Our travels on Thursday (and early Friday) took us across the beautiful state of Maine, which reminded me of the Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota, with its forests and rocky shorelines.
I’m always interested in connections between places I am traveling to/through and China. Shortly before departing on this trip I ran across an interesting article in the Bangor Daily News about the history of the Chinese community in Maine, titled Maine’s Chinese History is More Than Just Ethnic Food and Laundry, written in January of this year:
“Tuesday marks the lunar new year. It’s often called Chinese New Year and it’s as good an excuse as any to look into the city’s history of Chinese immigration and culture. It goes back further, and is far richer, than most people realize.
“Most people don’t understand how diverse this place is, and just how long it’s been this diverse,” said local historian and attorney Gary Libby.
Libby, 71, started researching Chinese history in Maine two decades ago. Now, there’s nobody that knows more about the subject. All his historical research and oral history interviews are now on file in the Maine Historical Society archives. Libby shares many of his historical stories in the Chinese and American Friendship Association of Maine’s newsletters as well.
“It’s more than just ethnic food and laundry,” said Libby.”
The article then goes on to tell about some of the notable Chinese immigrants in Portland, ME.
Another interesting glimpse of a Maine-China connection is the wonderful movie Maineland, which follows several Chinese students from wealthy families in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou as they attend a boarding school in the small town of Fryeberg, Maine. Here’s the description that accompanies the trailer:
Every year, an eclectic group of fresh-faced teenagers from China end up in Fryeburg, Maine for boarding school. Spanning three years of culture shock and school dances, this documentary captures a Chinese generation adapting to the global demands of the modern era, and a storied American institution adjusting to the new faces of its campus.
And here’s the trailer:
You should be able to find it on Amazon or Netflix.
While Stella and Harry are, ostensibly, the main characters, their presence at Fryeburg Academy, one of the oldest schools in Maine, is clearly being driven by the needs and actions of the other main characters—the school itself and the parents.
Fryeburg Academy needs to enroll international students for financial reasons, and thus recruits heavily among China’s wealthy elite. The parents, convinced that an American education is the path to success for their children, are the ones deciding their children should study abroad. It is for the family.
The students, then, are playing their parts, not only in the stories of their families, but in the story of the school, and the story of Sino-American relations.
The road trip continues….