Thursday, February 14, 2013

Working in a Chinese Restaurant

After getting my work permit . I started working as kitchen help at a small Sichuan restaurant on Friday nights. I took a city bus, then a long distance bus there and the owners drove me home after they closed the restaurant at night. Since I came from Sichuan, I found their food close to home. I helped Mr. Huang (黄) in the kitchen while his wife Liu (刘) waited on tables in the restaurant. When it wasn’t busy, he would cook something special for us to eat while we chatted. Mr. Huang said that he walked two months from Sichuan to join his father before they fled to Taiwan when Chiang Kai-shek lost in 1949. There he met his wife, a native Hakka Taiwanese. Soon his family lost hope there and then immigrated to the US in the 1960’s. They worked hard and saved enough money in New York City. Then, they came to Syracuse and opened their own restaurant. For me, especially working inside the kitchen, I found them to be very honest, kind people. They had two children in New York City. They were younger than I was. They treated me as a family member, making the restaurant my Chinese home. Whenever I missed home, whenever it was Chinese New Year, or the Moon Festival, I would go to join them.
    
I knew that they didn’t like Chiang Kai-shek. I was not interested in Chiang Kai-shek or any politics which was why I never joined communist party. One day while I was in the restaurant, we heard on the radio that Chiang Kai-shek’s son had died in Taiwan. The only comment from Mr. Huang was that everyone has to die no matter who you are. Time plays no favorites. Death is equal to everyone, no matter how powerful you are. He said the leaders were all the same. Chairman Mao and Chiang Kai-shek were the same and they were cold blood killers. They did not say anything more. I could only guess.
      His wife was a native Taiwanese, her family members must have died from the 228 Massacre that began on February 27, 1947 when Chiang Kai-shek took over the island. There were many generals who lost favor or found it was very difficult to make a living. A huge wave came to America.
    
After losing the Opium War, First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the Qing Emperor had to give up Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in 1895. Anti-Japanese forces were crushed in 1920s. Taiwanese slowly accepted the Japanese since Taiwan’s economy advanced and the standard of living for most Taiwanese people was raised. The Taiwanese were proficient in both Taiwanese (Hakka language from Fujian) and Japanese languages, and they kept their own identity.
    
Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) liberation troops were initially welcomed by the local Taiwanese. Their corruption and economic failure resulted in civil disorder and open rebellion that lasted for days. The uprising was stopped violently. Ten- to thirty thousand people or more were killed. Mr. Huang’s father was a general under the KMT, so he must have lost faith and left the island.
I worked at the restaurant on the weekends; Mrs. Huang served as a waitress and her husband cooked in the kitchen
It became my Chinese home.  I took Jonathan there for Chinese New Year and whenever we want to eat real Chinese food.