mark zhao is the first child born to jinhao and xiu zhao, two chinese immigrants who moved to the states early in their lives to pursue something believed to be better for themselves. though they had come at different times and for different reasons, the two met at a local restaurant in the mayfair neighborhood of philadelphia, pennsylvania and were quick to fall in love. they married in their early twenties and, about twelve months after their wedding vows were exchanged, mark was born. not too many months after that, they welcomed their second and eventually their third children into their lives and, unfortunately enough, their small and often crowded household. early on, it was easy to keep rooms separated when there were two rooms for each child, but as soon as they were pregnant with their third child, mark and his younger brother were forced to share a room. hand me downs were routine as were meals on the cheaper side of life, jinhao and xiu only able to afford so much between their work in the kitchens of various chinese restaurants.
still, mark led a rather fulfilled childhood, full of boyish antics, sports he would grow tired of after sticking with them for one or two seasons, particularly during high school, but the one mainstay that had came of it was a focus in martial arts and gymnastics. despite the teasing he received for the latter, it went hand in hand with the more stylized moves of his various disciplines, ranging from karate at age nine to hapkido and jiujutsu during his formative years when competitions were met with much more fervor and determination to actually medal, if not get first place. it didn't always happen, of course, which just mean mark would have more to work on the next time he was in the dojo, whenever that would be between homework and socializing during any given week.
the opportunity for college was quick to come up and despite good grades and just as good prospects for financial aid, another four years of school seemed to be the last thing that mark wanted to spend his time on even if he had moved clear across the country for it. he made a fair effort during his freshman year and even less of one during his sophomore year, but as his junior year approached, mark's attention seriously waned and dropping out was inevitable no matter how many lectures there were from his parents. thankfully, there was his younger brother, studying away and every diligent, to be the one to bring his parents a sense of pride while mark managed to find work as a bar back for a nearby bar, a position that eventually evolved into becoming a bartender given some extra and specialized schooling. he has only been at it for a short time, but he enjoys it even if the more notorious drunks tend to sway him to the annoyed side.
... became roommates with johanna when the need for a roommate came up, offering a much lower rental rate for the extra room in his space via craigslist than someone outright going out and renting their own place. given his proximity to campus, it worked out for both of them.
... teaches karate on the weekend to children ages nine through fifteen, putting his former training to some good use in training others. there are two separate classes: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
... contrary to popular perception, mark doesn't drink on the job. vodka shots are water and brown liquor juice, otherwise he would probably be wasted by the time he actually had to leave, never mind unable to complete his shift to expectations.