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Spring 2020

Issue 18

The University of Florida presents

The Univer sity of Florida presents

Close Call

Fading the Colors of My Culture

Got Hot Pot?

Iranian reflections on the death of Qasem Soleimani

A conversation about growing up Asian in white communities

Exploring the features of an Asian cuisine


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Kaylyn Ling MANAGING EDITOR Emma Ross EDITORIAL CONTENT EDITORS Mumtaz Abdulhussein, Alexandra Giang DESIGN EDITORS Allyson Martinez, Esther Zhan PHOTO EDITORS Laura San Juan FINANCE DIRECTOR Amanda Hoffman CONTENT PRINT WRITERS Emily Tiên Nhi Bosworth, Eileen Calub, Ella Kulak, Michelle Lee, Georgia Meadow, Jason Pioquinto PHOTOGRAPHERS Hanzhi Chen, Josie Cruz, Kylee Gates, Michael Bryan Ortega, Sumin Shim DESIGNERS Brianne De Los Santos, Anusha Rao, Rachalle Way PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Hiya Chowdhury PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Xinni Chen PR STAFF Stephanie Chang, Yuting Wang COVER PHOTO Laura San Juan MAKEUP Amanda Hoffman DESIGN Esther Zhan Model: Millie Vanto

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UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Catherine Le MANAGING EDITOR Adrian Lee WRITERS Zainab Jamal, Zohra Qazi, Fariha Rafa, Julien Wan PHOTOGRAPHERS Paolo Agahan, Denise Ferioli, Natalie Nguyenduc, Skyler Shepard DESIGNERS Asma Ahmed, Allyson Nepomuceno, Chi Pham PROMOTIONS STAFF Isabella Billones, Jonathan Michalos UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Samia Alamgir MANAGING EDITOR Dencie Devora CONSULTANT Cynthia Lai PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Amy Nguyen FINANCIAL DIRECTOR Trianna Nguyen PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Sophia Thai WRITERS Samia Alamgir, Isha Harshe, Amy Nguyen, Tulsi Patel, Zahra Saba DESIGNERS Dencie Devora, Karlee Ling, Nicole Monalem, Natasha Shah MULTIMEDIA Natasha Shah NATIONAL BOARD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Jason Liu EXPANSION DIRECTOR Rikki Ocampos FOUNDER AND CHAIR Kevina Lee BOARD OF DIRECTOR MEMBERS Heather Cabrera, Ricky Ly, Lawrence Mabilangan


letter from the editor Dear reader, As we welcome a new decade, we welcome a new era for Sparks Magazine. This rebirth will be one of commitment, ear-to-the-ground storytelling, awareness and advocacy, and above all, unity. We’re always improving and shedding old skins, and what we’ve accomplished with Issue 18 is another step forward in an uphill climb toward success. There are no words to describe how proud I am to be introducing one of Sparks’s most contemporary issues yet, topping off ten years of visionary and valuable student journalism. The stories of Issue 18 are at times shocking, intelligent, poignant, full of warmth or inspiring. We look at the contentious relationship between the U.S. and Iran, colorism, Asian American Greek Life and how to spark joy through the Marie Kondo method. We approached this issue with a passion for greatness, and as we faced both successes and failures, I witnessed unparalleled resilience carry us through one of the largest challenges our community has ever faced. COVID-19 hit the Sparks community with greater force than a category 5 hurricane. The University of Florida, like other colleges across the nation, had little to no precedent in dealing with a global pandemic. Campus closures, sudden unemployment, cancelled travel plans and government-mandated social distancing from friends and family turned student lives upside down.

Sparks faced these issues, but we certainly did not face them alone. Within the organization, we turned to remote work and continued to push ourselves above and beyond. We received compassion and support from the Sparks National Board and our Asian American Student Union. When abhorrent incidents of xenophobia cropped up around the nation, we heard an immediate response from the APIA community and their global allies. Sparks Magazine refuses to be silenced or sidelined during these difficult times. We have met the challenges of 2020 with bravery, determination and creativity, and I’m certain we’ll continue to overcome obstacles as we navigate this new decade. To our readers, collaborators and alumni, thank you. We continue to shout our message from the rooftops because you are there to listen. To this semester’s editorial board and staff, thank you. Your perseverance made this issue possible. Whether it was weathering rounds of edits and rewrites, enduring long photo shoots by mosquito-infested swamps or wading through my countless Slack messages, each and every one of you have stepped up to the plate to make this magazine a reality.

Sincerely,

Kaylyn Ling Editor-in-Chief

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contents

table of

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6

When Asian Americans Go Greek

8

Confronting Color

by Georgia Meadow

by Alexandra Giang

10

Got Hot Pot?

12

A New Lineup

15

The Plight of Asian American Women in Engineering

by Michelle Lee

by Ella Kulak

by Amy Nguyen

16

Close Call

19

Tales from the Homeland

22

This Sparks Joy

by Jason Pioquinto

by Eileen Calub & Mumtaz Abdulhussein

by Alexandra Giang


12

24

24

To Catch a Break

26

Fading the Colors of My Culture

29

A Love Language for Us

by Michael Bryan Ortega

by Emily TiĂŞn Nhi Bosworth

by Zhora Qazi

10

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Overcoming stereotypes in sororities and fraternities

The panhellenic council accounts for over two-thirds of the total organizations in UF’s Greek life. Although each council represents something unique, there is

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Pi Delta Psi is one of the only Asian American fraternities in the multicultural council at UF. When asked to describe the brotherhood of Pi Delta Psi, Andrew Pero, the president of the organization, compared his experience at Pi Delta Psi with his time at Sigma Pi, a large panhellenic fraternity his brother founded at the University of Central Florida. Pero said when his brother returned to the fraternity he founded a couple of years after graduation, no one really knew who he was. He contrasted this with the tightknit brotherhood at the UF chapter of Pi Delta Psi. In the Pi Delta Psi chapter at UF, there are only about 20 active members, in comparison to the panhellenic fraternities and sororities with over 100 active

members per organization. Lili Tzou, the president of alpha Kappa Delta Phi, shared a very similar experience. She said that alpha Kappa Delta Phi, an Asian American sorority in the multicultural council, only had about 33 active members. Tzou also emphasized that although the size of her chapter may not be as big as a panhellenic one, their sisterhood is very strong. Tzou compared some panhellenic pledge classes of over 80 girls who may not know everyone’s name to the 32 people she sees and spends time with every week. Along with being underrepresented in numbers, Asian American Greek organizations face other issues such as stereotyping. Pero addressed this issue

design/ Kaylyn Ling

At the University of Florida there are a total of 64 fraternities and sororities, with a total of four councils separating them. These include the panhellenic council, the national panhellenic council, the interfraternity council and the multicultural council.

still an underrepresentation of Asian Americans and other minority groups throughout Greek life at UF.

photo/ Michael Bryan Ortega

W

hen you think of a sorority girl, what do you picture? Maybe a blonde white girl in an oversized t-shirt clutching onto her Starbucks. What about a frat boy? Possibly a shirtless white boy chugging a beer. Although these descriptions may fit some people in Greek life, there is a large variety of students who are not fully represented in this social aspect of college.

by Georgia Meadow

When Asian Americans Go Greek


with the “model minority” stereotype.

