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Will the Real Asians Please Stand Up?

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12

Getting on the Map

timeli

The Path to America:

A Story of Struggle, Family & the Khmer Rouge

28

Out of Bounds

Because You’re a Girl Behind the Screen

26

Tale of Two Natives

14

10

The Asian Definition

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cover credits

photo Lawrence Mabilangan design Yushin Kato model Peter Vo

30

ne In the Media

24

There’s No Place Like Home

spring 2012

Asia Through Asian America

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DESIGNER

Nicole Kim

WEB EDITOR

Jie-Ting Mei

Not pictured: Scott Wang, Promotions Director Ian Aranca, Writer Tommy Hung, Writer Minh-Tam Le, Writer

ASST. PROMO. DIRECTOR

Kevin Do

WRITER

WRITER

WEB EDITOR

Katherine Kallergis

WRITER

Kristina Nguyen

WRITER

Tho Nguyen

PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

Lawrence Mabilangan

WRITER/PHOTOGRAPHER

Heather Cabrera

Nathaniel Smith

Raye Ng

PHOTOGRAPHER

DESIGNER

Aliana Wong

Peter Vo PHOTOGRAPHER

Stefanie Cainto

MANAGING EDITOR

CONTENT EDITOR

TaeYeon Hong

MANAGING EDITOR

Maureen Mariano

Linda Son

Creative Director

Yushin Kato DESIGN EDITOR

establishment of Sparks Magazine

Jonathan Chandler

PHOTOGRAPHER

Michelle Velez

John San

FINANCE DIRECTOR

WRITER

Tommey Liang

2011


As we all groan about the changes that dawn our Facebook profile pages, we tend to overlook the significance behind “timeline”—a concept that connects us in more ways than we give credit for. Everyone has a story. Chances are, yours traces back to your ancestry. As Asian Americans, our blood makes a pretty big impact in who we are today. My parents’ families immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in the ‘70s. Although my mom and dad never graduated college, they worked paycheck to paycheck to build a life in San Francisco. That’s where I was born, and that’s where I plan to return to. It is our family’s stories that drive some of us to a specific point in our futures. We are brought up with notions embedded in our hearts and minds... and, from then on, every action and every experience affects the rest of our timelines, where we are now and where we see ourselves in the future. This timeline is what ultimately outlines who we are and what we do, whether it is going back to our roots or doing something completely different. For me, it was the past that I valued that led me to create this magazine in the first place. Specific events throughout my timeline have given me the strength, ability and determination to continue the production of a second issue. But it wouldn’t have been without the support I’ve accumulated along the way. And so, with this issue, we take one step forward on the Sparks timeline. We won’t let it end there.

my timeline

Dear reader,

2012

2009

Kevina Lee

Creator & Editor-in-Chief editor@sparks-mag.com

1995


sparks

The Asian Definition Asian [ey-zhuhn, ey-shuhn] adj. 1. gets straight As 2. naturally good at math 3. has strict parents 4. plays piano 5. pre-med or engineering major

photobyheathercabrera

illustrationbyalianawong


“ I

n high school, Quyen Le was the go-to girl when her friends needed help in their Advanced Placement chemistry class. She said they assumed she understood everything they learned. Quyen, a junior psychology major, spent much of her childhood in West Palm Beach after being born in Vietnam. Growing up, she said students in her classes expected her to be good at math, work hard in school and have strict parents. Though the stereotypes weren’t always true, she said she ended up being influenced by them. “I kind of conformed a little bit,” Quyen says. She would go to school, go home, do homework and “study, study, study.” “I have to live up to the standards that people set for me,” she says. This falls into the “model minority” myth, the idea that Asians are naturally hard-working and able to succeed without assistance. This causes Asian Americans to be viewed with one type of personality. “It’s really detrimental,” says Leah Villanueva, director of UF’s Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs. “It robs people of their individualization and their humanity.” Instead of being seen as equal members of the community, Asian Americans have unrealistic expectations they have to meet, Villanueva says. Quyen didn’t automatically know how to help her friends with their chemistry work, but she forced herself to learn so she could help them. In this way, Quyen says the stereotypes offered her both encouragement and pressure.

to g n i go u o y lf e s Are r ou y w by d e allo efin y? d e sa to b y e h tt a h w

They pushed her to be more successful, but she also felt she did certain things to fit the stereotype and make people happy. For Tiger Sun, a sophomore business major, stereotypes were never negative. Growing up in both South Florida and Gainesville, Tiger wasn’t surrounded by a large Asian population. But he said he fit all of the stereotypes he was subjected to: being smart, being good with computers, being nerdy and so on. “I embraced them, so it doesn’t really bother me much,” he says. Despite this acceptance, he still calls himself American. Being Asian American is a delicate balance, Villanueva says. While growing up in an American society, Asian Americans still have their background and culture to respect. And although she encourages people to break beyond the myth, she says what is most important is to be authentic to one’s self and move beyond the stereotypes. “Are you going to allow yourself to be defined by what they say?” she asks. Villanueva acknowledges this as part of the problem: Asian Americans are trapped underneath preconceptions. “If you aren’t doing well in school, there’s something wrong with you,” she says. Tiger says stereotyping never hindered him from being successful but pointed out that to some, stereotypes became an explanation. When he did well in classes, people would say it was because of his background. “They kind of blamed my successes on the fact that I was Asian,” he says. stefaniecainto

issue 02

07


sparks

will the

Real Asians

“He’s Asian,” I said. It shouldn’t have shocked me when I later found out my audience had mistaken my description to mean solely oriental. When did I miss the change in definition of “Asian” from a person of Continental Asia to Eastern Asian only? It’s not uncommon to see that the term “Asian” is now primarily used to describe people of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Cambodian, Thai, Singaporean, and other phenotypically similar ethnicities. But what about Pakistan? Indonesia? Sri Lanka? Bangladesh? Nepal? Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq? (Countries that geographically make up as much of Asia as any other nation). With casual terms such as “brown” and “Persian” to cast an umbrella over all countries with any similarity to the Indian region, it’s clear that specification has allowed the terms to deviate. “Asian,” conversationally, was too broad. It was the natural evolution of description that led us to use “Indian” for Western Asia and reserve “Asian” for the East. But is it okay to do so? There are varied opinions on how those excluded from the concept of Asia feel about it: some are neutral, others are accepting of the more specific term that has a more tailored description with it, and some feel slighted that

terminology they identify strongly with isn’t socially applicable to them anymore. However, some of the dividers have come to fruition not in colloquial use alone but in the use of “Asian” within organizations and demographics. When it comes to Asian clubs or events, issues and Asia-related situations, people from the Middle Eastern and Western Asian regions are sometimes excluded on the basis that they aren’t “real Asians.” This inaccuracy stemming from society’s ignorance as to what is “Asian” leaves out an entire group of people who come from Asia but can no longer claim their name without a defense, stuck between a hard place and a rock. It’s a unique situation, giving one name to a continent that consists of some of the most diverse cultures that somehow still manage to relate to one another through values and certain traditional practices. One of the downsides of being “brown” and being neglected as a “standard Asian” is that, while everyone is somewhat aware of events like Chinese New Year or Japanese cherry blossom festivals and associate them as Asian events, people don’t tend to be aware


please stand up

?

