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spring 2010

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VISIONS

Sea (Bird’s Eye) Han Yang Lee ’12 Oil on Glass

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VISIONS

Letter from the Editors Spring 2010, Volume XI, Issue II The older you get, the wiser you become...or so they say. This year marks visions’ eleventh anniversary as a community forum and magazine for Brown and risd. We are so excited to have hit this milestone! Although it’s hard to say if our “wisdom,” per se, has necessarily grown since 2000, we are proud of how far we have come and how much the magazine has evolved. Starting from just a simple xeroxed and hand-stapled pamphlet, visions now serves as a comprehensive art and literary publication with contributions from the Brown and risd community. Each semester, our goal is to create a magazine that can highlight the rich and diverse perspectives within and surrounding the Asian/Asian American community. As juniors, it’s somewhat astonishing to look back to the time when we first entered our roles on the visions Eboard, not entirely knowing what to expect. This semester, we are particularly excited to have so many new members on our E-Board. Ranging from the Class of 2011 to 2013, we are ready for anything you decide to throw our way! Our partnership with the Asian/Asian American community at risd is also growing, and we are thrilled by the artwork and writing on College Hill. As our readership continues to expand, we continually work to support and encourage this process by increasing the magazine’s circulation, semester by semester. Finally, we (Melanie, Wendy, and Yue) want to give a big shout-out to Alex, our Art Editor. We have had the pleasure of working with Alex over the past two years and really cannot imagine visions any other way. Through his unique insight, artistic perspective, and humor, Alex has added an exciting dimension to visions, and we will definitely miss him!

We would like to thank Dean Kisa Takesue for her continued support of visions. As the founder of visions in 2000, she has supported visions throughout its evolution, and we are grateful for her dedication to the magazine and to our community. We would also like to thank the Third World Center and risd’s Asian Cultural Association for their cooperation in helping us build a passionate Asian/ Asian American community here in Providence. Most of all, we want to thank everyone who is a part of visions. Your experiences, and your willingness to share them with us, form the fundamental core of our magazine and of the community we hope to empower. Thank you, readers, contributors, and supporters, for your hard work and dedication! Now, we invite you to join us in Envisioning and Building a Stronger Asian/Asian American Community.

Peace & Love,

   Alex, Melanie, Wendy, and Yue

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Editorial Board editor-in-chief 

Melanie Chow ’11 Yue Pang ’11 art & photography editor  Alex Toyoshima ’11 managing editor  Wendy Sekimura ’11 layout editor 

cover designer 

Alex Toyoshima ’11 Lorraine Nam risd ’10 illustrators  Lydia Cheng risd ’13, Wendy Sekimura ’11 associate art & photography editor   Stella Chung ’13 cover art 

  Panpan Song ’12, Vivian Truong ’12   Susie Ahn ’13 webmaster  Ayoosh Pareek ’12 networking  Margaret Yi ’12 risd representatives  Lydia Cheng risd ’13, Jiwon Kim ’12 publicity

freshman representative

copy editors 

Susie Ahn ’13, Lily Chan ’13, Luna Chen risd ’13, Stella Chung ’13, Kathy Do ’12, Jiwon Kim ’12, Christine Moon ’13, Manasa Reddy ’12, Wendy Sekimura ’11, Jennifer Tan ’11, Clay Thibodeaux ’12, Noni Wang ’13 advisor 

Dean Kisa Takesue The Office of Student Life printer   Brown Graphic Services sponsor 

a very special thanks to

mission statement

The Third World Center Kisa Takesue, Associate Dean of Student Life The Office of Student Life Undergraduate Finance Board The risd Asian Cultural Association Ann Hall Erik Maser All our contributors and staff

visions is a publication that highlights and celebrates the diversity of Brown and risd’s Asian/Asian American community. We are committed to being an open literary and artistic forum for Asians and Asian Americans, as well as other members of the university community, to freely express and address issues relating to both the Asian and Asian American experience. visions further serves as a forum for issues that cannot find a voice in other campus publications. As a collaborative initiative, visions attempts to strengthen and actively engage Brown and risd’s vibrant community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as the larger Providence community.

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Table of Contents submission from Brown submission from RISD

prose & poetry Good Medicine, Pam Zhang Going Home, Abigail Chen Natural Phenomenon, Archipelag-a Sang Kancil, Corrie Tan Café France, Samuel Perry & Janet Poole the elm city girls’ choir, Franny Choi An Authentic American, Hannah Lee on nyc: letter to third grade history books, Vivian Truong Draft of a Medical School Essay, Kai Huang Foreign Rain, Kenji Morimoto Aarif!, Avnee Jetley there is, Amy LaCount Untitled, Nara Shin Refrigerators, Serena Putterman “I want to tell you how it is”, Ayoosh Pareek Woman Hugs Child, Masumi Hayashi-Smith Honorary Asian, Abe Pressman Eskimo Baby, Eleanor Kim

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art & photography Sea (Bird’s Eye), Han Yang Lee Self-Portrait, Kathleen Yan Shichi-Go-San, Jason Beckman Beachcombers, Karynn Ikeda Charminar, Hyderabad, Manasa Reddy A Root’s Perspective, Putzer Hung Strawberry Boy, Mengli Qi Window of a Chinese Steel Factory, Ling Zhou Face-less, Karen Wang & Tiffany Jon Sea Froth, Devon Cupery Fish out of water, Robyn Ng The Portrait of a Nation, Luna Chen Taking Flight, Charis Loke Hope I, II, III, Robin YooJin Rhee Grace, Hyun Jin Yoo Mother and Child, Megan Chiu Harmony, Larene Woo Globalization, Annie Wu 小白菜, Stephanie Teo Deidades Vaporosas (Rupture), Camilo Cadena California Roll, Annie Wu Early Spring in Arboretum, Zhong Gao I, Jing Xu White Lace, Kristie Huey Invisible Forces, Yunji Shin

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spring 2010

Liang Yao, “Good Medicine”; also, sometimes, “effective medicine” by Pam Zhang In my house, the cabinet over the bathroom sink is almost bare. Dental floss, Q-tips, plastic giraffe cup. Mismatched bandaids (large, small, Hello Kitty) and rubber bands. Three sealed toothbrushes. One tube of genericbrand Neosporin. Candle stubs. In the frantic search for a remedy to cure that churning stomach, scraped elbow, or banged knee, don’t look to where a lifetime of personal experiences and modern movies have led you to expect. Glance down. Crouch on knees or wobbly heels. Open the cabinet below the sink and peer into a cavernous space trailing pipes and useless Christmas lights. Push aside the extra shampoo bottles, the dented ornaments, the lopsided (lying) scale. Go deeper; stick your torso in. Breathe in the pipe-rust, water-must mingling of stagnancy and a sharp something that bites deep back in the nose, pinches the sinuses. Sneeze if you must, but no point backing out now; the bitter medicinal tang will cling to your clothes despite multiple washings and when you least expect, the odor will rise unsolicited from sleeve or collar and surrounding noses will wrinkle. So take the plunge. Follow your nose to the cardboard box pushed deep in the back. Examine its frayed edges, self-important stamps, indecipherable foreign scrawl. And if you’re hoping to encounter Advil, Tylenol, Tums, and adhesive gauze at the end of this quest, sorry to disappoint. These contents defy simple, one-word brand names. Sometimes, they even defy the attempts of the English language to alphabetize, categorize, organize. They are:

prominence with family photos and favorite books. The day it lost its favored spot was also the day we moved, the day I left my kindergarten-through-third best friends behind, the day I stopped running, biking, climbing, fighting for a long while. And somewhere in the interim, I lost my nerve. Cringed rather than welcomed the trade of scraped skin for the heady rush of a plunge down a sharp incline. So the iodine bottle went into storage, meeting its expiration date in the dark and dust.

Ke sou yao

“cough medicine” I am eleven and trying to slither out of school for a day. Not that I’m faking sick, exactly. I woke up with a throat too sore to swallow and some unfinished homework, so I rasp in a theatrical whisper that’s just a little exaggerated: Mom I don’t think I can go to school today. My mom, though short, is still taller than my prepubescent self. A few extra inches of perspective give her the uncomfortable air of looming over and peering into me through her glasses as she feels my forehead. She drops her hand immediately and frowns, the message clear: no fever, no skipping. That’s the unspoken ironclad rule of my family. Shivers, cough, chills, aches, headaches, sore throats aside, if you’re not fa shao, literally burning with heat, then you go about your day as usual. Despite this knowledge, I persevere. It really hurts, I insist in my continued stage whisper, pausing for effect to prove that even the most minute vibrations of my vocal cords cause excruciating pain. She refuses to meet my eyes as I trail pathetically behind her. I think I have her; she’s wavering, turning, and most reluctantly reaching a hand into the box knotted with packaging tape. Take these, she says, shaking two unmarked white pills into my palm. I look at her with gratitude and a tinge of awe. We don’t dispense medicines casually around here. The action of reaching into our precious stash of China-sent remedies means much more than the sum of its physical parts. I shut up and take the pills with no further complaints. Minutes later, my sore throat disappears as if by magic. And go to school, she reminds me for good measure.