Lee said that she felt more at ease with rushing because she has been referred to, especially in her hometown, as a “white-washed Asian,” which is a term used for Asian Americans who are seen as “Americanized” and atypical from the model minority stereotype.

The “model minority” stereotype, as defined by Tolerance Magazine, perpetuates the narrative that Asian Americans are “a polite, law-abiding group who have achieved a higher level of success than the general population through some combination of innate talent and pull-yourselves-up-by-yourbootstraps immigrant striving.” This stereotype perpetuates the idea of the “Tiger Mom,” whose main job is to push her children to be smarter than everyone else, and the “whiz kid” archetype which presumes that all Asian American children are either mathematicians or musical geniuses. As President, Pero was determined to aid Pi Delta Psi’s mission of breaking down stereotypes. “These stereotypes are not true and we’re just individual people working hard at the end of the day,” Pero said. He mentioned how Pi Delta Psi members strive to be leaders in their community. By becoming leaders in the community, members of Pi Delta Psi are teaching and implementing values that eliminate the model minority stereotype. Tzou spoke about the various events that alpha Kappa Delta Phi is involved with in the community. One of which is an annual cultural panel. The 2019 panel was called “Complex Conversations” and it focused on being Asian American in today’s society and the different facets that come with it. Besides culturally Asian American fraternities and sororities, there is a small population of Asian Americans in panhellenic organizations. Some Asian Americans, such as sophomore Lauren Lee, find it more suitable to be in a panhellenic sorority rather than a cultural organization. Lee is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at UF, which is a sorority in the panhellenic council. Lee said a reason why Asian Americans might decide against joining a panhellenic organization is that they might feel scared or judged during the rush process, which is a panhellenic sorority’s recruitment process.

These stereotypes are not true and we’re just individual people working hard at the end of the day. — Lili Tzou

This sentiment is extremely problematic because it implies that, for Asian Americans to be comfortable with being in a panhellenic organization, they have to assimilate to the American culture. Lee said she saw the lack of diversity a lot more when she was rushing to be in a panhellenic sorority, than when she was in a sorority. However, she did mention that there was more diversity than she thought there would be for a big southern school and also went into the stereotype about how only “white blond girls” rush. She said this wasn’t the case, but when asked if she felt Asian Americans were underrepresented in the panhellenic conference, she replied, “For sure, like 100 percent.” Lee said joining a sorority was her “first instinct” as an out-of-state student wanting to make friends in a new place. She wanted to join a panhellenic sorority instead of a multicultural one because she wanted to join something big. Although multicultural fraternities and sororities are not small, she thought a panhellenic sorority would give her more connections and networking for job possibilities. This line of thought could be a possible deterrent for other Asian Americans who have to make the choice of dedicating their time to a panhellenic or cultural organization. Lee brought up the fact that Greek life carves the way for multicultural organizations to embrace their culture in American universities. While minority groups have come a long way in finding their own space in Greek life, the separation in Greek councils along ethnic lines reveals room for progress in integration.

get from all the censorship, they were able to express how they truly felt about a government leader.”

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CONFRONTING COLOR T

In Alice Walker’s series of essays “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” colorism is defined as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”

This breed of discrimination has been observed in minorities across the world. In the US, colorism plagues African American, Latinx, Hispanic and APIA populations, among others. For Hiran Gadhavi*, a 27 year-old CEO of a software company in New York, his experience with colorism primarily started after 9/11. “There was a lot of animosity towards ‘brown’ people because those are the people that blew up the towers,” he said. “When I went to the ferry to take the boat, the

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Habibi Ting*, a civil engineer in New York, detailed a similar experience. “I was called every name in the book [because of my skin color],” he said. “Terrorist, bomber, everything.” The origins of colorism dated back even earlier than slavery in America. In certain minority groups, it’s long been ingrained in the culture.

which can be seen as colorism,” Gadhavi said. “The darker your skin tone, the less valuable or poorer you are.” Ancy Jose, a 22-year-old humanities and creative writing major at Florida State University, experienced colorist ideas ever since she was young from her family, the Indian community, and the world.

design/Brianne De Los Santos

Some may confuse it with its cousin term, racism. Colloquially, racism is the discrimination of an individual based on their race. Colorism, on the other hand, uses skin tone as a metric of prejudice instead of racial or ethnic identity. This means that colorism exists even within a race or ethnicity.

police would randomly ask to check my bags like I had a bomb in there.”

photography/ Sumin Shin

heir stares were unapologetically hostile. Blinded by fear, all they saw in the young dark-skinned boy was a “terrorist” and “bomber,” regardless of what his ethnicity or race might have been. It was not the first time he had been singled out for his skin color, yet following the aftermath of 9/11, it would certainly not be the last.

by Alexandra Giang

To colorism: We are more than our skin color


“At home, my parents criticized and punished me if I went outside for too long because I tan very quickly,” Jose said. “To them, their lighter skin tone was a point of prestige, especially in the South Indian community which is historically darker compared to North Indian groups.” In Jose’s community, skin color was greatly attributed to marriageability. “[A woman] could have the best education, career, accomplishments, but if she was dark, she was undesirable and thus openly worthless,” Jose said. Rafael Amezcua, a 20 year old male, described his experiences with colorism. While others were looked down upon for being darker-skinned, he was discriminated against for his lighter-skin. “For myself, I am a guero, a light skinned Mexican. All my life, I have been labeled as a white boy and I get it, I’m American,” he said, “but when I speak fluent Spanish everybody [is surprised and] trips out.” “I traveled to Mexico on a family trip,” Amezcua said. “The neighborhood boys were playing soccer. I was bored so I decided to join them and they stared at me saying no. They said that I couldn’t play because I was a gringo and that I probably didn’t even know how to play.” Amezcua said he ended up intercepting the ball and “showed them up, not letting their comments get to me.” It isn’t always easy to identify colorism. “If it comes from [someone’s] own family, it’s probably something deeply embedded into their mind,” Jose explained. However, that does not make it any less oppressing.