that “brown” Asians have festivals just as large and interesting such as the Indian Diwali. Known as the “festival of the lights,” lamps are lit to signify the triumph of good over evil during Diwali. It is an important festival that unites all of India despite internal religious differences. “I think brown people need to make themselves more aware (of ) both South Asian and Asian issues in general. It is a community that we need to integrate into, so Asian and brown people included can have a powerful voice,” says Satvika Ponnavolu, president of the Indian Student Association. The mental association with only one type of Asian when the word or idea is brought up is unfortunately all too common. What comes to mind with the term American? Southern American? British? French? African? Australian? Most likely, unless you are remarkably demographically aware at all waking times, a single stereotype pops up as an image. A particular race though all these categories have millions of individuals that are of different backgrounds. The definition of “American” is constantly fought over, reminding not only our own citizens but also the world that the term applies to mil-

an editorial by Heather Cabrera

lions of individuals of every race, religion, political ideology, and ethnicity. But how has fighting for the right to be accepted as “Asian” from the Asian continent slipped under the radar, especially in a community that is so ethnically diverse? Ultimately, freedom of identity means the freedom to choose whatever category suits you by whatever rubric you deem substantial. While we have an idea of who fits what mold, it’s wrong to exclude someone because they don’t fit your own idea of what constitutes “Asian” or any other demographic term. Freedom of identity extends into every culture and ethnic group and should be tolerated beyond what we physically look like. How can we expect cultural respect from other continents when we segregate ourselves for them? The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Sparks Magazine.

09

issue 02

photosbyheathercabrera


sparks

“You can’t do that.” You can’t do this.

a e r ’ u o Y Because +

Girl..

T

hat tingling sensation you get when you do something exciting or meet someone new for the first time -- that’s the feeling Amanda Cheng, a Chinese American junior studying anthropology, got when she finally went on an adventure of her own. “You can’t do that because you’re a girl.” How many times do young women have to hear this statement as an excuse to restrain them from doing something they want to do? This has been held against her too many times, Amanda says. When Amanda was a teenager, she took a chance with her mom by asking if she could venture off to Los Angeles to visit family and friends, but to no avail. “I asked her why not and her reason was because I’m a girl,” Amanda says. This definitely wasn’t the case for her brother. Amanda reminded her mom that her brother flew to Texas by himself when he was only 9 years old. According to Amanda’s

mother, he was allowed to “because he’s a boy.” Against all odds, this particular rebel made her way to wherever she wanted to be once she hit college. “I’ve gone to a bunch of different places that I couldn’t go before, met so many people along the way, and felt things I never thought I would have. It’s thrilling to just let go and do what you want. I probably seem like a bad daughter for thinking this way,” Amanda says. In a world dominated by restrictive gender roles brought forth by society’s agenda of conformity, there are still hopefuls out there rising against this socially constructed notion. These revolutionaries are the ones rattling the rusty chains of not-yetknown go-getters to break away from the rules that bind them. Amanda is one of them. Many “traditional” Asian American families tend to follow a cult-ish rule when it comes to their views on how typical boys and girls should act. This could go terribly awry once two different worlds collide and


11

.. inner battles of the self begin. It is a widespread belief that Asian Americans are the “model minority” -- the quiet, obedient, straight-A descendants of the ones that came before them. It is also a common theme that girls have stricter rules to follow than their male counterparts. Michael Nguyen, a Vietnamese American junior studying architecture, lived at home with his family before transferring to the University of Florida. Being the youngest of three boys, he was not faced with a gendered set of rules put forth by his parents. “I don’t think my parents ever told me I couldn’t do something because I was a boy. I could do whatever I wanted to when I lived at home,” he says. “Even if I asked to do something crazy like backpack across all of Asia, my parents would hesitate at first, but then they would let me go ahead with it if I really wanted to. “They would even encourage me after a while,” Michael says, “I guess it is because I’m a guy and they don’t have to worry about me getting pregnant.

How parents think and do, and how they pass on their beliefs in forms of instruction to their kids is influenced by an unwritten book of stereotypical societal guidelines. “It would be great if my parents, or society even, could just learn to trust me and other females out there to make our own decisions,” Amanda says. “We can think for ourselves, you know.” kristinanguyen

“...Girls have stricter rules to follow than their male counterparts.”

issue 02

photobypetervo


sparks

getting on

photobylawrencemabilangan

p a m e th


As Asian Americans, how do you feel about the uprising of Asians in American entertainment? Arthur: I would say definitely through social media and social networking and different sites like YouTube, people do have the opportunity to present their talents and passions. Definitely Asian Americans have come a long way through media like YouTube, because in Hollywood it’s very hard for Asian Americans, or Asians in general, to stand out unless they’re really good martial artists like Jackie Chan for example. It’s not like our only talent is what our race is interpreted as. It’s hard to just be properly represented. We’re not all Chinese. Rob: I think for us as Instant Noodles, specifically, the dance scene is mostly Filipino or Vietnamese. There are barely any Taiwanese people. That’s definitely what we want to promote. That we are Taiwanese, we’re from Taiwan, and this place actually exists. Right now it’s like, “Oh yeah, they’re from Taiwan. I love Thai food!” It’s definitely on a more specific level of awareness. For us, personally, that’s what we want to do is put Taiwan on the map. Now that we’re finally on the scene and have become a force to be reckoned with, what’s your view on being a representative for the APIA community? Chuck: I feel like we still have trouble acknowledging that we are representatives of APIA. It’s hard for me because we were just regular guys who danced in high school together. For people to be like, “Oh you guys are representing us and we like the stuff you do,” it’s a great honor and I feel really proud about it. I don’t really see myself as a torch-bearer or anything. It’s more like we just want to put out good work and hopefully that’s good enough. Arthur: I think we’re in a position where we need to promote what I think is the heart of it. It has nothing to do with race. We’re not “good at dancing” because we’re Taiwanese. We’re not good at singing because we’re a certain race. It’s all tal-

