Photographer: Kate Chan
A young girl wandering in a completely foreign country just to ensure a stable future for her family. Further down the road, she became a student, a mother, then to doing what she always does best and loves. She is her own person with a great moral and a loving heart. Her name is Ka Po Chiu. She was born in Hong Kong in 1968. It was a very simple time back then. There are kids running around the neighborhood playing sports all afternoon under the hot striving sun. She was definitely one of the active kids in the neighborhood. She love swimming, reading mini comic books, and getting lost. As she got older, her family opts to immigrant for the benefit of the young children. So that she moved to the United States and begin a new lifestyle here.
Hong Kong is a fascinating city. It was formerly recognized as a British colony until 1997. Before Ka Po Chiu came to the United States, she grew up in a town called Tsuen Shui Wan in Hong Kong. The two countries are very dissimilar. She grew up in a place where there are a strong sense of security, support, and independence. For example, it was and it is still very common to see a five years old taking a subway to school in Hong Kong without having too much safety concerns. Ka Po Chiu said, “I used to go all over the places to study after school because I get bored staying in one place. Everything is possible back then when we are in such a young age. We explore and learn because we are just always constantly moving.” She grew up surrounded by Chinese culture and also with a hint of British culture too. Therefore, she is constantly surrounded by exciting international influences. Growing up in her hometown, she was just a normal student and had a part time job to support her academic term. Luckily for her, the Chiu family saved enough money to move to the state. The next chapter of her life began when she immigrated to the United States.
On the exact day of Thanksgiving of 1987, when she was 19 years old, the Chiu family arrived in the airport of New York. They are on their way to apply for immigration. She immigrated to the United States along with her family in 1987 for educational purposes. In that period of time, the United States is famously known as the top destination for foreigners because of the “land of opportunities” concept. The next day, the young girl got a haircut and a perm. Here is why it is so interesting. Before she came to the United States, she was told so often that it is very difficult to find a hair salon here because they are expensive, always require their customers to make appointment, and their style are also different. As for this reason, she decided to get her hair done right before she jump on the plane and fly across the continent. Hilariously, she hated it and that is when she cut her hair again when she arrived to New York. She said that it is not true at all when they said that there are no reasonable hair salons. The first thing she actually founded here are the numerous amount of cheap hair salon in Chinatown. At that period of time, many people were told the same about the hair salon story. It is one of the most common thing Asia’s immigrants will hear before arriving to their new home.
A satisfactory amount of education was her top priory. Ka Po Chiu is one of the people who experienced many cultural differences in such a young age. Especially when she also grew up with sibilants. Her enlightenment will never end. She continued her education in Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York. Chiu described the school as the most down to earth school she ever went to. She said that because everything in Hong Kong is extremely competitive and everything around here is much more relaxing and less stressful. Especially when the college located right next to the beach and in Manhattan Beach. As her per usual in traveling to different places to study, she actually didn’t went to much places during her early semester. She just spend majority of her time at the beach doing her schoolwork. The sound of the wave and the calm ocean breeze made her so happy and it helps her to focus.
She majored in Business and finished with college with an associate degree. In her generation, graduating with a Bachelor degree was not as essential as it is for now. Plenty of jobs do not require a high level of education. So instead of persisting further study, she acquired her first job in the U.S with the position as a bookkeeper. Shortly after, she received a promotion to become an accountant. Ever since she was a kid, she always fantasized about becoming a manager one day. So she did, after a period of time she becomes an accountant. Over the course of her first job, she worked very hard and with all her dedication that leads her to where she wants to be. “Work hard and keep consistent.” A simple worded quote from my mother as an advice to be successful. She believes that dedication is one of the most important features any person can have. She is a very educational engaged type of person. Whenever there is a learning opportunity, she will most likely to take advantage of it.
A while after, she got married and gave birth to her child. She laughed and said, “I still remember that the fetus was too big and had a hard time for delivery. So I it ended up with C-section because my baby start to have breathing difficulty and that was the scariest moment. Then when I finally meet my baby for the first time in the hospital, it was the most happiest moment in my life.” For her, becoming a mother held a significant change in her life. It means more responsibly in life, precise time management, a stable job and so much more. It requires all her effort and also occupied almost all of her time. She said, “Time management is the hardest thing for being a mom, especially be a single Mom. Balancing time between work and home is challenging.”
After five years, she went back to work and started in her new job as a production coordinator. After two year, she got a promotion to production manager due to her leadership and organization skill. Even today, she still continues to work in the company from that moment on until now which is 13 years later. In 2011, she moved to Philadelphia and became an interpreter. She loves a challenge and it is the perfect job for her to keep on learning. I asked her if she like what she is doing and what will be her next plan. She answered “Yes. I enjoy the work I do and planning to continue for another 4 years. Then I will start my study in Psychology and wish to become psychology therapy in one day.”
As for now, she will proceed on her ongoing passion in helping others. One of the most rewarding parts of her job is when she sees the LEP (Limited English Person) changes their facial expression from anxious to a smile. That taught her a way to solve the language barrier problem. “It is a gift to have the ability to help people. Nothing worth more than that satisfaction.”
Chiu, Ka. (2017, July 2). Interview