Monthly Archives: July 2016
July 28, 2016
The fabrics of an Asian-American growing up in a country where the divide is between the issue of color – resides in those of black and white (and now often blue), have resonated in me since I was a child. There’s no elegant way to put it, Asian-Americans are not reflected as vigorously in our American culture as those of the latter. And to make my situation even heavier, is the connection of my Asian heritage to me being a woman in this ever changing society.
This issue has entered my daily view since I was a child. While some days the thoughts would outweigh others, I could never help but feel as if these facts of being Asian and a woman would be the most capacious obstacles in my life.
Outspoken, driven, and bold – the little girl in me wanted to fight the big players around me. I set out to fulfill that simple promise of finishing college, landing a great job, and find a place for my inner voice, hopefully all done without a struggle.
From what seemed like a never ending rainfall of applying to universities, finishing school and struggling to find a career after college, I still have yet to find my break. Every time I encounter a roadblock, I can’t help but question – Is it because I’m a girl? Is it because I’m Asian?
Because let’s face it, our society is nowhere close to perfect and I sure am nowhere close to where I wish to be. The times are changing and hopefully the divides will reopen and expand.
Now that I’ve made the first step after college, I can only hope MWW will be my stepping stone. And maybe one day, I can call my mother on the phone and give her the good news she’s always hoped for, “Mama, I made it.”
July 25, 2016
I graduated from college in June of 2015 and did the most logical thing I could think of at the time: run away to Europe to escape adulthood for just a bit longer. My list of destinations was extensive and included countries like Hungary and Croatia, who had recently found themselves in the center of the Syrian refugee crisis. I planned to take a train from Budapest to Split but had been warned that the train stations were absolute chaos- with refugees covering all floor space and ticket lines being 10+ hours long. I had also heard rumors that they were closing the borders to all refugees. Thinking I would beat the system, I went to a travel agency upon my arrival in Budapest and bought a ticket to Split for the day of my departure. I also asked, re-asked, and then asked again if I would be able to cross the border via train. The disgruntled woman behind the desk assured me that yes, it was fine, the borders were open.
On the day of my departure I arrived at the train station and was surprised to see that it was empty, with just a couple of tourists and a few policemen. So far so good. I boarded the train that would take me to Zagreb (the capitol of Croatia) where I would then switch trains and continue on to Split to meet my friend.
It was about 11 o’clock at night and I had been on the train for around four and a half hours (it was supposed to take 5) when the train started to slow. I looked around and from what I could see, we were in the middle of a field, with no buildings around except for a tiny train station with one light. Seemed meager for the capitol of Croatia. As soon as the train came to a halt, five policemen with bulletproof vests and huge machine guns got on the train and ordered everyone to get off, the border was closed.
Shocked and confused, I approached one of the officers to ask where this train had dropped us and what the options were. After some back and forth, he managed to tell me (in very broken English) that we were 6 kilometers from the border of Croatia and the options were to walk and try to get through border patrol (not likely) or try to find a bus or cab to go to a nearby city and find a hotel. He pointed to a tiny flyer in the corner of the room with the name of a cab company. Trying my best to repress the panic that was boiling just under the surface, I reviewed my options. I came to the conclusion that, despite the fact that it was almost midnight, going to a hotel would not have been the best option, because I:
a) would have missed my connecting train
b) may or may not have been able to find a hotel, seeing as I had no idea where I was
c) would be in the exact same predicament in the morning, without the option of that connecting train
I decided I had to get across the border.
I saw a guy using his phone and since mine didn’t work (no Wi-Fi) I asked if I could borrow it to call a cab. If a cab could take me to a hotel it could take me across the border right? After more back and forth and many misunderstandings, the cab driver agreed he could take me to Zagreb. As we were approaching the border, he pulled into a gas station, got out, and took the taxi light off of the top of his car. Cabs, buses and trains were not allowed to cross the border, he explained- only personal vehicles.
We got to the border and there was not a single other person there, other than the border police. One of the Hungarian guards and the cab driver exchanged a few words while the other stared at me and I tried to look like I wasn’t about to cry. They examined both of our passports for what felt like an eternity, walked to the other side of the booth and let the Croatian border guards do the same.
Then they waved us through.
I made it to the train station with five minutes to spare, boarded my train to Split and breathed a sigh of relief.