Dian jiu

“tincture of iodine” I am four-five-six and I know that iodine comes out of a dark brown bottle. Not until seven-eight, when curiosity and familiarity finally overcome the gut-twisting fear of impending pain that the little bottle evokes in my father’s hand, do I learn that iodine itself isn’t brown. It’s yellow, a beautiful, deep, earthy yellow. It takes years to learn this simple fact because I’m used to seeing iodine stained purple-brown against my skin, its true colors swirled with and dirtied by the bloody messes over which my father applies it. Iodine, yellow-brown, astringent, accompanied by cotton swabs and sharp reprimands and gentle hands, is irrevocably intertwined with my childhood: bike rides (and bike crashes), tree climbs (and branch gashes), exploring expeditions, summer camps, fights, plays, picnics, tag games, make believe. The iodine bottle always sat within easy reach those days, sharing center-shelf

Xue li hong

“Chinese mustard greens” I am fourteen and feel like I’ve been stuffed up forever. A combination of allergies and the tail end of a seasonal

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Self-Portrait Kathleen Yan ’12 Oil on Canvas

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spring 2010 cold have seized up my sinuses. I inhale to no avail, unable to draw a single satisfying breath. I try to bear it calmly, but by day four or five, my suffering is obvious to anyone who hears me mouth-breathing or sees me dripping and wheezing. My dad’s solution is to cook. Skeptical, half-amused, wondering if I should look into decongestants, I decide I can wait five minutes to see his solution. He chops and boils and presents me with a pot of deep green mush. Put your nose over it and inhale, he instructs in partEnglish, part-Chinese, part-gesture. I lower my face into the pot. The dense vegetal taste of mustard leaf tickles my palate, curls through my nose. Pungent peppery steam sweeps clear the crevices of my skull. As I breathe my first real breath in days, I realize that I can taste and smell again. My dad stands before me smiling, arms crossed, smug in his little victory over the doubtful Americanized daughter now neck-deep in the fumes of xue li hong. Later that night, a more familiar preparation of mustard greens: we eat the already-cooked leaves with soy sauce and a little oil.

neutral watery ones. What it ends up being, however—at least as appears when I watch my mom dump packet after packet of musty ingredients into a pot—is everything. A last-ditch cure-all approved for headaches, night sweats, fevers, and menstrual cramps alike, the prescription of yao cai tang to your particular disease is the Chinese equivalent of a medical shrug. It’s often tacked on to recommendations for other pills, compresses, syrups, and teas, and a convenient pattern of dependence has taken shape over the past few centuries (millennia?) of use: when remedies fail, yao cai tang assures that all has been attempted and nothing else can be done; when a combination of remedies work, you can’t tell whether yao cai tang really had any effect—but neither can you disprove it. So it continues to be prescribed as a health supplement for arthritis, pregnancy, dizziness, coughs; mothers and grandmothers all over China furtively add a bowl of yao cai tang to every hospital-approved treatment regimen. Why not take it seems to be the moral. Why not take it for your unidentified fever, your probably psychologically-based nightmares, your prostate cancer. Throw all you have into a pot, every Chinese ingredient with even a hint of healing properties simmered together and served with a ceramic spoon. Drink up. Perhaps at least one of them will cure what ails you. Sixteen and in my aunt’s kitchen and accustomed to the taste of ginger and chicken together, everything else apart, I dive for water to clear the medicinal aftertaste from my mouth. You don’t like it? she says in astonishment, spooning soup to her own lips with a satisfied smack. No, it tastes like medicine, I tell her, already knowing that that’s precisely the point.

Yao cai tang

“medicinal soup” I am sixteen and sitting in my aunt’s kitchen in Xinjiang, China. While I was out today, my uncle cooked up yet another elaborate feast in honor of our family’s visit from America, and I reach eagerly for a spoonful of the chicken soup left on the dining table. A taste like the smell of my mom’s closet blooms in my mouth and I spit. It’s hard to describe the taste of yao cai tang. It’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, and yet it’s like everything. Infused into its deceptively clear broth are some familiar players of Chinese cuisine: ginseng, chicken, scallops, star anise. These straightforward tastes are paired with exotic partners whose jobs are to stimulate and confuse the tongue as much as the mere pronunciations of their names often do: yu zhu, hong zao, mo hua guo, gan huai shan, ning xia gou qi. Stewed together until every element is soft enough for the sickest throat to swallow and the queasiest stomach to digest, individual ingredients in yao cai tang are lost in the bitter-savory-salty-sweet cacophony. Its flavor is fleeting, forever shifting beyond recognition; the chicken broth comes through one moment, chased by the sweetness of apples and dates, the bitterness of goji berries an unpleasant after-tingle. Yao cai tang tastes simply and indisputably of the essence of Chinese medicine. What is yao cai tang’s purpose, the end goal of this brew of five-ten-fifteen-twenty herbs and spices and fruits and meats fighting it out for domination of your unsuspecting taste buds? In theory, there is a balance at work. Cooling herbs against energy-inducing foods. Hot elements against

Neosporin

“kang jun su gao” I am seventeen, on rollerblades, and recovering from a run-in with a rusty wire fence. It saved me from a much worse run-in with the car zooming through the intersection ahead, but gouged my fingers in return. Our family’s way is to grit our teeth, but the oxidized edges of twisted wire send visions of tetanus skittering through my head. I ransack the supplies at home as my mom watches anxiously. My dad, the practical one, no longer lives here; neither does the iodine bottle. I call out possible alternatives, and my mom shoots them down: Rubbing alcohol? (No.) Cream? (No.) Anything? (No.) I take a deep breath and decide: I have to buy something. Because my dad was the practical one, my mom has always been more than happy to stay away from my constant injuries. Now, faced with the task alone, she knows few facts but makes up for the lack of knowledge with plenty of vague,

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VISIONS knee-jerk suspicions such as: Are you sure? Maybe you don’t need it. Is it safe? Just let it heal. I roll my eyes and head out to the drugstore myself, adding a tube of antibiotic cream to our bare bathroom cabinet.

hour you please. Anxious wrinkles disappear from parental foreheads. It is unspeakably satisfying to emerge healthy once more from the haze of fever and everyone—the mom who came home from work early, the dad who simmered chicken broth for hours, the sister who left a hand-drawn card by your bedside—celebrates together.

Ibuprofen

“ya wei” I am nineteen, as old as I have ever been, and my left thumb is as huge as I have ever seen it. It throbs now, seconds after being hit full-force by a badly timed drum stick, and in an hour it will be impossible to bend; in a day it will look like a site of massive internal hemorrhaging. The grityour-teeth policy works okay for the first night. By morning, I can’t concentrate for the pain. My friend urges Advil on me and rolls his eyes when, as usual, I refuse. He doesn’t argue, but he does place the bottle meaningfully on my desk as he leaves. The bright yellow letters fill my field of vision. I’m not religious and, but for a brief stint in Vacation Bible Camp when I was eight, never have been. So why does the act of swallowing two capsules feel like a secret sin?

and

Bing qi ling – ice cream:

because though we have fever-reducers, cough-inducers, painkillers, decongestants, antihistamines, antibacterials, antibiotics, pills to reduce swelling, creams to clear acne, tablets to soothe nervous stomachs, drugs to regulate heartbeat and rein in hereditary paranoia— —though liang yao ku kou, the Chinese say; good medicine tastes bitter— —there are words to be said for seeing sickness as something other than a problem to be tackled and brought down, hard and fast. The common cold, the seasonal flu, the banged knee and the headache are not our mortal enemies. They can, instead, be welcome respites: a free pass to bed rest, daytime TV, unchallenging novels, and the wonderful self-prescription of endless bowls of ice cream—or yao cai tang. Whichever you prefer.