ent, hard work, and passion. We’re in a position to promote the spiritual side of it. We have to break that stereotype where it’s like “Oh, Asians are good at this or not good at this.” This one’s for Kina, how did you feel growing up with being multiracial? Kina: Growing up, just feeling like I’m tied to places all over the world and not really belonging to one culture has been definitely defining for me and it’s something that I’m proud of. I don’t know a lot about a lot of them. I’m half Japanese and I know a lot about that side, and I’m half Euro-mutt and I have a lot to learn about that side. It’s kind of like this fun mixture where I’m proud of everything and I feel tied to the world as a whole. On the whole, who am I? I am a mix. It’s not one thing. I’m mutt girl. [laughs] Who are your favorite people that you’ve worked with so far and are you still in awe when you work with other famous people? Instant Noodles Crew: [points at Kina Grannis] Kina: I think it’s so cool doing events like this and getting to be with other very talented individuals. It’s so fun. I’m so jealous that I’m not a cool dance crew person. Someday, maybe. On a whole, they’re all just amazingly nice and talented people. Everyone has been really helpful and every time I work with someone it’s always just a huge pleasure. How were your parents like when you started dancing or singing? Did they ever tell you to stop doing what you were doing and study more? Chuck: I was really fortunate to have parents that are really supportive of me. They went to college here during the ‘70s so they were more open-minded to the arts and stuff like that. They let me do what I wanted to do and I was very, very fortunate that they were supportive of me because I know that a lot of Asian Americans and their households have a hard time dealing with parents putting pressure on them to study for more “tra-

13

ditional” jobs.

Rob: My parents always thought that

it would be a phase. I started dancing in high school and they thought, “Oh, that’s alright it’s just for fun after-school stuff.” Then I joined a dance class and they thought, “Oh, that’s okay, after high school you’re good.” Then I started dancing again after a year of college and they thought, “Oh, that’s okay, you can stop after you finish college.” Halfway through my senior year in college I auditioned for an agency in L.A. and made the cut and so when I got the call, I told my parents I was going to give it a shot. They’ve adapted to me, shall we say. I don’t think they were ever adverse to the idea of dancing; it was more of a security thing. Mike: It’s kind of hard because my family has three generations of doctors… so we’ll just leave it at that. Kina: I was very lucky that my parents were very supportive from the beginning. I think it helped that I stayed in school and that I did well in school. Had I been skipping classes and failing out, they probably would’ve been like, “What are you doing?” Then I finished and I basically went straight out of college and into trying to do music full time. They were right behind me and they’ve been really involved in everything and they try to come with me on some of my tours. I’ve been very, very lucky. Do you guys have last words for the APIA community? Chuck: Be creative. Just make sure you stay true to your foundation, but also don’t be afraid to do things that people haven’t done before. Always do something that you like. Kina: I would say do what you love. Whether it’s dance, or music, or being a doctor, whatever it is, just do what you’re passionate about and not what you think you’re supposed to do. Arthur: I feel like the one thing I’ve learned is to give back to the culture that’s given so much to you and by doing that, you’ll get a lot in return too. ianaranca&kristinanguyen

issue 02

O

n Nov. 11, 2011, Kina Grannis and Instant Noodles Crew’s Arthur, Mike, Geo, Rob and Chuck visited the University of Florida to perform in the Asian Kaleidoscope Month Closing Ceremony. While the distinctive dance crew and singer extraordinaire have been charging toward the forefront of America’s entertainment industry, they took the time to sit down with us and share some of their insights on the APIA community and the entertainment world.


sparks

W

hen Dot Han was last in China in 2002, there were no English classes being offered. That was her final year there. Dot lived in Kaifeng for 11 years before immigrating to the United States and settling in Gainesville. She has since been back three times. “Kaifeng is quite similar to Gainesville,” she says. “It’s not a big city, so the economy isn’t as developed in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.” Dot is a senior interior design major with a minor in business administration. Dot always had a passion for design since she was 6. In China, she excelled in art courses that involved different mediums, such as painting, watercolor, oil pastel and colored markers. “Mostly, elementary school in the U.S. is about having fun and playing,” she says. “In China it’s more about grades.” She added that if students played cards in class or if they did anything in the classroom besides study, they would be punished. “It’s pretty harsh overall. The stuff we learned was overwhelming,” she recalls. “The curriculum was intense because it can be compared to the high school level in the U.S., and sometimes the teachers would punish students [by hitting them] with rulers.” When she arrived in the U.S., her parents thought the curriculum

was “too easy,” so Dot skipped sixth to seventh grade. She was placed into English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in seventh grade for two years instead of taking regular English courses. “Even if students did tease me about my lack of English, I wouldn’t have understood it,” Dot says. Coming into college, Dot says meeting people she could relate to within the Friendship Association of Chinese Students & Scholars has been the most significant experience for her. As a part of the organization, she helped students find housing, set up their bank accounts and get to know the U.S. culture, she said. She says that experiencing the difference between Chinese Americans and international Chinese students is amazing, and filling the gap is a role she strives to fulfill. With a big family back in her home country, Dot feels a strong connection with her Chinese roots. Spending ten years in Gainesville has given her enough reason to experience something new and return to a bigger city. “They’re starting projects and a lot of construction works in China,” she says with determination. “It might be an option for me to go back and work.” tommeyliang

photosbyrayeng


A Tale of Two Natives The evolution of a first-generation

J

ee Hye Kang, a sophomore chemical engineering student, lived in Seoul, South Korea, for about seven years. Her dad told her being a Korean high school student meant getting four or less hours of sleep, waking up at 6 a.m. to go to school and getting back at noon to eat and continue studying. She says in addition to many students attending hahkwon, or after-school tutoring institutions, English is taught to young students as well. She came to the U.S. in second grade and attended a private school before transferring to a public school in Fort Myers. Jee Hye says she picked up English quickly through her classes. She has now been in the U.S. for nearly 12 years and, although most of her extended family remains in South Korea, she says she would not return to live there permanently. “I’ve made a lot of connections,” she says. “It’s not something I can give up so easily because I spent most of my life here in the U.S.” She would visit her family in Korea in short bursts if given the chance, maybe even study abroad. Jee Hye wants to learn more about her culture and see how the country has changed since she left it in 1999. In fact, she says she wants to travel the world, having found an interest in diverse cultures. “There’s a lot more I want to explore,” she says. “I don’t see myself in one place.” Jee Hye has been taking Spanish classes since middle school and plans to visit South America in the future, maybe even after graduation. “Seeing words and pictures in textbooks aren’t the same as actually being somewhere.” tommeyliang

