In-Betweens

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my hands are shaky, tinged with a dash

of melanin, enough to proclaim my title
as a child of the sun

i am rooted in purple orchids
that have been grounded in the west
aching towards the east, my spine
contorted between two different sets of stars

my skin longs for better days, clearer skies
and my ancestors, they don’t recognize me anymore they
see me as a ghost, with my tongue burnt out of my mouth
all i can do is spit out ash and decay, and figure out what to do
with this grey matter that accentuates my scattered blue veins

—in-betweens (s.don)

I have always found comfort in the meaning behind words, in the form of books, poetry, or advice from my mother. The potential for one word to mean so many different things, fascinates me. I find myself up late at night, spellbound over the way a comma in a poem can mean three different things because of its placement, and two others if it wasn’t there. But sometimes, I get caught in the in-betweens. I stumble over binary arguments, whether something is this or that, and half way through my essay, I have disproved my thesis statement and I have contradicted myself. The place I find myself stuck at the most is in between Asian and American.

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Unpacking Acceptability

RahimonNasaBy Rahima Nasa

It’s freshman year and I’m unpacking my belongings into 406 DellPlain, my new home. I brought too much stuff with me so I’m concerned about how I’m going to fit it in all my minuscule split-double. I guess it’s symbolic too since I want to be upfront with my roommate: I’m coming with a lot of baggage.

It’s the first time leaving New York City, where I was raised for most of my life. Although I was born in Bangladesh but my family moved to the U.S. when I was about four years old. I had always been jealous of my little sister for being born in America. I hated being considered an immigrant.

I resented being placed in ESL classes in elementary school solely because I wasn’t born here. This made me work a lot harder at making sure my English was perfect. I refused to speak Bengali, my mother tongue, when I could avoid it. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finally stopped dreaming in Bengali.

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More Than Just a Pigment

SueLee

By Sue Lee | Asian Students in America

Throughout the course of my childhood I have always been subject to racism, I guess the term Asian American was foreign to Alaskans. During kindergarten, my teacher gave me detention every single day for petty reasons that all children would do. Every time I would draw myself, my peers would hand me yellow crayons and say, “you’re yellow, you need this crayon.” I would always brush it off, though. During that time I believed that I was just a bad child, but around Thanksgiving my class was prompted to draw ourselves next to a turkey. I used a beige crayon to color my skin as I have always had, and a peer, once again, gave me a yellow crayon “you’re yellow.” I was so frustrated that I went to the person who supposed to help me when I needed it: my teacher. “Mrs. OJ!” (My kindergarten teacher.) “They keep saying I’m yellow!” and the three words she would say next was supposed to change all the detentions, my self-perception that I was bad, and my peer’s opinions.

“You ARE yellow.”
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The Price of Education

HughYang

By Hugh Yang | Lambda Phi Epsilon

My parents grew up in the rural areas of China, where they spent most of their time doing agricultural work. Due to the lack of help on the farms, they gave up their education in order to cultivate crops and survive with food. Their lack of education allowed them to realize the importance of school. In order to ensure the dream of education and an improvement of lifestyle, they once again took another sacrifice, and abandoned their country, family, and culture. Their sacrifice was to ensure that my sister and I can be born in the United States, a land of opportunity and prosperity.

In the United States, my parents’ lack of education forbade them to communicate with people around them, forcing them to work in sweatshops and Chinese restaurants. Their jobs require them to work six days a week, 13 hard working hours a day. Their dedication and work took away the precious family bonding time that I never had. Since the age of 10, I had to carry the responsibility of taking care of my younger sister and writing family checks to pay off our monthly bills. As other kids left school at 3pm and headed towards the park, I had to go and pick up my sister and prepare dinner.
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(We Know) We Can Do It!

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By Jane Hong | Student Association Vice President Elect

When I was in third grade, my teacher asked who wanted to be our class representative. My hand immediately shot up in the air at the same time as a male classmate’s. He noticed, and yelled across the classroom: “You can’t do it, you’re just a girl!”

Student government has been a passion of mine ever such a young age. I enthusiastically volunteered for any leadership opportunity and ran for Associated Student Body (ASB) and class positions throughout middle and high school. Almost every single time I campaigned, I heard racist and sexist comments: people using my racial and gender identities against me, as if those were factors that contributed to my potential to lead an organization effectively.

I threw tantrums about these comments to my teachers, to which they would usually shrug off. I clearly remember how shocked I was when my female teacher asked me to sit out a campaign once, because “ladies know how to be quiet and men know how to talk.” I was taught how to be silent before I was taught how to use my voice, and told that my gender inherently made me a follower before it could ever make me a leader.

As much as I hoped that organizing a university-wide campaign would be different, I knew that it wouldn’t be.

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A Fusion of Flavors

JoyMuchtar

By Joy Muchtar |  Kappa Phi Lambda

Main Dish

Nasi campur: an Indonesian dish with fragrant jasmine rice as the main centerpiece and a halo of side dishes surrounding it.

Made's Warung - Nasi Campur - 好吃!Rice / 米饭 / nasi // is a staple for both Indonesian and Chinese culture. I am of Chinese blood but Indonesian by birth. Both cultures, though different yet similar, resonated with me throughout my 19 years of living. The rainbow-colored side dishes surrounds the rice and represents the experiences I went through to make me the person I am today.

Side Dishes

Satay: pieces of chicken, beef or pork on wooden skewers that are grilled over hot coals.

Sometimes pieces of your mind and soul will be tested upon the flames of life, you can either let yourself burn and not be edible anymore, or you can flourish through it and become a delicious counterpart to a main dish.

Sayur mayur: various kinds of chopped vegetables.

Vegetables can be cooked in different ways to satisfy the tongue; with chopped garlic, with hot chili paste, with savory oyster sauce. This time, it’s vegetables eaten in it’s best way: raw and fresh. Because sometimes things or people, untouched and pure, are the best kind.

Tempeh: fermented whole soybeans that are packed together to resemble a cake full of protein; usually deep fried or sautéed in a soy-sauce base.

This side is only completed after the soybeans have matured for quite some time; with the right choices and loving guidance from the people in my life, I hope to grow and be as good as raw tempeh.

Telor: boiled or fried eggs

My motto in life is actually: “Be so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too.” I hope this short essay has been the sunny side up to your already wonderful day.

With my spoon and fork,

Joy Ananda Muchtar // 李佩恩

Identifying Myself: Who Am I?

PhoenixBan

By Phoenix Ban | Sigma Beta Rho

In 1993, my family immigrated from Vietnam to Syracuse, NY. Born and raised here in this quiet city, everyone occasionally asks, “What is there to do in Syracuse?” Honestly, I don’t know what there is to do despite living at the core of the city. Growing up as the only child with only a single parental figure, it was difficult doing anything outside of the household without worrying my mom. I remember in my free time, I would play with a multiplication table that my mom bought for me for doing well in middle school. Ever since then, I have been extremely competitive in the game, “Around the World.” For those who don’t know, it’s a math game where two people respond with the proper number when a card is revealed. If a person makes it all around the classroom, he won a free homework pass. However, it wasn’t the free pass that enticed me, but rather this Vietnamese girl whose intelligence automatically attracted me to her.

I remember multiple occasions where I would bring home an Asian girl to meet my parents, and they would always manage to kid around asking, “Do co phai ban gai khong?” Sadly, my keyboard doesn’t enable accents, but translated, it means “Is that your girlfriend?” However, whenever I introduce a girl outside of my culture, the dialog between my family and them seem to diminish. Because my mom is so protective of me, she told me that I can only date a girl, preferably Vietnamese, if and when I graduate from college. Truth be told, I somewhat kind of broken that promise. Due to a rebellious nature during high school where over 95% of the population did not come from a similar cultural background, my first official girlfriend was a quiet, shy, but nice, Caucasian girl. But inevitably, my mom figured out about the relationship and forbade it to continue any further. 

Thanks to the guidance of my mother, I often date outside of my culture now very discretely. She taught me the value of family, to not trust anyone, to strive to be a doctor, and to excel in academics. It was my auntie though, who pushed me beyond my limits with reading and writing. It is probably her fault that I abhor the thought of writing essays for class. Even now, I still vividly remember the times I had to write one-page essays, single-spaced, with a pen for each chapter I read. The amount of times I had to write the alphabet on paper also contributed to the callus on my middle finger due to the constant pressure I placed on it. My grandma on the other hand was learning how to be very hip in clothing trends despite her limited ability to understand or communicate in English. She was very affectionate with her gifts, and always made pho for me when I come back from breaks in school. Her kindred spirit taught my mom how to cook, and in turn that skill was passed down to me.

As a first-generation college-bound Asian American, I feel somewhat exiled from other Asian Americans that comes from California or New York City. It may have to do with the large amount of K-pop, gai luong, and Hong Kong phim bo that I immersed myself in as a kid. Although my mom is always busy working, I feel that she intentionally pushed me to watch and listen to a lot of bootlegged shows to unconsciously teach me familial values. I feel like a lot of people in my age cohort never learned how to cook or do laundry until coming into college which is really mind blowing. The level of promiscuity evident on campus is also apparently a norm, but because I am so mentally traditional, I’m always on the lookout for a normal relationship.