Tuesday, April 27, 2021

But where are you REALLY from?

Last year, I got into an argument with an acquaintance L. We were at a bus stop, and he started chatting with a group of young people next to us.

L: Are you visiting, or do you live around here?

Youths: [various chatter]

L: [to one of the young women, who looks Asian] So where are you from?

Woman: New York.

L: Okay, but where are you really from?

Woman: What are you saying? I don't seem like I could be a New Yorker?

L: Where were you born?

Woman: New York.

L: Where are your parents from?

Woman: China.

L: Ohhhh, okay. [turning to me] Hey Niniane, you're also Chinese. You two have that in common.

Me: L, why couldn't you just accept that she's from New York? Why did you have to keep grilling her? 


The woman and other youths caught their bus. L and I argued for another 20 minutes. He was mad that I "ruined" his pleasant conversation with this woman. I was offended that he kept saying she's not really a New Yorker. 

Afterwards, I felt some self-doubt. Maybe it's that not bad of a question. It is a microaggression, but on the grand scale of things, is it so bad?

This week, I mentioned to a friend that although I've lived in the States since I was 5, I didn't think until my mid-30s that it would be accepted if I called myself "an American". I would call myself "Chinese American" or "a Chinese person who grew up in America".

My friend asked why. When I thought about it, I realized it's due to this question. If I say "I'm an American", the reply will be "But where are you really from? Before America?" It happened to me dozens of times, and I learned to just skip the middle steps and jump to what they want to know.

But the result is that I've had trouble feeling accepted as an American, even though all my childhood memories are from America and I've been a US citizen since I was 18 (my entire adult life). 

So, that little question really did have an impact, more than I realized. 

There's no real need to ask this question. I don't see white Americans asking each other, "Where are you really from? Where did your grandparents immigrate from? Ireland? Germany? Italy? How many generations ago?" 

Saturday, April 03, 2021


Me: "Hunter Biden must feel a lot of survivor guilt. Beau Biden did so many selfless things and died, and meanwhile Hunter kept getting addicted to drugs."

Aff: "Think how Major Biden must feel. He can't stop biting people. I know people say he's a good boy and he's just stressed out, but come on!"

Saturday, January 02, 2021

surprise from the UK

Messaging with a UK friend:

Me: What is the mood now in the UK?

Friend: Brexit really is a big mess. Scotland now wants independence, and part of that is to rejoin the EU.

Me: From my distant viewpoint, Scotland's prime minister seems more sensible than Boris Johnson. I was surprised that Boris Johnson got elected.

Friend: Yes, he's a fool. He's also technically American, was born in New York.

Me: I didn't know! That's shocking.

Friend: So he could still become your president one day 😬

Me: Yikes!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

beans and kings

Me: "There's a chinese story of a king who was envious of his brother. He ordered that his brother be brought to him. Then the king said, "I heard you've been boasting about your poetry ability. You must walk seven steps at a normal pace in front of me right now. You need to come up with a poem and recite it on the seventh step. If the poem isn't good, then I'll have you executed."

Aff: "Is that the punishment for boasting?"

Me: "Apparently."

Aff: "Let's hear the poem."


煮豆燃豆萁Boiling beans by burning the beanstalk
豆在釜中泣The bean is crying in the pot
本是同根生We were birthed by the same root
相煎何太急?Why the rush to burn each other?
Aff: "Wow, it rhymes. So is the king supposed to be like the bean?"

Me: "No, the king is the beanstalk. He's hurting his brother, like how the beanstalk is burned to cook the bean."

Aff: "Ok."

Me: "When the king heard this beautiful poem, he wept."

Aff: "He wept like a bean?"

Me: [lol]

Aff: "Plot twist: they were both beans."



Thursday, September 17, 2020

yummers (Parts Unknown)

Aff, my mom, and I started watching "Parts Unknown" starring Anthony Bourdain. We watch one episode per evening, after dinner.

So far, we've watched five episodes. My mom liked Quebec the most. 

Aff likes Tangier, Morocco. He says the chicken stuffed with olives and spices looks amazing. 

I also liked the Quebec episode. So many desserts! So much foie gras. 

Watching "Parts Unknown" together has cheered up all of us!