issue 02

15


photobylawrencemabilangan


The Path to America: A Story of T

Struggle, Family

&

the Khmer Rouge story by and photo courtesy of

Linda Son

here is a picture frame in my parents’ home that stands out on their white walls. While nearly all the other frames hold pictures of my family, this one holds only pictures of my mother, circa 1980, alongside women I do not recognize. “This one,” my mother, Sakhoeun Ma, a petite woman with a light tan complexion, says. She points to a photograph of herself standing in a thick brown coat and white knit beanie. “[This] is from when I lived in Wichita, Kansas. Every winter was like this.” In the faded photo, my mother stands with a shovel next to a car with snow piled up so high that it is nearly as tall as she is. Growing up, I ignored the possibility that my parents had lives before I was born. Because St. Petersburg was all I knew, I figured that that was all they knew as well. My childish notions were only supported by the fact that my parents rarely spoke about Cambodia, the country they were forced to flee in the 1970s. In high school, I chose to write about the Cambodian genocide for an essay. I quickly learned about my parents’ home country as I read accounts of other people’s experiences. Expecting a story about refugee camps and their eventual permission into the United States, I asked my parents about how they ended up in America for the first time. I was 17 then. It turned out that both my parents spent time bouncing to different countries before they finally landed on American soil. According to Yale University’s Cambodian Genocide Program, 1975 was the first year the Khmer Rouge, a communist governing power, took over Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge implemented heavy extremist ideals and started a genocide that eventually killed over two million people, nearly 21 percent of Cambodia’s population. “They took your aunt,” my mother says. Her eldest sister was taken by the Khmer Rouge to work in the rice paddies when she was about 15 years old. My mother was 13. “They separated families often,” she says. “They would just take children. As soon as they were old enough to work a little bit, they would take the children. When they took your aunt, they told Mae that they would come back and take me and your uncle.” My grandmother Mae and my grandfather spent months not knowing what happened to their eldest daughter after the Khmer Rouge took her. They had no way to directly contact her; after hearing that children taken by the Khmer Rouge often died from malnutrition, starvation and disease, my grandparents couldn’t risk the same thing happening to their other five children. They took what they could carry and left for Thailand with another family. →


sparks

step onto an airplane and crossed two continents into France. The fleet of people, about 20 in total, walked through thick jungle and only stopped to rest briefly. Day and night, they walked westward, carrying their belongings on their back and little food. My mother made the grave mistake of forgetting her shoes. “I cried the entire time,” my mother says. “My feet were all cut up and I had to carry enormous papayas the whole way.” Every day of the journey, she would complain to Mae. “If I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have come along.” Annoyed, Mae told my mom that if she was going through such a hard time, she should just throw the papayas away. It was only after the papayas were several miles behind them that my mother realized the family was down to only 1 pound of rice. The trip from their small village to Thailand took seven days and seven nights on foot. When they finally reached the border, a passerby saw the group and invited them back to her home, where she fed them and called the local authorities. The families were brought to a refugee camp, where each family was given a room to live in within rows of long buildings. “There were thousands of people,” she says. “I had never seen so many people in my life.” In the refugee camp, my mother and her older cousin worked for a woman harvesting crops on her farm for 20 baht a day (roughly $1 in the 1970s). In her off time, she would hang around the rooms where they taught women how to sew. Eventually, my mother found out that she was able to pick up sewing a lot quicker than the older women. She moved from working in the fields to a little factory with a number of Thai women. Between the factory and the local markets, she picked up Thai and learned to speak it fluently. Three years into her stay at a refugee camp in 1978, my mother was given the opportunity to leave the camp for France with another family. Mae told her to go so she could gain French citizenship and sponsor the rest of the family. Mae’s words were the law of the family, so my 16-year-old mother took her first

21 Politicians, led by Pol Pot form Kampuchea People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP aka The Khmer Rouge) in the jungles of Cambodia. They advocated radical Communist revolution that would wipe out Western influences in Cambodia.

North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops aid the Khmer Rouge and allow guerrillas to start largescale insurgency against Cambodian government forces.

The Khmer Rouge capture Phnom Penh and overthrew the pro-U.S. regime.

*** In 1975, my father, Randy Son, and his family, who were Vietnamese and Cambodian, lived in Vietnam as they hid away from the Khmer Rouge. As inhabitants of the city with strong ties to the regime before the Khmer Rouge came into power, it was much too dangerous for them to remain in Cambodia. It would be nearly four years before my father, too, ventured to the refugee camps in Thailand. In the late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge were chased out of Cambodia by Vietnamese forces. Some of the Khmer Rouge remained in different parts of the countryside of Cambodia, but they were out of the capital and their terror was waning. In the Vietnamese village my father lived in, the Viet Cong arrived to alert the villagers. All young men were to join the Viet Cong, including my father, who was about 18 years old at the time. His mother knew immediately that for his safety, her youngest son would have to leave Vietnam -and his family. So, in the spring of 1980, my father and a small group of people set off from Vietnam to try and sneak back into Cambodia, the country he was forced to leave only five years before. The trip had just begun when, at the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, the small group was caught by the Vietnamese authorities. There, they were interrogated for a few hours and asked in Vietnamese about their identity, their plans and where they were headed. Each of the eight members of the group played dumb or responded that they did not know in Cambodian, even though each of them spoke fluent Vietnamese. Finally, the authorities brought in a translator who told them that they would have to return them back to Cambodia and that Vietnam could not take any more Cambodian refugees. The group feigned sadness as they were “returned” to the country that they had originally intended to enter. “It took about two or three weeks,” my father says, counting the days in his head. “I kept track the first few days, but then gave up. I just followed the group leader.”

1975-1978 - Pol Pot set to transform Cambodia by creating an agrarian utopia. Cities were evacuated, schools and factories closed, and currency and private property abolished. Intellects, skilled workers, and anyone in possession of modern technology were killed. Nearly 2 million Cambodians died by execution, forced labor, or famine. 1985-Pol Pot officially retired but remained effective head of the Khmer Rouge

1978 - Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and captured Phnom Penh in early 1979. A moderate Communist government formed and the Khmer Rouge retreated back into the jungles.

Secret bombings of Cambodia by the U.S. drive Vietnamese communists out of Cambodia and create a power vacuum. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge fill that void.

1998-Pol Pot died (possibly from natural causes) while under house arrest

1997 - Pol Pot is put on trial by the organization after an internal power struggle


issue 02

19 Like many in his group, my father journeyed through Cambodia without any of his possessions. On a clear night about a week into their journey, the group leader brought them through a part of the forest when someone called out for them to stop. “When I looked up, there was a gun,” my father says. The group had wandered near a Khmer Rouge outpost where a lone cadre was stationed. The Khmer Rouge, although officially chased out of power by the Vietnamese in 1979, still remained in control over some parts of Cambodia. They were also known to indoctrinate children from a very young age, teaching them extremist ideals and encouraging them to fight for Angkor, or the Organization: a faceless body of power that controlled the nation. The teenager who held his gun up to my father was one of many the Khmer Rouge used as soldiers and guards. “He took us all back to his station and it was just him, by himself,” my father says. The cadre was about to call in others to imprison my father and his group. In that moment, my father says, he could think only of his upcoming death. That was when the group leader pulled out a bag from his pocket. “He said, ‘Here, take this!’ and put the entire bag in the kid’s hands,” my father recalls. The bag contained all the gold and jewelry the group had paid the leader with at the beginning of the journey to take them across Cambodia safely. Before the cadre had the chance to react, the group quietly followed the group leader out of the station. When they were several feet away, all eight of them ran westward as fast as they could. “We ran that entire night,” my father remembers. After some grueling weeks, my father and his group made it safely across the Thai border. Around the time he entered the refugee camp, my mother was just getting situated with her new life in France. *** When she first arrived in France, my mother went through a three-month orientation in which she learned basic French, the culture and customs of the country, and about her future job there. After the orientation, she was sent to Paris to work as a housekeeper for a wealthy company owner, his wife and their three children not too far from the Eiffel Tower. She cleaned their house for a few months before she became their main cook. The family provided a small apartment on the estate, where she lived rent-free. According to my mother, the work was easy and gave her a lot of free time to explore the city. “I had so much fun,” she says, using a Cambodian phrase to express the joy she remembers, “S’bai nah ch’ong tuh gnyop!” She watched French movies, tried rich, foreign foods, and visited some of the most famous sites, although at the time she

