When I was in high school, I went through a phase of self-discovery. I wanted to learn more about my background and connect with my roots so to say. I come from a mixed background, but the majority of my lineage is Filipino. Unfortunately, like most first-generation children born to immigrant parents, I did not speak the language. I think that many immigrants try too hard to blend into their new surroundings that they do not place a very high emphasis on their own culture. I was not the only one ignorant to my past, but many of my classmates were in the same boat.
During my teenage years, I noticed that my high school had many cliques. Cliques were usually divided by interest. You had your typical jocks and geeks. However, some cliques were grouped by race. This was not because they wanted to isolate themselves from other groups, but more due to the fact it was easier to connect with people your own age going through similar cultural problems at home. How could I possibly explain why taking off your shoes was just an unspoken rule at home to my white classmate or why I ate certain things that they could not even pronounce? It was because of this that many people of similar ethnic backgrounds banded together. Thus the “Azn (the cool way to spell Asian at the time) kids” was a group I joined.
Now I know that I am very racially ambiguous. I have been mistaken for a number of different ethnicities and it’s just something I have come to accept with age. However, as a kid wanting to join the Asian clique, it was a bit strange. My cousin, who was already part of the group and much more stereotypical with his Asian features, vouched for me. Therefore, I was suddenly friends with Samantha Wong and Princess Trang, riding in a modified Honda with a spoiler on the back and going for tapioca drinks at the Asian neighborhood a twenty-minute drive from the house.
One thing I noticed while I hung out with this group was that it was very close. If something happened, they were very loyal to one another. It was also because of them I was introduced to my love of boba – bubble tea.
Yes, I was that girl in high school hanging out with her friends at the local bubble tea restaurant, reading manga and munching on spicy chicken. It was the kind of place where young Asian people would congregate and vent about our frustrations with our parents’ inability to understand and aggravation with classmates that said borderline offensive things thinking they were funny. Boba was that kind of drink that allowed us to bond together and find a common ground so we could just talk. It was here that I learned much more about my cultural heritage. It was somewhat healing and something I needed at that time in my life.
Luckily, after high school, my parents retired in the Philippines, so I had the opportunity to stay with them for some time and really immerse myself in the culture. It was a bit strange being a foreigner in a place you racially belong. However, I do not regret my upbringing. America may have flaws but getting to experience a country that is multi-cultural allowed me to be a lot more open and accepting as an adult.
lineage (noun) – the people who were in someone’s family in past times
in the same boat (idiom) – to be in the same situation as another
clique (noun) – a small, exclusive group of people who spend time together and share similar interests or views and who typically do not welcome other people into the group
ambiguous (adjective) – not expressed or understood clearly
vouch (verb) – to say that (someone or something) is honest, true, or good
congregate (verb) – to come together in a group or crowd