Fa shao chu han

“fever-sweat” The backbone of my family’s shared medicinal philosophy lies in one phrase: fa shao chu han, to sweat out the fever. The most extreme manifestation of the hands-off, drug-free approach to natural healing, it simply requires that you lie in bed and wait. Fa shao chu han is slow. It takes long, leisurely, and sometimes painful hours for a fever to break. It is a process, a story, a small and private event with a beginning, a middle, an end. It starts with the rare go-ahead to stay in bed. Someone cocoons layers of quilts around you, tucking them carefully over easily-exposed feet. Smells of soup, or porridge, or potatoes and chicken (if that’s your favorite dish) waft from the kitchen. Books are brought to your bedside, a wealth of the kind you’re not supposed to read too much of (comics and “useless” fantasy novels). Later in the day, twisting and turning beneath the oppressive weight of too many stifling layers, a cool hand arrives to take your temperature, stroke your hair, ask if you want anything, anything at all. The room falls into a midweek-midday kind of quiet, broken occasionally by cooking sounds from the kitchen. Nothing left to do but ponder the pattern of light and shadow falling across the bedroom as morning becomes afternoon becomes evening. Sleep. And when you wake— —lying soaked in cool sweat from head to toe is a celebration. Food tastes good again. You’re ushered to the table like royalty, plied to eat anything you want at any odd

pam zhang ’11 appreciates the sunshine more for the rain.

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spring 2010

Shichi-Go-San Jason Beckman ’11 Digital Photography

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going home by Abigail Chen

Nights like these, where something grows between the cracks in the sky, I pick up beads. Dropped, scattered from people’s heads, like coins. Pink and green and blue and if I string these together I cleave a lament of swiftness.

In the mornings it is too warm. But at night, you can feel a layer settle— it is unique in the world. It is called “a light breeze.” It is known as “a special moment.” It is actually “your seventh sense.” Otherwise known as home.

This swift country, where even on a train I cannot think of anything besides my own eyes. Sometimes you can see floating city lights, but mostly it is better than a full length mirror.

Here, again, I see and fail to see. Nothing! A layer of dust, a layer of dead men’s ashes— clogged eyes and clogged minds— it is easy to breathe when your mouth has no tongue.

Things I miss on nights gentle with breeze: the scent of rust. Cool iron grille on my forehead. Night air light with reservoir.

Ah, but it does. A little wiggle. People talk and say: “things.” By that they mean I cannot speak my mind.

Thoughts can roam— drift like cattle— sheep—sometimes they lose things when you round them out.

I forgot to tell you. The real tongue does not speak. It listens. Funnels sounds, never forget.

A country like this is beautiful. Is full of beauty—full of heat and dusk, and the gentle undercurrent of cars ferrying people too busy to see a bat flying at dusk. My natural instinct is vertical where planes blink an escape.

These sounds— wheels, smooth engine, adolescent motorbike. Iron.

abigail chen ’10 has a seventh sense.

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spring 2010

Beachcombers Karynn Ikeda ’10.5 Digital Photography

Charminar, Hyderabad Manasa Reddy ’12 Digital Photography

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Natural Phenomenon by Archipelag-a The waters flooded away my childhood Dreams disrupted by reality I wonder where my house is because my fingers grope aimlessly in the dark Years reduced to nothing but sensations that melt in an instant I wonder when I’ll have my long sought-for epiphany The rights of convictions that you are alive These moments, flashes from my past, life stills and tableaux: Cousins race old wagons down a long driveway. Tugging them as fast as they can, they are all smiles, win or lose. Her mother’s hands move toward a platter, tiny, tanned wrist cocked upward in a question mark. Are you hungry? Eat! Are you hungry? Eat more! Travel-worn, weary Filipina housemaid mother sits in a 5th Avenue kitchen with her head in her hands. One lone tear hovers on the surface of her eye. Kaleidoscope of broken pieces of colorful memories The crumbled bits of life, debris from what could’ve been Mudslides crush villages And rains wash away cities Flooded by tears, the people are drowning Rising floods, rising fear, rising famine And all that can be done is wait for the water to dry up from the corners of their eyes I am a mess of thoughts and nerves right now Shakes and stutters right now Tears and screams right now Hello? Lola? Tita Candi? Nanay? Kuya Billy? Ate Anne? How are you? Anak, we are okay, everyone is okay, thank God we are all okay. What about you? How’s school? Fine, I’m just worried about you. Can you hear me? What did you lose? What happened to the house? We’re worried. Okay lang yan, all material things come to an end. Hello? Can you hear me?

Yes. I’m here Everyone is safe. That is all that matters I miss you. Miss kita. I love you. Mahal kita. Take care. Ingat. Bye. Sige. I’m sorry. I can’t hear you Your words have been muted by the rains Words suspended and wound around by the winds Winding up on cnn news reports about these Not-so-natural disasters Of a sea of brown faces lost to muddy waters Not-so-natural disasters Covered up by pages torn out of tourist magazines Covered up by images of white sand beaches Covered up by face-whitening cover up These not-so-natural disasters have Broken houses, broken homes, and broken hearts I’m sorry. I can’t hear you On these shitty Skype calls to Displaced Filipina housemaids who traveled West to the middle of the East or Traveled east to the western world  To find a better world for their children Chilled heartbeats no longer heard through this static Not-so-natural disasters ravage tropical countryside And can you believe the Philippines imports rice now? Sold their soul only to buy it back again Rice terraces, once a world wonder, wonder where their people went. Words. Words muted by the rains An eerie silence Silenced by the burdens of exploitation, burdens of exotification, Burdens of mistranslation and being lost in the middle of the ocean Pacific voices pacifying crying children Muted.  But I will break this silence  Bloom beyond this burdensome flesh And into smoke and magic Combat this unnatural catastrophe With what comes natural to me I am my own natural phenomenon More powerful than any white-man-made burdensome disaster

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spring 2010

A Root’s Perspective Putzer Hung ’10 Digital Photography

No one can see the waves crash upon the backs of my eyelids Or the lightning flash behind these empty irises Or hear the thunder with each rush of blood from my heart My body is trembling  And though the world doesn’t feel it yet The earth will soon shake from this Power like my mother’s nature Power like the tears that fall from my sister’s eyes Power like one thousand fists in the air Erupting from the depths of me Pure fire, pure light, pure life.

I am the aurora borealis My body is trembling but the world doesn’t feel it yet Anticipating eruption, momentum, explosion, commotion I am every natural phenomenon all at once Every heartbeat is nuclear fission Every second is cell division Every breath is planet-shattering collision And it’s all contained in me I am a small yet formidable universe Blinding jolts of light pulse through me A glare that dares outshine the sun A spectacle all my own Wield my own power I am the awe-inspiring calm of storm upon storms I am a beautiful disaster I am a goddess of tempests I am earth shaking, magnetic, electric Pure energy, pure light, pure life. Slow motion supernova, I unfold into the universe with every single step

I am a goddess of tempests See no place I cannot overtake Because I have not yet seen my boundaries Because I was born with everything and nothing And now have all that my lola never dreamed of I am the awe-inspiring calm of storms Upon storms, passed from generation To generation. I fly higher Let myself be carried away by these trade winds Float upon anything Untangle myself from the chains that have kept me grounded I am a natural phenomenon I am St. Elmo’s fire I am a desert’s mirage

archipelag-a celebrates 15 years of sisterhood born from a kinship of words. Fall ’09: Jean Mendoza ’12, Robin Davis ’10, Elaine Tamargo ’11, Karina Villanueva ’12, Noricia Aquino ’12, Trisha Santos ’13.

