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Where I am From: My Taiwanese Origins

The Family
The Family

I am a first generation Taiwanese-American, born in Paterson, New Jersey and raised all my life in Flushing, Queens. I have one older sister and two younger brothers. Both of my parents were born and raised in Taiwan, my father the eldest son and second of four children, and my mother the youngest of four daughters.

My parents met each other during their college years, as they both attended Taiwan Normal University and attended the same church. My father majored in Business Management and my mother majored in the Fine Arts. My parents were engaged and joined in marriage soon after graduation, when my father became the manager of Taiwan’s top insurance company of the time, and my mother became an associate professor in the Fine Arts at Taiwan Normal University.

In the early 1980s, my mother traveled to New York to visit her eldest sister living in Long Island. Since she was given a chance to study in a Theology program at St. Johns University’s seminary school, she took advantage of the opportunity, and obtained her Master’s degree in Theology. Consequently, upon her graduation, my father came to New York to meet her.

Rather than return to Taiwan to resume their previously held positions, however, my parents decided to remain in the United States. They left their previous lives in Taiwan behind. Because they had some friends living in New Jersey, my parents decided to move to Paterson, New Jersey. There, my mother gave birth to my older sister and myself. Soon after, my father became a pastor and my parents moved to Flushing, Queens. They planted a home church in their newly purchased house by Kissena Park. In subsequent years, my two younger brothers were born. Our family grew up in that house for over a decade, and upon my entering high school, we moved to a new home in Glen Cove, Long Island. There I completed my pre-college education. Now, my family continues to remain living in Glen Cove while my older sister resides in Bayside, Queens, and I in Harlem, Manhattan.

Who Am I? Something More.

Johnson Ho
Johnson Ho

My name is Johnson Ho. I have one older sister and two younger brothers whose names are Joan, Jason, and Jerry. I can’t come up with any other simple reason why all of our names start with the letter “J” except that it’s “J” for Jesus.

I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at City College, and as for my future plans, I prefer to keep my options open. I can either continue onto graduate school to study biomedical engineering or go to medical school, but I plan to only find out when the time for decision-making comes.

As I’m “J” for Jesus, several of my hobbies and interests are church-related. However, several other interesting facts about me are that my favorite instrument is the cello, which I began playing since 4th grade, while I’ve been playing the guitar for church-services since 9th grade. I love both classical and inspirational music and my favorite Christian artist is Chris Tomlin.

My history with sports is in progression with my increasing height over the years: Handball throughout junior high school (very close to the ground, especially with the “rollers” – a handball term), Track and Field throughout high school (very linear and parallel to the ground, with my personal record of 53.0 seconds for the 400-meter dash), and most currently, Volleyball in college (as a starting middle blocker for the CCNY Men’s Volleyball team).

I often try to connect the things that I read with what’s currently going on in my life or something from my past. Out of all the readings from the class, my declared favorite is a poem by Kim Addonizio titled, “Generations.” When I first read through the poem, I really began to feel the depth of gripping emotion from the author’s words, and I was reminded of my grandfather. Consequently, due to the overflow of the emotion flooding within me, I wrote a “think piece” in response to Ms. Addonizio’s poem.

In reflecting upon the question, “Who am I” and “What’s my identity,” I find that I am more than just a name, more than just an ethnicity, and more than just a list of likes and dislikes, accomplishments, and things that I’ve done and still do. But since these are just surface information and categories that society defines us by, which supposedly makes it easier for everyone to distinguish someone from another, I’ll just leave it as that.

New York and I

Growing up, Flushing was my New York. My family of six lived in a modest house on 153rd street right in the middle of 3 parks, which served as our backyard. I remember running around Kissena Park with my dad and brothers to monkey around on the wooden workout benches, and feed all the geese and ducks with bread we had bought. I remember going to Booth Memorial Park to swing as high as I can on those swing sets, slide down those tubular slides, and play freeze tag with everyone else my age. Now, when I ever get the chance to return to that same area, I just sit down on the benches, reflect, and observe as all the other young boys and girls frolic as actively as I once did.

Flushing was all I knew, and all I got to explore. My only experience with New York, New York, was this once time in Junior High School, when I went to Times Square to play Laser Tag with the Boys Club. The whole metro system was strange to me, though quite an adventure. This unfamiliarity with New York lasted all the way up until I finally came to City College. Now that I’m here, the Macaulay Honors College has really opened me up to what New York has to offer: Broadway shows, operas, orchestras, theatres, comedy clubs, and a whole mix of interesting people. Now my scope is opened, and there’s only more to discover.