didn’t realize how famous they were. It was a life completely different from the one she had led in her small Cambodian village, where she had worked on a small farm when she wasn’t helping Mae take care of her younger siblings. In 1982, Mae called my mother with huge news: the entire family was now in the United States. They had found a sponsor and were on their way to gaining American citizenship. The only thing left was for my mother to leave France and join them. My mother packed up without a second thought and said goodbye to her employer and the few friends she had made in France. She left Paris on a flight bound for the U.S. and, after three years separated from her family, reunited with her parents and five siblings, including the aunt the Khmer Rouge had taken years before. *** In that same year, my father also landed on American soil. Back in Thailand, my father had only stayed in the refugee camp for a year before being given an opportunity to leave. The people at the refugee camp told him that if he was willing to go to the Philippines, he would be able to enter the United States as a refugee within two months. If not, there was no telling how long it would be until he could leave the Thai refugee camp. He opted for the Philippines. For two months, my father went through an orientation similar to what my mother had gone through upon entering France. He learned a little English and about life in America, which would be his next destination. After two months, in 1982, my father got on a plane set for Hawaii. “In Hawaii, they were getting my papers ready when I asked them to deny me refugee status,” my father says. My father had not wanted to become a refugee in America, having never intended to go to the United States when he had left Vietnam two years before. His target the entire time had been Canada because in Ontario lived the only family he knew outside of Southeast Asia -- his uncle, a former general in the Cambodian military who had been exiled when the Khmer Rouge took over. “The woman looked at me like I was crazy and told me they can’t deny a refugee from entering the United States,” my father says. From Hawaii, my father went to California and then St. Petersburg, Florida, where he lived with his sponsor. *** In 1984, after years of harsh Kansas winters, Mae decided they needed to return to the climate they were used to, something close to Cambodia’s climate: hot, humid and tropical. My mother’s family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where they settled and stayed for the next few decades. And there, in St. Petersburg, my parents met for the first time. A modest romance, a colorful wedding and two daughters later, my parents now spend very little time dwelling on their past, talking about their memories only when asked. It took 17 years for me to finally ask the right questions. To this day, their story keeps me in awe.


Asia

through

T Tommy Hung is a Chinese American who, shortly after graduating from the University of Florida, set off on a year-long trip to his parents’ native country. This is his story.

Asian America

he last rays of light shone intensely above the mountain tops for just a few moments as if to catch its breath before disappearing from view outside Incheon International Airport. This was my first glance at the outside world after sitting still for 16 hours on the international flight from Atlanta to Seoul, Korea. I had 30 minutes to locate my next and last flight to my final destination of Kunming, China. Walking through the airport, I stopped for a moment to glance outside and reflected how less than 23 hours ago, I was watching the sun rise over the beaches of my hometown on the East Coast of Florida. The two scenes were unnervingly parallel: a disconcerting duality of being raised as an Asian American and trying to blend in to both Asia and America. Now, however, was not the time to reminisce. I had one last plane to catch. I had built up a feeling of excitement and anxiety as I reflected on what traveling to China meant to me. I had traveled here twice. Once, 9 years ago at age 14, and earlier during my infant years. I felt I was much closer to a tourist than someone returning home because I was raised in an American environment with very little comprehensive understanding of the depth and length of Chinese history and culture. What I knew, I learned from history textbooks, stern lectures from my mother, and banal adages thrown around for every mistake one can make in life. The only things I was truly familiar with was the set-in-stone ideology that one’s hard work is the most important aspect of an individual’s integrity. I knew that the Chinese, as well as many other Asian cultures, emphasized the responsibility that an individual has to one’s family as well as to themselves to place all of their effort on obtaining success through perseverance. For this reason, I couldn’t help but to think that mainland Chinese had a similar aspect and pictured a country full of dedicated, ant-like workers, both more intelligent and more ambitious than the diluted Asian American culture. However, I also knew that China has been through many drastic changes in the last 40 years, and even more so within this century. In these last 14 years, China has economically grown at an astounding rate. This massive jump in progress has drastically changed the culture and lifestyle of China. As deeply rooted →


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photocourtesyoftommyhung illustrationbyyushinkato

and ancient as the Chinese culture is, overpopulation, revolution, and government suppression are bound to extensively change any country. Knowing all of this when I stepped off the plane, I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu. Returning to the place I spent my early formative years, my sense of recognition was only a faint whisper against the new buildings and the faint glow of smog from rapid expansion and pollution. As I gathered my bags and walked toward the entrance, I tried to mentally prepare myself. This was an opportunity for me to both learn more of this world and more about myself. With one last deep breath, I waved to my relatives and walked out of the airport. I was returning home to this exotic and new realm. Walking out of that airport, I didn’t know if I would be able to feel at home here. It has been six weeks since I walked out of the airport and into a daily routine, and I am still baffled by many things. I have found that Chinese people are vastly different than Chinese Americans. I was expecting there to be drastic changes due to the environment that China presents, but not to such an exorbitant degree. First of all, the solidarity in morality that I was so proud of has been made in to a joke by the level of fraudulence here. This applies to many things, from the sanitation of food, to the quality of products made, to the authenticity of brand names, to the mannerisms of everyone you meet. When it comes to food and products, if the Chinese can find a cheaper and easier method, they will pursue that method regardless of the safety hazards. Because of the importance of the dinner table as a societal hub, there are many traditions and etiquettes attached to every meal. As with Western dinner table etiquette, much of it is passé and done for the sole purpose of appearance. For example, when dinner is ready, seating is arranged by the eldest or most honorable (read: boss or business partner) sitting first and at the most comfortable and well-lit position and then according to rank. Many dishes are brought to the table at once and placed around a rotating glass platform. At least a third of the dishes aren’t very tasty and are mainly to increase the physical beauty of the selections. Just as many of the dishes are losing functionality for better aesthetics, I feel as if many of the ancient traditions that once rooted Chinese people to one mindset, one emperor, and one ethos are fast becoming nothing more than a shallow tablecloth to cover a dirty table. While the table cloth seems to be made of silk, the table is rotting and stale. It was hard to realize that. Initially, it was when I started receiving an offer too many by people I had just met to stay at their house with them during my stay in Kunming. I felt that it was a

