From mountains and jungles
they came...

The Bucket

Even though Asian Americans and their experiences are lumped together as one,
they are still very diverse and different. Anyone who is Hmong would
instantly understand what I'm talking about when I say "Mekong River".  
However, I don't expect my other Asian American buddies to understand
because that phrase isn't a part of their experience.

Instead of thinking about the Asian American experience as an umbrella
under which all Asian Americans are placed, we should start picturing it as a
bucket, continuously overflowing with ideas, stories, cultures, and histories.
As a starting point, it doesn't define what it means to be Asian American
but holds the the seeds from which we can grow and create our own experiences.
(And well, sometimes we just can't all fit under an umbrella.)

Each of the following pieces are stories of my own. They can stand alone or work
together as a whole. Through different forms I want to experiment with
how to portray certain situations and how they affect what I as well as the
reader thinks about them. People often have preconceived notions of what
certain forms can do and say but we have seen from Art Spiegelman's Maus,
that things can and are always changing.

Etro

[6:24] Etro: I've imagined watching the sunset with you on the beach
nothing prettier than the sun setting on the ocean =p

............................

[2:36] Eternal Sunshine: I like hearing you speak in Spanish.
LOL god, why did I just tell you that ?

............................

[5:50] Etro: so baby, does it bug you

[5:51] Eternal Sunshine: ?

[5:51] Etro: what everyone thinks about our situation

[5:53] Eternal Sunshine: mm... not really lol I think it's normal for people to be skeptical. It just gets annoying when they try to convince me I'm wrong after I open up a little to them.. but it's w/e. I don't think I've ever been too preoccupied about what people think of me

[5:53] Etro: lol people have tried to convince you that you're wrong?

[5:54] Eternal Sunshine: Well... I'll tell them whats up and then they keep asking "are you sure, blah blah , what if he's blah blah" over and over and mehhh it gets kind of annoying but it's understandable

[5:54] Etro: lolol I see
cant say ive gone through the same experience
lolol

[5:55] Eternal Sunshine: lol how is it for you?

[5:55] Etro: "you sure you dont wanna find yourself a girl in town?"
"Yo what about being with blah blah"
"yay im happy for you"
"idk about this but i trust you"
anddd
"yea man if she makes you happy go for it I know the type of person you are and I think you can make it work"

[5:58] Eternal Sunshine: lol they're so supportive xD I think my buddies are all more cautious since I'm the one going to cali.. and since I'm just a girl .. yea :/ haha but it's nice to know they all care about me :)

[5:58] Etro: mhhm i know baby I would be scared for you too tbh lol but i would trust your judgement =]

..........

[4:22] Etro: I love having you in my life.
You are an absolute bright spot in my timeline.
Bright as the fucking sun.

Little Lines

Is this love? My heart is so full of it,
it feels as if it's about to burst or fall out from my chest.

There are moments, I feel, where your eyes could eat me up.
I fear when the time comes, I would not stop you.

I like the way your brows knit together when you're concentrating. And the way your fingers look when you play. I like your curls and how they frame your eyes. I like the look in your eyes, when they look up, and then down again at your hands. I like the shape of your lips; they're cute lol. I like your stubble ^^ maybe I'll feel it one day. I like your shoulders, how broad they are. And your arms that are going to hold me. I like everything about you. I like listening to you. I can't seem to think of anything to say cause all I can think is that I like you so much.. but I don't have the courage to straight out tell you. So I'm stuck here in a stupid silence staring at you. I like staring at you. I love you. And then there's this fear.. that maybe I'm being a little too selfish. I want you a little too much. I need you a little too much. I shouldn't need you at all. I feel a little too much. I think a little too much. You care a little too little. I'm worried that maybe it's me... and I keep up this façade like maybe I don't care... but maybe I do... but I don't want you to know. And this is me, all laid out for you. And I have so little courage that I start to dislike myself. In front of you, who I want to see only the good, I feel the worst.

Sunset from Santa Monica Beach in California. Taken January 2015.

Goodbye Song

(We agreed that the goal would be to make everyone sad)

*verse 1*
And now you’re gone
so far away
we’re out of time
nothing left to say
our last goodbye
hangs in the air
the taste of your mouth
lingers on my tongue

*chorus*
“I’ll miss you’s” and “goodbye’s”
they’re all replaced with laughter
and we can’t find words to say
to make things feel better
nothing left but to watch you walk away

*verse 2*
Memories of us
times filled with just you and me
Ocean waves that carry us
through endless sunsets
these dreams we’ve woken up from
but we know they were made to last
your eyes, I’ll remember
until the next time

*chorus*

Mother

"You know what he told me the other day? He told me I should just have a serious conversation with my mom cause that's what he did when he turned eighteen and so she gives him a lot of freedom and trusts him a lot. And I was like uhhh.. you don't know Hmong families". She laughs and replies "what the fuck, we don't talk to our parents" which causes both of us to laugh. I don't think we could have been best friends for so long if we hadn't viewed our mothers in such a similar light.
"I used to think that one day we would be close or at least that I could talk to her about things but not anymore, it's too late now."
"Yea I agree, sometimes I think she wants to try and act motherly towards me but I feel weird about it. Like, where was she when I needed that six or seven years ago? Now it's like I've already accepted it and it's weird when she tells me she loves me or tries to hug me."
"Wow, she tried to hug you?" she asks incredulously "I get sooo annoyed when she even just touches me on my head or something." We laugh again.

