Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wartime Escape Just Like Movies

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.)
Two years after they moved to the wartime provincial capitol of Guangdong, the Japanese occupied the area. Winifred remembers what it was like to escape.
“It’s just like what the movie looks like. Everyone—young and old –some carrying the bedding. It’s really like that. Since my father was working for the Department of Public Works, they had trucks. Because my mother was pregnant at the time, they arranged for her to ride on the truck. My mother and I rode on the truck. So we had not too bad an experience except that, as you went along the mountain, the truck driver would say, ‘Well this is where the local bandits are.’ So they would stop and negotiate.  And, then sometimes you would get to some place and the driver would say, “We cannot take this route because the Japanese have occupied it.” So you had to turn around and go back and find a different route.  It was an interesting experience looking back, but at the time—I didn’t know better—but my mother was very worried.” 
(To be continued.  Next: One Good Teacher Makes Difference.)


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

American Education Fosters Engineering Milestone

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) 
Winifred’s father was a highly-educated engineer who received his Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering from Jiaotong University, got his Master’s at University of Michigan, and returned to China,
“He got a job in the provincial Department of Public Works. After the Sino-Japanese war started, he was transferred to the team building the Burma Road.
“The  Burma road is the connection from Yunnan Province to Burma. During the Sino-Japanese war and WWII the big problem for the Chinese was weapons—the Chinese were not good at making weapons. All the good weapons came from the West. And there was no way to do importing.  The Japanese blocked the whole eastern coast.  So the easiest way (to import weapons) was from Burma or India. It was a highway through the jungles and mountains.”
Building the road was a huge team effort of which Winifred’s father was a part. It was also considered one of the remarkable engineering achievements of the time.  
“My mother and I followed him as he went along.  We went to Yunnan for a year and Guizhou for half a year. We spent about two years in Guangdong.”


(To be continued.  Next: Wartime Escape Just Like Movies.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Seeking Safe Place To Live

Winifred Huo, a retired atmospheric chemist from NASA-Ames Research Center, studied chemistry before women were doing those things. Her focus was on the behavior of molecules under high temperatures, a key component necessary to the entry of space vehicles. She is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1994).  
She was born in Guangzhou less than two months before the Japanese attacked China in 1937.  During the next eight years of war, her family would move four times, hoping to stay ahead of the danger.
“We kept moving. It was interesting. I remember when I was young I tried to learn all sorts of languages/dialects. Whenever I went to a new school, the first two months I would have to keep my mouth shut because nobody understood what I was saying, and I didn’t understand them.  By the time I was able to communicate well with my classmates, I had to move again. We were trying to find a safe place to stay and for my father to work.”


(To be continued. Next: American Education Fosters Engineering Milestone.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Poignant American Story

Dynamic activist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.) Gerry researched her ancestors, and so had lots of information to share when CSU-Monterey Bay expressed interest. A documentary came from that research, and bolstered Gerry to spread the word.(Post four.) People didn't always want to hear her words. (Post five.) Still, making history correct became Gerry's mission. (Post six.) While at the Chinese cabin, we encountered a European who said that accepting others is a problem everywhere. (Post seven.) Working together with the city of Pacific Grove, Gerry managed to create the Walk of Remembrance as well as remove offensive lines in an annual festival performance. (Post eight and nine.) Working together with the city of Pacific Grove, Gerry managed to create the Walk of Remembrance as well as remove offensive lines in an annual festival performance. (Post eight and nine.)
On October 15, three years after I first met Gerry, I attended her award ceremony, as she was presented with the ACLU’s Ralph B. Atkinson Award for Civil Liberties. She accepted the award for all of her efforts in sharing the Chinese history of Pacific Grove/Monterey.
“I have visualized and hoped for change with kindness for so long, and now it has been embraced by us all. I am joyous."

"Others, who I was once afraid of, I now consider my friends as we collaborate together to tell the story of our Chinese-American ancestors and their villages. We’ve started meeting with each other, listening to each other, crying together and working with each other to build bridges of understanding and respect.  
"The process for change has begun, and our Chinese ancestors fishing village and their stories will continue because we believe in the truth, and we believe in each otherOur story is a poignant and compelling American story.
"I feel that working together, talking together, respecting each other is so much different than what we are seeing on TV in the news these days. I believe that the bonds that we have built could be a model for the world. Right here, our friendships we are telling each other to be proud of each other, to lift each other up.”
(With gratitude and thanks to Gerry, this concludes this interview.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Walk of Remembrance

