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America and the New Immigrant Experience : PLATFORMS : Home Away From Home: The Struggle of New-Wave Immigrants

May 05, 1991| Platform interviews were conducted by Jeff Levin, a free-lance writer in Santa Monica who has worked in government in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

YANA FAYMAN: formerly a music teacher, now a medical technician; Armenian from the Soviet Union; here 1 1/2 years.

The first half year I was sick with nostalgia. It's a very difficult disease. Only time can help. I missed my mother, I missed my sister, all my family was in Russia. I was missing my friends. Everything.

(Now) I'm comfortable. I feel better.

My husband is a doctor. He is preparing to pass his test for the foreign medical graduated. I have to support him for this time. It's difficult for us now. Financially.

I have a lot of friends here. Among American people, too. Every Saturday I go to the Russian synagogue with my daughter, and spend time there.

I think that it takes time, and that everything will go right. I will feel like an American.

I respect American people a great deal. Now I feel much better.

GODAFRIN DASTUR: just completed an assignment as a student teacher; from India; here 5 years.

I did have a cultural shock.

In the the Midwest I used to see only white people or black people. I didn't see the multicultural life that Los Angeles has.

I used to speak English in India very well, but when I came to the Midwest, I forgot my grammar and got very nervous speaking to people . . . I didn't want to talk at all. I used to shy away from talking. It was difficult, trying to communicate with people. It used to intimidate me.

When I came to Los Angeles, I had no problem. I saw many Spanish-speaking people, people who were really trying to communicate in English. People's attitude was very different. It was laid-back. There were so many Indians who spoke with the same accent that I did. I had no problem communicating here. I felt more at home.

Definitely, Los Angeles is like Bombay. Bombay is a city which is very advanced in technology and every other way. It's a big, multicultural city and the attitude of the people is very different from other parts of India. Los Angeles is the same thing.

I'm very comfortable here--as comfortable as I was at home.

EDNA TAMMIK: cafeteria worker at a private school; from Estonia, Soviet Union; here 5 years.

At my age I think it's hard to feel completely rooted in another soil. There are very many differences in almost everything . . . culture, architecture, art, music. I am trying just to grab as much as possible of American culture. But I like it here, though it's very hard.

When I was (in Estonia) I had a job, I had medical (care), and if we retired we got a pension, we had a house where to live. It was all much less and much worse than here, but we had a kind of security. Here, you have to fight to get the work, you have to buy the insurance, you have to buy the car and nobody's paying us that much that we can get all that at the beginning. Just the economic situation is hard.

At the moment I feel that I won't go anywhere but here because the situation (in Estonia) is much worse. I was thinking that if Estonia is getting freed from the Soviet Union I might go back. I would go and help build up the country.

NAMPET PANICHPANT: program manager of an immigrant and refugee assistance program; from Thailand; here 10 years.

I see my adjustment according to the different time and different age when I am here.

(During) my first visit to the United States during my teen-age years and early 20s, I saw more positively that I could live here for the rest of my life. Then the responsibility was different. This is a youthful emphasized culture, a culture that values youthful productivity. There's a lot of excitement.

But as I stay on here, the second time that I immigrated, I wondered if it was that I had passed the age of 30 . . . and also that I had completed that circle, which a lot of Asians here did not. A lot of them yearn that by the time they reach a certain age they're going to return back to live in Asia. And then I came back here thinking that maybe I'll be able to live as comfortably, psychologically and physically as an American.

Physically I've become more comfortable because during the past 10 years there've been more Asians coming in. But the psychological part--I feel that I will forever be a "bi-Pacific Rim" person, that I will always have to straddle both rims. Every year I go home and touch base with my culture. One of the reasons why I'm not jumping directly into converting my citizenship . . . has to do with the psychological comfort, and maybe a little bit of the spiritual as well.

HERNAN PINILLA: musician, writer and a member of the editorial staff of Art & Culture magazine; from Colombia; here 8 years.

The first year I was (here) I was about to go back to Colombia. I was really frustrated. There were barriers. The first barrier was the economic one, the second one was the language. The third one was the cultural shock, the collision of cultures.

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