Chinese immigrant in Amsterdam
Wednesday 11 am.
I am 20 minutes early for the train to Amsterdam. Just when I am about to sit down and drown in my paperback novel, I notice the oriental woman seated next to me.
She is one of those people you don't notice when you are rushing to catch the train. Her features are indistinct as are her clothes. When she smiles, you see her broken teeth.
"Are you Chinese?" I ask gently. "Do you speak Mandarin? Guo yu? Putonghwa?"
"A little," she replies with a heavy accent. She is from Zhejiang, the home of Chiang Kai-shek.
"What are you doing here?" I ask. "Do you live here?"
"No, I live in Amsterdam. But I work here."
She must have either come here very early in the morning to work or have worked all night.
In the twenty minutes that we talked, I learned that she has no family in this country. She has lived here for some twenty years and has a grown-up son in Belgium. She speaks no Dutch and hardly any English. How could she survive here?
She told me that her education ended during the Cultural Revolution. Luckily she was able to leave China because of distant relatives in the Netherlands, but she doesn't want to bother them anymore. She likes her independence.
How does she earn a living?
Only after she got off the train did I guess. She is a cleaner, at a local Chinese restaurant.
15 January 2005 Saturday
The importance of being earnestly Chinese (2 page PDF)