.

by Hannah Peters

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