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Strawberry Boy Mengli Qi ’11 Ink and Acrylic on Paper

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spring 2010

Sang Kancil by Corrie Tan Until I was eleven, my sister and I shared the same room. Our beds lined up against the wall, headboard to headboard. For the most part, we kept an uneven truce; we were fierce defenders of our territories. The walls above each of our beds were papered with magazine cut-outs, pictures from rescued calendars, old Christmas cards soaked in glitter, each of us trying to outdo the other, our collections creeping slowly towards that invisible line that divided us down the middle. We dog-eared children’s magazines for the pictures we claimed and held lengthy arguments over who got what. Perhaps a puppy curled up in the grass, surrounded by daffodils, or horses running through wheat fields, or the most exquisite picture of a lighthouse and a red sailboat bobbing on an unruffled ocean. I was jie-jie and older; I usually won. My sister was mei-mei, thirteen months behind me and always scrambling to catch up. She was the guileless, pretty one: peachy cheeks and feathery lashes. She would flounce off, pigtailed and pouty, an empty rectangle on her wall where a kitten or ducklings might have been. She would finally tell my mother. “Jie-jie won’t let me have this picture!” she would say, tugging at the hem of Mother’s dress, her lower lip trembling and her eyes lining with summoned tears. My mother would ponder the situation, arms akimbo, expecting an explanation or an apology from me. But what I lacked in emotion I made up for in reason. “It’s only because this isn’t the best picture, and I want you to have the best picture,” I would say. “This one’s lousy. I know there’s a better one if you look at the back of the book. See?” When I perfected my logic, it worked every time. My sister never suspected a thing.

would sit down on the edge of either of our beds, the mattress denting under his weight. “Tell us a story, Daddy,” we whispered. “You must promise to go to sleep after that,” he said, a smile tugging at the edges of his lips. “What story do you want me to tell?” “Sang Kancil! Tell us about Sang Kancil and the crocodiles!” Sang Kancil, mystical, mythical mouse deer, was the dashing imp of the Southeast Asian jungle. We had never seen a mouse deer before. I liked to imagine myself as Sang Kancil, trotting through labyrinthine trails of green, sticky with mud and dew, outwitting predators with my cerebral sleight of hand. “Sang Kancil was walking through the jungle when he spotted a huge row of mango trees. The mangoes were yellow and ripe and looked delicious. Sang Kancil really wanted to eat those mangoes, except that he was separated from those trees by a huge, strong river full of crocodiles.” “Will he get eaten? I don’t want him to get eaten.” “Shh, let me tell you the story. So Sang Kancil went to the river’s edge, and all these crocodiles started swimming up to him, excited for a meal of warm, fresh and tasty mouse deer.” “Daddy!” “Sang Kancil shouted, ‘Don’t eat me! I am a messenger from the King of the Jungle, the Lion! And I have a message for you.’ The crocodiles were very surprised, and so they stopped to listen.” “‘The King will be having a great feast for all the animals of the forest. There will be all the food that you want to eat, and more. If you eat me now, the King will find out, and you will not be invited to his feast. Now I need to cross the river to get to the other side so that I can give the message to the rest of the animals in the jungle!’” “So the crocodiles didn’t eat him?” “So Sang Kancil stepped on each of the crocodiles’ heads, like stepping stones, and made it safely to the other side of the river without even getting wet. When he jumped off onto the riverbank, he started eating mangoes while laughing and saying, ‘You silly crocodiles, thank you for helping me get over to the other side. Now I can eat these delicious mangoes in peace.’” The next day, my sister and I emptied my father’s bookshelf of every copy of the 1985 Encyclopedia Britannica, a hefty set he had purchased from a persuasive door-to-door salesman two years before I was born. We tossed the dusty books onto the floor, pretended they were crocodiles, and

But at night, after bedtime, my sister and I were allies. We whispered through the slats in the bed frames and held on to the last few minutes of mutual storytime before sleep wrested us away from play. “Once upon a time there was a rabbit.” “No, a dragon. Because I was born in the year of the dragon.” “It’s my story, so it’s going to have a rabbit.” “That’s not fair! I want to tell the story, too.” “Okay, we’ll have a dragon in the next story.” All too often my father would overhear the hushed commotion and crack the door open, his gangly shadow spilling onto the tiled floor, and we would press our faces hard into our pillows to hide giggles. He was never upset with us. He

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VISIONS spent most of the afternoon going back and forth across the choppy river of our living room. My mother never told bedtime stories the way my father did, with all his dramatic pauses in the right places and his poised and even voice. The air crackled when he told a story. My mother would start to tell a joke and then forget the punchline, or she would tangle up her facts, stumbling between her story and fragments of background information that she might have forgotten to provide. We would grow restless and wriggly and demanding, turning over in bed, poking each other, asking her to hurry up and get to the good part. I cannot remember when she began to draw for us, hesitantly at first, bolder as she went on. Within the confines of a page, she could shape our imagination without confusing us, mapping out her childhood in quick strokes. “Draw us po-po during the war!” we clung to her knees, asking about our grandmother who lived eight hours away by car, surrounded by toothy limestone caves and oil palm plantations. “Draw us the pigs in your po-po’s wooden house!” we shouted, asking about her own grandmother, bald and buried in Malaysian earth. “This is my po-po’s house,” my mother said, her pen nudging blue across white. She sketched corrugated zinc rafters, windows, an attic. “Po-po would only sleep under a mosquito net.” “There was a mud floor. Our slippers would get stuck in the mud when it rained. Your great-grandmother, she was blind, and some of my cousins would sneak up behind her and touch her balding head to make fun of her and give her a shock. I never did.” My mother would sit us both down at the vast dining table, the wood already warping under the weight of humidity. My father had sawed a couple inches off each leg so that the movers could shove it into our apartment; it wobbled slightly and we slid folded sheets of paper under each stump to keep it level. My mother drew a dirt path to the backyard. “And there was this well in the backyard that dai-yee was really afraid of. She had to draw water from the well.” I imagined my first aunt, her hair forced into a sharp bob streaked with white, the no-nonsense midwife who had seen everything. It had never occurred to me that they had been young, once. They had backyards and outhouses and gardens and dogs; we lived in a twelve-floor apartment with narrow grey corridors, and the trees down below were pinpricks of green emerging from measured sidewalks. They had walked to school; my sister and I stuffed ourselves into seats on the sticky school bus.

“Po-po always scolded dai-yee for being so scared of the well. But that was because your po-po had survived the war. With the Japanese. She wasn’t afraid of anything anymore.” My mother drew an open field, a young man with a hoe, sweet potatoes peeking out from the ground. “That’s your po-po. She was really smart. The Japanese were always picking on women, so she dressed up as a man so that she could work in the fields as a farmer, and then no one picked on her.” My grandmother had a jolly headful of curls, tightly permed and dyed a solid black, so she always looked younger than her seventy years. She spoke Malay and Cantonese, which I couldn’t speak, and hardly any Mandarin, which I could. Every time we visited her in her cramped bungalow in Malaysia, she would stroke my palm and tell me that I had the softest hands. She would pat my palms with a toothy, dentured smile and bright eyes that tapered into straight lines when she laughed. Once, at a family dinner at my grandmother’s crumbling house, I pushed rice around my plate and demanded ice cream for dessert, like the other kids in kindergarten. “Your husband,” my grandmother said, sweeping a quivery chicken foot between her chopsticks, “will have a pimple on his face for every grain of rice you don’t eat.” She nibbled on the knobbed skin around one of the chicken’s claws. I looked down at my plate. Bulbous grains of rice speckled the eggshell porcelain like a new disease. I imagined my husband’s face as a sheet of bubblewrap, swollen pustules waiting to erupt. I shoveled rice into my mouth. Chopsticks were another bundle of superstitions. Halfway through a bowl of rice, I reached for a glass of water, and because I had no other place to put them, I jammed my chopsticks into the mound of white. They looked like legs, or half of what I imagined a scarecrow to be. My grandmother snatched up the ivory fingers. “Never do that. You will attract spirits. To them, it looks like you are sticking incense sticks into an offering for the dead!” I stared at my half-eaten bowlful of rice, two cubic indentations where my pair of chopsticks had been. It looked like someone had sunk a pair of fangs into my rice and then hastily removed them. Our drawing sessions often ended with papers strewn across the floor, our hands smudged from a rainbow of magic markers; we usually colored in my mother’s drawings, adding a purple pig or a green chicken for creative effect. My mother would gather up the papers; we never knew what she did with them. A talisman against loss, perhaps, but family histories, no matter how light-hearted, never outwitted death. My grandparents died one by one. I remember