This power dynamic rarely changes because “few people marry outside of their skin color,” Jose said. “Arranged marriages are a popular tool to push for lighter skin colors in families,” Jose said. “It is instilled in children that colorism is a good thing because it gives families more privilege.” With a new generation rising in tune with western culture, more individuals are opposing the colorist ideals, choosing to marry “outside of the community or disregarding these ‘traditions’ altogether,” Jose said. Once again, the barriers of discrimination were beginning to break down. To those struggling with colorism or their skin color, Jose gave her words of wisdom. “Your worth comes from so much more than the color of your skin,” she said. “The ones mistreating you are relying on archaic attributes to take your power and voice away from you.” “Me personally, I feel you can’t really control what people say,” Ting said, offering his own advice. “They have their own thoughts and their way of conducting themselves. I’d say you as an individual do what you have to do. Try to ignore it because it can cause you problems you don’t need. There are so many other problems like your health and finances.” It is clear that the color of one’s skin is more than an identifier of status. As Jose succinctly summarized, “Brown is beautiful, dark is beautiful, black is beautiful, all skin tones are beautiful. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” *names have been changed.

“People are very much aware of colorism within my community, but very few of the older generation think it’s an issue,” Jose explained. Those with the most power in the community are often on the more favorable spectrum of skin color.

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Got Hot Pot? Exploring the features of an Asian cuisine

I

Histor y Hot pot originally came from China. According to the Vegas Hotpot restaurant, back in the Jin Dynasty, Mongolian horsemen gathered together and used their helmets to boil soup over a fire and then added meat into the soup to cook and eat.

— Michelle Nguyen

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meal with the family.”

“Besides China, it’s popular in Japan, Korea and more. They’re all just a little bit different,” said Hoirong Ou, the manager of Nine Spices Fondue in Gainesville.

Hot pot is also very popular in other Asian countries such as Thailand and South Korea, but there isn’t a specific name for the dish in these languages. For example, Koreans use the Japanese term, shabu shabu.

One of the most famous types of hot pot is the Chongqing hot pot from China. It is known for the hot Sichuan peppers in the broth, which stains the soup bright red and gives it a strong, spicy flavor.

On the other hand, Thai people call it either suki or just hot pot, said first-year UF psychology major Asia Sai Dixon. Dixon is Thai American. She used to have hot pot very often while living in Thailand.

It seems like many people, especially Ou’s customers, can take the heat because Ou says that the spicy soup base is one of their most popular options.

“One of my great hot pot memories is going to a popular hot pot place called MK at the end of every semester with my friends. And whenever I went with the adults, they always filled the whole pot with cabbage before I could put in my meat,” Dixon said. She learned to appreciate ingredients other than meat over time.

Japan has a wide variety of hot pot dishes called nabemono, according to Japanese home cook Namiko Hirasawa Chen. There are two main types: shabu shabu and sukiyaki. One of the big differences between the two lies in the type of pot that is used to cook the broth and the ingredients. Shabu-shabu uses a ceramic pot called donabe, while sukiyaki uses an iron pot. Since sukiyaki is cooked skillet-style with the iron pot, shabu shabu is considered a more authentic version of hot pot. Additionally, shabu shabu uses a type of broth called kombu (dried kelp) dashi, while sukiyaki uses a sweet-salty soy sauce, rather than a broth. In Vietnam, hot pot is called lau, and typically contains more seafood than other hot pot variations. Michelle N g u ye n , a t h i rd - ye a r V i e t n a m e s e American student at the University of Florida, recalled fond experiences of hot pot, saying, “When I was in California I ate hot pot at my aunt’s place. The food was really good, and it was awesome having a

Ingredients The ingredients that can go inside a hot pot are unlimited, but one of the most popular ingredients is thinly sliced meat. Vegetables, seafood, noodles, tofu, fishcakes and more can be included, but common ingredients used also vary between the different types of hot pot. In her article for LA Weekly, Lynn Q. Yu said, “Tripe and goose intestines are standards of Chongqing hot pot.” Tripe absorbs the spicy broth, and goose intestines offer a nice, chewy texture. For the sauce, sesame oil provides a nice balance to the spiciness of the broth. Since lau is more seafood based, the ingredients used reflect that. “We use chicken stock, fish sauce and lots of seafood ingredients, such as fish, squid, shellfish, meats and veggies,” said Nguyen.

design / Rachalle Way

Hot pot brings friends and families together to eat, whether it’s for the holidays or whenever I come and visit from school. It’s a very rich and filling dish to eat.

From China to Japan to Thailand, hot pot traveled all around East Asia and left a lasting impression on national cuisines. While there are basic similarities throughout all these cultures, many Asian countries have developed their own method for preparing hot pot.

photography / Hanzhi Chen

Even though China tried to resist the Mongols, they couldn’t resist their style of eating. In fact, in their G Adventures article, travel bloggers Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott explain that China ended up mimicking the Mongolian style of soup and modifying it to make their own version — the hot pot people are familiar with today. Eventually, hot pot evolved into a dish that, like China, many other Asian countries accepted and made their own.

Variations

by Michelle Lee

Imagine sitting in front of a gigantic pot, watching soup broth come to a frantic boil and unleash swirls of aromatic steam. It’s hot, sputtering loudly, and smells like heaven on earth — but that’s not all. Surrounding the pot are countless small dishes holding food ranging from bright red meat to chopped up greens. This is the beauty of a very popular style of Asian cuisine known as hot pot, and there is so much about it to discover.


Like many other versions of hot pot, meat is crucial in Thai suki. Dixon said that there are usually slices of chicken, pork, beef and lots of vegetables on the table as well as a spicy suki sauce that’s made with chili and lime. Now that the ingredients are prepared, it’s time to eat.

How To Enjoy It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make hot pot. Dunk different ingredients into the simmering broth, but take note that each ingredient will cook at different speeds. In a guide for China Highlights, travel writer Annie Wu recommends the ingredients that take the longest to cook should go in first. On the other hand, Nguyen’s approach is the complete opposite. “It depends on the person but for me, I put the vegetables in before the meat because they cook fast,” Nguyen said. Once the ingredients are cooked, sauces come into play. Sauces give each ingredient a little extra flavor. In other words: cook, dip, eat and repeat.

and trading sauce recipes encourage conversation between family and friends. Ou eats hot pot very often now because she works in a hot pot restaurant. Before working at Nine Spices Fondue, though, she ate hot pot primarily during holidays like Chinese New Year because it was easy to prepare and there would be plenty of food for everyone. Similarly, Nguyen said, “Hot pot brings friends and families together to eat, whether it’s for the holidays or whenever I come and visit from school. It’s a very rich and filling dish to eat.” “We often take advantage of precooked food, but cooking with family and friends is a great way to bond,” Dixon said.

gathered around a gigantic pot of boiling b ro t h a n d s m a l l d i s h e s o f va r i o u s ingredients, hot pot will always be meaningful.

