Making it in America: a restaurant owner’s story

Photo: Tencent.

Chinese web portal Tencent’s news site published an article about Fujianese restaurant workers in New York. Unfortunately, the article is in Chinese only, but there is a fantastic slideshow.

The reporter follows Anqi, a 27-year-old mother of two who crossed the border illegally 10 years ago. She has since acquired a green card and opened up a restaurant in Manhattan, employing workers who are still undocumented.

Although she has regularized her status, her life has not improved significantly. Soon after ther first daughter, Yiyi, was born, Anqi and her husband sent the child off to China, because they were in no position to raise her in New York. Last year, they sent their second daughter, Lele, back to China as well. Their only contact with their daughters is through nightly video chats when they get back from the restaurant at 1AM.

打工者可以请假、跳槽,作为餐馆经营者则没有选择。在纽约10年,她没有去看过自由女神像,没有出州游玩,离家10年也没有回过一次家,一天工作超过12小时,天天如此,近乎苦行僧一般的生活。

“我们一辈子都在还债:先还偷渡的债、律师费的债,再还包餐馆的债,最后还买房子的债、子女的债。太累了。”

“Employees can take vacations or switch jobs, but restaurant owners don’t have these kind of choices. Though she’s lived in New York for 10 years, she has never seen the Statue of Liberty and has never gone on a trip out of state. In the 10 years since she left China, she has not been back even once. She works over 12 hours a day, every single day. It’s like the ascetic life of a monk.

‘We’re paying back debts for out entire lives. First we pay back the debt from being smuggled over here. Then there is the debt from the lawyer’s fees. Then there is the debt from the house, from raising the children. I’m tired.’”


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