Dynamic activist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.) Gerry researched her ancestors, and so had lots of information to share when CSU-Monterey Bay expressed interest. A documentary came from that research, and bolstered Gerry to spread the word.(Post four.) People didn't always want to hear her words. (Post five.) Still, making history correct became Gerry's mission. (Post six.) While at the Chinese cabin, we encountered a European who said that accepting others is a problem everywhere. (Post seven.) Working together with the city of Pacific Grove, Gerry managed to create the Walk of Remembrance as well as remove offensive lines in an annual festival performance. (Post eight.)
The Walk of Remembrance has become an annual tradition, and it grows more and more popular each year. Gerry gives a short presentation of the history at the Pacific Grove Natural Museum, which is followed by a lion dance, and then a hike along the path where her ancestors once lived.  
Gerry points out where her grandfather would fish. When tensions got tight, her grandfather (who could not swim) went out in his boat at night with a kerosene lantern. He thus discovered that squid are attracted to light. While her grandfather was not a swimmer and her mother is not a swimmer and Gerry is not a swimmer, she made sure both of her children could swim. In fact, her daughter Amber swam backstroke on a relay team that broke the national record.  Her son Branden’s swim team was the Mission Valley Athletic League Champions.
“Even though the ancestors didn’t swim, we changed that history.”
Some years ago Branden did a triathlon at Pacific Grove called the Kelp Crawl. When he emerged out of the water at Lover’s Point, exactly where they hold the Feast of Lanterns celebration, Gerry was awestruck.
“I see him as an artifact of the Chinese village emerging out of the ocean. The 6th generation emerging out of that water. He is the symbol of strength and courage. The symbol that –even though they tried to push everything into the ocean—they bulldozed the village into the ocean--the artifacts are emerging back out.”  
(To be continued.  Next and Final: Gerry Receives Civil Liberties Award.)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Doing Right Thing

Dynamic activist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.) Gerry researched her ancestors, and so had lots of information to share when CSU-Monterey Bay expressed interest. A documentary came from that research, and bolstered Gerry to spread the word.(Post four.) People didn't always want to hear her words. (Post five.) Still, making history correct became Gerry's mission. (Post six.) While at the Chinese cabin, we encountered a European who said that accepting others is a problem everywhere. (Post seven.)
Another issue that Gerry wanted to work on was an event that has been going on since the village burned to the ground in 1906: The Feast of Lanterns. Young people re-enact a performance of the Butterfly Lovers, a Chinese drama that tells the story of a young woman who falls in love with a man her father disapproves of.  At one point during the performance, the father says to his daughter’s lover, “Pig, son of swine. I’ll cut you up and feed you to the crows.” The audience has always jumped on this line and booed him.  
Gerry suggested that this line be changed.
“People in the community were telling me, ‘Oh, you’re just being silly. It’s just a play.’
“No, it’s disrespectful. When you say, ‘Pig, son of swine, I’m gonna cut you up and feed you to the crows’ what are you teaching your children?  What I say is don’t boo anybody. Because this is the town where the Chinese were burned out, they should see it as booing the people they burned out.
“The mayor of Pacific Grove—because she saw that I was trying to bring about change with the play and probably knowing that wasn’t going to happen—suggested I create an event. I think they thought that if I did that I wouldn’t press them for change of the other. But while I’m happy I had my own event—The Walk of Remembrance—it still bothered me that they were booing the Chinese a few months later.”
Thus began the Walk of Remembrance in in 2009, where I first met Gerry.
Last year, two weeks before the event, the vice president of the Feast of Lanterns called Gerry. “They told me they were going to take out the sentence.  I was crying. They were crying. The fact that they were crying told me they knew the importance of this. So we were all happy crying together."
(To be continued.  Next: Walk of Remembrance.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Acceptance Problem Everywhere

Dynamic preservationist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.) Gerry researched her ancestors, and so had lots of information to share when CSU-Monterey Bay expressed interest. A documentary came from that research, and bolstered Gerry to spread the word.(Post four.) People didn't always want to hear her words. (Post five.) Still, making history correct became Gerry's mission. (Post six.)
Gerry asked the docent if she could in a lion head for a picture. The docent said, “Sure.”  So we went to retrieve it from the car. “All my life, growing up on the Monterey Peninsula, I never saw a Chinese lion. My generation didn’t experience that. “
We took a picture, and were putting the colorful ornament back when a man approached Gerry, asking what she was doing. She explained the history of the village and the cabin, and that she was here to honor her ancestors. 
“When you go in the back you’ll see my great grandmother. Where her son was born—that village was burned down because the people didn’t like the Chinese, they didn’t like the smell of the fish, they thought the Chinese were taking their jobs. Sort of like what’s happening now.”
“It’s all the same everywhere,” the man said. He explained that his mother moved to a region near Venice after WWII, because her house had been burned and destroyed. She moved only 300km away, “the same distance perhaps between Los Angeles and San Francisco. And she experienced the same that you are telling, ok?  For the same reason--because she came from another region, because she was poor, because they are taking our jobs, something like this, no?”
He said he admired what Gerry was doing. His mother, he said, did not learn from the lesson. “Now there are other people coming to us from other countries. In Europe we have a big—let’s say problem—because there are many people coming from Africa, from Afghanistan, from Iraq. There are masses of people, millions of people. These people are in the same situation she was sixty years ago.  But she behaves no differently to these people than those people behaved to her.”
(To be continued. Next: Happy Doing Right Thing.)