peculiar gesture for people I had just met, who only knew me through my family, to offer to let me stay with them. Some of the families were well-off, but at least a third of the offers came from families that were living in single room units. Some of the houses were over 50 minutes away from my work place. Finally, because of my unfamiliarity with the the city infrastructure, I would be a great liability and require a lot of time and effort to help get up and running. Now, granted, I’m pretty easy to get along with, and every month or so I have a day where I might even be called charismatic, but it’s quite a stretch to say that people would so openly invite a stranger in to their homes when I was not in need of a new place to live. It turns out, such hospitality has become so ingrained now that it has lost its sincerity and everyone is aware of it except for me. Then, as I started traveling to work, I would almost get hit by cars every morning on bike. Red lights will actually make them stop 85 percent of the time (from what I’ve seen). Most drivers from other provinces will break the rules because any traffic citation acquired in one province will not transfer over to another. It is common to see cars driving in the middle of two lanes. If someone wants to merge, they do so, regardless of anyone else on the road. Even walking has its cautions. When I was carrying around my phone with headphones in, I got pickpocketed. I am advised to carry my laptop with me at all times, even in the bathroom. At the drug rehab center I do therapy at, two patients stole three cellphones. After one of them made an impassioned speech about how one needs to strive to become better for not only him- or herself, but for all those they love, they snuck out for a few days. The further down the hole I looked, the more and more I found that this place was more and more chaotic. For the longest time, I felt myself losing respect for my own mother country. I felt perhaps I had built China up to be something it wasn’t. I felt maybe it was a mistake to want to understand China’s zeitgeist. How am I to better understand a country when they have so much trouble understanding themselves? Then, while I was at a dinner meeting, the conversation between two men began to elucidate China for me. A playful fight arose when both men fought over who should sit first. One of them was the head of the Center for Disease Control in the Yunnan province, and the other was the head of DayTop Rehabilitation Center for China. When inquired on why we must stick to such antiquated etiquette since equality is the best catalyst for great dinner table conversation, the other replied that China clings tightly to such traditions because they are the last string we have to a n


issue 02

23 ancient and illustrious past. In a society that is rapidly changing, our history and tradition are what separates us from any other country. In a history that measures back to almost the dawn of history right up there with Mesopotamia, we stand proudly as a world power, coming along all this way. Yet due to modernization in this past century, the Chinese way of life is unrecognizable from 10 years ago. Even if our history is only viewable in ancient landmarks and empty gestures, we can still see it every day and be proud that we are Chinese. That is what will keep China firmly planted as a country of immense importance in the future. The country may deviate, but it will always be able to rely on its wenhua (culture). This currently empty but hopeful use of culture is the first major cause of why I believe China is significantly different.

The final thing to really open my eyes was an unexpected encounter. I was doing a case study on one of the patients at the center and asked him if he felt that the community-based therapy was effective for him. After his usual rhetorical and stubborn responses, he told me that no matter how I felt and no matter how I tried, I could not reach them. Laughing at the shock on my face, he said that people like him will always be labeled as worthless. Not only as drug dealers, but as lower-class. He is unable to escape his life situation, and so will continue to live in the only way he knows how. The economic mobility here is overall as stiff as a board. With a population of close to 1.4 billion, it has become increasingly hard to find high-paying jobs. The cost of living is significantly higher than that of the United States and the average salary is much lower. Many people have a hard time conceptualizing long-term goals when they have to worry about their daily expenses. Likewise, many children also seem unsure about their future. They are stuffed and lined with work and tests from elementary to middle school, but once they reach higher education where they must choose a path, many are lost. While talking to the parents of some of the children I am teaching, they told me that they wish they could parent like their parents raised them, but with China in the situation it is in now, they are forced to give their children more freedom to avoid unsure children latching on to parents when they cannot find a place in the work force. Chinese Americans are very futureoriented, but the Chinese have been forced to focus on the “here and now” and think of aspirations as only wistful goals -- this is what I believe is the second foundational cause of the large difference between Chinese and Chinese Americans. There are many reasons why China is being shoved mercilessly into its position today. What is most important about being here is not seeing the points that are bad, but the reasons behind them. I personally believe that China is now going through a crucial accommodation stage. It has realized the importance of modernization since the Communist Revolution and is dealing with the consequences of pacing itself so fast. As China develops, rest assured that it will fill America’s news headlines. When you hear about the problems here, try to think of why a country with so much culture and ability is being affected the way it is. This is one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, and it continues to thrive. There are a plethora of problems with the country, like the iron grip of the government, the media censorship, the lack of systematic regulations, and others that I was unable to discuss, but with a nation so immensely populated and proud, there are bound to be many issues. What I have realized in my time here is that the many issues that I wish I could change or help with will sort themselves out in due time as China has managed to do time and time again. After these six months, I am still an outsider. But now, instead of regretting not having someplace to call home, I feel excited to always have something to learn. It’s not the location but the experiences that make a home. For me, coming to China has been a life-changing experience. If you ever get the chance, come visit China. If I am still there, I will offer you the first seat at the dinner table.


sparks

There’s No

Home Place Like

A new organization provides alumni with a place to return to

A

fter Jeremy Rojas graduates, he hopes to land a job with a computer software company. And eventually, he wants to become a manager or start his own company. “I also want to travel the world and dip my feet in the entertainment industry,” says Jeremy, a senior software engineering major. This time next spring, he’ll pack up his toolbox that he’s been carrying around for his Digital Logic and Digital Design classes, all the textbooks, workbooks and binders that have accumulated over the past five years, and everything else in his apartment, which he’s called his home away from home. With him, he’ll also take the memories he’s made at the University of Florida. Jeremy, along with many future and current alumni, are given the opportunity to hold on to these memories with the help of the Association of Asian Alumni (AAA). This newly formed organization serves as a resource for both students and alumni to stay connected. “During my time at UF, I’ve been involved with the Asian American Student Union and its sub-organizations, which have greatly shaped who I am today,” he says. “It has been an extremely fun and rewarding experience meeting amazing people and participating in unforgettable events, so it’s no question that I would join.” The AAA had been an idea that lingered around the UF campus for years. It was not until the fall of 2009 that the AASU took the first step to make it happen. Phillip Cheng and Vanessa Kwong created the position of alumni chair to be part of AASU’s officer board. The goal of the newly elected alumni chairs, Michael Satyapor and John San, was simple: to recruit alumni and get their contact information. In the years to follow, AASU began to push for an