Hot pot is impactful for this reason. It connects people. That’s why it spread across so many Asian cultures. As long as you and your loved ones are

The cooking method is one of hot pot’s unique qualities. “I think hot pot is popular because you can cook it at your own pace,” Ou said. Dixon thinks that hot pot i s u n i q u e b e c a u s e i t ’s interactive and fun. “It’s like a form of entertainment to cook your own food. When I add my meat, they disappear into the abyss.” And while watching it swim inside the pot, she can hear the laughter and chatter coming from the people sitting around her.

Impact While hot pot is a great source for eating some delicious food, it is also a great way to spend time with friends and family. The traditional way to enjoy hot pot is with a group of people, like the Mongolian horsemen did. Gathering around a table, sharing ingredients

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A New Lineup Discussing diversity at Coachella and EDC

by Ella Kulak photography/ Josie Cruz design/ Esther Zhan

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W

here in the world can you see Japanese R&B singer Joji, Korean hip hop group Epik High and Japanese Irish American viral singersongwriter Conan Gray perform all in the span of 72 hours? Popular music festivals like Coachella and EDC are more diverse than ever before, opening up spaces for Asian Americans in this fun field of American culture.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival The event that fills Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube feeds in the spring will almost always be Coachella. Coachella is known for presenting insane shows for crowds that breed Netflix documentaries (Beyonce’s 2018 concert film “HΘMΣCΘMING”) and milliondollar creative partnerships. Coachella performances range in musical genre, from pop to electronic dance music. To this day it stands as one of the most successful recurring music festivals in the world. “Most of these festivals are just the weekends that you get to get away from the stress of school and work and just be around a bunch of great people that share a love for the same music,” said Megan Mizusawa, a University of Florida alumna and experienced festival goer. Coachella 2020, rescheduled from April to October due to COVID-19, will mark the year with the most Asian American performers than ever before. Coachella is known as one of the most diverse and international popular music festival lineups in the world and the number of Asian performers selected for this year’s festival is particularly historic. Conan Gray and Filipino British Beabadoobee will bring their indie pop vocals into the mix. Indonesian singer NIKI and South Asian American artist Raveena will contribute contemporary R&B selections. Festival goers will have the chance to release their inner rapper when Rich Brian and Epik High enter the stage. K-POP group BIGBANG will also be attending this year. All of these Asian and Asian American acts showcase a huge range of diversity in backgrounds and musical genres.

Representatives of 88rising, a New Yorkbased media company dedicated to supporting Asian American artists, are also making big appearances this year. “Slow Dancing in the Dark” singer Joji is one of 88rising’s many stars. Rich Brian and NIKI are also signed with 88rising. Many of these artists are no strangers to the festival stage — they were the main attraction at the Head in the Clouds Music & Arts Festival, which has been nicknamed “Asian Coachella.” The Head in the Clouds festival began in 2018 at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. It was a large success, and the festival returned to LA the following year. In 2020, Head in the Clouds plans to appear in Jakarta, Indonesia. As more Asian American and international performers appear at these festivals, people began to realize that you do not need to understand the lyrics to enjoy music. As long as you have good melodies or fun beats, people are able to enjoy themselves. A prime example of this is seen in K-pop’s rise in global popularity. This genre has influenced singers and dancers for generations around the world, despite most of its Korean lyrics being incomprehensible to many listeners. Ever since “Gangnam Style” by PSY broke into the U.S. music charts in 2012, the popularity and influence of K-pop has continued to grow, as seen in rising and established K-pop bands, like BTS.

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Another wildly popular festival is Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). This crazy carnival ride travels all around the world, visiting popular cities like Tokyo, Las Vegas, Orlando, Shanghai and more. EDC is one of the largest electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in the world. What sets this music festival apart is that attendees can ride a Ferris wheel while listening to their favorite DJs.

the open arms people have in welcoming each other into the rave family. Even though the train is meant to be a positive sign of inclusivity, the Asian Train has also garnered attention from racist groups. In 2016, a Facebook group was created titled “Ban All Asians from EDM Festivals.” Based on the name alone it is apparent that there was a heavy anti-Asian sentiment backing the creation of this group. Sean Acosta, one of the group members, posted saying that Asians were “killing the vibe” with their Asian Trains. The group is no longer listed on Facebook. Historically, EDM (electronic dance music) festivals present a promised space where people can feel free, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality or beliefs. Many festivals are working to create a culture of acceptance. “I think one of the best things about festival culture and the environment is that most everyone goes there with the same intention in mind,” Tiffany Hart, a UF student on the pre-pharmacy track, said. Part of the experience can even include trusting people you may not know.” When I went up to Shaky Beats I actually went alone and stayed with strangers that were also going to the festival,” Mizusawa said. “We ended up bonding and going to the next four to five festivals together.” “People will compliment one another on festival outfits, their make-up, and are really open to sharing stuff and exchanging social media,” Hart said. These bonds are remembered forever and you will always have a story to leave with. However, it also allows everyone to be free and escape from cultural responsibility. At the time of writing, the 2020 production list has not been released.

At EDC, the Asian American presence became so great, they set the trend for all EDC-goers. “The Asian Train” is a single file line of Asian American ravers who push through the wild crowd in hopes of reaching the front-row stage rail. People from all ethnicities sometimes hop on and follow for a better spot by the stage. The Asian Train provides a great example of

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How To: Festival Guide During festival season, “Coachella Guides” take over social media. These are some important tips to keep in mind.

Get your tickets early. Most major music festivals start selling “Early Bird” tickets to their dedicated fans. This price saves you a chunk of cash and secures you a ticket before they sell out. Sometimes, festivals sell campsite spots and you can secure those tickets as well. You don’t want to get stuck off site. Know the schedule. Everyone awaits the day that the performers list is published. Once the line up releases its singers, start to plan your must see bands or DJs. Some performers may be new to you, so be sure to preview their recent albums beforehand. Know the rules. Knowing the basics is simply not enough. Different festivals have different rules. Make sure you read them carefully. If music festivals allow you to bring your own food, save yourself the money. Make sure the festival does or doesn’t allow pets before bringing your turtle Rosko to jam. Stay comfortable. If you head out to a day festival, do not forget the sunblock. Also, hydrating is important because you will be expelling plenty of energy. If you never want to lose your front row place due to dehydration, hydration packs, a water container that wraps around your back, can help. Escape plan. Make sure your car does not get blocked in or camped in. If by chance life hits the fan, make sure it is possible to slip out of the festival easily. Next, if all your friends get separated, declare a place to meet up. Cell phones do not always receive the best reception so it could get hard to contact people. Note: This article is updated with the current lineup of 2020 festival performers at the time of writing. COVID-19 may cause further cancellations.

