|Interviewee||Alpha Sadcopen : Field Museum of Natural History|
|Personal Statement / Transcription:||
Burnett: Ok. Please state your full name and spell your last name
Sadcopen: Full name is Alpha Sadcopen. S a d c o p e n
Burnett: Ok, please begin your story whenever you are ready.
Sadcopen: I moved to the United States when I was eight years old. We came here-
Burnett: What year was that?
Sadcopen: That was 2...that had to have been 2002. Because my mom came here 2001 and we didn’t see her for a year. So yeah we moved here...she moved here december 2001, we moved here october 2002. October 16, that was my sister’s birthday
Burnett: Is "here" chicago?
Sadcopen: Yes, yeah. We initially moved to Cicero first and then we moved up to Bolingbrook in 2004. How we got here is that my mom had been trying to apply for work overseas. She had gotten her nursing degree for that reason, because she knew that there was, that people were looking for overseas workers and she got into nursing and she was actually initially applying for Saudi and things just didn't work out that way and my parents both saw this- she was applying for Saudi way before I was born. And way before any other of my siblings were born too. And my parents saw this as kind of like a blessing in disguise, because most of the time ppl who get work in saudi dont really get to bring their families with them, or it's harder. So, after she actually got some advice from her sister who is in Canada, she just decided ok like we'll just wait it out a little bit longer. If it doesn't happen it doesn't happen but we’ll just keep trying. And after raising five kids- I'm the last one- and she actually heard from a friend of hers who had another friend contact her about, she was looking for anyone who was a nurse who would be interested in finding work in the united states. And she works in this hospital called Loretto hospital (that's l o r e t t o Loretto hospital off of 290) and she, this friend of a friend was like hey, if you know anyone, I'm gonna be here for just a couple more days. If they can get their information and their documents out, I can get them a job just like that. And my mom was very hesitant at first, and she had actually a lot to do that day where she was finally like you know what, I'm going to apply for this, real quick and then see where that goes. And so after all this whole thing happened, she was able to secure a job in Loretto, she moved her december 2001 and she actually did move here with a few other nurses from Baguio. She didn't know any of them, but they all kind of quickly became friends because they were all going on this journey to the same hospital. And she was living in Cicero and that's why we all moved to Cicero first. We moved out to Bolingbrook in 2004, yep. And yeah, our, one of the first things that she told us before we were getting on the plane is that we needed to bring winter jackets, which I didn't even understand what a winter jacket was. The extent that we knew of jackets was like a sweater. And when we stepped off the plane, this was october, and we had a light windbreaker on. We got off the plane and it was like oh my god, I didn't even realise this kind of coldness was a thing ever. So that was definitely an adventure and I experienced my first snow in november that year. And that was, I wanna say that was a fairly early snow, I want to say. But yeah. And before actually, before we left, we had all the family come to the house. For kind of like a “despedida” is like a term I've heard before but it's like essentially a goodbye party. This was October 16, or I want to say, cause I know Philippines is a day ahead, so I think Philippines was october 17, and then we flew back in time! So yeah we had all of the family members come, and I think the hardest thing was my oldest brother was too old to get petitioned, I forget what the cutoff age is but he was too old so my mom couldn’t petition him to come over. So after he was leftover, and there's five of us, so he's the oldest, and we all got in the van and we said bye to all the family members and we said bye to him one last time and he was just, I mean devastated for a little- for at least like a year. I mean to see like your family your core family kind of just like be in a different country and communication back then was nowhere near communication now. So, we had to write letters, he had to get call cards, like the cards to make international calls and things like that. But yeah. And then after that we dropped by my elementary school and the high school where my brother was attending and the university of the Philippines Baguio where my sister was attending. And it was like a string of goodbyes, kind of like last minute things that we were like ok we gotta go visit these people and then head out. I remember cause sometimes like people will say goodbye to their families at the actual airport. But we weren't able to do that because Baguio is like an eight hour drive from manila and we just didn't have that kind of transportation. And yep, that was that. We got on the plane and then we stopped at...in Korea. And before any of this was going on I had really never left. I had never gone to manila. The first time I ever went to Manila was trying to get papers and documents ready for my mom and then obviously taking her to the airport. And then one last time was getting on the airport and then flying here. So when people kind of talk about like hey, have you gone here in the Philippines or anything like that, anywhere south, I'm like nope! I was really only experienced- I've only really visited my grandparents up north, and then Baguio and then a little bit of manila and then gone.
Burnett: Where do your grandparents live?
Sadcopen: They're in Bontoc, I don't know exactly where exactly the name of the town or the area, but I just know in that general region, and my mom is from bila. Which is, I'm not entirely sure where that is either. But yeah, I dunno. Is there anything else?
Burnett: All right, so Alpha, what did you think about the United States when you got here?