official organization that would be recognized by the UF Alumni Association. By fall of 2011, an executive board was established. After 26 candidates and two rounds of interviews, an executive board was chosen: President Avani Mehta-Desai, Vice President Melinda Aquino, Treasurer Dennis Ngin and Secretary Jamilyn Bailey. “All four of them were very active during their time here at UF,” says David Hwang, the current alumni chair. “They showed a lot of passion and excitement, and they have a lot of ideas and just want to get things started.” The AAA’s main goal is to reach out, connect and provide benefits to its members. Some benefits they hope to provide are a sustainable scholarship and a soft-skills conference. Typical Asian family values don’t teach you to put yourself out there and to be outspoken, which in a corporate environment can


issue 02

25 David Hwang and Michael Satyapor receive recognition at the 2012 University of Florida Alumni Association Gala.

get you stepped on, Michael says. “There’s a bamboo-ceiling that exists for Asian Americans,” he says. “A lot of times, whether or not it’s a good stereotype, people do perceive Asian Americans as competent and hard workers. But they don’t see Asian American people as leaders, CEOs or the head physician. They don’t see them as holding a position of leadership or influence. And so the purpose of the conference would be to help people understand the importance of being a team leader.” Unlike the UF Alumni Association, which is currently ranked No. 13 in the nation and working to be No. 1, the AAA does not want to measure its success based on membership, David says. Of course, more is better, but success will be measured on the relationships between students and alumni, the networking between career mentors and mentees, and the needs and wishes of members that are granted through the organization.

“There’s not much tangible things we could do,” David says. “But we’ve come this far. Look where we are now. We’re just trying to envision and set the direction we want the AAA to go.” Students and alumni are excited to see what this organization has in store. Rojas said he cannot wait to come back to UF to attend social events, participate in services that are pertinent to his expertise and to give back to his alma mater. “I know I’ll benefit from the Asian Alumni Association,” he says. “Knowing that I’m helping an organization that holds memories and people dear to my heart is a reward in itself.” maureenmariano


I

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S cREE

U

e h t d n i Beh

B

y day, Oanh Nguyen is a junior double-majoring in political science and telecommunications at the University of Florida. By night, she is known as “soyuri,” the owner and founder of Soshified, the largest international fan site for Korean pop sensation Girls’ Generation that stands over 220,000 strong. Soshified has members from 130 countries all over the world and receives about 10 million page views per month. Oanh is all smiles and cheers as she sits inside the third floor of Weimer Hall. She sets down a foam cup containing leftover churros from Tijuana Flats, adjusts her gray cardigan, and begins talking about Soshified and what it means to be at the forefront of the global spread of the infectious, bubblegum-friendly K-Pop. taeyeonhong TaeYeon: When you first started, did you imagine everything would become so huge? Oanh: Not at all. I guess the whole purpose for me, starting it, was to get to know Girls’ Generation more. Information-wise, at that point in time, there wasn’t a lot of forums or any way to gain access to K-Pop. K-Pop wasn’t as big as it is now. So at that time, I just wanted to have something where people can share what they find -- and I’m not Korean, so it was really hard for me to find information because I’m not Korean. I’m Vietnamese. My initial goal was very simple and humble, to just create a site where everyone can have a type of community. We started the site Feb. 1, 2008. That was when we launched it. T: Did you see the membership of the forum go up as Girls’ Generation gained popularity? O: Oh, astonishingly. What happened was -- I guess when we started our first year, we had around 20,000 or 30,000 members. Right after “Gee” came out, we had around 100,000 members within the next year. We always double numbers with every album -I think we’re predicting that again for the upcoming year. T: As the owner of a site that is suddenly getting all this attention and traffic, what is that like? O: It’s very interesting. I consider myself a fan like everyone else. I guess I get to work on the other side sometimes, but I consider myself a fan like most.

photobylawrencemabilangan

T: You were in high school when you started the site? O: Yeah, junior. When you enjoy something, it overrides everything else, I think. It’s a lot of stress, though. It’s a lot of stress.


I just wanted to have something where people can share what they find..

T: Tell me about how the forum is run. O: Our forum is one of the most organized communities out there. We have a pretty diverse staff. We have over 150 staff members. It’s an international staff, so we Skype to get things across. We have monthly meetings. It’s a lot of creative minds. You’d be surprised. The thing that really works about the site is that everyone wants to do it. T: I saw that Girls’ Generation was recently featured on American TV. O: Oh, [David] Letterman! I went to see it. I was in New York because they invited me to come. It was a good show. That was their first time performing on American television, and I thought they did a good job. They performed “The Boys,” the remixed version. [Begins singing a part of the song] They actually had never performed the remixed version before, so it was cool seeing it in the audience. David Letterman was impressed. T: Did you get to talk to the girls at all? O: Yeah, definitely. I helped set up their fan signing at Best Buy. That

T: What was it like seeing all those fans there? O: It was crazy and also very stressful. They wanted pictures with me, and I was just like...I mean, it’s happened before when I was in high school, so it was overwhelming. I would just be like, “Oh, I don’t want my picture taken.” But now I just pose. It’s cool. It was a different experience. One guy came in a full pink bunny suit because one of the members loves the color pink. She loved it, though. And this one guy shaved the side of his head with her name on it. This other person had a tattoo. And they’re not even Asian-oriented, some of them. I think it’s crazy that this Korean group is getting fans from all over the world who are not even Korean, like me. T: Do you have a personal memory or experience that stands out to you since you began Soshified? O: Yesterday or today marked the anniversary of the Japanese earthquake, and what happened was, when that happened, our site immediately began asking for donations and we raised over $40,000 within two weeks. It was crazy because someone posted, “This is my month’s paycheck, but I don’t need this right now. There’s people

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was a crazy experience. Basically, that was the first time they had a fan signing in America. A lot of people were really excited. NYPD was there. Over 2,000 people came, probably, to sit around the Best Buy. It is the biggest Best Buy in New York, and it could not contain that many people. They were like, “Oh, we haven’t seen that many people since Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.” They were surprised -- this girl group from Korea that they’ve never heard about before. The staff was just like, “We don’t know who they are.” And we were like, “They’re pretty big, just not here yet.”

out there that need it more.” And I just saw very giving people at that time. Just the fact that everyone came together for the cause was motivating. One of our members actually works for Google, so Google matched our donation and we ended up with double the amount. T: Have you had any encounters

with the Korean media, especially with Soshified being so big? O: Oh, definitely. But it’s been hard. Sometimes, they’re not fluent in English. I usually have a translator with me just in case. Soshified did a field trip where we took 100 members from all over the world to go to Korea. The Korean media was all over them throughout the whole trip. It was planned with a Korean tour agency, so we had an agenda. They followed them to every single event. I guess it was cool to see a bunch of foreigners together. I’ve been interviewed by Cosmo Korea and Asian magazines. I have copies at home. T: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from managing Soshified over the years? O: Patience. Dealing with people and patience. You work with a lot of people with different types of mentalities. You can’t change everyone, and I learned that, too. I feel like one of the things to be a good leader is not just to have people follow you but to have people that also lead. You build other leaders -I feel like that is the epitome of a good leader. T: What are your future plans for Soshified? O: The girls are trying to get more active in America, so we’ll be with them a lot through their American debut.