Story Time University of Florida student Tiffany Hart shares her experience of expression at a Gryffin concert. Gryffin is a California-based EDM artist and music producer. Hart said she loves the freedom and ability to express who you truly are without worrying about anyone’s thoughts around you during concerts. “Everyone is there to just have a great time,” Hart said. “I had an outfit for a Gryffin concert in Orlando that was a ravetake on Nezuko from [Japanese manga and anime series] ‘Demon Slayer.’ My friend dressed as Shinobu from the same anime. There were tons of people who came up to us and told us how much they also loved the anime.” Hart also expressed that bonds become stronger. When traveling with another person and experiencing such a crazy festival, you become closer with the ones around you. No bonding experience could ever replace it.

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This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

spring 2020| 15


Close Call Iranian reflections on the death of Qasem Soleimani

U

.S.-Iranian relations were thrown into turmoil after Major General Qasem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. To the U.S., General Soleimani was a vicious terrorist responsible for the death of Americans, but to the Iranian people, he was a war hero who defeated ISIS numerous times in Iraq. His death drove people into the streets of Iran to mourn and to express their anger towards U.S. aggression. Retaliatory efforts by the Iranian government soon followed General Soleimani’s death. On Jan. 8, Iran launched missiles toward two U.S. military bases. These attacks resulted in no casualties at the bases, according to remarks made by President Trump. However, one of the Iranian missiles struck a Ukrainian airliner, leading to a tragic crash. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister reported that all 176 passengers onboard were killed, 82 of whom were Iranian. This latest spurt of violence between the two countries left Iranian Americans fearful of an escalation of aggression.

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“The last thing I want is a war to start,” said Amir Zafaranian, a University of Florida student and the son of Iranian immigrants. His family also worries about the potential outbreak of war. Zafaranian was born and raised in Tampa, where he felt he lived a double life. “When I was at school with friends, when I was out not with family, I switched to my American identity.” However, at home, he was enveloped by Iranian culture as well as its history. “It’s almost like a switch, I’d go back home and be like ‘Oh, I’m home, Persian.’”

When I was at school with friends, when I was out not with family, I switched to my American identity. — Amir Zafaranian

“Because my family is Iranian, I grew up with more knowledge about [the history between the U.S. and Iran].” Zafaranian believes that if more Americans had a broader understanding of Iran, they would believe “the whole country is

not against America.” Zafaranian believes both the U.S. and Iran have done wrong and wishes a more nuanced perspective on these events were covered by media organizations. He finds memes which portray Iranians as terrorists, or antiAmerican, as well as the stories of discriminatory treatment of Iranian Americans, disturbing. His discomfort stems from a fear that Americans view Iranians as singleminded or homogenous. “I don’t want people to think that I want [a war] just because that’s where my family is from.” Tara Sedagheh Pakravan, a student at Nova Southeastern University, was in Iran when General Soleimani was killed and witnessed firsthand the demonstrations and conflicts within Iran that followed. Iranians who supported General Soleimani took to the streets to demonstrate their grief, while those who opposed the general expressed their elation. The presence of these rival perspectives created a palpable tension, and according to Pakravan,


by Jason Pioquinto photography/ Laura San Juan design/Allyson Martinez

“It’s leading to disaster, because there’s nobody in the middle. They’re all hiding away.” At its worst, this polarization between Iranians expressed itself in gruesome ways. Pakravan detailed acts of sabotage that occurred by those

in support of the current regime governing Iran, against those who spoke out against the government during recent demonstrations. She claimed pro-government protesters would poison the food of those who opposed them by poisoning shipments to the grocery stores where

the protestors would shop. Pakravan felt these attacks personally. “My distant cousin ate something — she wasn’t even part of the protest — it was just in the grocery store. She got a snack that had the poison in it and passed away.”

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Because of the danger present in Iran, Pakravan fled the country only a week into her trip, but her mother stayed for a month. When she came home from Iran, Pakravan said her mother was in shock. Born and raised in Iran, Pakravan’s mother lived through the Iranian revolution, a period of tumult and mass demonstrations as the Iranian government was removed and replaced with new leadership. Pakravan recalled her mother’s words upon coming back to the U.S. “She was saying ‘I felt like the [Iranian Revolution] was being reenacted.’ She was like, ‘This is the worst thing that could ever happen to our country.’” While the death of General Soleimani led to such a tempestuous environment in Iran, Pakravan sees a silver lining. “It was a little ounce of freedom that [the protestors] could get from all the censorship, they were able to express how they truly felt about a government

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leader.” Because the whole country was engaged in protest, the Iranian people felt more comfortable to speak their minds, and that’s rare according to Pakravan. “Everyone is scared of the government. They’re terrified of the government. Like even if we talk on the phone, say me and you are having a conversation and I was in Iran and you were in America, they could come to my house and take me to prison. That’s how intense it is.”

This is the worst thing that could ever happen to our country. — Tara Sedagheh Pakravan

Like Zafaranian, Pakravan has also been disturbed by the reaction to these events online. “It’s really painful to see all that’s being said about Iran

… I remember everyone was posting the memes about World War III. I personally could not stand it.” “Iran has a bad reputation already; this is getting worse,” Pakravan said. As someone who is proud of her Persian heritage and has lived in Iran for two years, it was disheartening for her to see her identity mocked and maligned online. The future of Iran and its relationship to the U.S. is uncertain. But what is clear is that the issues surrounding this relationship are complicated. They deserve to be treated with respect and discussed with tact. There is diversity and nuance in the views and opinions Iranians hold toward the U.S. and the Iranian governments. That fact should be kept on the forefront of our minds as our leaders choose how the future will unfold.