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Correcting History

Dynamic preservationist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, "a point not only of nature but history," she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.) Gerry researched her ancestors, and so had lots of information to share when CSU-Monterey Bay expressed interest. A documentary came from that research, and bolstered Gerry to spread the word.(Post four.) People didn't always want to hear those words. (Post five.)
Still, making history correct became Gerry’s mission. “I’m just asking for respect for the Chinese village and my ancestors who we didn’t even know lived here. Even though I was born in Monterey, I didn’t know where the village was."
One of the issues she with was the picture in the Whaler’s Cabin.
“Auntie took it but it had no proper designation. She told them, ‘That’s not the right name and year.’ "They said ‘How do you know?’
"She said, ‘Well, I took that picture of my grandmother.’”
They still didn't do anything. So, Gerry persisted.
“When I told them, ‘Why isn’t her name up here?’ there was all kind of rigmarole, things they were telling me that just weren’t right. I wouldn’t take, 'No.' Or any excuse. There’s no excuse in my mind. And eventually, five years later, it (the designation) is there. But there was a lot I had to do.”
Gerry Low-Sabado showing Jana McBurney-Lin  photo of Great Grandmother
Gerry is similarly urging the historical correction of the sign that adorns the front of the musuem:


“When you walk into the cabin there is a sign that alludes to the fact that it was a Chinese cabin. But, to me, I need people to take that extra step. The Chinese built it. 
"When the park staff went to restore the cabin, they found Chinese artifacts underneath. To me, then, they should have changed the name to 'Chinese Cabin.'  But now it’s already in the historic register—as a whaler’s cabin. 
"The whalers lived in it AFTER the Chinese.”
(To Be Continued. Next: Acceptance Problem Everywhere.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Truth Not Being Told

Dynamic activist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.) Gerry researched her ancestors, and so had lots of information to share when CSU-Monterey Bay expressed interest. A documentary came from that research, and bolstered Gerry to spread the word.(Post four.) 
“I thought that there’s a truth here that’s not being told. That didn’t sit well with me. I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll just tell people about the story and then they’ll want to tell the story.’”
But it often didn’t go that way.
“People didn’t want to look me in the eye or talk about that history. They didn’t want to bring it up. Who wants to say, ‘Yeah, we burned down their village?’ At the same time it’s a fact. This is what happened. I’m just trying to tell the story.
“Some of my relatives thought, ‘It’s old history. Leave it alone.’ Other people thought, ‘What are you doing? Trying to cause trouble?’ I wasn’t sure what I should do.  There’s part of me that’s a fighter that wants to do what I think is right. But in the long run the relatives who still live on the Monterey Peninsula might suffer. So I had to consider that."
In the end, she decided to fight…but to fight with kindness.
“I don’t feel like I should be called a bad guy because I’m telling the truth. I’m just a normal person, a normal American person.  Chinese people are normal, do the same things you do. I can speak English. My daughter got married at a winery. “ She smiled. “Part of it is teaching them that we’re working for change, we’re working for kindness. “
(To be continued. Next: Correcting History.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

CSU-Monterey Researches Chinese Village

Dynamic preservationist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post onePost One.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post two.) Her great-great grandfather floated over from Canton, escaping the chaos and poverty that accompanied war. (Post three.)
In 2003 Gerry got an e-mail from CSU—Monterey Bay, asking for information.
“They were going to make a documentary about the Japanese fishermen in Monterey. And when they were doing research, they found out that the Chinese came before. So they started a quest to look for information.”
At first Gerry was wary.  “I didn’t want to show them anything at first because I didn’t trust people.”
Still, after listening to the students talk, she went back to her car to get her binder to show them what information she had. She was included in their documentary, By Light of Lanterns. In 2004 the movie screened at the Maritime Heritage Museum.
“Because of the documentary, relatives came forward that I never knew existed. And it’s still happening.”