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lez michive photoby

d i a s e h

Dominic Nguyen

When it comes down to interracial dating for them… For me, there really are no racial boundaries.

It’s hard – difficult to overcome a few barriers, but race shouldn’t matter.

Why it’s easier to date inside the circle…

I do think that being the same race helps in The barriers that make it hard are public facilitating the development of a relationship scrutiny, family, and even personal through shared experiences and therefore, [I] doubts. And just because you agree to tend to lean towards someone of my own the date, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the background. norm for you.

What about the parents?

she sa id

They specifically want me to date I don’t know what my parents want, someone within the same race and but I will say that some parents may be religion mainly to maintain cultural reluctant to accept a significant other who integrity. isn’t the same race. But most will come to accept it if they feel that the boyfriend/girlfriend is a good person for their kids.

Nhi Pham


Dating outside your race

T

Bounds

hey say love is blind -- but is it really? A plethora of people say that they won’t date this and they won’t date that. Good, you know what you like and dislike. But when it comes down to a guy or girl unwilling to date a certain race, that is usually where the the anvil of disappointment drops and a barrage of “but it’s not my fault I’m...” rebuttals form in people’s minds. Interracial dating is a controversial and touchy subject, but it has increasing popularity here in this melting pot of a nation we call America. For Samantha Cato, a half-Korean and half-African American sophomore studying linguistics, interracial dating made it possible for her to be here today. Her father is black and her mother is Korean. Samantha began to notice recurring stereotypes concerning her parents’ differing races. “I guess some of the stereotypes that came with it was that black women were jealous that my father went out with my mom,” she says. “It’s like sometimes, they say that good black men go out and date other races.” Some, like Monique Bautista, a Filipino student studying nursing, are still struggling to date out of their ethnic circle. Monique says she once dated an African American and was immediately barricaded with questions asking why she chose him. “My friends were shocked,” Monique says. “My parents took it even harder, especially my mother. She said she was disappointed. “While we lived in New York, she was mugged three times by black men,” she says. “It’s more of a traumatic experience for her than a question of race.” While Samantha and Monique have open views of interracial dating, Nina Coloso, a Filipino freshman studying nutritional sciences, does not. “I can’t see myself with another race. Most of the time, the other cultures can’t relate,” she says. “My parents expect perfection in everything -- grades, looks. There are a lot of different social pressures to deal with. Most cultures don’t believe in everything being perfect.” Nina does have an exception, though. “If I did date another race, they’d have to be really open-minded,” she says. She remembers her 18th birthday, a time when she had been interested in Japanese and Korean culture. “My parents called me ‘anti-Filipino,’” she laughs. “For me, even dating a different nationality could pose a

cultural problem.” In the long-run, Nina said that she would date any Asian (so long as he is not Filipino). This rings true for Raye Ng, who is a Filipino sophomore studying microbiology. “I have been with my own race, as well as with Hispanic, German and currently with (an) All-American,” she says. However, the chances she took with dating interracially did not come without a social burden. “Some of the older [Asian] people look down on me for delving into other races,” Raye says. “Especially because it has been varied, they often look at it as being ‘loose’ or unorthodox.” But Raye says she does not let those pressures hold her back at all. She is confident that she is doing the right thing. “In the very beginning, I definitely preferred someone to be Filipino or Asian, because I just felt like things would be easier and we would all have very similar values that we grew up with,” Raye says. “But after being with a Filipino, I learned that limitation is dumb. I learned a lot of things that I otherwise may not have learned if I just kept being with a guy in the same race as I am.” Eric Villa*, a Filipino student, has been through the ins and outs of interracial dating and has not found the subject of race to be a source of a problem. He says he has dated girls of many races -- one who was Filipino, whom he had his longest relationship with, three of them Chinese, one Jamaican and one Guyanese. When it came to his parents, he says his father was happy that he was happy, but his mother was a different story. “She would always ask, ‘Why her? You can find such a nice pretty Filipino girl going into medicine,’” he laughs. “From my experience, I would say it honestly didn’t matter to me. If I had to choose, though, I would probably want to date outside my community. That way, I would avoid my mom choosing the ‘perfect Filipino bride,’ and I would have that sense of independence from being ‘selectively Asian.’” And for Samantha, love conquers all. “Personally, I would date outside my race,” says Samantha. “I think when it comes to dating, it shouldn’t matter what race the person is. You’re dating the person for who they are, not what they are.” jonathanchandler *Real name has been changed at request of source

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Kim Jong Il passed away at age 69 in Dec. 2011, shocking North Korea and the rest of the world. His youngest son Kim Jong Un took over as South Korea, Japan and China watched in fear of a possibly unstable transition of power. With North Korea’s nuclear arsenal goals, everyone is watching to see what the new leader will bring to the country.

In December, South Korea will have its 2012 presidential election to replace current leader Lee Myung-bak. The election comes after a mayoral win for a member of the opposing party and years of heightened tension with North Korea and as conservatives face a decline in popularity in the country. Jobs, the economy and the rising wealth gap will also be important issues.

Jeremy Lin, the 23-year-old point guard for the With its 2012 presidential election, China is New York Knicks, has become one of the biggest preparing itself for a new leader. China’s vice stories of 2012 as the media have picked up president, Xi Jinping, is expected to succeed Hu “Linsanity.” A recent Harvard graduate, Lin is the Jintao for the Chinese presidency this autumn. only Chinese American in the NBA. He has also Xi, who is known for his political pragmatism, been the recipient of media’s focus on his Asian may be in the position for 10 years. He American roots (an ESPN headline describing traveled to the U.S. in early February to meet him as the “Chink in the Armor”), which has sparked widespread racial discussion. with president Barack Obama.

photocourtesyofreuters


Sparks Magazine is a college magazine that seeks to bring greater representation to the Asian American student community. Visit us on the Web at www.sparks-mag.com.

Special thanks to: Leah Villanueva Asian American Student Union Our models Our generous sponsors: Towne Parc Apartments Gulf Imaging Open MRI Hong Kong Deli & Market APIA at UF Basement Productions

Now recruiting staff members for Issue No. 3! What would you like to see in our next issue? Let us know what you think! Contact us at

editor@sparks-mag.com

For sponsorship inquiries, please contanct

finance@sparks-mag.com


Profile for Sparks Magazine

Sparks Magazine Issue No. 2  

Real stories. Real people. The Timeline Issue.

Sparks Magazine Issue No. 2  

Real stories. Real people. The Timeline Issue.

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