Stories Our Parents Told Us

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ide-eyed children around the world lessons crafted by ancestors that many Asian absorb their heritage through stories Americans still hold close to their hearts. At the passed down from their parents. These University of Florida, students shared stories from tales are especially important for the children of their culture, continuing the age-old tradition of immigrants, who may scarcely remember their oral history. homeland. Fables, legends and epics provide

Juan, believing he is incredibly clever, decides not to jump for the fruit, but to wait until it falls into his mouth. This way, he reasons, he doesn’t have to use his hands to eat the fruit. He makes himself comfortable by the base of the tree and waits day in and day out for the guava to fall. After many days of waiting for his guava to fall, Juan Tamad felt something dripping on his face. He looked up to see a gleeful bat perched on the tree branch enjoying what was supposed to be Juan Tamad’s guava fruit. Defeated, Juan Tamad returns home with an empty stomach. This cautionary tale warns listeners to act rather than wait. There are multiple versions of the folktale, but most maintain the same basic premise of a lazy boy who ultimately fails as a result of choosing the easy way out. In a more extreme version of the story, Juan Tamad actually starves to death as a result of his stubborn ways. Juan Tamad’s foolery continues in additional folklore such as “Juan Tamad and the Mud Crabs” and “Juan Tamad Takes A Bride.”

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design/ Sumin Shim

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In the Philippines, the story of “Juan Tamad” — or “Lazy John” as it translates in English — is well known among Filipino children. As his name suggests, Juan was an exceptionally lazy boy who always sought to find the quickest and easiest way to accomplish a task. In the original version of the tale, Juan Tamad comes across a guava tree and spots a shiny, ripe fruit hanging from a low branch, just barely out of reach.

photography/ Kylee Gates Do

JUAN TAMAD

by Eileen Calub & Mumtaz Abdulhussein

Tales from the Homeland


HUA MULAN

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t’s probably no surprise that the story of Hua Mulan wasn’t originally a Disney movie featuring a plucky young woman, fire-breathing dragon and a catchy soundtrack. But the original story does have lyrical beginnings.

“The story itself is a poem taught in school,” Alice Li, a third-year applied physiology and kinesiology (APK) major at UF, said. Li was born in the United States but raised in China until third grade. “When I was growing up, the older generation would tell that story.”

The “Ballad of Mulan” tells the story of a Chinese warrior woman during the Northern and Southern dynasties (approximately between 420-589 CE). In the poem, Hua

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Mulan has an elderly father too sick to enlist in the army and a brother too young to take their father’s place. As a swords(wo)man trained in martial arts, Mulan takes her father’s place in the army with her parents’ blessing. She fights for 12 years and is ultimately offered an official post which she declines. Mulan asks only for a camel so she can return to her family. As she leaves the camp to return home, she dons traditionally female clothing, and only then do her fellow soldiers realize she is a woman.

Li emphasized that the story’s themes of female empowerment and family values influenced her. “It meant self-sacrifice for the whole family and taking on burdens,” she said. “Women can do stuff just like men.”


THE GRAND-AUNT TIGER

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he Taiwanese fable of the Grandaunt Tiger tells the story of a tiger who could change her appearance at will and enjoyed eating children. She would often disguise herself as different characters, go into town and kidnap children for her meals. One day, the tigress comes across two young girls who are home alone, Akim and Agiok. The tigress goes to the door several times in different disguises, but the children — heeding their mother's advice to not open the door for anyone — refuse to let the tiger in. The tiger bides her time and listens to the conversation of the children as they talk about their family. She goes to the door once more, disguised as the children’s grand-aunt. This time, the children gladly let her in because she knows the names of all their family members.

At night, Agiok and the grand-aunt Tiger sleep in the same room. Akim wakes up when she hears a strange noise and realizes the tiger ate her sister. Then, the tiger ties Akim up so she can eat her later. The next morning, Akim devises a plan to escape. She tells the tiger she needs to use the bathroom and escapes through the window. When the tiger realizes what has happened, she chases Akim through the forest. Akim agrees to let the tiger eat her if she can have one meal first. Akim has the Grand-aunt Tiger fry a bowl of peanut oil and pretends to eat her meal. Then she tells the Tiger to open wide so she can jump into her mouth. The tiger opens her jaws and Akim throws the bowl of boiling peanut oil into the Tiger’s mouth, killing her.

The fable teaches children the important lesson of not letting strangers into your home. The story has many iterations in several different cultures and is even considered to be a partial inspiration for the Brothers Grimm’s story “Little Red Riding Hood.”

In fact, each of these stories are inspired by or give inspiration to other folk narratives. They foster the exchange of ideas across regional or linguistic boundaries, driving home universal morals! Cultural nuances of folktales also reflect society, allowing audiences a glimpse into what societies value differently. In this way, when folktales are passed down from generation to generation, so too are their values and aspirations.

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The KonMari method is more than a meme, but a way of life

The first sweatshirt was a well-known brand, the brightest color on the market and the highest price ever known to man. The second sweatshirt was one from her college days. Which one would she keep? Which one sparked joy within her?

The first sweatshirt was made of soft and heavy material. It was comfortable and durable, as expected from the hefty price tag. It insulated her from the cold moderately well and had deep pockets where she could store her phone. It felt luxurious underneath her fingertips. Her only complaint was that it smelled like factory plastic. “Surely,” she thought, “this is joy.” However, when she caressed the threads of her worn college sweatshirt, she remembered late night ice cream runs to the supermarket, spilled popcorn over theatre chairs, a girl’s night in, an all-nighter for a big exam and a particularly comfy cuddle session with her boyfriend.

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“This,” she decided, “sparks joy.” According to the official KonMari website, “the KonMari method “encourages tidying by category — not by location — beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service — then let them go.” Carol Clark, a 36 year-old KonMari consultant, further elaborated on the method. “To me, the KonMari method is something anyone can apply to anything, whether that be in their homes, spaces, or as another philosophy.” “Some people use the terms Marie Kondo and KonMari method interchangeably,” Clark explained. “Like, ‘I Marie Kondo-ed my house.’” Clark became a KonMari practitioner and consultant after many years of fighting the “too much stuff, not enough space” battle many people, especially college students, struggle with.

design / Anusha Rao

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arie Kondo’s client observed the two sweatshirts in her closet.

photography/ Elizabeth Player

This Sparks Joy

by Alexandria Giang

Before and after photos of a child’s bedroom tidied using the KonMari method taken by Elizabeth Player from Energetic Organizing.


To Clark, joy can come from something as simple as a pair of kitchen scissors. “I’ve had it for a long time. It opens all the packages, it’s still sharp, and I’ve never cut myself on it,” Clark said. Despite the scissors being a potentially harmful weapon, Clark insists that the scissors are reliable and protect her from cutting herself on mail packaging. “Defeat the plastic.” Elizabeth Player, also a KonMari Consultant, finds joy in many things, such as her home, her pets, and her business. However, her ultimate joy is “having more time to spend doing the things I love to do,” such as yoga, watching a favorite show or spending time with family and friends. The KonMari method is relatively well known within the Asian American community, especially among college students. However, not all practitioners know it by name. Vanessa Lau, a 19-year-old plant science major at Cornell University, tried the method after it became popular. “It’s putting into words something most people already do.” “I didn’t know it was called the KonMari method,” said Slynia Shi, a 20-year-old biochemistry major at the University of Florida. “It’s a smart and efficient method to quickly clear out some space.” Shi explained the aspects of the method that helped her. “The process and advice she suggests are good ideas because I personally will put off tidying a place for so long that everything else becomes messy again.”

