Asians to America with Skills

A Wave of Arrivals From the Far East Enriches the Country's Talent Pool

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An important source of solace is maintaining ties to the old culture. This is becoming considerably easier to do as more and more Asians arrive in America. Their swelling numbers create a demand for many of the goods and services available at home, from Indian spices to Chinese acupuncture to Laotian bamboo flutes. Murali Narayanan, 32, a design group supervisor at Bell Laboratories in Naperville, Ill., makes a point of driving five times a year to Chicago's North Devon Avenue, which teems with Indian grocery stores, restaurants and sari shops. Says he: "You feel comfortable just walking down the street." New technology has added to the links available to the old country: many Asian food shops now rent videocassettes of movies and television programs produced in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Bombay.

Still, however closely new Asian Americans choose to follow their previous ways, the vast majority look to the future as Americans. Filipino Americans or Chinese Americans or Indian Americans, perhaps. But if asked to drop one part of their compound self-description, most would do away with the first. A few commemorate the transition by Anglicizing their surnames and many more by choosing American first names for their children, the real beacons of the future. Wai-wah Cheng, 57, came to Los Angeles from Hong Kong, where he ran a successful garment business. After seven years in the U.S. he still works as a chef in a Chinese restaurant, and his wife, Nyan-ying, 52, is a seamstress. Son Joe, 22, graduated this year from Cal Tech with a degree in physics and begins work this month at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "I think about what they sacrificed, and it was a lot," says Joe. "You have to give up to get."

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