As a volunteer, I went to the park to do a survey of how to improve the city’s senior services. The park by the City Hall was my first destination. The old man I asked, who was dark skin, thin and small, said he is not a resident and shook his head. “I came here visiting my relatives.” He sat on the patio alone, speaking Mandarin with an accent. The second old man, who had a worrisome look on his face was watching a baby in the stroller. He reluctantly took the paper and looked at it for a long time while I was waiting. He then said, “I can’t answer them; also I can’t read.” He returned the paper to me, and I had to walk away, saying it’s okay. The big Yuan-Ji Dance group in their red shirts and white pants were dancing. I couldn’t interrupt them, so I walked back and forth several times to decide what to do next.
I passed the shelter where a group of American people with flag-theme clothes and decoration are having a July Fourth celebration. They were not my target for today, (my goal was to survey Chinese American residents.) so I passed them. Under the tree, a group of women occupied two benches were enjoying a potluck party. They all had a red-blue-white garland on their necks. I approached them and talked to a lady about the survey. She told me to ask their teacher. I approached a woman with long brown hair as directed, and started to make my inquiry. She first responded reluctantly. “It’s gonna be hard for us to do it because it needs to be written,” she frowned. I persuaded her that I would write down the answers for them. I quickly spotted Mrs. Lian, the ex-Chinese School teacher I knew, and introduced myself. They became very friendly afterward.
I got to make them talk about things they want to suggest. One lady wanted the City to be nicer to the group in return for the favor of the performance they offered for the city activities. Sherry, the teacher, who is also Mrs. Lian’s daughter, objected the suggestion and expressed the appreciation of being granted the shelter as their daily practice spot. But, Sherry complained about how the T.C.’s lunch program discriminated people like her who don’t look like 60 years old, or the staff doesn’t respect Chinese people. Because they think the Chinese people like to take advantages although they are rich. She explained how inconvenient filling up the registration form and making the reservation if compared to the same program in Arcadia. She said she goes to Arcadia for lunch, which costs $2, almost every day with her mom. Another lady said the front desk of the community center and people who serve food have no coordination, so it’s very confusing to get service.
Some people suggested to improve the dial-a-ride service, and they like Mahjong activity. The ladies were kind of aggressive at the end of the conversation.
I ask a Tai-Chi group at the other shelter to fill up the forms, and I would pick up later. They were cooperative, so I felt lucky.
I walked to the other side of the park where another Tai-Chi group was practicing. I didn’t want to interrupt them, so I caught up three people who were leaving. The man quickly said he was not interested because he lives in Arcadia. He and his wife walked away, but the lady said she would do it. However, she didn’t know what senior services she could suggest. I gave her a hint about the dial-a-ride, lunch program and activities. So, she wanted dial-a-ride more frequent and on time, and the drivers more polite. Some drivers took tips and gifts and didn’t treat the riders fairly. “My friend told me about this,” she said. Also, the city should plant more trees at the park, and the restrooms should be open at any time. This lady moved to Covina but still comes to this park for the dance every day because she has been in the team for almost ten years. She expressed her willings to be a volunteer, so I asked for her phone number to pass over the volunteer information. I was going to leave when the Tai-Chi group finished the practice. I made the inquiry, but the teacher said they had nothing to suggest, while other people just stared at me in silence. “Okay, thank you very much!” I politely smiled at them and left.
I solicited my survey last Wednesday at the concert at the park. All people I approached were English speaking typical Americans. Because it was the first time I had to do a survey in this way, I was surprised that the accepting rate of agreeing on the survey was approximately as low as 20%. Within the twenty percent, I would say ten percent took it delightfully, and the other ten percent did it reluctantly.
People who refused to do the survey showed these attitudes: “Get way, don’t bother me!” “Sorry, I am not interested at all!” “Who are you? What are you trying to do?” or, “Go away! I am afraid of a stranger!”
The Chinese people have the last two attitudes the most. On their faces and body language, it shows that I am suspicious and unknown. I felt like I was acting as an FBI agent hunting them.
However, the outcome was not bad. I got more than twenty surveys on Wednesday and ten today. I learned a lesson from this act: don’t easily give up the request, people will start to talk when they feel more comfortable.