Sadcopen: Everything was this grand, amazing thing. One of my favorite things to tell people because they laugh at this, obviously because they don't know what it was like, was going to a Walgreens. And we all know like walgreens? Really? The first time I ever walked into Walgreens it was like walking into disney world for me. Or like walking into whatever, you know, it was this whole thing my gosh it was like WHAT this place is amazing! And like its….its everything looks so clean and polished and like worth a million dollars you know? It's kind of funny because I mean now you go to a Walgreens it's like no, I want to get something nicer let's not go to Walgreens, you know? Let's go to a Target! At least that's a step up. Cause from what I understood back then what a walgreens was was like a grocery store kind of? And grocery stores in the Philippines are...it's like the shelves are narrow, and everything is stacked up high, it's just like not good lighting, and I dont know thats like the grocery stores that I was used to in the Philippines. There's definitely some grocery stores that are like in malls that are much nicer, much more modern and things like that, but like sari-sari stores, they're like little stores that people in the neighborhood build out of the side of their house. Like that's the closest store by where we were living in the Philippines. Like they're just called sari-sari stores and if you were business minded in the Philippines you probably had one of these like on the side of your house. And it was just like a window and people would come up to the window and they'd kind of see what merchandise you had and they'd be like oh can I get that for like a couple pesos or whatever. That's what I was used to for stores and you only saw like fancy things when you went to a mall. But when I walked into a Walgreens I was like what, this is crazy! And yeah I had a lot of fun. And one of my other favorite stories was going to a mcdonalds for the first time here. So Mcdonald's in the Philippines, they, it is fast food but there are servers. Well they don't like take your order, you take your order at the front but they take care of you a little bit more. Theres servers going around cleaning tables, bussing, like your trays and things like that and they take- you leave the mcdonalds. You don't clean your table, there's someone that does that for you. And that's what we were used to and so we went a Mcdonald’s here and we didn't understand this, and we left our table a mess, not realizing that that's our responsibility. So that's just kind of funny. Those are like my two strongest memories bc I remember leaving that and I think it had been a couple months later and my sister was like hey, you know, we probably should have cleaned up our table I think that's the etiquette here. And I felt so bad. I was like oh no! Like we just left that table a mess, like someone had to clean that up! But yeah.
Burnett: So speaking of food, what was that like coming here? Big difference?
Sadcopen: Everything tasted great. Cause also I was a kid, so the flavors here are much stronger. In the Philippines what I'm used to is like rice and ulam. Which is just like rice and whatever side dish that you would have. And it was usually some soup or whatever or just definitely not as spiced up as the food that we were getting here. And like, microwavable foods? Oh my god! I was just talking to my sister recently from what the first time we had those frozen White Castle sliders that you can throw in the microwave. First off, the whole idea of a microwave is mind blowing to me because you can have frozen food and then a minute later you have nice hot food and it was delicious and it was great. And when we first tried the White Castle frozen sliders it became very quickly one of our favorite things to eat at home. That was great. And I used to absolutely hate Flamin’ Hots. Used to absolutely hate it. But today I had a little ziploc bag of it because that stuff is amazing. Thats- I definitely have some like strong emotions for Flamin’ Hots because I just remember the first time I tried it and being like why do people eat this, this is gross. And slowly being like ok I get it. And now it's like one of my favorite chips.
Burnett: So you mentioned your sister- did your siblings feel the same way?
Sadcopen: I would say yes and it's kind of interesting now because my siblings are much older than me.
Burnett: So you're the youngest?
Sadcopen: I am the youngest. So my eldest brother is 15 years older than me. And then I have another brother right after him that's 14 years older. 13-14 I think. My sister is 10 years older than me and then my brother right before me is 7 years older. So they are..our age gap is pretty wide and they obviously went through all of these changes before I did. And some of them they didn't go through because they… or our experiences are a little different because some of them came here when they were in college, my other brother came when he went to highschool, and I pretty much experienced growing up here in the US.
Burnett: What school did you say? Just now? Your brother went to…
Sadcopen: My brother in highschool, when he left he was...the one right before me was in Baguio city high school. And then my sister went to university of the Philippines baguio. My brother before her was in I wanna say university of- I forget- UB? University of Baguio I think? Is that a thing? Thats a thing I think. And then my oldest brother, he had already finished school, he went to school in japan for a year and he was already working as a marine engineer. He works on like, oil tanks. Oil tanker ships that like bring oil all around the world. But yeah. So yeah when we were all growing up it's kind of funny bc whenever we would talk about our experiences or our feelings when we were first getting used to being in the US. Its pretty much the same, I think its just the only thing that's different is the fact that they were older when they came here so there were a lot more things that they had to adjust to where I was just kind of like going with the flow. But definitely whenever we get nostalgic about certain things, were pretty like what that was crazy. And its like that. And it's kind of nice when you have your siblings to kind of share those memories with because it's interesting how similar you felt even though at that time you weren't talking about it. You weren't sharing those feelings with your siblings until like way later but yeah. Yeah.
Burnett: So you mentioned school. What was that like?
