United States Heartland China Association

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Ailing and Kinfat Lai: One Chinese Family’s Heartland Immigration Story

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Interview and translation by USHCA Intern Wendy Xu Edited by Tony Tang, Hunan Normal University

Ling and her husband are government contractors who do alterations for the troops at Grand Forks Air Force Base in Grand Forks, North Dakota. They have been doing this together for more than 10 years.

Ling和她的先生是政府承包商。他们在北达科他大福克斯的空军基地为军人修改军服。他们一起共事已有10多年了。


Q: First, please introduce yourself. When did you move to the US?
A: I moved to the US in 2003.
问:首先,请介绍一下你自己,您是什么时候移民来的美国?
答:2003年。


Q: What motivated you to come work in the US?
A: At the time, we had a relative in California, and we applied to immigrate together. Then after one year, we moved to Grand Forks.
问:是什么让你决定来美国发展的呢?
答:当时有一个亲戚在加州,就一起办了移民。一年之后我们搬来了大福克斯。

Q: Could you briefly introduce your company and what you do?
A: We are government contractors. We sew on insignias and do alternations of military uniforms. We also do alternations of civilian clothes. We provide drop off services for uniform dry cleaning. We don't make uniforms.
问:能简单介绍一下您的公司及工作吗?
答:我们和政府有合约。我们的主要工作是为军服缝上徽章,并且为军人修改军服直至合身。我们也为其他人修改衣服。另外我们也可以帮他们送去外面干洗。我们不做军服。

Q: Why are you interested in this field?
A: I have been interested in handcrafts since I was young.
问:您为什么对这个行业感兴趣?
答:我从小就对手工活感兴趣。

Q: How long have you been working in this company?
A: About 15 years.
问:您在这个公司工作多久了?
答:15年左右。

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Q: Before working here, have you ever taken any other jobs in the US?
A: I used to work part time in a restaurant. At that time, our daughters were still very young, so I needed to take them to school, pick them up, and cook dinner every day. I had no time for a full-time job.
问:在您开始这份工作之前,在美国还做过什么其他的工作吗?
答:之前有在餐馆做兼职。因为那时候女儿们还很小,我还要负责每天接送她们上下学,还要做晚饭,没有时间做这么花时间的工作。

Q: When you first came to the US, what challenges did you encounter due to cultural differences?
A: I had some problems in understanding the culture, language and environment. Fortunately, I am a very adaptable person. My daughters could speak some English, but I didn’t know English at all. So, I used my free time to take English classes. Every morning we took the early class and picked up our daughters at noon. It was a hard time when we first came here.
问:由于文化的不同,您刚来美国的时候遇到哪些挑战?
答:文化、语言、环境方面都有碰到过一些小困难,不过我比较容易适应。当时我们语言完全不通,女儿们还会一些英文,我们就利用闲暇时间上英文课。每天早上上早课,中午去接女儿们,刚来的生活还是很辛苦的。

Q: Being an immigrant for these years, will you consider yourself to be culturally more Chinese or more American?
A: Culturally more American. After all, we have been here for a long time and have gotten used to everything here.
问:成为美国移民的这些年里,你认为自己在文化上是更中国还是更美国?
答:更美国吧。来了那么长时间,也都习惯了。

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Q: Could you give me an example of how you interact with American employers, colleagues and/or clients?

A: We rarely meet with our headquarters. We only correspond through email. We just do what we can to do a great job for our customers. Unlike other companies that negotiate many aspects of their business, as government contractors, we just follow the stipulations of our contracts.
问:可以分享一下您是怎么和美国上司、同事和/或者美国客户相处的吗?
答:我们很少和我们的总部见面,基本都是通过邮件联系的。我们就尽可能满足客户的需要。普通的公司在很多事情上是允许协商的,但我们作为和政府有合约的公司必须遵循所有的条约。

Q: Compared to your previous work in China, are there any differences with your work here? (tasks, responsibilities, networking etc.) A: We did something similar in Hong Kong. When we were in Hong Kong, my husband was a pattern maker and I made sample clothing based on the designs.
问:和您之前在中国的工作相比,这份在美国的工作有什么不同?(工作内容,职责,人际关系等等)
答:在香港有做过类似的行业。在香港工作的时候,我先生做版型,我做样衣。

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Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in your current job?
A: Our customers are satisfied with our work. We think our greatest accomplishment is giving customers satisfaction. We received a great honor from the military, too. We were are proud to be recognized for the contributions we made to the men and women who preserve the American Dream.
问:您在目前的工作中,最大的成就是什么?
答:顾客对我们的工作成果很满意, 我觉得让顾客满意是很大的成就。 军队也给予了我们很大的荣誉。他们对我们做出的贡献感到自豪,觉得我们成就了大家的美国梦。

Ling and her husband were also covered in a story on Grand Forks Air Force Base website in 2015: https://www.grandforks.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/763939/sewing-happiness-into-uniforms/

Pat McAloon