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spring 2010

Window of a Chinese Steel Factory Ling Zhou ’13 Digital Photography

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VISIONS my mother sitting curled in a corner of the bathroom when my grandfather died. She had taken off her glasses, and her cheeks were gleaming under the fluorescent light from unabashed tears. My father was kneeling next to her, a box of tissues in his hand. I was ten. I had never seen my mother cry before. The Night Safari was a sensation when it opened later that year. Gaggles of visitors lined the treetop walks and took long guided tours around the enclosures to see ‘nocturnal animals in their natural habitats.’ Our parents packed a picnic supper and allowed us to stay up past eight o’clock for an educational visit to the night zoo. We stood on the boardwalk at the entrance, making decisions. “The tiger enclosure is right here,” my father said, shaking the folds from his free map of the Night Safari and tracing out meandering routes. “We can go see the tigers, and then I think they’re going to do a lion feeding. That should be exciting.” “I don’t want to see the tigers! I want to see Sang Kancil! He will be awake! I want to see Sang Kancil first!” My father consulted the list of show times, nonplussed. By then my sister and I had spotted a loud sign: “Southeast Asian Jungle.” Trees bowed in a green arch over our heads. We scampered in that direction, our parents trailing us. Rows of signboards detailed scientific information and startled pictures of every animal in each enclosure. Dead leaves crinkled under my slippered feet. My sister and I darted from board to board, glancing over animal names that did not sound familiar and others that did. “Here! Look! It says Kancil,” my sister read out the name slowly, savoring the consonants and vowels in her mouth. “Where’s the Sang?” “I don’t know. But it says ‘mouse deer’ in English, look.” On the signboard spattered with mud and bird droppings was a quick sketch of a mouse deer. Its ears were pricked, not rounded like the ears our hamsters had (the closest we had come to seeing an actual mouse), its muzzle narrowing into a rounded black nose, beady eyes flickering. Its head looked too small for its body, like someone had jammed it onto a potato, its spindly legs extending like toothpicks and ending in black hooves. Its underbelly was streaked with white, and two lines of white were smeared across its face, reaching from its eyes to its nose, a v-shape. I shivered. It looked ugly. It also looked like it had been backing away from the artist who had drawn it. We scanned the silent enclosure for signs of life. Most of the visitors had skipped this section; since they lived in Southeast Asia they found little reason to marvel at animals they were accustomed to seeing. Distant cheering erupted from the amphitheater, where pythons and other bored snakes had been brought out for an appreciative audience.

“This is stupid,” my sister hissed. We stared at the empty patch of earth surrounded by carefully planted patches of tall grass and stubby trees, a moat of murky water slinking around it. I slapped at a mosquito on my thigh. I had my fingers wrapped around my sister’s wrist, ready to drag her along to the next enclosure that caught our fancy, when a mouse deer wandered out from the grass. It grazed at something on the ground. It was tiny, not even reaching up to my knees, a drab and uneven brown, skittish. It sniffed the air and paused. My parents clattered up to us with their cameras and water bottles. The mouse deer stiffened and retreated into the grass, its white tuft of a tail shivering. The tall fronds waved and then stopped, still. “There’s nothing here,” my mother said. “Let’s go. We’ll be late. Did you see anything?” “Yeah,” I replied. My sister was quiet. I could feel her pulse plodding beneath my fingers.

corrie tan ’10 is now taller than both of her parents.

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spring 2010

Poverty oftentimes refers solely to the homeless, the poor, the underprivileged; but let us not forget it is, essentially, a term for the insufficient—the socially, physically, emotionally, spiritually insufficient. Poverty is those who are disguised as something else to fill a part of something they lack. They are faceless—impoverished and with a blind side. This is a series of candid photos of everyday people at typical places in the neighborhoods of Silicon Valley, CA. It was part of an exhibit at a program called, “Faces of Poverty in Silicon Valley,” showcasing local efforts for awareness towards poverty. This is a collaborative project by two risd students who toured the neighborhoods of Silicon Valley and came up with a set of photos that expressed some of the ideas beneath “poverty.” The underlying concept is to show that poverty—even in such a luxurious city/town/place—is existential and sometimes right in our face. We, as humans, fail to acknowledge something that is so easily and frequently masked by ignorance and criticism, or by the lack of knowledge thereof. This is a faceless issue.

Face-less Karen Wang ‘10 & Tiffany Jon ‘09 Digital Photography

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VISIONS

Café France translated by Samuel Perry and Janet Poole Chŏng Chiyong (1903~?) was a poet best known for the modernist verse he produced during Korea’s colonial period. He disappeared in 1950, at the outset of the Korean War, and his writings were banned for more than three decades in South Korea on the suspicion that he had fled to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This poem was originally written in Korean by Chŏng Chiyong in 1926.

카페·프란스 (1926)   정지용

Lanterns standing atilt beneath transplanted palms. Let’s go to Café France.

옴겨다 심은 棕櫚나무 밑에 빗두루 슨 장명등, 카페·프란스에 가쟈.

This guy in a rubashka another a Bohemian cravat one guy all but skin and bones takes the lead.

이놈은 루바쉬카 또 한놈은 보헤미안 넥타이 뻣적 마른 놈이 압장을 섰다.

Evening rain as fine as a snake’s eyes lamplight sobbing on the pavement. Let’s go to Café France.

밤비는 뱀눈 처럼 가는데 페이브멘트에 흐늙이는 불빛 카페·프란스에 가쟈.

This guy’s head a crabapple off-center another’s heart a worm-eaten rose one guy, soaked, darts off like a swallow.

이 놈의 머리는 빗두른 능금 또 한놈의 心臓은 벌레 먹은 薔薇 제비 처럼 젖은 놈이 뛰여 간다.

“Oh, Mr. Parrot! Bonsoir!” “Bonsoir!” (How are you doing my friend?)

『오오 패롵(鸚鵡) 서방! 굳 이브닝!』 『굳 이브닝!』(이 친구 어떠하시오?)

Miss Tulip, I see, is dozing off beneath chintz curtains tonight too!

鬱金香 아가씨는 이밤에도 更紗 커ー튼 밑에서 조시는구료!

I’m not the son of a viscount or anyone else. Ever so white, my sad hands!

나는 子爵의 아들도 아무것도 아니란다. 남달리 손이 히여서 슬프구나!

I have neither home nor country. Pressed against a marble table, my sad cheek!

나는 나라도 집도 없단다 大理石 테이블에 닷는 내뺌이 슬프구나!

Oh, foreign puppy, Won’t you lick my feet? Won’t you lick my feet?

오오, 異國種강아지야 내 발을 빨아다오. 내 발을 빨아다오.

samuel perry ’91 teaches East Asian revolutionary fiction at Brown. janet poole teaches Korean modernism at the University of Toronto.

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spring 2010

the elm city girls’ choir by Franny Choi

fifteen minutes of fortune, it is your only gift to this world and mine’s maybe over. maybe hit my peak in the sixth grade, the turn of the millennium (ages, it was a good year for me, too) when i sang in gargoyle opera halls to pipe organ dreams, when they all stood up and i smiled too wide and someone’s mother brought cheap chocolate roses which we held shining smiling shining too bright for a disposable kodak. sixth grade was the year i stopped growing. i will never like this song more; i knew all their names; i remember everything. i turned then. i’ll never grow further from this, not up anymore, but outward or within and hazier, only layers of thicker memories added—upon added— soon i’ll shed the coats and the years. until then this so this. if this. only this.

franny choi ’11 is currently studying in Seoul; Jo’s runs got nothing on 2am pojangmacha.

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VISIONS

Sea Froth Devon Cupery ’11 Digital Photography

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spring 2010

An Authentic American by Hannah Lee How do you prove your authenticity as an American? By voting in every election, even the sparsely attended local races? By singing the national anthem at baseball games? By wearing a flag pin?   Expatriate Americans could live for years abroad, without any observance of Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July—whether from personal neglect or circumstance—and they would still be considered citizens, while the children of illegal aliens who have been educated and acculturated in this country are not. But who is more committed to our ideals?  If one were to make the calculation—and I would prefer not to—who is the more authentic Jew? Me, a Jew-bychoice who has raised children with a knowledge of their religious and cultural heritage, or the secular Jew who has chosen not to obtain for his son a brit milah (ritual circumcision) or to attend a seder? Sociologists can predict whose children would remain within the faith. More binding than nationality and religion is race, but historically, that, too, has proven fungible. Two different groups—Asian Indians and Jews—have over time been listed as either whites or non-whites according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So, what about people who are bi-racial or even multi-racial? In his collection of essays, The Accidental Asian, Eric Liu noted: “Between 1970 and 1992, the number of mixed-race marriages quadrupled. We are mixing our genes with such abandon that the Census Bureau considered adding a new ‘multiracial’ category to the forms in the year 2000. It settled instead on a potentially more radical solution: allowing people to check as many boxes as they wish.” Racial self-identification—how refreshing! Let people choose how they are to be known, just as they have chosen what they are named. I find that very intriguing indeed. One could now include all the minority parts (DNA-wise, that is) of one’s heritage. So, could one consider oneself “adopted” into another, without benefit of miscegenation? Wikipedia defines authenticity as “the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.” (I have Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, on my desk but Wikipedia allows me to cut-andpaste). I’m not fond of the initial definitions, preferring the latter ones of “commitment, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.” Identifying with a race means you align yourself with others of that label. Being a Jew involves living a life with Jewish values. Being an authentic American means upholding democracy and civil liberties, which is a delicate proposition during these xenophobic times. Ethnic suspicion can

