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West Meets East


When I was a boy, China was nothing more to me than a far-off country that my history teacher talked about in class, and a word on a sticker I would peel off of new electronics I purchased at the mall. I never dreamed I would learn Chinese, and much less be the president of the Arcadia Chinese Association. Nothing from my childhood could have prepared me for the day my father announced that we would be moving to Chengdu in the heart of Sichuan province to live for the indefinite future. I was appalled and shocked that I would have to leave everything I knew behind, and travel to some strange distant land where people spoke a strange language and ate weird food. But I was consoled by my father’s wise words that if I could learn Chinese, then all the girls would fall for me when I came back to the states, because it was such a rare language for white guys to speak. After three years of struggling to learn the language,  I managed to escape from China and my father to go live with my uncle and attend high school in Santa Rosa, a small town north of San Francisco. But after coming back, something wasn’t the same. I don’t know if it was friends calling me China boy to tease me, or if it was something deeper in me that was struggling to make sense of the experience and bring things into perspective. Whatever the reason, I decided to study Chinese in college, and I completed my undergraduate study while participating in a University of California study abroad program in Beijing. It was during this time that I truly fell in love with China. I met my wife, developed an eclectic assortment of friends who were a mixture of Chinese nationals, and expats who had flocked to Beijing from all the far corners of the world to be a part of the dynamic and rapid growth that China was experiencing at the beginning of the new Millennium.  It was through this experience that I started to develop a framework to fit the two very different world views that were competing for space within my own understanding of the world. In 2009, my wife Caroline and I decided to move back to California to start a family. Having visited a friend from college who lived in Arcadia, I knew there was a thriving Chinese community and excellent Chinese supermarkets where she would be able to get all of her favorite foods so she wouldn’t be as homesick. The next year in 2010, a new and now dear friend and mason brother of mine,  and current city council member Sho Tay, who I had met through the Arcadia Rotary Club, invited me to an Arcadia Chinese Association board meeting. They needed an MC for an upcoming event, and I had recently joined a Toastmasters club, so I was looking for ways to practice my public speaking skills.  I jumped at the opportunity to take the stage for ACA. There were a few board meetings to attend before the event, and by the time that the event rolled around, I had already been invited to become a director, and was getting drawn in by the friends I was making and the dedicated volunteers that were committed to the mission of the organization which resonated with me: helping build a bridge for new immigrants from China to integrate themselves and families into life in America. Since then, I have come to love this organization. There are so many things that ACA does for the community. Our Moon Festival event is attended by thousands of local families and residents. Our Law Day event recruits lawyers to volunteer their time to give free legal advice to the community. The Chinese New Year Party for Seniors, the City Employee Appreciation Luncheons, and so much more. But as more and more new Chinese immigrants flock to our great city, the work that we must do only increases. Officially,  Arcadia’s downtown is the area around First Ave between Huntington Drive and Duarte Road, but anyone who knows anything about Arcadia can tell you that Chinese Downtown lives on the other side of town around the Baldwin and Duarte intersection where most of the signs are in Chinese, and many non-asians are afraid to shop or dine because they are not familiar with the language or culture. This year I intend to explore more services that we can help to either promote, or create to bring the community together, and help to break down the barriers that separate our citizens. The task of cultural integration will never be an easy one, especially when the two cultures in question are so different. But it is a job that sits at the heart of this nation, and represents for me, the core of what makes America great, and what makes our country so attractive to people from around the world. So it is with pride and gratitude that I have accepted my position as the president of the Arcadia Chinese association, and I hope that through my efforts, and the efforts of our directors, advisors, and volunteers, we can continue to build bridges and bring people together in this great community of homes we know as Arcadia.

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