The June 19 op-ed article by Ted Lieu, "Are You in the Chinese Air Force?" reminded me of a similar experience.

I had just finished my senior year at UCLA and had led my epee team as captain past the Air Force Academy in the Western Intercollegiate Fencing Championships. Our trophy was sitting proudly next to that of Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the basketball team in the trophy case. It was a heady experience.

I proudly wore my letter jacket everywhere. I had it on one night when I was serving a woman at the deli where I worked. It was close to evening and she wanted a free loaf of the remaining bread. When I politely declined, she said, "Why don't you go back to where you came from?!" Somehow, the jacket did not mean as much to me as it did when I went to work that morning. Almost 30 years later, those words still sting.

However, that event also caused me to rethink who and what I was. I started to read about the Chinese and about Chinese Americans. I was able to reconnect to the roots that I had cut slowly while growing up in my adopted country. Reestablishing my roots did not make me less of an American but a better American. I joined some friends to found a Chinese American cultural association. I had hoped to help people understand that Americans come from many wonderful cultures and in many beautiful colors. Ironically and sadly, as an expatriate in Switzerland I feel more readily accepted as an American than I did back home.


Nyon, Switzerland