As I sat on the train, unable to sleep, I reflected on what had just occurred. I realized that though that was the most stressful, potentially dangerous situation I have ever been in, it could have been exponentially worse. I was able to pay for a cab to drive me. The guards looked at me and saw a white tourist with an American passport. There was a very slim chance that I wasn’t going to make across the border. I thought about all the refugees walking for weeks with young children, no money, no plan, no help, and no place to go. As scared as I was, my experience cannot even be compared to theirs. It is easy to remove yourself from a situation that does not directly affect you. It is easy to ignore privilege when you have it. The world is currently a frightening, broken place, and as idealistic and simplistic as it may seem, I think it would be much better if everyone took a minute to see things from someone else’s perspective. To, quite literally, walk a mile in their shoes.
July 21, 2016
Anyone who sits on the 9th floor at MWW might be aware from my frequent trips to the two kitchens up there that I enjoy sampling the various foods NYC has to offer. I’m from London, so I’m no stranger to international cuisines, but my trip to Smorgasburg in Prospect Park this weekend exceeded anything I’ve experienced before.
We entered the park and were immediately met with the distinctive smell of truffle emitting from the Home Frites stall. Having saved our appetites that morning, we were ravenous; we succumbed to temptation and bought the truffle skin-on fries with lemon and garlic aioli sauce. They were phenomenal (albeit a touch too salty), and were a fantastic introduction to the event. From then it was a free-for-all – we buzzed around the market like bees looking for the sweetest nectar. Some generous stall-owners gave us some Texas yellow watermelon for free, we purchased cornbread grilled cheese, sweet and savory parathas, oozing mozzarella sticks with garlic tomato sauce and tangy lavender popsicles. We then moved on to dessert: french toast banana pudding, melon shaved ice with pop rocks, ice cream sandwiches. The variety of tastes and smells was dazzling, and we went home thoroughly satisfied, if a bit over-stimulated.
What struck me even more than the innovative and high-quality foods was the wonderful array of people and the passion they had for their food. While of course there is a time and a place for a quick and easy Starbucks, or a cheap late-night McDonald’s, I felt far removed from the allure of those things when I was surrounded by the artisanal dishes, the production of which had clearly been a labour of love.
Yes, the food there is expensive, but when you’re presented with these beautiful dishes, most of which have been invented by the stall you’re buying it off, it feels worth it. There’s also something heart-warming about the communality of the event: when the vendors promote their food, they promote Smorgasburg as a whole, and when one of the stalls sold out, there was no competitiveness or hostility from the others. This seemed to be the cutting edge of the food industry, as indicated by the progressive nature of the event – for example, all the packaging used at all the stalls was either recyclable or compostable.
I don’t know whether it’s because it’s outside of cut-throat Manhattan, or because the young people of New York are attracted to foods which they feel that they can directly source to their makers, but either way the place buzzed with excitement and had a friendly atmosphere, and I’m so glad that I visited it.
July 13, 2016
Ever since I can remember, my parents have been taking me to Croatia every other summer. Although my brother and I were born and raised in New Jersey, my parents and extended family were not. They immigrated here during the Croatian/Serbian war in the 1990s, leaving all of their friends and family behind. It was no wonder that they had raised me with such awareness and knowledge of my culture. Croatian was even my native tongue and I preferred it over English for a very long time. My childhood summers and memories are shaped in that country and I will never forget them.
There is quite a multitude of memories I have in Croatia, but my favorite summer there was the summer I was going into high school. Usually, I had been a little shy there because all my friends were in New Jersey and I did not know many people my age. Croatia is very dissimilar from New Jersey when it comes to the environment and surroundings. In New Jersey, I would make friends at school or other nearby towns, while in Croatia I had to find friends at beaches or hangout with only family-friends. I decided to be more outgoing that summer and finally gained myself a great group of friends there. My mom introduced to me to her friend’s daughter who was my age and I instantly had a bond with her and group of friends. Instead of acting introverted and quiet, I endlessly exchanged information about what America was like with her experiences of growing up in Croatia. She was amazed at how close I live to New York City and someday even hopes to visit. We did so many things together like swimming in the clear blue water, walking around the city of Zadar, going to café’s, and more. Summers in New Jersey can often be boring and usually just consist of me staying home to watch TV or going to local restaurants with friends. I feel too used to America all the time and love the experiences I have in Croatia. Although I like the Jersey Shore, I love the island beaches in Croatia so much more. I’m thankful to have met such a friendly group of people that made me feel less upset about being away from my friends in New Jersey.
Although my parents left a big chunk of their lives behind in Croatia, they are glad they ended up moving to America and I am too. There is so much more of an opportunity for a better life and education here. I am grateful that my parents kept me in touch with my heritage, as it has become part of my identity. I hope to give the same experience to my future children.