Portrait of James Wah Kong Chan

“The night before I was to leave Hong Kong, I dreamed of being chased after by vampires in Chicago.”

 James Wah Kong Chan is an export marketing consultant.

52. James Chan High ResolutionI was an illegal immigrant for five years. From 1977 to 1982, the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service sent me to three deportation hearings. I hired three lawyers to defend me until one day I broke down and prayed to God for help.

I came to America as a shy, clueless foreign student with a B.A. degree from the University of Hong Kong. I was on a student visa to study geography at the University of Chicago, where I got my M.A. degree in 1973 and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where I got my Ph.D. degree in 1977.

By then, I had grown fond of the American culture and way of life and I wanted to stay. Boston University offered me a one-year job as an assistant professor. I accepted the job but my student (F-1) visa was about to expire. When I stayed to continue to teach, I “over stayed” and became by law an illegal immigrant.

One day, near despair, I found myself wandering nervously next to the Basilica Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City. I saw the Cross and I realized that there was one last resort—to ask for divine intervention.

I walked into the Cathedral and prayed to Saint John Neumann for guidance. After that, I went down on my knees and prayed to God. In silence, I made a vow to God: “If you could help me get a green card, I would promise to pull China and America closer.” I created a story of which I could be the hero. I forged my own myth. I left the church and typed 500 more job search letters.

A few months later, a Fortune 500 company hired me and proved that I could do a job that no American citizen could qualify to do. The company wanted my help to export scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly books and journals to China and other Asian markets. On my birthday in August 1982, the U.S. Consular Office in Hong Kong gave me my permanent residency card and said to me: “James, Happy Birthday!”

From being a shy, clueless foreign student from Hong Kong, I’ve transformed myself into a management consultant advising Fortune 500 companies on how to sell their products in China. My five-year herculean task taught me a lot about how to succeed in America and how to be an assertive public speaker and independent export marketing consultant. I set up my own consultancy in 1983 and I’ve advised more than 100 U.S. firms on how to promote and export their products and services to Asia.

I left Hong Kong in 1971 because I wanted to get a doctoral degree and see the world. I remember the night before I was to leave Hong Kong, I dreamed of being chased after by vampires in Chicago. I cried quietly on my first plane ride from Hong Kong to Chicago. I was afraid of failure but secretly I was excited. A friend from Hong Kong at Chicago let me sleep in his bed because he had noticed that I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained. He slept in his own sofa instead.

My mother saw me off at the Hong Kong Airport in 1971. A few months later, she borrowed money from a loan shark to help me pay for Chicago graduate school tuition. I cried uncontrollably in the basement of The Joseph Regenstein Library that evening when I read the Western Union cable about the money. Luckily, from that year on, I was either on scholarship or teaching assistantships throughout my entire graduate school years. I sent money home to my mother every month until she told me to stop decades later.

All of my degrees are in regional and cultural geography. I was fascinated by how countries behave like individuals with their respective unique, quirky personalities and psyche. I love to study them and predict their conduct. It is no coincidence that my clients value my expertise in helping them to read the character of people in China and decode their feelings and motivation.

Even before I forged my own myth at the Cathedral Basilica, I had felt strongly that China and America have very different personalities and value systems. They would need cultural go-betweens like me.

My personal myth and my role as a mediator in business between China and America are documented in my book, Spare Room Tycoon, Succeeding Independently, The 70 Lessons of Sane Self-Employment.

