“You’re so Asian”

Gần xa nô nức yến anh / All around people were eager to celebrate – Truyền Kiều
I actually don’t really like the tale but it’s important to Viet literature, I guess.

I observed the Qingming (清明節) Festival for the first time in 3 years the other day. Since arriving in Singapore*, I’ve been going to temple once everyday. It feels like I’m making up for so much lost time. I post about these visits and the little things that I see along the way on my Instagram and Facebook. Friends online and IRL (yes I just used that unironically) have said to me, jokingly and genuinely, “I get it you’re Asian!”

In addition to my temple visits, I post a lot about political and popular culture of Asian Americans on Facebook. I celebrate the contributions people of Asian descent have made to that culture. I criticize the problematic politics of community members and hold them accountable for their actions. I try to relate the discussion of racism against Black folks in America to the kind Asian folks faced to hopefully build a bridge of understanding for my friends. I search for and share music, art, film, and literature by Asian American creatives. When I actually write personal statuses about my day or of running thoughts, some are about my interactions with other Asian folks or my engagement with Asian culture and history.

For example, I was in Melbourne over the 2018 Easter weekend. I walked to a near by bánh mì* shop and this happened:

March 31 · Melbourne, VIC ·
Auntie at the the bánh mì shop asked if I wanted chili on my order but not the white dude behind me. That makes my early morning.

Also, bánh mì nem nướng with chili is the best breakfast food

Or I just get hit by cravings for Asian food because that’s all I eat when I’m at home. I grew up on Asian food and I will never grow out of it, ever.

March 27 · Brisbane, QLD ·
I’m craving bánh patê (or is it pâté ?)* sô

The nearest Viet bakery is still so far it feels like a day trip going there. If anything I can wait until I get to Melbourne and hunt it down.

Side note: I can’t make lemongrass paste for shit but I like my nước mắm.
– Srsly tho y’all, which is it??? This whole French-Viet loan word thing is getting my keyboard confused

That’s right. I tried to make lemongrass paste and nước mắm**. I also tried to make Vietnamese and Chinese food when I’m away from home. I also tried to memorize and recite sutras and mantras in Vietnamese when I’m away from home.

Why do I do this?

Because I had to go grow up and leave home for university. This transition into adulthood revealed to me that my political, intellectual, and artistic interests as well as travel and life goals are shaped by my parents.

My parents (Papa Hang and Mama Nguyen, affectionately) brought me to the States in 1999. We had to move between Okalahoma, Texas, and Arizona because they couldn’t find work in SoCal. Eventually, we ended up in the San Gabriel Valley. However, those years in the Southwest allowed me and my parents to bond. I am so accustomed to traveling with my parents. They have passed on their travel interests to me. I seek out Buddhist temples, Asian ethnic enclaves, cultural museums, and performances by Asian folks wherever I go.
Because I learned more about my family history and my cultural history.

Mama Nguyen was born in Saigon to a Buddhist family and lived through the political turmoil. Under the South Vietnam government, her family among other Buddhist families were antagonized by President Ngô Đình Diệm’s (a member of the Catholic Vietnamese minority) policies. Though she wasn’t born yet, the memory of the 1963 Biến cố Phật giáo** (tr. Buddhist Crisis) and Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation was fresh.

Papa Hang was born in Nha Trang to a Hainanese family, who crossed the Pacific in boats and planes to get to America. As Hainanese (the Han people from the island of Hainan, China), he faced discrimination from the government and other people. The ethnic tensions rose during the war era, instilling fear into his community over their safety. Then upon arriving in America, he had to deal with all the racist bullshit in the 70s to the 90s. (Hell, even now tbh.)

My family has struggled to ensure that they, we, can be Buddhists and mutli-cultural without fear. The struggle continued into the 1990s when my cousins and I were raised. It continued into the 21st century where my generation is now trying to do our parents and grandparents proud by working hard and respecting our traditions.

Even so, I have a complicated relationship with my Chinese heritage. I know why Sino-centrism runs strong in my family (when people hate you for who you are, you can either deny that part of yourself, or fiercely hold on to it and show it off with pride). Yet, I still find issue with fully embracing my Chinese heritage. I’m more sure about my Vietnamese heritage because I grew up with the language. I never learned how to properly read or write but I’m trying now. Mama Nguyen probably thought I didn’t pay attention during story time or at temple but I did. Now at 21, I am on the verge of memorizing bits and pieces of a sutra in Pali and another in Vietnamese. I am tracking down the old stories she used to tell me and finding them in writing to improve my literacy. I’m a good daughter according to her, which feels great since I probably disappoint her in other parts of my life. [I digressed; sorry, I’ve been reading Victor Hugo because I’m a NERD full-stop.]

I am a very political person and I am still grateful to my family for that. The knowledge of the Hang’s family story gives me the privilege to philosophize about my place in it. The knowledge of the Buddhist struggle in South Vietnam shows me that just doing my best to practice my religion is a political act. In fact, practicing cultural traditions–keeping them alive–is an act of resistance against the forces that tried to at best oppress them, at worst eliminate them.

