Interview with Neil, by Tenzin Palbar
Neil was born to a Chinese Immigrant family in New York, who currently lives in Pennsylvania. He is studying Political science at Bucknell University right now, and intern here at Gateway for the summer.
What were you like when you were a kid, and how was your childhood?
I was a pretty good kid. I was one of those kids who did the things he was told to do, and felt that it’s the end of the world if I forgot one homework, when I was small. My childhood mainly revolved around the restaurant my parents owned. I worked a lot, and I started working at the restaurant when I was 9.When I was 14, I also worked at other places during the summer time. Nevertheless, I was very conscious and independent in the things I did and enjoy. Along with the work, I also tried to hang out with my friends, get around the city on my own, but a lot of times I couldn’t go, because weekends were busy due to the work at restaurant. I was passionate in the things I wanted to do. With time, my interest grew into politics and other social issues.
How was your school life and how does your neighborhood look like?
I lived in a townhouse up to the age of 11, and it was interesting because many of the employees working at the restaurant used to live with us. As we used to be mostly at the restaurant, we didn’t use to know much people living around us. One my best friends used to live in townhouses, and we used to hang out whenever we can. There was a park nearby- a real park with grass and big swings and slides- not like the one we see these days with plastic safety stuffs. Then we moved into a bigger house and I have my own room there. As we still spend a lot of our time at the restaurant, we didn’t know many people. That neighborhood was like the classic suburban development neighborhood with cookie-cutter houses. Interestingly, a lot of Indians used to be in that neighborhood, and it was racially more diverse than our last place. There is a park there too, where I and my brothers taught ourselves basketball. I got more interested in sports there.
I was a pretty good student who was academically, among the top 8 percent of the class. During middle school and high school, I spent most of my co-curricular activity time in doing singing, theater, musicals etc. I was one of those kids who wanted to learn new things, and never wanted to waste time during the school days. I took a bunch of advanced level classes, and made a lot of friends through the classes I took. I only had lunch during the first two weeks of my high school years, as I thought it was a waste of time, so I took more classes. My school was not a culturally diverse school and predominantly white students.
Tell me one of the most important cultural festival or occasion to your family, tell me what you do during it.
I think it would be Chinese New Year and it usually happens in the beginning of February. We usually ended up celebrating the New Year at our restaurant when I was younger. The way we celebrated it usually was, if it was a weekday, we would close the shop a little bit early. Before my parents converted to Christianity, we used to offer a lot of food and fruits on a table as offerings to a religious god figure we used to have at the restaurant. Then we will pray with burning incense and joss paper money. The paper money is supposed to burn away and float up to the heavens where your ancestors are, and depending on how much you burn, the same amount goes to your ancestors. We would just have a big feast at the restaurant with a lot dumplings and sea food. Then we will get red envelopes filled with money.
What is your parent’s most common advice?
I want to say it’s mostly, listen to what they say. They say that a lot, but one thing they say, which I extrapolated, is that they tell me to understand other people’s path to success. Like for instance, if someone is a lawyer, my parents would tell me to figure out how they reach at point, and how they achieved the things they have, and the paths they took to reach where they are.
What would you like to do if you didn’t need to worry about money?
I would really want to travel around, but not have like a pampered traveling experience. I wouldn’t want other people to know that I have a lot of money, but I would love to travel around, and learn about the real things happening in these places rather than doing the touristy kind of stuffs. For my family, I would like to provide help to my parents and family whenever they need it. I think I would use a lot of that money to campaign and figure out ways I could use that money to get money out of the politics. And then use that money I got from politics to fix some other things we see in the modern world. I want to financially help young people with good heart and soul who aren’t afraid to challenge the system of government we have, which suck up to people with money and power. I would like to explore for alternate venues with the money I have.
Why did you choose to intern at Gateway?
It has to do with the classes I took at Bucknell University. I took a class recently called International inequality and poverty. In that class, we learned about how changes at one level of decision making and power trickle down and affect communities at local level, and in different ways people have unheard of. At school, I heard about this good opportunity called the Shepherd internship program which matched students from various colleges with different organizations which deals with various different social issues such as food access, poverty, economic development, women’s right etc. So, I felt that this would be a good opportunity to help me understand more about what’s happening at a local level within the US, but also try to draw like parallels and comparisons to what’s happening up the chain of decision making.
What’s one issue in the world you are most concerned/interested about?
It’s hard to answer because there are so many things that I care about, and so many issues are connected to each other in one way or another. I really care about environment and pollution and global warming. Since bad things are happening to environment, that affects food access and the ability to grow crops and access to resources. Many of developed nations have been hypocritical, as they try to put pressure on other developing nations by putting rules and stipulations on what they can and can’t to environment, but these developed countries, like the US, have a hundred year of horrible environmental practices.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you don’t have any work?
Going on Reddit. What I like to do depends a lot on where I am too. If I am at my home, I would go online and read stuffs. If any of my friends are at home, then I would like to spend time with them. If I am in Atlanta and I have nothing to do, I would like to explore and look for places I could check out and appreciate while I am here.