“You know I am not Japanese, yes?” Zhang Wei had said in his interview with The Sushi Bowl, the sashimi place in the student union.

“We’re not allowed to hire based on students’ ethnic backgrounds,” the interviewer had assured him. “Plus, there aren’t enough Japanese students on campus even if we did.

So Wei found himself working the lunch rush behind The Sushi Bowl’s counter with three other students from China, smiling and nodding politely whenever he was complimented on “his” cuisine (in reality trucked in fresh from a distributor three times a day). It didn’t do wonders for Wei’s unease; in addition to facing challenges with his grasp of English every day, he was feeling very uneasy at being in an engineering class with no American students, and being one of sixteen Zhang Weis in the program (it being the mainland Chinese equivalent of “John Smith”).

He wasn’t sure if, as his grandmother had warned him, he was catching “American narcissism” like it was a disease, or if his feelings were a natural reaction to the routine absurdities that confronted him every day.

All he knew was that something had to change, or something was going to give.

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