WNYC RADIO ROOKIES: LOSING HOME
First Broadcast: February 22, 2006
REPORTER: Wen Ou
Running Time: 8:41 (including Host Intro)
TRANSCRIPT (4 pages total)
HOST, INTRO: Radio Rookie Wen Ou moved from China five years ago. Everything changed when she arrived in the U-S. She was surprised when all the kids at her new school spoke "gibberish." In China, she lived with her grandparents, who were her main caretakers, she only saw her parents on weekends. When she and her parents moved to New York, her grandparents stayed behind. Wen is 16 years old now...and, recently, she started to wish she had appreciated her life in China more when she was there. She feels like she took it all for granted... And no matter how hard she tries...she can't get it back, even in memories.
Wen, Narration: When I think about China, I think of noisy streets, cheap stuff, and street food, like lian pi, that's a cold spicy noodle dish from Xian, the city I grew up in.
(Sounds of being in a Chinese food restaurant ambience)
Wen, Narration: Now I live in Flushing, Queens. There are people from all over china in my neighborhood, but I've only heard people speaking my dialect twice. Flushing has tons of Chinese restaurants and I've tried to find the special cold spicy noodles.
(Sound of Wen asking question in Chinese)
Restaurant Manager: This is a Cantonese restaurant. It's the barbequeâ€¦
(Sound of Restaurant fades out. Sound of mom cooking dinner fades up.)
Wen, Narration: Even my mom's cooking doesn't taste like the food I ate growing up in China. I lived with my grandparents until coming and I miss their cooking. In China, we had a big family and now it's just me and my mom. My dad's company transferred him back to China a year ago.
(Sounds of eating dinner underneath narration)
Wen, Narration: My mom and I don't really talk a lot. And the only sound you hear at dinner is the bowls and plates moving. For me, a home has to have a lot of people and talking. When I was 11-years old, my parents told me that we might be coming here because of my dad's work, but I was too busy to think about the trip. Wenâ€™s
Mom: I thought we might be stay here for about three years.
Wen, Narration: That's my mom.
Wen: Did you tell me how long we were staying?
Mom: I don't think I told you, and another point, you never asked me such questions.
Wen, Narration: I was too little to know to ask questions and my parents were taking care of everything. I said "careless" good byes on the phone to a couple of my friends. If my parents had explained to me that we were leaving for a long time, I probably would not have rushed the good byes. I don't even remember saying good bye to my relatives.
(Sound of phone call to China)
Wen, Narration: We call them in China on some weekends. We just talk about typical stuff like how I'm doing in school and the weather. But, last February, my mom tried to call our family for several days and no one picked up.
Mom: It's not like, uh, before that we can talk face to face, so this situation enhanced my concerning about them.
Wen, Narration: It turned out, my grandpa had passed away days before but my relatives in China did not want us to get upset. Finally, my grandma had to tell my mom what happened. I heard my mom break into tears and mumble something about how parents are irreplaceable. She got off the phone and told me: "Grandpa has passed away." I cried too and my mom hugged me. I only remember crying one other time in front of my mom, when I was a little kid. And after that phone call, we almost never talked about my grandpa.
(Sound of mom singing Chinese folk song)
Wen, Narration: Until, I got her talking about her childhood, and she brought him up.
Mom: Sometimes um when my father had time, he played his um Chinese instrument and at the same time I sung.
Wen: What was the music instrument called?
Mom: It's an old Chinese music instrument, I don't know how to say it in English but in Chinese it's Erhu.
Wen, Narration: Right after I heard my grandpa passed away, I began to feel regret that I didn't pay more attention to him. When I was living in china I didn't help him around the house. I was too busy watching T-V all day. I only remember a few things about him. Like that he had a lot of birds that he used to feed worms. I wish I had known him better. I started wondering what my mom regretted about leaving our family. And I hoped talking to her might help me feel less alone with my bad feelings. I was so nervous I had to write down the questions and read them to my mom:
Wen: Coming to the U-S deepened my regrets about grandpa. I need to interview you about him because you knew him better and have similar regrets.
Mom: I'm sorry. I'm unable about to talk about these things because I'm still sad and sensitive to talk about this topic.
Wen, Narration: I called my cousin Claire in China. I thought maybe she would tell me more about his last moments and help me feel less far away. I told her the questions would be difficult but she said she could handle it. But then I asked her about our grandpa.
Clare (translated from Chinese): Ohhh. You want to ask this question? The mood is different now. (Silence) Can we skip this? Let me say this, there was no most memorable moments, now I think about it, it would be that he ummm (mumbles)... Let's skip this question.
Wen, Narration: I didn't want to hurt my cousin and my mom. I wish there were a way we could talk about our sadness, and then they would magically forget the conversation. To be honest, I'm not good at talking about difficult feelings either. A psychologist named Dr. Diana Chen told me that's normal.
Dr. Chen: Do you share any of these feelings with your family at all?
Wen: In my family. I don't know if it's just my family or what. We don't talk about our feelings really, especially about bad things. We would say, "Oh, Iâ€™m so mad today!" Because of this but we don't say "Oh, Why don't we talk about my grandpa."
Wen, Narration: I'd never met a psychologist before. I thought her office would be bigger and have a sofa like on T-V. But it didn't.
Dr. Chen: Just remember also culturally. I don't know for Chinese people we have such a difficult time sometimes to express, you know, uh, strong emotions. But I think that stronger emotions about sadness or depressed feelings is something very difficult to really communicate. How do you see it? Is it okay to let out some of the feelings?
Wen: I think it does make you feel better a little
Wen, Narration: For me it's easier to talk about my feelings with my friends than my family. And I feel comfortable talking with my friend Andrea about almost anything.
Andrea: How was your relationship with your grandpa? Do you have regrets?
Wen: Of course, oh yeah, cuz I also regret because um he was unconscious and at the last moment he woke up, like, my grandma and everyone was around him, and then he was looking out the door, so my mom took it as he was waiting for us, so she really regrets it, but she doesn't talk about it.
Wen, Narration: In the end, talking with Andrea didn't really make me feel better. I'm not sure that talking to anyone would help.
(Sound of airplanes overhead fades up)
Wen, Narration: My apartment is near LaGuardia Airport and we always hear planes landing and taking off. Sometimes my mom says "I wish I could hop on that right now and go to China." I don't say anything to back to her. I don't think talking or crying will make up for the lost time with my family. But maybe in a few years my bad feelings will fade away. Or maybe I will feel better when I visit my family in China. I hope we can be close.
FOR WNYC, I'M ROOKIE REPORTER WEN OU.