Where are you from?
Home is a complicated word for me. There’s that quote: “Home is where the heart is” “Home is where your family is” blah blah blah….. New Orleans, Houston, Wyoming, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia - all have comforts, nostalgic memories, and an ever lasting impression on the person I am today. I’ve relocated so many times, no wonder I thrive in instability. Moving and traveling so often has significantly developed my abilities to be imaginative and do the best I can with what I have.
My ancestral roots are in Vietnam. I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA, but I don’t know much about the tourist perception/experience about New Orleans. I started high school in 9th ward New Orleans, but (if you know anything about NOLA public schools) I didn’t do too well…..Then mom moved us to Gulfport, MS for high school. After Hurricane Katrina, mom moved us to Houston. I started college in Texas, but fell into the life of vanity, brand names, clothes, clubs, and alcohol. I quit college because I was disillusioned with the idea that working 3 jobs and making money was more fun and important than sitting in a college class. After 3 years in Houston and some traumatic mess, the universe drew me into Wyoming. The University of Wyoming is the only university in the entire state. Coming from below sea level to 7220ft was a disturbing cultural and physical shock. The universe blessed me with the most incredible academic advisor who I visited weekly to complain about all things Wyoming. I am genetically made for heat and humidity. She brought up the opportunity to study abroad in Asia, so I did. Singapore was my home. The perfect country to get my feet wet into Southeast Asia and experience life where I am not the token Asian. Singapore was literally the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. [next to: moving to Wyoming because without Wyoming, I wouldn’t have known about Singapore]. Lastly, during grad school….I fell in love with the idea of studying local perception of marine conservation. Thus, falling in love with all things Indonesia because it was the heart of the Coral Triangle. I spent the last 3 years studying, reading, talking, learning, all things Indonesia. I’ve made at least 5 separate trips to #wonderfulIndonesia.
So when people ask where are you from?….I assess the situation. Ask “what do you mean by that?” because people want to put me into a box or more like know what kinda Asian I am….I usually start with “MY PARENTS are from Vietnam, and I was born in New Orleans”. Then, end the conversation by walking away. Other times, I love playing a guessing game, so people understand how silly they are for asking such an impersonal question.