Sadcopen: It was interesting. I was the only Asian in that school. I was going to goodwin elementary. I attended there as a third grader and when I walked in for my first day I was barely speaking english. I hated speaking english at that time. This girl-
Burnett: What language were you speaking?
Sadcopen: Tagalog. Tagalog and Ilocano was what I was speaking in the Philippines. I didn't really speak [???] or the other dialects that my family was speaking. But yeah when I first walked in for my first day of school there was this one little tiny white girl that came up to me and she was like, "hey, you're new here! My name is Jamie. Do you know what class you're gonna be in?" or whatever. Or I think someone at the school knew that there was gonna be this new student and they were like you should go be friends with her kind of thing. And her name was jamie and she was like my very first friend in america which is funny because my very best friend that I left in the Philippines was also named Jamie. It was bizarre. It was bizarre but...yeah she came up to me and she was very sweet, very nice and she was my very first friend in america. And school was fine. I didn't feel- I don't remember ever really feeling out of place, and it was interesting because one of my strongest memories while in school was having to do- we had to like pair up with older kids and like read together as kind of like their program. That was kind of like part of their program and we would meet with fourth or fifth graders and they would read with us to kind of help promote reading while you're young. And I remember whoever I got paired with would be fairly surprised at how well I read, because of just like school in the Philippines and like how we did school back in the Philippines. I excelled in math because we were learning like, the multiplication tables in like first grade. And like stuff like that and like division and we always- me and my siblings always joked about how they drill- they don't like teach you in school they would drill you in school. And I kind of felt there was a difference in that when it came to my- me and my classmates.
Burnett: So different teaching styles?
Sadcopen: Definitely. I really did struggle with English for a little bit like writing, but reading was fine. But yeah.
Burnett: How old were you when you started school?
Sadcopen: I was...I started kindergarten I think I was like...my mom told me I started really young because I saw my siblings going to school and I really wanted to start school. I did kind of like a, I started doing like a nursery type thing when I was 3. And then I think I started first...like, kindergarten 1 I must have been like 4 or 5. And then kindergarten 2 and then so on and so forth. Something like that, yeah.
Burnett: Ok, so, Alpha, why did you decide to come in and do this today?
Sadcopen: I think it's important to...to from what my understanding is of what we’re doing, I think it's important to share these kind of stories. To kind of, to see like where those crossovers are, and to see more about I dunno, I think there's just something that i've realized that like, sharing stories with people is so.. .it just connects us in a way that's not just like a simple conversation. You know when you're sharing something, and the idea of sharing what it was like for you to move and essentially leave what you thought was going to be your life is really interesting. And hear- just being part of the project and hearing how other people have either- hear their experience or hear the way they've been dealing with this other identity that they may not be familiar with. Like being Filipino. Like some people, they weren't the ones that moved here but their parents did. And just, from working on this project from hearing those stories it's...i don't know I just think there's something there that's worth keeping and worth hearing about. Yeah I think that's really it. I don't know if that makes sense.
Burnett: It does! So is it for the people who weren't born in the Philippines that you want to do this?
Sadcopen: I think it's for anyone. Anyone who feels like...anyone who feels like anything! Anyone who is interested in hearing, bc I think I would rather just have it there in case someone does like need it or just want to hear it. Rather than not having it there to begin with. And I think thats what ive realized with stories from family. Where I have a lot of regret with not doing a better job like recording or just paying attention. That now its like you know what? If I have a chance to get some of this stuff down and stored somewhere, why not? Because you never know. Like maybe years down the road like a family member or someone else who may be like doing research or something, just anything, it's like good thing we had that there. And if it never gets used for anything, that's fine too, like ok fine whatever. But I would rather just keep it- do it for safe keeping rather than not have done it at all I think.
Burnett: Are there any family members stories that you really want?
Sadcopen: Yes definitely I want my mom's stories. And my siblings. I mean we don't really get to talk deeply about any of this stuff, but to kind of hear what they were going through when they were experiencing their changes and their...the whole moving here. Those are definitely things that I would like to hear from them.
Burnett: Then I'll ask is there anything else that you want us to know?
Sadcopen: I don't know if this is- I feel this is like late in the game to say this but I'll say it anyway- is the reason why like I have this strong feeling of wanting to record things is because my dad passed away. And he had a lot of stories to tell and he was the one that kind of inspired like me wanting to like do this stuff, and me being like passionate about my culture, because he was the one that like was all about it. And even my mom was kind of like ok, like, you're too much on this, like it's- chill out. And he was like no, this is really important! And like, We need to pass this down! And stuff like that. And yeah definitely that's why i'm like man I wish I like paid attention a little bit more. If I was older like my siblings were able to like spend more time with hi, they know a lot more. And so like now one of my life goals is to go home and like record his parents and like hear their stories too because im sure theres so much history there and you know people are like- they're not getting any younger. So yeah, that's I guess one of the main reasons too like why I thought this would be an important thing to do.