So yeah, I am very Asian. My ancestors worked hard for future generations, like mine, to give me the privilege of enjoying travel, education, and art. My family survived war and its aftermath for me to be Buddhist, to be multi-cultural, to be unapologetically very Asian.

* My spring break with UQ is about two weeks. I was in Melbourne for a few days. Now I’m staying in Singapore to hang around and write a short paper. Then I’m heading to Bangkok and meeting a dear friend.
** I ain’t translating shit, unless absolutely necessary. Vietnamese food should be popular enough in many places for people to know what these things are. If not, Google is literally a click away. Also, I’m following Professor Viet Thanh Nguyen‘s example to “not fall into the ‘typical maneuvers of minority literature written for a majority audience’. He refused to translate his culture – for example, writing ‘Vietnamese New Year’ instead of ‘Tet’ – or have the book’s themes affirm American ideals and American exceptionalism.”

Advertisements

the packing list of travel bloggers’ nightmare

As an outed overpacker, I am going to show you the clothes I will be taking with me abroad.

I know that all the blogs and Pinterest boards say that you should only “pack what you love and will definitely wear” or “buy stuff at your destination”. Though I do agree with that, I have my reasons why I will be bringing a lot of things: [skip the numbered list if you don’t want to hear my excuses]

1) I am bringing some clothes I don’t really love at sleep or beach wear. These are things I’m not broken hearted about getting wrecked. Also, if I do buy things, I know what I want to toss to make space for new things.

2) I am going to try my damn hardest to NOT buy knick-knacks abroad. I realized from frequently moving between home (Greater Los Angeles Area) and uni (Central Pennsylvania) I have so much shit. Every time I go home to my bedroom (standard college dorms are larger than my room), I purge my closet and desk of stuff—clothes, school supplies, books, files, papers, everything in my room. I like looking at bobbles and doo-hickeys but my current situation makes it so that I don’t have the space to add more stuff. I might slip up and buy a dress or a shirt or a sarong or maybe even jewelry. But again, I can make space for it by tossing stuff and downsizing my toiletries.

3) Speaking of trying to not buy things, I am pretty broke. I am very privileged to have a working class family that helps me save up for my travels and my shopping habbits. However, I am extremely money conscious. I hope to refrain from buying things in Australia because, compared to the States, things are more expensive there. Also, by redirecting my money from things, I hope to spend it on experiences and postcards to friends. I don’t need physical items for souvenirs when I have my phone’s camera, an Instagram, and a journal. I can remember events, places, and people just fine with those.

4) I’m going to live away for 4-6 months, and I know people have last longer with less stuff. However, I think this is the lightest I can pack at the moment. Maybe with more practice, I can get better at it but this is the least amount of stuff I, personally, can pack.

5) My family owns either carry-on sized or large sized suitcases, there is no in between. We are not buying a medium sized one just for this trip abroad. So I might as well use the large one.

So here are my clothes (excluding my underthings)

Shout out to LIBÉ Workshop in Vietnam, Forever 21, Cotton On, UNIQLO, TJ Maxx, and of course MY MOM (MAMA NGUYEN) for the clothes.

This might not seem like a lot but you should see the amount of toiletries I brought with me.

night owl

I have a bad habit of going out in the evening, usually alone. As a young woman with not that much muscle or defense skills, it can get scary. But as the cliché saying by Sarah Williams goes, “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” Sometimes, I have a friend with me.

I don’t seek out clubs or crazy parties (got no money for that). But rather, I seek out stories and art. And everything I see on the way to them is pretty enough to draw me back for more.

why am I like this, packing version

I’m fucking ridiculous, I can’t with myself most of the time.

In order to pack for my study abroad trip I did this shit:

  • Drove over 500 miles to do my shopping
  • Test the drying time on my athletic pants
  • Weighed my two books (Les Miserables abridged and People’s History are 1.3 kg / 3 lbs total)
  • Had a better time packing my clothes than anything else

More than half of my luggage was my toiletries, which weighed anywhere between 11-15 kg / 22-33 lbs
My clothes probably weight 7 kg / 15 lbs
I definitely had to use my two luggage allowance to get all my shit to Australia…but hopefully the flight out will be easier

another mediocre student travel blog

My annual post quota (1) is met with this little thing.

I will be studying at University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) from Feb to June 2018. Then I hope to cram in a trip back to the motherland of Southeast Asia before I face my death senten–I mean–last year of university. I want to be cliché (avec l’accent aigu! oooo~) and do that travel blog thing.

Luckily this blog is already a hot mess of things (“bricolage” if you wanna be pretentious), so I can just write needlessly long (“verbose” if you want a word for that) posts during my travels. I get too stressed about curating my photos and writing witty captions for Instagram. So everything that’s not ~pretty pretty insta worthy~ will be chucked here.

[side note: I will still try to make things on here look pretty but not at the same level of instagram. Also, I made a promise to a friend to start journaling, like bullet journaling. I figured since I will be trying to do that, I might as go all the way with the pinterest student aesthetic.]