so easily combust into prejudice, hysteria, and forced internments. Americans have seen it all happen before. My husband wonders why I am so negative, so bleak about our times. I am naturally optimistic, but I am perturbed by the hysteria that is popping up in different arenas. And I feel it personally: I am a Chinese American Jew from a culture that has been demonized before and a faith whose practitioners have been fatal victims of blood libels. It was only 68 years ago that the United States government rounded up its Japanese American citizens and interned them in remote camps. But human nature has not changed, even if our political tactics have gotten more sophisticated.   In 1982, Vincent Chin was murdered by disgruntled auto-industry workers who blamed him (Chin was mistaken for being Japanese) for taking away their jobs. In 1999, John Huang, the former Democratic National Committee fundraiser and Commerce Department official, pleaded guilty to a single felony count of conspiracy and suddenly every Asian American in politics was under a cloud of suspicion for being more loyal to their ethnic country of origin than to their country of service.  Your new neighbors may be of an inscrutable faith. The person on the plane may sport a beard and look Arab. My Persian Jewish friend (who is bearded and complected like his former Muslim neighbors in Iran) carries a food magazine (his hobby) and not a technical computer journal (his professional reading) while traveling to mitigate uneasiness amongst his fellow travelers. We may present a different mien and a different faith, but that does not preclude us from being authentic, law-abiding, and committed Americans. We live in perilous times, indeed, but we must retain our decency and good sense.   Footnote, 3/1/2010: A new acquaintance of mine made the startling (to me) observation that the U.S. government changed its census policy on race because it was alarmed by an increasing nonwhite population. 

hannah lee ’82 is happy writing in the early hours before her family awakens.

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VISIONS

on nyc: letter to third grade history books by Vivian Truong there is no pot that will melt this yellow away only quick walks past the bay 50th subway station dodging ching-chong china bullets hurry up gook bullets go back to where you came from bullets there is no pot that will melt this yellow only brown-faced boys who dangle lit cigarettes at their sides slap handballs against graffiti-splashed walls and tattoo brooklyn down their backs for the home they will never leave there is no melting away just mothers with deft fingers wrapping secrets into cha gio, tucking away uncles sold into slavery in thailand, folding in malaysian refugee camp survival and dawns in america spent boiling water and clipping laundry to clotheslines for sleeping families there are just daughters too clumsy to roll minced pork, taro root and the unspoken into rice paper skin so mothers watch these spill out into the hot oil: here is the golden sting taste of nights away from home too hazy to remember

here are the dreams of dreaming of first heartbreak and how real the kisses felt even twice removed from this empty bed reality here are the apologies the silent immeasurable gratitude here is the foreign sound of i love you because in these families those words were never taught through speech this is no pot this is skin too yellow hair too black and red blood that runs in railroad tracks red blood that runs when middle school friends get shot over jackets in coney island, leaving some fathers crying over sons’ bodies and other fathers warning sons to just give them what they want and run because sometimes there’s no room for anything here except survival this is survival saturday afternoons in the mott street temple kneeling before golden statues of goon yum with sticks of incense clasped between palms and hoping she understands prayers in english this is yellow this is what scares them and they try to bleach us but there will be no melting

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vivian truong ’12 will stop being so damn polite.


spring 2010

Fish out of water Robyn Ng ’10 Watercolor, Gouache, Pencil, and Crayon

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VISIONS

The Portrait of a Nation Luna Chen ’13 Ink, Acrylic, Watercolor, and Mixed Media

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spring 2010

Draft of a Medical School Essay by Kai Huang When I applied to the eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education (plme) at Brown three years ago, I had no idea why I wanted to be a doctor. Mom and Dad told me that for a smart, young Chinese American man like me, there wasn’t a more suitable profession. I would gain respect from my peers, earn a half-million-dollar salary if I could get into the right specialty, and eventually be capable of attracting a classically beautiful and obedient Chinese American wife. To hell with that. It’s taken me so long to say that. It’s a wonder I ever got into this place. There’s a strange irony about an entire generation of hardworking Asian immigrants paying several hundred thousand dollars to send their children to prestigious universities where left-wing academics preach individuality and egalitarianism in the face of kids like me who were brought up on ambition, conformity, and the dream of American meritocracy, served with a side of steamed white rice. Every time I head back home to beautiful West Palm Beach, Florida for more than a week, my parents and I inevitably get into heated arguments about socialism, interracial dating, and my uncertain future. Every time, I step off the plane with a carry-on bag filled with clothes and a young mind filled with crazy ideas about the world that they didn’t put there. Sometimes, I wonder if they’re disappointed to see their only son growing up to be so different from what they had imagined. Other times, though, I realize that maybe the greater purpose of their whole-hearted, twenty-year-long investment was not to cast me in their image, but to give me strength: the strength to survive comfortably in the world, and, beyond that, to change it for the better on my own terms. I’m not sure Mom and Dad did this intentionally, and I’m positive that they don’t agree with everything I’ve learned here, but ultimately, that’s all right. During my years at Brown, I’ve sat among rows and rows of stressed out Organic Chemistry students who come from families a lot like mine. My friend Theo used to say, “Orgo I is like Survivor. Orgo II is like Lord of the Flies.” Hyper-competitive Asian American pre-med culture runs thick in our blood, and most days, I’m disgusted by it. As I think more and more about my own experience as a pre-med and about healthcare in the United States, I’m beginning to see connections sprouting up everywhere. Is it any wonder that so many first-generation students pack themselves into suicidally-challenging “weed out” courses when American doctors make two to three times as much as their counterparts in other industrialized nations? Doctors in this country have become businesspeople, complicit in a twisted system (or lack thereof ) that offers health services as

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a for-profit commodity to those wealthy enough to afford it, instead of as a public good for all of our citizens. When I turn my head in either direction in Orgo II, I can’t tell if the students sitting next to me care about the fact that 47 million Americans are still uninsured despite the fact that we spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other country on Earth. That shouldn’t be the case. With how broken our healthcare system is, not to mention the staggering health inequities that exist on a global level, every aspiring physician should be a bleeding heart hippie radical who longs to spend weekends volunteering at the local free clinic and cringes at the very mention of the free market. Well, perhaps I exaggerate. Nevertheless, it makes little sense to me how some of my peers, who intend to one day treat my children, fail to see the moral mandate behind healthcare as a universal human right. In fact, I would argue that our nation’s collective failure to acknowledge this moral mandate is the root cause behind not only our low life-expectancy and high mortality rates from preventable diseases, but also things like skyrocketing medical school tuition and even the stuffy, claustrophobic atmosphere in most Organic Chemistry lecture halls. The litany of problems caused by our disaster of a healthcare system would almost be funny if it wasn’t so utterly depressing. When I applied to the plme at Brown three years ago, none of this had ever even tip-toed across my mind. Now, with graduation slowly creeping into view on the horizon, I feel so different from the man I once was. I never knew why I wanted to be a doctor. “To make money,” was the answer I gave my parents. “To help people,” was the answer I gave strangers. Three years later, after electing a black biracial President who inspired a generation on the promise of change, frantically flipping through the pages of T.R. Reid’s masterpiece The Healing of America, and sitting through two semesters of Organic Chemistry with people whose brains were evident but whose hearts were hidden, I’ve arrived. And I’m proud to say that I know why I want to be a doctor.

kai huang ’11. DO WORK.


VISIONS

Foreign Rain by Kenji Morimoto I. break the shell of forlorn encasements echoes the morning after with wrinkled skin and an emaciated stomach diluted broken dirt and my mother’s hand wade in puddles of yesterday where rainbows shined the brightest II. listen to rain yelled maple birch, bamboo sycamore’s sprinkled dew drops and angry winds of collapsing cacophony sparrows only know so much

III. rain stings with the bumbling overflowing mass of shelved dreams deflecting damaged images—a mosaic of today’s leftover memories and yesterday’s forgotten words fumbling and foaming over rocks, misplaced shoes, and lost secrets IV. foreign rain knows no boundaries river maple leaf mama wallows in gushing ponds as thoughts of children bouncing in water bob back and forth without disclaimers or father’s blessing lost when no one is searching foreign rain knows no boundaries kenji morimoto ’11 is a proud fourth-generation Japanese American: a Yonsei.

