Jade Morrison


As Interviewed by Amelise M., March 16, 2018

Jade Morrison: In Her Own Words

My name is Jade Chen Morrison. I have a Masterís degree in Psychology. I was 10 years-old and we moved to California and we lived with my aunt and her family for a few months while we got settled. My parents really valued education and they wanted a good future for us. In Taiwan, itís very competitive to go to college. Everybody needs to take a test. And if you donít score well then chances are youíre not going to college. So they wanted to expand our opportunities and give us more open doors for our future.

It wasnít very good actually when we first came. We brought some money with us but it wasnít enough to buy our own house. So with the help of my aunt we lived with her family and she has three children of her own -- and so it was my dad and my mom and me and my sister. I also have a brother, but he had to stay behind because he was in the Navy, so only four of us moved to the US. It was a small house, so it was a lot of people in one house, and they also had an exchange student stay there. So I had to share a room with some other people, and it actually wasnít a very fun experience at all.

It was extremely hard, especially for my parents because they left careers behind to move to the US and they didnít speak English. My dad, for example -- he worked for the government in Taiwan in agricultural department probably mid-career. We decided to move and they actually planned ahead for us to move. But what they didnít have was a way to make a living. So when we got here immediately had to go and do hard labor. Same thing with my mom. Mom and my sister -- they went to work at a fish frying restaurant though they worked for very minimal amount of money for us to survive.

I knew a little bit of English. I had tutoring classes in Taiwan for about a year, so I knew the basics. I knew the ABC and I knew like introductions and nouns -- so I knew a little bit. And my sister knew a little bit as well because she went to high school there, so she had English classes as well. My parents, however, did not know English. And when I first moved here I went into sixth grade, they had something called ESL -- English as a second language. In those classes they teach you more basic English so I worked hard to get caught up in my English. And in about a year and a half I was the same level as the American kid.

I was treated differently many times. When I first went to school I was the only person that actually moved straight from another country into that class, and it was toward the end of fifth grade. We had about three weeks of school left so I went to school, and I barely knew English, and the kids were very curious and looked at me as some interesting object to be curious about. And they wanted me to write Chinese for them, so I did, and they asked me questions and was very curious about the whole culture and wanted to teach me English -- so they would come up to me and try to teach me the ABC and try my best to communicate that I already knew that. It was interesting because someone new from another country came into your class. But the curiosity lasted for only a week, and after that first week, literally all the kids just played among themselves. Some of the girls told me to just go away. So while it was really friendly and nice in the beginning, toward the end it really wasnít a genuine friendship. It was more like: ďMy curiosity is over. Now you can go away, and weíre not interested in being friends with you.Ē I didnít have friends. School was extremely easy. In Taiwan our math level was quite high. When I went to the math class here, everything they did was extremely easy -- and so I did math quite well. English was not very difficult to learn as a 10 year-old.

I remember we walked around the mall one time and there was a pair of shoes and I needed some shoes. They were Nikes -- and I was looking at it, and my dad said, ďDo you want these?Ē And I said no, even though I really wanted them -- because I knew that they were very expensive. And I said no, and he said "I want you to have them. Iím going to buy it for you." And I knew that it was hard for him to pay fifty-five dollars for a pair of shoes. And he said, "I want you to have them. I donít want you to feel ashamed because of money. You can have these shoes if you want them."

And so I had what I needed, basically. Dad was very aware of the financial situation and that I might feel ashamed if I had to wear old shoes or cheap shoes, and so he didnít want me to feel less than other people, but I really didnít ask for anything.

We each had one suitcase. I had clothes and I had shoes and I had to leave everything else. I had a memory box that I played with every day and night. I collected things in it and it was the one thing I really wanted to bring but my aunt who was helping us move said, ďYou really donít have room for that. you need to just leave it.Ē So I basically left everything. The week before I left the country, my classmates knew that I was moving and they actually brought me a present because they knew that I was moving away and it was a big ordeal. You know people -- people there donít just move to US like that. I was the only person they theyíve ever heard of that moved to the US at that time. And they brought me tons of presents, little dolls, a windchime, toys, things like that. And I couldnít bring any of it. So I left it -- so just the basics.

I lived in Taiwan in a county called Nanto. It was a very wholesome way of growing up. My grandparents Ė he was a doctor, an eye doctor -- and he had his own practice, and he was quite wealthy. He had land and he had a house that he used for his practice, and we lived upstairs. It was a four-story house. It was a big house that we lived in and my mom lived on the second floor with me -- and I remember my sister going to boarding school, so she was gone quite a bit. Sheís a lot older than me. Sheís nine years older than me. So she was in boarding school by the time I remembered. And so I lived with my mom on the second floor. My dad kind of slept on the third floor because he snored a lot and my mom couldnít sleep, so he had his own little corner upstairs on the third floor. Life was really good. I had a lot of friends. Theyíd come over, Iíd go over there, and I rode my bike around. Life was really easy and good. School was a lot harsher than the school here. The teachers were extremely strict and we had to go to school six days a week, but when you donít know any different it was fine. I was happy.

I think the hardest part was that my parents had to do hard labor for many, many years for us to survive. Also my sister -- she was only 18 at the time. She had to then immediately go and work. So the financial difficulties was what was really hard -- the change. And then also because my parents didnít know English that well, I became kind of the interpreter of the house. And so a lot of responsibilities fell on me at a very young age. I was maybe 12, 13 and they took me to places and I had to interpret for them and read things for them and translate.

Didnít your older sister also know English?

She did -- so she did some of the translations as well. But she was quite busy. She went to community college and she worked at night. And so she was quite busy. And also my parents had high expectations of me because they gave up so much for me to move to another country, and they had high expectations that I was going to have to succeed somehow financially, to make them proud to make them feel like it was worth the move. The hardest part was just my parents adjustments to the change because they came from a very collective community where you knew everybody and neighbors were your friends and at night there were plenty of things to do. They could just walk outside and see plenty of things to do -- night markets. And you know there were just more things going on. And once they moved here all that went away. They didnít have that many friends. There was really nothing to do in the evening. They just stayed home, watched TV. In that aspect itís a very difficult change when you donít know the language and thereís not much to do. They had no idea how isolating it was to live in the US. Itís actually a quite isolating lifestyle.