The KonMari method doesn’t only apply to tidying up. Shi uses the same method when picking out new clothes. “The question ‘Does this spark joy?’ is something I ask when I’m getting something new,” Shi said. “If I see a dress I like, I think about whether or not it could spark joy.”

To me, the KonMari method is something anyone can apply to anything, whether that be in their homes, spaces, or as another philosophy. — Carol Clark Contrary to popular belief, KonMari is not minimalism. “It’s true that many minimalists embrace KonMari, but ultimately, KonMari is about living with what you love,” said Emi Louie, certified KonMari Consultant. “It could technically be more than what you started out with.” The official KonMari website reinforces this. “Minimalism champions living with less, but Marie’s tidying method encourages living with items you truly cherish.” Player shared her take on the topic. “Many people have equated the KonMari tidying method with minimalism, but it’s different.” “One of the reasons the KonMari method is compared to minimalism is because many people discover while tidying that they’ve been living with items they no

longer love – or never did, and they feel empowered to let them go,” Player said. Clark explained that the misconception detracted from the KonMari method and clarified the differences. “The KonMari method is all about no matter how much of an item you want, it doesn’t matter. You can have a storehouse full of shoes, the only rule is they need to spark joy. There is no limit, no requirement, aside from sparking joy.” The KonMari method is not about streamlined aesthetics. Clark shares that her home “looks exactly like two kids and a KonMari Consultant live there,” but it still follows the guidelines of the KonMari method because all of their belongings spark joy. Even Clark’s 4-year-old child is into the idea of sparking joy. “My son gets to choose as many toys as he wants,” Clark said. “But if he is neglecting the item, failing to bring it honor or failing to respect the item, we need to reevaluate. Do I want to keep it?” It is clear that the KonMari method is not just a way of tidying up the house, but a mindset that can integrate itself in many aspects of one’s daily life. It is important for KonMari practitioners to examine not only the physical item itself, but the aura it brings to the environment around it. Ask if your belongings spark joy. As Clark would say, “Joy checked. It only takes a few minutes of looking around.”

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Y

oshiya Kubishiki — known to most as Yoshi — is a 25-year-old University of Florida alumni locally known for his break-boying dance people engaging with hip hop and break culture. Kubishiki came to UF from Orlando, Florida and quickly became influential in the co

Kubishiki served as president of the Gainesville-based Hip Hop Collective from 2016 to 2017. The Hip Hop Collective is a UF student org body and the local community through workshops, performances and events, according to a 2019 promotional video.

To Catch a Break

Currently, Kubishiki lives in Gainesville with his friends while working full time at a dentist’s office. The life Yoshi lives is humble. He claims to live as he pl content.

Meet Gainesville-based b-boy Yoshi Kushibiki

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Kubishiki served as president of the Gainesville-based Hip Hop Collective from 2016 to 2017. The Hip Hop Collective is a UF student organization that celebrates hip hop arts and culture. The group, founded

in 2001, focuses on introducing the art of hip hop to UF’s student b o d y an d t he lo c a l c o m m u n ity through workshops, performances and events, according to a 2019 promotional video. Currently, Kubishiki lives in Gainesville with his friends while working full time at a dentist’s office. The life Yoshi lives is humble. He claims to live as he pleases while continually making efforts to improve himself physically and mentally. He cherishes his family and friends, and always dances to his heart’s content.

by Michael Bryan Ortega

oshiya Kubishiki — known to most as Yoshi — is a 25-yearold University of Florida alumni locally known for his breakboying dance style and leadership in Gainesville’s hip-hop scene. He is a b-boy, or break-boy. The term breaker was first used in the 1970s to describe people engaging with hip hop and break culture. Kubishiki came to UF from Orlando, Florida and quickly became influential in the college town’s breaking scene.

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design/ Kaylyn Ling

Kushibiki stretching before a workout.


e style and leadership in Gainesville’s hip-hop scene. He is a b-boy, or break-boy. The term breaker was first used in the 1970s to describe ollege town’s breaking scene.

ganization that celebrates hip hop arts and culture. The group, founded in 2001, focuses on introducing the art of hip hop to UF’s student

leases while continually making efforts to improve himself physically and mentally. He cherishes his family and friends, and always dances to his heart’s

Kushibiki enjoys riding his motorcycle in his free time.

Awards from Soul Cypher breaking competitions.

“[The Hip Hop Collective has] a lot of people coming from internationally, like Korea, Japan, Russia. So with that, I’ve also created a lot of great friendships with them.” — Kushibiki, in a Hip Hop Collective promotional video

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Fading The Colors of My Culture A conversation about growing up Asian in white communities

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I bleached my own heritage, called my own country stupid, dubbed my own language ugly and spoke to my parents in just English.” These are the words from the poem, “Honey Nut Cheerios,” written by Arpi Park. His words perfectly describe the emotional and psychological struggle of growing up Asian in a predominantly white community.

“I straightened my hair every day for three years because all the white girls had straight hair,” said Haaniya Ahmed, a Pakistani American who grew up in the suburbs of Orlando, FL. “I wouldn’t wear bright colors because I thought it would make my skin tone look darker.”

I straightened my hair every day for three years because all the white girls had straight hair. — Haaniya Ahmed “The more whitewashed I became, the more compliments I would get,” said Ahmed. “And that only made me want to be white even more.”

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illustration + design/Allyson Martinez

The result of living in a white community while being Asian is feeling like one is looked at as “other.” Asians have distinct physical, social and cultural characteristics that do not adhere to Eurocentric norms and they will often be scrutinized for not living up to them.

by Emily Tiên Nhi Bosworth

Park identifies as Korean American, but the feeling of disconnecting oneself from their culture is relatable to multiple ethnicities within the APIA community. Many people, specifically on the East Coast of the United States, who identify as Asian American find themselves living in white suburban neighborhoods. According to the article “Are Asian Americans Becoming White?” by University of California, Los Angeles researcher Min Zhou, this is due to multiple factors such as timing of immigration, affluence and settlement patterns.