I survived my first solo international trip this past summer (July-Aug 2017). I hope I can survive this with less travel mishaps, but as much good karma and funny stories like this:
20760011_123933158231771_2593694702393884672_n

My flight got pushed back over 24h.
I don’t know how I feel about it since I didn’t get enough sleep and feel extremely hangry.
If someone runs me over right now, I would thank them
12 Aug 2017

Thank you all for caring about me! I am safe, fed, and warm. American Airlines’ 26h 50min delay led them to put me in a vvvv ritzy hotel for one night. I am milking this once-in-a-lifetime experience for all its worth. TST has me back for one night and I am so happy. I am probably the happiest person on the delayed trip because I don’t mind taking my time to go home.
12 August 2017

20759137_2021905491371578_2752870837538258944_n

Don’t be a dick, and be especially kind to people in customer service. Build that good karma.
___
I waited to the bitter end of the shitshow that was last night’s delay. My patience was rewarded with a free night and meals a fucking 5 star hotel! Like how the fuck—I ain’t even mad about the 5h wait I went through. I left as the happiest person ever. I milked this once-in-a-lifetime experience for all its worth. I will never forget this because I probably will never be able to afford it.
.
Thank you to Cherry for checking me in. Thank you to Kenneth for answering my dumb questions. Thank you to Sunny for allowing me to come in at the last minute and making me a bombass mojito. MAJOR thank you Jacky and Rachel (Yi) for being patient with my order even when the kitchen was closing [I can 100% relate bc I serve/work closing shifts]. Thank you Rachel (manager) and closing staff of Tapas Bar for being so wonderful about feeding me. I wish you all easy shifts.
13 August 2017

What are some trite posts on every travel blog known to the internet?
Oh yeah, packing and travel trips or whatever.

I will definitely be doing that, more to take inventory of everything I have rather than to help others. Mostly because I habitually overpack and hold my toiletries near and dear to me.

Post-Election 2016

My feelings about this Election are hard to articulate. I am a mix of shock, anger, sadness, disappointment, grief, faith, and hope.

I am shocked by the rampant misogyny and white supremacy in this nation. Shock meaning extremely disappointed and speechless. I had hoped that, considering the vast number of Bernie supporters and progressives, Hillary Clinton could win in critical states. I can only assume Trump voters prioritized certain issues and privileges over others.

That makes me angry. At them. Then at me for being angry at them. My anger is split. I want to be angry at the people who voted for Trump because we all know his presidency will be an even worse shitshow than his campaign. But then again, I don’t want to fully engage in that behavior. The class acts of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama remind me at all times to take the high road. Because as members of marginalized groups, we can’t really sink to the levels of Trump. So yes, I’m expressing my frustration toward voters. However, there is nothing we can do about it now. Clinton won the popular vote, which means a majority of Americans wanted a president who was a woman, progressive (more or less), and inclusive (again more or less).

I grieve her loss. I supported Bernie and begrudgingly supported her. She and I have different stances on a number of issues. However, I respected her. She is one of the most amazing politicians of our time, an absolute political lion. She was forced to take on traditionally masculine qualities that so clearly dominate our political system. She is a fighter in every sense of the word. I thank her for her efforts.

Clinton’s progress in the presidential election is monumental! She is probably over-qualified for the position of president. Her ability to inspire almost everyone, even some of her opponents, is powerful. The trail she blazed won’t be taken for granted.

I have great hope in my generation, the majority of 18-25 year olds in 2016.I have faith in us. I have faith in the people of America, not the “True Americans,” but the ones who care about the people and the land more than the symbols of privilege. The people of the First Nations combating colonialism and genocide for centuries. The refugees escaping religious persecution, natural disaster, and warfare. The free people making a good life for themselves where they can love and laugh. The immigrants coming to create a better life for their families. The laborers working their fingers to the bone to make a good living. I have faith that they will take care of and protect others from harm and hate.

We can rise to the occasion. We can change things by continuing to uplift each other. We can support candidates that combat racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, and xenophobia. We can become those candidates. We need to nurture the hell out of each other the next few years. We can’t expect anything from our governments (oh the irony?). We need to organize.

Speaking for an Asian American perspective:

We inherited from our ancestors the resilience and strength to endure.

We inherited from our people the power to love and resist against hate and bigotry.

We have overcame worse and we will do it again.

America won’t stop changing. Americans won’t stop diversifying. We will bring a new era of radical love.

Brandon Li Oda

He is a writer I have admired for quite some time. Most of his writing have disappeared after he fell off the face of Tumblr (and what seems like the internet). However, many of his poignant posts and blurbs still live on through the screencaps and reblogs of others. His words really motivated me, even if they aren’t the best. And though they are quite angsty, they are also mellow. His advice is reasonable and simple. It’s something I look back on when I feel like I’m losing my way because it’s strangely comforting.

This is some advice he had for college freshmen which I dug up. Being at that level in this moment, I really want to keep this on my blog to look back on.

The most important things in life that you need to know won’t be taught in school–they will be taught through people and experiences, loss and gain, and some more loss. Experience is priceless. Study abroad if you can. Travel as much as you can…Don’t fall into the illusion that numbers and grade reflect your worth. The default path of education is not the same path to happiness, that’s a different road…And remember that it’s okay to feel lost.

This is not the last you have heard from him, whether from himself or from me. It all depends on time.