ZANDER ALLPORT'S CLASS
Zander Allport is a composition instructor at Moreno Valley College and UC Riverside, where he is also a PhD student in English literature. This was his first time participating in the oral history project, and he was so grateful for the opportunity it gave him to learn about his students, their communities, and the people that inspire them.
These oral histories were written as part of a English 1A unit about migrations and borders. The writing prompt asked students to record a story of movement, interpreted in the broadest sense. The stories students recorded captured an amazing range of types of movement: from transnational immigration, to moving houses or neighborhoods, to emotional and spiritual journeys of all different kinds.
All oral histories and photos used with permission. They have been edited for length and to protect the privacy of the narrators.
Born in Thailand. Interviewed by Bobbi.
My name is Anchan and this is my story. I was born in the 1940s and raised in Thailand. I am now seventy-four years old. I have nine siblings and I am one of the oldest. I only have one sibling who also lives in the US who’s located in Minnesota. For most of my life, my family was very poor. Since we were poor, we couldn’t afford toys, so as kids we used to take Pomelo fruits, peel them in one big piece and run around wearing them as hats while we played. As a child, I did well in school. since a good education was something I felt was very important. My father was also a principal for a school and because of this he wanted me and all of my siblings to learn English. He didn’t just want us to get by, he wanted us to be able to read and write it as well as be fluent in English so that’s exactly what we did. For school, I had to walk many miles just to get there and home even during really harsh weather days in our mandatory uniforms. There were no buses or cars in our village so it was very hard some days to get to school. One particular traumatic experience I remember was when I was around thirteen. In a river near my village, I saw the body of a drowning victim and he had been there for a few days. Thailand is very humid, so I remember his body looked like chicken skin, still today I will not eat boiled chicken skin since it reminds me of him.
Eventually once I grew older, I began to work in a small restaurant. I cleaned tables, cooked, and served people, all of the easy labor things. Soon I met my husband, Warren. He was stationed in a nearby base because he was in the Airforce. He was in the Airforce for twenty-two years and after retiring was on reserve for a few more years. After we got together, I had gotten pregnant and had my child soon after. We wanted another child, but the doctors told me I wouldn’t be capable of it. After this, we began to travel from place to place due to Warren getting stationed in different places outside of Thailand.
OUTSIDE OF THAILAND
We kept trying and while we were going from place to place a miracle happened. I ended up getting pregnant anyway, despite doctors saying I couldn’t and had my second child while we were stationed in Guam. Not too long after we decided to migrate back to his hometown, America, but for me this was a very big step. I knew how to speak fairly good English but my regular life that I knew would soon be moved to Southern California. At the beginning, it was a very hard struggle, even when speaking English my accent was so thick sometimes it made it hard for people to understand. I found work again and didn’t retire for years after. I would always go back to Thailand to visit my family and I found a temple to go to here in Moreno Valley. Once my children began to grow up, my oldest daughter had four kids and my youngest had two. My oldest moved out but I still live with my youngest to this day with Warren. Since we do not have a lot of money, we all pitch in to pay rent and other necessities.
After retiring, I have a lot of time on my hands, so I spend time gardening and taking care of the plants outside. I like to cook Thai food, sew, and watch my Thai shows. When I was younger, it was necessary for the oldest siblings to learn all the Thai recipes and how to cook them, which is why I tend to cook a lot and why I am good at it. The sewing I do usually consists of fixing holes or tears in clothes. I don’t usually buy new clothes a lot I just fix up any old ones. I also fix the family’s clothes too when they get damaged and sometimes I even fix the dog toys. I have also sewn dog beds for our old dogs from old mattress material and many other things. I spend a lot of time doing chores such as cleaning up the kitchen, both bathrooms, downstairs and other small areas around the house as well as mine and Warren’s laundry.
Currently, the family situation in the house isn’t the most perfect it could be, but I love my family a lot and I love my life and wouldn’t change it for anything.
Born in Veracruz. Interviewed by Isela.
MY FIRST TIME IN THE U.S.
My reasoning for coming to the United States illegally for the first time was due to an argument I had with my mom that had escalated and caused her to hit me for the first time.
I was sixteen, and my older sister and I had snuck out to go clubbing, and at some point that night my mother had noticed, and became worried sick so when we had gotten back she had realized where we had been, and was naturally very angry at us. We started to bicker, and before I knew it she had hit me. This infuriated me, and since my older sister was supposed to be leaving to cross the border to go live with my brother in the U.S, and so I screamed at her that I was leaving along side my sister. All my mother said was fine, and after a few months of saving up money, she sent me away to the United States for the first time towards the end of 1991.
WHEN MY PARENTS MOVED TO TIJUANA
About a month or so after I had left, my parents decided they wanted to be closer to us, so they packed their things, and came to live in Tijuana in the early 1990s. Around that time I had been in the U.S for about three months, and I did not like it one bit. School was really hard for me there, so I had dropped out, and since my siblings were much older they spent a majority of their time working. Naturally when my parents moved down to be near us, I moved back to Mexico with them. Within that same year I started working in a computer factory, and there I assembled tiny parts of the computer. Then after a year of working I was able to get a Visa, so that I could travel freely across the border.
MY LIFE CHANGED WHEN I MET MY HUSBAND
I met my husband in a small club near the border. During that time my husband was in the United States Marine Corps. The night we met, I didn’t really pay him much attention, because I was just a tiny bit more interested in his friend, but he wouldn’t let me be. I like to think it’s one of the many things that made me fall in love with him was his persistence. I remember that I had given him a fake name, because I thought our relationship would be nothing more than a fling. Though, like I said he is persistent, and in no time we were writing each other letters back and forth. He then started to come out to the same club we had met at whenever he could, and before we knew it, in the following March, he didn’t only find out what my real name was, but he also married me through court. Then later in July of the same year we were married through the church.
Since he was in the military he was able to start the process for my residency, once we got married. When we were a couple months into being married, I became pregnant with our eldest daughter. But my husband was still in the military, so my entire pregnancy he spent on deployment around the west coast. He came back in May, and by then our daughter was two months old. Once he returned, we decided to move to Chicago, and so we went to Tijuana to say goodbye to my parents, before leaving. However, on our way to cross back through the border, the officer refused to let me back into the U.S, because my visa was “ fake”, but it wasn’t. What I assume is what happened was that because I had lost so much weight after my pregnancy, I no longer looked the same in my photo Id. So, even though I had a visa, I once again had to cross the border illegally with a coyote that my husband contacted. It was a very scary experience, that I had to endure for the last time, or so I thought, because again in the late 1990s I crossed the border illegally. During the process of getting my residency it was said that I had to leave the country, in order to actually be approved, so again I went back to Mexico with my parents, and by then my two kids. It wasn’t until I was back over there that we learned about the 245I, Provision of the Life Act, which allowed certain people with an immigrant visa to immediately be available for residency in the U.S, unless they have violated their visa agreements. Later in 2006, I submitted my citizenship application, took the test, passed it, and became a U.S citizen.
MY LIFE NOW
Currently I live in a house that I own along with my husband and our four kids, plus two grandbabies. I could not be any prouder of the opportunities, and amazing life, I have provided for my children, because they are my greatest joy, and biggest achievement! Though I still do worry, because all my siblings still live here in the U.S illegally, and I pray for them daily, because Trump is big on immigration, and wouldn’t want them deported.
Besides that though, I am proud to be an immigrant who's worked very hard to become a citizen, and I am even prouder of the life I have created with my husband, because together we push our kids to thrive, and be better versions of us.