FISH

A 2011 study published in the official journal of the International Society for Self and Identity found that Asian American children scored lower in self-esteem than white children. This low self-esteem comes from years of bullying that most Asian Americans experience during childhood. The bullying can range anywhere from making an ignorant comment about food an Asian child may bring for lunch to using racial slurs against them. Whether the bullying is mild or severe, there is always a racist undertone and this only encourages Asian kids to disconnect themselves from their culture. “I was really self-conscious about my nose and being hairy,” Ahmed said. “The only reason I started shaving was because the kids were so mean about hair. Growing up, I was hyper aware of my differences compared to all the white kids.” Cindy Nguyen, a Vietnamese American who grew up in Winter Haven, FL, said people would ask her if her eyes were even open when she smiled. She’s also heard people refer to themselves as looking “chinky” because their eyes were squinting in a picture. “People would ask me if I ate dogs or cats,” Nguyen said. “I remember this one time in high school [when] I took my friends to an Asian supermarket to get groceries for my mom. When we

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SAU

CE

walked into the supermarket, my white friends scrunched up their noses at the smell and would call certain foods weird as I picked up the groceries. I was always aware that I wasn’t white like my friends growing up, but it was jarring to still be reminded of these differences in such a negative way.” Racism and discrimination can present themselves in subtle ways called microaggressions. Derald Wing Sue, psychology professor at Columbia University, defines microaggressions as brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racial minority group in the Psychology Today article “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life.”

I was always aware that I wasn’t white like my friends growing up. — Cindy Nguyen

“Kids would say things like ‘Oh, you worship cows, right?’ because they knew my family was Hindu,” Pranjal Tyagi, an Indian American who grew up in Tampa, FL, said. “Sometimes, they would even go as far as using racist slurs at me. After 9/11, teachers would have this weird demeanor towards me and I was too young to understand why.”

Microaggressions often get overlooked because they are not as overt and direct as using slurs or behaving in a racist way; however, research done by PhD researchers at Cambridge University Chakraborty McKenzie show that microaggressions can have lasting negative consequences on the mental health of those who experience them. Being Asian in a white community puts one at risk of experiencing microaggressions and having issues with self-esteem during childhood. Research shows that these experiences follow the individual from adolescence to adulthood and manifest itself through anxiety, depression, stress, anger and other mental health issues. Talking about one’s experiences in therapy or with close friends can often provide clarity and closure from childhood trauma. Understanding that one’s self-image is influenced by their environment can help individuals to unlearn the negative ideas they’ve placed upon themselves and work towards developing a healthy, more positive self-image.


A LOVE LANGUAGE FOR US The Language of Food

by Zhora Qazi

photography/ Paolo Agahan design/ Allyson Nepomuceno

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Ronas, a 19-year-old pre-nursing student at the University of Central Florida, believes that food is a love language. Love languages are, in the simplest terms, ways that we express and experience love. Love doesn’t necessarily mean romantic as it goes beyond romantic relationships, extending into friendships, familial relationships and any other kind of relationship you have with another person. The concept of love languages was originally introduced in a 1992 book, The Five Love Languages, written by Gary Chapman but has since become mainstream knowledge. The five recognized love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

T

here are many ways to express love—buying meaningful gifts, writing lengthy letters, spending time watching a corny movie and so on. Expressing love could even include the dining table being covered with banana leaves, topped with rice at the center and piled high with dried fish, sliced fruit and a variety of other delicious dishes. It easily brings together family and friends in a fun and festive way. For Erika Ronas, a budol fight is the perfect way to celebrate her birthday and to share the love and appreciation she feels towards her family and friends.

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Food isn’t officially recognized as a love language, but within the Asian community, it might as well be. Food is at the heart of every Asian household and is generally the main focal point of any family gathering. The dishes that our friends and families create are not only packed with flavorful ingredients and an array of spices and seasonings, but also with the care and love they feel towards us. However we experience it, food holds a special place in our hearts and means many different things for many different people.


“[Food] is very important in my family in how we express our traditions and values to each other,” said Ronas. “I kind of translate that with my relationships with my friends and with the people that I’ve met, it’s how I show my appreciation for them. Sometimes I’ll cook randomly for my friends or make a meal with them, it’s just fun to do.” “To me, it means the time being spent with family and friends; it’s not all about the food, even though food is a part of it,” said Nghi La, a 19-year-old UCF student studying biomedical sciences. For La and her family, food definitely takes the center stage at major family gatherings and events: “Every New Year’s, we go to my uncle’s house and we have this huge feast. You spend the entire day with all of your family—it’s a really touching way to start the new year.” Despite the love and care that families and friends feel for each other, a lot of Asian people struggle in finding words to express their emotions. Talking and verbally expressing one’s emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, joy, etc., is often considered to be uncomfortable; even when trying to express “I love you”, the words never really come out the way it’s meant to. This is why many of us, especially our parents and grandparents, turn towards food as an avenue for communication. According to a professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, “food is an indirect way to show love. Asian people don’t like to directly express love, whether it be culture or personal shyness. People generally like food, making it an easy way to express that emotion.”

“TO ME, IT MEANS THE TIME BEING SPENT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS; IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD, EVEN THOUGH FOOD IS A PART OF IT,”

Most of our Asian parents and grandparents find it easier to hand us a plate of food or a bowl of sliced fruit instead of confronting their emotions and voicing it aloud. For them, preparing a home-cooked meal or giving us a decorative bowl of fresh fruit holds so much more meaning than any spoken word they could say. It’s their way of showing their love to us without using any words at all. Even after arguments, food presents itself to parents and grandparents as a way to express their words. La noticed that her parents often use food as a mode to apologize to her after having an argument. “When they think they’re in the wrong or realize they are wrong,” said La, “they would usually invite you to the dinner table or cut up fruit and bring it to you. They try to break the awkwardness of a post-argument and they show that they still care about you by giving you food. Based on what they cooked, they spent time and their love making it into the food and transcending it and giving it to you.” The “tough love” that our parents and grandparents show towards us is usually negated with them handing us food. “You kind of scrutinize your kid for a mistake but to make up for it you give them food,” said Ronas. Across Asian cultures, food has come to represent love—it symbolizes the quality time and appreciation you hold for someone you love and care about. Through this language of food, we created a space for love in our kitchens, where cooking a meal becomes valuable time and cherishable memories. We’ve grown to speak this language of food, the language of dishes that remind us of home and family, because that’s how we’ve come to understand love. Whether that be going out to eat with some friends or cooking a big meal with the family, they’re all ways that we have come to show our love. In its own way, it has become a language we clearly understand, without the need for any words to be said.

This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ASIAN AMERICAN STUDENT UNION at the University of Florida ASIAN PACIFIC ISLANDER AMERICAN AFFAIRS at the University of Florida University of Florida STUDENT GOVERNMENT

Profile for Sparks Magazine

Sparks Magazine Issue No. 18 | University of Florida  

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