Future Husband Requirements

(According to mother)

1. He has to be Hmong
(Because your sister has already disgraced the family by moving in with her white boyfriend. He's WHITE! And they aren't married!)

2. He has to be able to provide $10,000, not $5000
(Because you are my last daughter and I have to make sure he can take care of you.)
*Note: Hmong grooms must provide the bride's parents with a nqi tshoob, or bride price, which is often used to pay for the wedding and given back to the bride as a farewell from her family. $5,000 is generally agreed upon as the norm.

3. He has to be tall
(Remember your ex? You stayed with him for over five years and he didn't match you at all, you're so pretty and he was so short and not handsome at all. Good thing you finally broke up with him.)

4. He has to be smart
(It's hard being with someone you have to take care of because you're so much smarter than them; you don't want to be like me with your father. Also, don't find anyone similar to your brothers, none of them are very smart.)

5. He has to be good to you
(I don't care if he doesn't come from a very good family as long as he treats you well. But make sure he can provide for you, you don't want to be poor and suffering just because he is a nice person.)

6. He has to be Hmong
(I'll even let you have an American wedding in addition to a Hmong wedding, as long as he is Hmong. Think about your father and I, what would we do if you were like your sister? She doesn't care about us at all. If you become like her, I am disowning you. Don't even think about dating those Mexicans or black people either. Do you know how worried and mad we got when your brother told us you were dating one? You better not be.)

No Escape

A smushed face on the glass windowpane. It has been two hours since we set out from home. I stare out at the gray sky as we zoom along the highway. Everything is gray, the clouds, the fields, the road. She said she was taking us somewhere fun to play. Excitedly we had jumped into the truck, me and my three brothers, all small enough to fit into the backseat. Our excitement had dwindled down to nothing after the first hour of monotonous road. She doesn't tell us where we are going and eventually we stop asking. The car is silent. I am hungry, bored, and anxious. She drives faster than normal, 80 miles per hour on a 65. She weaves through all the other cars and I pretend we are winning a race-- until I think about all of the other accidents that she has been in before and I get scared and stop. Finally she sighs and pulls off of the highway. Our weary eyes open and we look around to see where we are but all she does is take the opposite ramp back. Two hours later and we are home again. We are all angry and tired when we get home. She goes to her room, shuts the door, and sleeps.

Hair

My mom used to think long black hair was beautiful. Half of my family has very black hair but she and I have a dark brown color. She and my aunts would get together every once in a while, tuck a ripped plastic bag around their shirts, mix up a large bowl of black dye and spend a Saturday morning dying each other's hair. When I was thirteen, I had blotches of poorly self-dyed copper strands in mine. My grandma, my uncle, my aunts, and my mother would complain about how all of my hair would fall out and that it was ugly. She forbid me to dye my hair but I always managed to get my hands on a box of color. Then one day when I was eighteen she came up to me, held out a box of light brown hair dye, and asked me to help her color her hair.

University

"My org is helping to host an event this weekend, it's the Midwest Asian American Student Union's annual conference. About a thousand Asian American college students from all over are going to be here."
"Wow, there are already so many Asians on campus... So if I happen to walk through all of you guys this Saturday will I magically become good at math and science too?"
".... Uh..."

Fall 2013-2014

43275: Total number of students enrolled
6243: Total number of minority students enrolled (about 14%)
2665: Total number of Asian Americans enrolled (about 6%)

College Sophomores

SPEECH! SPEECH! SPEECH!

"I think many of us would agree that the Hmong American Student Association is often thought of as exclusive to Hmong people because it is an ethnic org, but we try our best to outreach to other orgs so that we can teach about ourselves as well as learn about others in order to promote cultural awareness. And I've done a lot of thinking... You know, if we didn't all come together to give our students a place to congregate, if we didn't put on these events, if we didn't organize workshops, if we went through school on our own without the support of our fellow Hmong peers, if we didn't get together to make some Hmong food once in a while, wouldn't that just... be sad? It is up to us to take the initiative to create these things for ourselves. No one is going to do it for us. The generations before us had to fight for this organization to even exist. In a place where your culture can be seen as primitive, where your parents can't help you because they don't know english, where you are essentially alone, the first Hmong students to attend college decided as a group that we needed each other and they got together and formed HASA. And that is why I am not ashamed to say that I am proud to be Hmong and why I chose to be a leader of this org, thank you for a wonderful year everyone!"

The End

Please Explain.

Etro: I wanted to use this section to show how tradition can interfere with one's passions. Of course, the reader wouldn't really get this message until reading the next section. It is the most lyrical of the three.

Mother: This portion is probably the hardest to explain. It represents the complexities of my culture through my mother. There are things I dislike about being Hmong, but they are also things that I am tied to, things I'm unable to change. The format is much more typical of literature that we see in novels.

University: Despite the problems that come with being Hmong in America, I am lucky to have come from a culture that highly values education. Being Asian American has given me lots of perspective on things, I am proud of my heritage regardless of whether or not I think it causes problems for me. The forms used in this section were somewhat more random, incorporating comics with little blurbs and a speech.

...To a land of rolling hills, paved roads, and snow.

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