Because of the documentary, her journey to tell the story of Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel began. 
(To be continued. Next: Some People Don't Want To Hear Truth.)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Great-great Grandpa Floated into Mouth of Carmel Valley

Dynamic preservationist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) She first led us to Point Lobos, a point not only of nature but history, she said. Her great grandmother's photo is in the Whaler's Village. (Post Two.)
Gerry discovered her great-great grandparents had come over from southern China in 1851. At the time, China had just lost the first opium war with Britain, and a man claiming to be the brother of Jesus, had risen up against the Qing government, starting the Taiping Rebellion. It was to be one of the bloodiest civil wars of the century with casualties ranging from 20 million to 70 million. Also at the time, Mexico had just relinquished California to the U.S.  Gerry’s great-great-grandparents, “came over on a junk with a sail and no engine, and just floated to the mouth of Carmel Valley.”
Gerry also learned that her great-grandmother, Quock Mui, was born in one of the cabins at Point Lobos in 1859. She was known as “Spanish Mary,” because she spoke Spanish, as well as Portuguese and the Native American Indian language of Rumsen."
“The Spanish-speaking people would have her translate documents for them. So what that tells me is that she was a friend of many communities, because they wouldn’t let her learn to speak their language if they didn’t trust her.”
Gerry discovered that the village where her grandfather lived (in Monterey) was burned down in 1906.  Arson was highly suspected.
“I think after the village burned down, some people still wanted to rebuild. My great grandfather was one of those. He was the last one to leave the village. He was part of the resistance. Most of the Chinese moved away to Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Cruz, and went into the agriculture markets.”
(To be continued. Next: CSU-Monterey Bay Researches Chinese Village.)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pt Lobos isn't Just Nature. It's History

Dynamic preservationist Gerry Low-Sabado, who lives in Fremont, travelled 90 miles to Monterey to show me her ancestors' village. (Post one.) Gerry then drove me around, and maneuvered around with the ease of someone used to making the trip. Our first stop was Point Lobos. 
Gerry was born in 1949 in Monterey, a fifth-generation Chinese-American, and grew up with the Beach Boys, the Beatles, peace and love.  
She was one of a handful of Chinese-Americans in town. She never realized that there used to be an entire Chinese village, until she retired from her job as the director of The Learning Tree in Fremont, and was piecing family information together for a reunion.
“I just told everyone, ‘Hey if you have anything you’re proud of, I’m making a brag book.”
Her mother’s cousin came forward to say that a picture she had taken was hanging in the Whaler’s Cabin at Point Lobos.
“This place is not just nature. It’s history.” 
At this point we had arrived at the gates of Point Lobos.
Gerry passed her name card to the cashier, saying “We’re going to see my Great Grandmother Quock Mui. Her picture is hanging in the back of the cabin. She’s the first documented Chinese female born on the Monterey Peninsula.”
The two cashiers looked at her funny. “Really?”
As we drove through the park, Gerry shook her head in disappointment. “People don’t know unless I tell them. That’s my job, I guess.’”
(To be continued. Next: Great-Great Grandpa Floated Into Carmel Valley on Junk)

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Aura of Good Fortune

Sometimes my interviewees pop up unexpectedly.  In October 2013 I attended the Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Award Ceremony to honor my friend Deepka Lalwani.
Deepka Lalwani Receives Leadership Award
As I headed out, a woman stopped me and asked, "Will you take our picture?" I snapped several photos of this happy group, including the woman who looked vaguely familiar. When I returned her camera, she said the same of me. “Don’t I know you?”
Turns out she was about to attend my talk on My Half of the Sky, and had a picture of me and my book on her desk at home. Turns out I had attended her presentation on the recent discovery of an old Chinese village in Pacific Grove and Monterey.
“The aura of fate,” she called it.
We’ve been in touch ever since.
I’d heard part of Gerry Low-Sabado’s findings on the Chinese history in the Monterey area, but I wanted the whole thing. Although she lives in Fremont, she suggested we meet 90 miles away in Monterey, where she would drive me to the important markers. I thought we’d only be together for a couple of hours. But I soon discovered that being with Gerry is an event.  As she said, “I can’t be on a tight schedule. Life just happens. I don’t do, ‘Sorry I can’t talk to you. I have an appointment.’ I just succumb to the now.”
She reminded me of the female version of Billy Lee, reaching out and talking to everyone on the street as if they were old friends, sharing the story of the Chinese village in Pacific Grove/Monterey over and over and over until I, too, found myself reaching out to people to share it. I was with her all day long.
When I thanked her for her time, she said, “Well, just the way we met. It was meant to be. If I hadn’t handed you the camera, we would have just gone our own ways. If you said, ‘Sorry I have to go,’ it wouldn’t have happened. It took two of us to make that happen. So I appreciate people who will take the time to stop and listen.”
(To be continued.  Next: Pt Lobos is not just Nature. It’s History.)