Portrait of James Wah Kong Chan 陈华江移民美国的故事

Translated by Wendy Song,Tianjin, CHINA 天津市宋宏翻译

离开香港的前一天晚上,我梦到自己在芝加哥被吸血鬼追赶。

陈华江博士(James Chan)是美国费城出口市场营销顾问

我在美国当了五年的非法移民。1977年到1982年,美国移民归化局找我去参加了三次驱逐听证会。在那五年内,我雇了三个律师为我辩护,直到有一天我觉得走投无路了,向上帝祈求帮助。

在香港大学取得学士学位之后,我来到美国。那时候,我是一个害羞、没有社会经验的外国留学生。我拿到学生签证,在芝加哥大学学习地理,并于1973年在那里获得了硕士学位,1977年在安娜堡密歇根大学获得了博士学位。

从那时起,我开始喜欢美国的文化和生活方式,我想留下来。波士顿大学给我提供了一个一年的助教工作。我接受了这份工作,但我的学生签证(F-1)即将到期。当我留下来继续教书时,我因“过度停留”,成了非法移民。

在那些和美国移民局战斗绝望的日子里,有一天,我发现自己焦虑地徘徊在费城市的圣徒彼得和保罗的天主教大教堂旁边。我抬头看到了教堂屋顶的十字架,于是意识到,我还有最后一个可以请求的对象–上帝。

我走进教堂,向圣徒John Neumann祈祷以寻求指引。之后,我跪下来向上帝祈祷。在沉默中,我向上帝许下誓言:“如果你能帮我拿到绿卡,我会承诺把中国和美国的关系拉得更近。”我在心里写了一个故事,在这个故事里,我可以成为英雄。我锻造了自己的神话。离开教堂的那一刻,我的心感到异常的平静。回家后,我继续手打了500份求职信,向愿意聘用我的美国企业求职。

几个月后,一家财富500强的公司雇佣了我,这份工作所以会让我来做,是因为没有美国本地人可以胜任它。该公司希望我能帮助出口科学、技术、医学和学术书籍和期刊到中国和其他亚洲市场。1982年8月我的生日那天,美国驻香港领事馆给了我永久居留证,并对我说:“杰姆斯,生日快乐!“

从一个来自香港,害羞、缺乏社会经验的外国留学生,我把自己变成了一个美国企业管理顾问,为财富500强公司提供如何在中国销售产品的策略。那五年的艰苦卓绝教会了我如何在美国取得成功,以及如何成为一个自信的演说家和独立的出口市场营销顾问。我于1983成立了自己的咨询公司,并向100多家美国公司提供了如何向亚洲推广和出口他们的产品和服务。

我是在1971离开香港的,因为我想获得博士学位,并看看世界。还记得在离开香港的前一天晚上,我梦到在芝加哥被吸血鬼追赶。我坐在飞机上静静饮泣,那是我第一次从香港到芝加哥。我害怕失败,同时内心却也十分激动。一位先我来芝加哥的香港朋友看出了我的精疲力竭,便让我睡在他的床上。而他则睡在自己的沙发上。

1971年,母亲在香港赤喇角机场给我送行。几个月后,为了帮助我支付芝加哥研究生院的学费,她从一个高利贷者那里借钱。当我收到关于这笔钱的电报的那天晚上,我在芝加哥大学的Joseph Regenstein图书馆的地下室里不由自主地哭了。幸运的是,从那一年起,在读书生涯中,我就一直能拿到奖学金或助教工作。此后,我每个月都把钱寄给母亲,直到几十年后她告诉不用再给她寄钱为止。

我的大学及研究院专业都是区域和人文地理学。我着迷于一个国家如何像个人一样拥有独特、古怪的个性和心理。我喜欢研究他们并预测他们的行为。我的客户重视我的专业知识,这能帮助他们阅读中国人的性格,解码他们的情感和动机。所有这一切都并非巧合。

即便在我在教堂许下心愿之前,我也能强烈地感觉到中国和美国有着非常不同的个性和价值体系。他们需要像我这样的文化中间人帮助两国穿线搭桥,解决冲突。

我的个人神话故事以及我在中国和美国之间的商业中介角色都记录在我的书中,这本书就是《创业大亨》Spare Room Tycoon。这本书包含了我如何自己做老板的70堂课。

2015年6月25-28日,费城的Crane Arts展览馆举办了一个名为“迁徙的人们的肖像”展。这个展览通过用自己的话讲述了《费城移民》的故事。

Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.

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