Taking Flight Charis Loke ’13 Ballpoint Pen & Pencil on Paper

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spring 2010

Hope I, II, III Robin YooJin Rhee ’13 Digital Photography

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VISIONS

Aarif! by Avnee Jetley A cloud of dust had appeared at the corner of the mud tracks. Within it, a small red cloth whipped furiously with the wind. Slowly, the dust settled and a man emerged, peering back to check on his passengers. Too long. He failed to see the crater in the middle of the road and sent his cart flying. Behind him, the two children dove further into their mother’s sari and buried themselves into her hefty bosom. He turned back, lifted one arm to wipe the beads of sweat from his mud-encrusted face, and pedaled on. Aarif Khan was a man no more than twenty-five, yet age had played a cruel joke on him, slowly accumulating on his face. His skin was dark and hardened by the Bengali sun. The lines that ran across his body seemed like the traces of a river of youth that had once flowed but now left his body arid and dry. In fact, the only thing remarkable about Aarif Khan’s appearance was his eyes—the lightest of browns speckled with a green so vivid that it inspired marvel in one instant and, in the next, shame and intimidation. Having dropped his passengers and pocketed his fee, he turned his cart around and headed towards the sea. * I took off my crumbling rubber chappals and dug my feet into the sandy warmth of the beach. The water snuck in between my toes and clawed at the sand. As my legs gave way beneath me, I sighed a breath of relief and lay back against the soft sand to look up at the sky. My first memory here was with Amma. I was barely five years old and clenched on to her finger, terrified by the tremendous roar of the ocean, shielding myself behind her as I looked out at the vastness before me. She pushed me forward. “Jao, there’s nothing to be scared of.” “Tumi ki aamar sathe aasbe?” Will you come with me? We walked into the water, the sea lapping at my knees, threatening to swallow me whole. Amma looked up at the horizon and turned her head towards me. “Aarif, there is a whole world out there. We have grown up ignorant in this small town, putting together every paisa just to survive. Our time has gone. But you, Aarif, you can be whatever you want.” The air was damp and heavy. I stuck my finger in my nose trying to breathe more easily and looked up at her blankly. The tremendous light from the sky reflected down upon the expansive mirror of the ocean. All that lay ahead of me was the silhouette of a group of fishermen in the distance as they emptied their nets. I screwed my eyes shut, trying to permanently burn the image into my head. When I opened

them, there was a small boy less than five inches from my face. “Macchi?” I swatted him away and at my nod, he swiftly gutted the fish, tied it up in an old newspaper and counted his earnings, his face pulled into deep concentration. Having confirmed that I had not cheated him, he skipped back towards the fishermen and I turned homewards. At my door there was yet another notice. I scanned it briefly and threw it into my hut, saving the excitement of government-issued letters for later. There was nothing extraordinary about the next morning. But years from now, I would look back towards this day as the tipping point of my life. Slowly climbing off my charpoi, I cracked my joints furiously—neck, back, fingers, toes! It was still dark but I could hear the quiet but distinct gunghrooh of the women as they collected the morning water from the pump. This was the kind of calm only present at the sea and in the wee hours of the morning when the world was asleep. A delivery was to be made that morning. I whipped out a new dhoti and slapped my chappals to get the dust off. A cloud of dust rose up, making me wheeze and cough, and a new layer of dust settled onto the white surface of the cloth. Cursing, I tipped the hot contents of a cup to my mouth and swallowed. So, with a ruined dhoti, close-to-destruction chappals and a severely burnt tongue, I ambled towards the endless fields to get started on yet another day. * For miles, I had been the only one on the road. But once within the walls of the city, in an instant, I was lost in the crowds. Amongst the over-zealous salesmen who cried out, “Bhai! One cup of tea at least. On me!”, amongst the zigzag of cars, scooters, rickshaws and pedestrians, amongst the vendors with their spectacular displays of fruit, mehendi patterns, baskets, sweets—who was I but a mere illiterate villager caught in a storm of the unfamiliar? I fought my way through the markets to Old China Bazaar Street and the company warehouse. The building was an old British post office but nothing about it seemed foreign. It had blended in so well behind mangled telephone wires and the plastic colored board—Aparna’s Fabulous Fabrics, Chetan Garments— that it now seemed to form a part of the natural Kolkata skyline. It was blackened heavily in some areas, and paan spit-marks covered the walls so extensively that it seemed like they were the bloody reminders of a war fought long ago. “Aarif! Come in, come in,” smiled Joshi, waving a hand absently into his air-conditioned office. “Namoskar Joshi Ji. I was just bringing in some supplies from Basu. I was wondering if your men could…”

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spring 2010 “Haan haan Aarif, that’s all fine but how’s the situation back home? I mean with all the fiasco this morning and everything?” I raised my hand to my forehead. I had been in the sun too long. “Ki Sahib?” He raised his eyebrows and looked down at me, his glasses at the tip of his nose. I suddenly recalled an image of my old school masterji, peering down at us ignorant fools and clucking his tongue in disapproval. “Oh good lord son, surely you have heard about what’s going on in Nandigram?” He swiftly turned, his kurta whipping behind him, and switched on the small tv. We sat side-by-side, peering up at the grainy black and white image, straining our eyes and ears. “News has just reached the station that the police continue to proceed with evictions at Nandigram despite recent controversies over the establishment of a new Special Economic Zone in the area. Even as Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattachariya defends his government, claiming the men were unarmed, contrary statements are coming in from Nandigram informing us that evictions are being conducted in a forced and violent manner. Opposition members have strongly criticized the move, calling it ‘unjustified and barbaric.’” I stared at the reporter, her lips forming words that were changing my life even as I sat there. I felt a hand on my shoulder as Joshi Ji peered at me inquiringly, but I shrugged it off and stumbled out of the office and into my cart, cycling home as fast as I could. * Salle bahenchods, they had destroyed the place. My door balanced precariously on a hinge, its screws loosening under the weight. My belongings were thrown onto the street. Beside his broken hut, my neighbor Santosh Kaka sat on his haunches, his face buried deep into his arms. When I approached him, he looked up and said in a barely audible whisper, “I didn’t even have anything and I feel like I’ve lost my entire world. The bastards rounded us up like cows. Where are we supposed to go?” There was a tear sitting in the corner of his eye. He brushed it away hastily and, with that, he buried his head into his arms once again. With a heavy heart I walked to the chai-wallah where some of the villagers were seated. They were in the middle of a heated debate. “…Salle, let’s see what they can do. They can’t get away with this bullshit. They just come here one day and demand we leave. It’s our land.” “Who says it’s our land? The government decides whose land it is. You produce one paper to claim it’s yours…they’ll produce ten. Or they won’t even produce a paper. By the time you take it to court, twenty years will pass us by.” “Are you saying that we just leave? To that ‘refugee’ camp they told us to go to? If I wanted to be a refugee, I would

have gone to Bangladesh.” There was a man sipping chai in the corner, his ears pricking up every so often. He seemed to be a babu-sort. His dhoti was clean and starched, his fingernails were trimmed, and he had the gentleness of a person who had never worked a day of hard labor. “We should write a letter. To the Chief Minister. To the District Commissioner. Who is the District Commissioner?” Slowly, the man got up as if it were a severe strain on his body. He opened and closed his mouth and raised a finger in thought. He looked extremely sorry to have to enlighten us fools. “Bhaiyon and behno. I’m afraid you’re not quite grasping the severity of the situation. The government is not going to pay attention to any letter. This is the gift of democracy— masking injustice with an air of civility by leaving notes on our doors. This government says it’s Marxist, that it works for the common man, for you. But here they are, throwing you out on the streets and cutting deals with the wealthy. They want to put up an sez here. Salle, they’re inviting the British back—to take our rightful resources and dictate where we live and what we do. And meanwhile, they’ll send you to some basti to live out the rest of your days.” Cries lifted up in the air as the sun started to settle. “They’ll be back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that until you all have no choice but to leave. They’ll point their guns and do what they please. You think a letter will solve anything?” More cries. “What’s your plan then?” I shouted out. “Should we just stand here and wait for them to steal our lives away?” “God forbid, my child. We must stand up! We are the flesh and bones of this country. We must protect our women and our children and our land. We must fight. Let them try to destroy our spirits. They shall not be destroyed. Let them throw stones at us. We will throw stones back.” With this he sat down, and the crowd stood up hooting and clapping. I felt the blood pump through my veins as I prepared myself. * There was nothing peaceful about the sunrise that morning. The men gathered, bringing with them ploughs, scythes, spades and whatever else they could get their hands on. We stood on the road that led to the city and looked down to where it met the horizon. There were thirty of us, yet none of us had the courage to start what we had so assertively set out to do. We looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes until finally a man broke away from the pack. There was a hole in his wife-beater and his limp dhoti dangled loosely around his ankles. Despite his appearance, the crowd parted instantly to make way for him, their heads bowed in respect and awe. Poised with his weapon mid-air, his blood-shot eyes darting back and forth between us and the city, he finally

