The Supermarket

Live seafood at the Chinese supermarket.
Live seafood at the Chinese supermarket.

My grandpa is a simple man without wild tales about his life. Born in 1954 in the village of Wenzhou, China, he lived a life common to the villager; he was a farmer. He immigrated to the U.S. with my grandma in 2009, bringing just his able body. In a new country, the foreign palate is estranging so immigrants settle where familiar ingredients and a common tongue can be found. Here, many Chinese immigrants work at the supermarket. The atmosphere contrasts an ordinary American grocer due to distinct smells and loud noises. Workers "correct" and arrange vegetables across wooden displays and butchers stand by to take orders for cuts of meat or seafood; they clean and cut on the spot. The air is straightforward and less courteous, bizarre to the outsider’s eye, but it makes this strange place a little more like home. Growing up, I pointed out flaws of my culture, especially those of the “dirty” supermarkets, associating the hubbub found within with this overall shame. Upon moving for school, I recognized the significance reminders of home possessed, deepening my understanding of the power of cultural markers in establishing comfort and community. The supermarket provided income and community for my grandpa for a decade. His story proves not all have an adventurous story associated with immigration; many settle somewhere that resembles home and work. This documentative journey humbled me in that our lives are vastly different. His role in his community represents the steps my elders took to provide me the life that enables me to be in school and in a position to tell their story. 

Place(s): Wenzhou, China, New York
Year: 2009

– Joanna Wong

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant