Category Archives: Asian-American

The crossing of cultures

Red for Valentine’s Day; Red for Lunar New Year.

Many holidays occurred this week: Lunar New Year (ongoing celebration until the 20th), Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and tomorrow, Valentine’s Day.

I’m sure at an earlier point in my life, I celebrated all these holidays in one week. But this year is different for me: it is my first time to partake in Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and the Lenten Season. I grew up in a Baptist church in my hometown; in my early 20s, I dabbled in nondenominational Christian churches. And this year, I found my way to the Episcopal Church.

In the Episcopal Church, I have found my family. I have found what I need to fulfill my religious needs. And, like a young child taking it all in for the first time, I am observing all that the church observes. It’s an exhilarating feeling…

…although, I also know, I must observe the holidays of my lineage: the Lunar New Year, the traditions through that, and the beliefs behind the Lunar New Year.

Maybe some think that my observance of Chinese and Christian holidays doesn’t add up; but I know I cannot forget where my ancestors came from. Both my Chinese heritage and the Christian tradition have resonated side by side throughout my whole life. I don’t see it as a conflict of religion/beliefs; I see it as my way (and my family’s way) of observing our mother heritage and our American upbringing in the Church.

It’s an interesting way of seeing life through two different lenses.

“Where are you {REALLY} from?”

I come from the sky, the mountains, the earth...

I come from the sky, the mountains, the earth…

Every time I hear this question, I immediately go on the defensive. This person thinks I’m from Asia! Gosh! Yet, I’m not entirely wrong on assuming what the other party thinks; most people will profile me on the way I look to determine how they should speak with me.

I actually dreamt last night that I was waiting in line at a library, waiting to ask a question, and I was  ignored by the librarians; they instead wanted to help out the non-Asian patrons behind me. In the dream, I ran off yelling about how rude, disrespectful, etc. the librarians were.

Growing up, I experienced a lot of discrimination like this; even today, my family and I are discriminated against. Whenever I go to the store with my mom back home, the cashier is always cheery to the customer in front (and behind!) us; when we get to the front of the line, the cashier immediately looks down, doesn’t raise his/her eyes to us, and doesn’t try to conjure up conversation.

We speak English, you know.

When I first started getting the question of “Where are you from?” in my adult life, I’d wrestle with my answer for a good few minutes. Do I tell them I’m from China? But wait, I wasn’t even born there and have only visited once. Do they want me to say I’m from China or somewhere in Asia? et .al.

I’ve received this question many times since moving to Denver, and nowadays I’ve perfected my answer to this: “I’m from Virginia. How about you?” And it seems that this is the best way to reply back to the question. Oftentimes I feel that the other party does want me to say I’m from somewhere in Asia, but by answering with my home state, I nip that thought in the bud. Sometimes I get the follow-up question of “Where are your parents from?”

Sometimes I get the jerkish question, “No, where are you REALLY from?” And at that point I just want to drive it home with a Southern accent: “I’m from southwestern VirGINeeya, thank ya very much. Where are y’all from? Wesconsin?”

Ignite Denver 11 Videos Finally Available!


The Bridge Between Worlds – Helene Kwong

After a couple months waiting in anticipation, the Ignite Denver 11 videos are now up!

I admit, I immediately jumped to my presentation to see how it turned out. Not bad, although now I don’t even remember saying all that I did!

That’s what happens when nerves get to me. :P

Tomorrow, back to regularly-scheduled Denver-love posts :)

“Not American Enough.”

My most recent birthday party, where I blended in with my Asian friends.

For those of you who frequent my site, you probably already know that my Asian-American identity has defined a lot of my life. Only in the past year have I been examining this aspect more and more, considering I am constantly reminded at school and now in my company of who I am, what I am.

Today I was writing a post over at TAOpivot talking about international students not having enough American friends. As always, I add pictures to my posts to give a little visual; yet, I found myself looking through all my photos from over the years, trying to find photos that didn’t include me with foreign nationals.

I exclaimed out loud to my intern and my colleague, “I can’t use pictures of myself with my international friends, because I don’t look American enough!” They nodded and agreed with my statement.

And that’s how it stands.

This doesn’t discourage me from continuing on with my company; I feel that, as an Asian-American consulting with foreign nationals (mostly from Asia), they may find me more relatable to them and their situations than one of my caucasian counterparts.

It can go both ways, though: as I had written about my conversation partners, they could also think what I exclaimed today: that I’m just “not American enough.”

Asian-Americans & Civic Engagement

Introduction to the NAAAP event.

Last night, I went to my first NAAAP-Colorado event about civic engagement and how we Asian-Americans should get involved into politics somehow. One of the speakers, Sam Thomas, told us how we should all rally around a cause that is near and dear to each of us; we don’t have to side with any political party. We just need to reach out and be heard.

Even though the event was held at Katie Mullen’s with lots of distractions around, I got fired up listening to Mr. Thomas. I was reminded at this point how, back in late April, I had a colleague tell me, “You should really lobby the government about job opportunities for foreign nationals.” I had never thought of involving myself in politics until that point. Immediately I imagined myself speaking in front of Congress about my cause–advancing security for foreign nationals who are legally here in the US to work, study, etc.

One thing Mr. Thomas said to us all last night especially hit a chord inside:

“I stay involved in politics because I know those who came before me had to fight to get that seat at the table. Don’t stay silent because you know there were many others who fought to be heard before.”

So, so true. We Asian-Americans cannot sit back and let society take us along for the ride. We must stand up and be vocal, too. We cannot hide behind our model-minority facade. Screw all the stereotypes about Asians being quiet–we are LOUD and PROUD and need to be HEARD!

One thing that strikes my nerves (besides issues for foreign nationals) is the discrimination we get as well. I admit, sometimes I play the race card to try to get things my way. But I hate how, even with the despised “model minority” stereotype set upon us, we are still demonized along with other minorities. How come crime reports with minority suspects have to lump us all together? And make the public think that only “dirty immigrants” will soil the American system?

There will always be good and bad people, no matter the ethnicity. We need to stop with the name-calling, pointing fingers, etc. We need to dig deeper than skin color/ethnicity to see what the real problems are in the world.

The Mind’s Projections.

Last Thursday I participated in a conversation group with three international students. The other volunteers were Caucasian; I was the only Asian-American (as usual). Immediately when I met my group, I felt like they thought they got the “most un-American” American out of the volunteers. So immediately I felt down on myself.

Yet, with this kind of thinking, I know it is only self-destructive and self-prophetic: If I project to the students that I am inferior to the other Americans, then they will also think that way.

I find this has been one big defining insecurity of mine: despite enjoying helping international students out, I’ve always felt that they don’t think I’m as good of an English partner to have as someone who “looks” American. I know that other Asian-Americans have experienced the same feeling: standing in the middle of the road, not accepted when we give our help freely to our brothers and sisters from overseas….yet, getting treated like foreigners ourselves by other Americans.

This was the spark I presented at Ignite Denver, and only a few weeks after the presentation am I able to etch out all these thoughts into a blog post. There is much more I can say, and I’ve thought about writing a book about this experience. Perhaps others have already. Still, everyone has a unique experience.

White rice vs. Brown rice

Interesting topic came up today in a conversation with my friend; ever since I began to eat healthier and reading up on healthy diets/etc. in magazines, I have noticed how most of the diets are very American-oriented; meaning, the foods are all just…American. Salad, sandwiches, etc. There are some “Asian” dishes thrown in, but always stir-fry or some kind of fusion.

So I asked my friend today, “Why are all these diets racist!” I say “racist” in jest, but really, how come so many health plans say “NO” to white rice? I know, brown rice has more nutrients apparently…but how come then pretty much all of Asia consumes white rice? “It’s processed, no nutrients, etc.” is what I keep reading. But tell me, how come the world’s oldest/healthiest people live in…Asia? They eat white rice; brown rice is too expensive, and most of Asia is relatively poor.

Try going into any Asian restaurant and requesting for brown rice–you won’t get it at most places. So far, I’ve only seen a few Thai restaurants offer brown rice, but even then, that’s only one type of Asian restaurant. Korean? They shot down the request when I attempted to ask for substitution. Chinese? Japanese? I highly doubt they will honor the request.

White rice forever.