The American Dream

Jack A., Lima, Peru
Interviewed by Queenie Kwong

"It's changed but I don't know if it got better or not. Like you can't really tell, but it did change."

              America is known as “The Land of Opportunities” to so many others, but for some immigrants, they’re just living that American nightmare. We all have different lifestyles and living conditions. Unfortunately, not everyone in America is living that dream we all wish for: a big house, an enjoyable job and two beautiful cars. As for myself, am I living that American heaven or that American hell?
             On November 15, 2001, I took my first step into this land of opportunities. Before I came here, I used to think America as a technology, very advanced city, like those movies from the future. But when I came here, it’s just the same. Honestly, of course I was somewhat disappointed. I am a mixed of Peruvian, Spanish and Chinese. Okay, I miss most of my family members because I only have a few of them here [in California], and I grew up with them so I don’t have them anymore. It kinda really sucks to be with them for over 11 years and then moved so far away.
             I also miss a lot of food from my culture. Ceviche, it’s really delicious and my mom cooks it well. It’s composed of raw fish with lime and lemon juice, sometimes bitter orange. It’s sour but good. It’s almost exactly like the taste of sour skittles. Another one would be Pachamanca, a lot of types of meat combined. And Cuchicanca, it’s the best dish evah (laughs)! It’s pork made in some kinda special way. I have no idea what else is there, but it’s just awesome! Sometimes I would crave for the yummy food like the ones mentioned above since there are certain kinds of food you can’t get [in America].
            When you walk in the streets of Peru, you see Peruvians and Chinese people. [In America], you see a lot of races, different ethnicities and stuffs. There is also a language, ancient language or Quechua. Like [it’s the language] before the Spanish took over Peru. I guess it’s dying over the years, since only some people know it and I don’t think the language has any roots. The other ones just learn Spanish. And in Peru, you’re required to vote or else you have to pay a fee. Here [in America], you pay a poll tax in order to vote. Oh, sports wise, in Peru, you mostly see soccer; you don’t see football at all. Peru is also beautiful, not only because of its nature and the views at the top of the mountain ranges, but there are also exquisite historical places that are a part of Peru. One place would be the remaining castles and temples looking thingy of the Inca Empire. And of course, the other remaining of ancient civilizations is appealing just as well.
            I already got used to this place [in California] and I won’t survive [if I move back to Peru]. I already grew up in a different society [here] and it’d be hard to get used to another one once again. I remember my school life is almost the same thing as Peru but we didn’t have to wear uniform and have different students; [Here,] it’s a lot bigger and the classes are easier. Hmm, I would have to take the bus everyday.  Some obstacles…I would say language, pretty much self explanatory; you have to learn a different language. [But] it wasn’t that hard to learn it since English has Latin roots, easier to understand [yet still challenging]. It felt awkward because [sometimes] you don’t know what they’re saying or whether they’re talking about you. It’s hard to communicate and know what’s going on. I don’t think they treated me differently because I was with a bunch of the kids who are the same so we kinda relate. The people [in Peru], they’re much friendlier. You don’t see a lot of gang activities and the crime here is a lot higher.
            My dad works here and he would go to Peru every six months and he thought it was not good for our family to live without him for six months and only see him for like two weeks so we applied for immigration. [If I could bring one more family member here,] I would bring my little, uh my cousin. Since he’s a year younger than me, I spent my childhood with him. That’s why I was upset and anxious over the fact that I was going to immigrate to America. [Some of the accomplishments are how] I was able to learn a new language, socialize with people, become a part of the environment and society, and get used to a different place. [My life] is changed but I don’t know if it got better or not. Like you can’t really tell, but it did change.
            I did the same things [in America and Peru]: basically school, socializing with friends, went to the park, play sports, that’s it. Yeah, I do agree because it’s “The Land of Opportunities” because some people are able to accomplish [their] American dream and wait, some are living the American nightmare. It’s different for everyone. I think I’m living mostly the American dream.
          America is known for offering many options and choices but we also have to learn how to take chances, risk and sacrifice. Certain things only come once in one’s lifetime; if you don’t hold onto it, someone else will take it. Opportunities won’t disappear but they never wait: you either take it or lose it. And if you missed it, you missed it. The same idea applies to life; hold onto the people you love, treasure everything and treat everyday as if it was your last. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Never take things for granted because we’re living that life so many others dream of. I begin to feel that the American dream has been defined wrongly. Materials aren’t everything and the happiness they bring is not long-lasting. Even if you have a humongous house, a delightful job and pretty cars but don’t have family or friends, I would consider your life as an American nightmare. That American dream we yearn for is not about how many things you own, but it’s instead about how many family and friends you have throughout the good and bad times. Without love, family and friendship, this American dream will never come true; it will never be complete. Time is precious, so smile harder, laugh louder, and love longer. I am proud to say that I am living that American dream.