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VISIONS

Grace Hyun Jin Yoo ’10 Acetate and Fabric (Installation)

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spring 2010 brought his spade crashing down. As the surface broke, another man joined him, their arms swinging in unison, their muscles throbbing with the impact. And one by one, we spread ourselves along the road and destroyed every inch. By the end of the week, there was no road leading to Nandigram that had not been completely destroyed. Everything to and from the city stopped. We had carved ourselves our very own piece of land. * I stopped my driving. Instead, I worked with Roy on his farm, my payment being food at the end of the day. Roy was a cheating bastard and stingy with his liberties. His wife though, ki item! I watched her as she rolled her chapattis, the bangles on her hand sliding back and forth and her breasts moving up and down in perfect unison. What beautiful breasts. I broke a piece of my chapatti, munching and staring. Suddenly, a crack whipped through the night and she looked up, catching me. “Ae Ram, what in the world was that?” said Roy. We could now hear faint cries in the distance. Leaving our food half-eaten, we ran into the night, the sound of our chappals slapping hard against the ground drowned out by the commotion we were running towards. The first thing we saw was the scene of two sides facing each other on either side of the bridge. On one side stood the police, armed with guns and shields, and on the other side, the villagers, stones in hand. There was a crowd in the middle, and visible through a slight parting of the horde was a boy on the ground. He seemed frail and limp, but it only struck me that he had been shot when I saw the dark, red pool that had collected under his torso. Several people had formed a protective ring around him as a woman ripped off the pallah of her sari and wrapped it around his wound. The village crowd behind them moved back and forth, hissing at the police. A policeman behind the crowd raised his lathi and struck a man. A ripple effect occurred as the people quickly scattered away from the point of impact, breaking the ring that had been the only buffer between the khaki-clothed men and the boy. Only the woman stayed, attempting to pick the boy up and drag him away. Without thought, the policeman struck her on the head and she fell to the ground, the blood running into her eyes and under her head. The only sound remaining was the woman’s quiet whimper. A hush had fallen over the crowd as they watched the two people from a safe distance. The devil dressed in khaki had retreated, ashamed, but it wasn’t until the last of them left that some men dared to approach the two. Quickly assembling makeshift stretchers out of bamboo and saris, they lifted the woman and boy high above their heads. * For days after the incident, I dreamt of walking to the center of the bridge, taking the lathi from the policeman’s

hands and bringing it down on his head, again and again and again. But even after a month had gone by, our dreams remained mere dreams, a dormant deep-seated anger on the brink of awakening. Our crops were going bad and our food was running low, but all anybody could do was sit and stare while the town fell to pieces. There were a few people who had left without a trace. Some said they had gone to the city, some said they had been taken away by the government, but nobody really knew. * Konkana Mausi worked as a caretaker for a big man just outside the town. Every morning she hobbled down the road to the fancy house and returned before sunset, always bringing something back with her. It could have been an old cricket ball the kids had stopped playing with, old clothes the madam had stopped wearing, or a few odd onions and potatoes. But now she brought news. Every day she came back with a newspaper tucked under her arm and we gathered around the chai-wallah as the children recited the words, pronouncing each sound carefully as they digested the words they did not understand. Slapped on the front page of the newspapers were policemen in full gear climbing into their vans, smiling and saluting the cameras. The headline read, “Nandigram Nightmare Continues for cpi(m).” “Police continue to enter the Nandigram area in hopes of settling the controversy over land acquisition. The government is under heavy fire from human rights activists who yesterday released a statement saying, ‘We deplore the recent attack on the cpm office at Nandigram, but deplore even more strongly the use of armed elements against the villagers, already at the cost of several lives.’ The Chief Minister responded, saying, ‘I’m particularly eager to persuade these intellectuals about the policy of the government. You must try to understand that I can’t just allow these Naxalists to change the government. The state must move from an agricultural economy to an industrial one; that is my belief as a Marxist.’ When asked what the government would do if the people were not convinced, the cm declined to comment.” Naxalites—nobody liked to talk about the time of the Naxalites. When they did, it was hushed in barely audible whispers within closed circles. They called it the Lal Upradi— the Red Terror. Several years ago, a man had gone missing suspiciously, immediately following a public confrontation with his landowner. Before anybody knew what had happened, a riot had broken out. Naxalites and supporters retaliated against the area’s landowners, advocating the destruction of the class and dragging people out of their homes and shooting them. The Naxalites thrived and prospered, taking over the rich man’s land until one day it all came crashing down on them. When the government struck back, they ensured that everyone involved had been permanently subdued. Everywhere people disappeared—some said they had been

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VISIONS

Mother and Child Megan Chiu ’10 Digital Photography

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spring 2010 gotten rid of, some said they had retreated into the forests. I combed through my memories, through the bits of information I had pieced together. The Lal Upradi was here again. * It was around noon when the police started trooping in. They couldn’t bring their Jeeps and vans but they made up for it in numbers. They marched through the fields, trampling the crops. Our people had slowly gathered under the big Neem tree, staring suspiciously. An officer stepped out with a loudspeaker, clearing his throat into it and sending feedback reverberating through the town. He moved it away and once again put it to his mouth. “Bhaiyon aur Behno. We have orders to clear this land as part of the land acquisition for the sez.” An uproar. Somebody threw a stone. “Oi! Watch it! We are here on government orders and the move has been approved by the Development Authority. Any attempt to resist will be subdued. I recommend you all pack your bags and leave. We want to keep this clean and simple. You may make your claims for compensation at…” A stone struck the officer. He growled. The calm had broken. The police fired into the air. Smoke spread in all directions, making it hard to breathe or see what was going on. Tear gas. Coughing, I wrapped my turban cloth around my face and picked up a stone. “Get lost you bastards!” I flung it into the air. “Harram Zado, you think you can take our land?” Another stone flew. Soon there were as many stones in the air as arrows in the Mahabharata. Even as the police expelled more shells, the crowd only dispersed briefly, coming back together again, hissing louder and angrier, like a hive of bees that had been provoked. Suddenly a man at the front fell to his knees. We had stones but they had guns. And even as we hurled harder, deep within our hearts we realized we had no chance. “Send the women to the front. They won’t shoot women!” The man next to me fell. I turned towards the bushes and caught a flash of metal. A man rose up and fired again. He marked people with his eyes and, an instant later, pulled the trigger. I held my ground, shocked into immobility until a strong hand pushed me away. The man continued to fire as he retreated back to the police lines. * The town medical center consisted of one doctor and three nurses. On their busiest days they handled one or two farming injuries or a birth. So when the injured came up by the dozens, the clinic had neither the ability nor the resources to address the influx. While the doctor busied him-

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self with bullet wounds and broken bones, the nurses flitted in and out, shouting across the room. Within the first hour, they were out of cotton wool and disinfectant. Since it was impossible to send supplies to the town through the broken roads, there was no hope of getting them before early morning the next day. I quickly resolved to head to the city myself, scraping together all the money I could. Soon there was little light left in the sky and I blindly navigated my cart through the empty spaces between gutted streets and fields. * It was as if nothing had happened. Mithoi-wallahs gloated amongst their boxes of sweets, folding their hands together and thanking their good luck. Women ran their hands over the multi-colored arrays of glass bangles on offer. I couldn’t tell if they didn’t know or simply didn’t care. What if I left? It was not like I had anything to stay back for. The police, the Naxalites, whoever they were, they would come back and we would resist. We would resist and we would fail. There was no way to end the fighting without complete destruction and humiliation on our part. We were a people who were lost in a country of millions, scapegoats in the politics of democracy and the race to succeed. Nobody would remember us. If we truly believed in the cause of industrialization, if we were willing to leave our homes to it, to sacrifice all that was familiar to us, would we be remembered? We would be reduced to a mere headline in the city newspaper, looked at for one morning and thrown in the trash the next. The money knotted in my kurta swung against my leg, every second reminding me of what I was about to do— warning me, pleading with me. I ignored it and drove on towards the Howrah Station. Carefully parking my cart, I sat on it for a while longer, my fingers fitting perfectly into the shape of the handle. I put my thumb on the bell lever blackened by the years of contact. I could not bring myself to get out. I ran my hand across the golden tinsel that hung down from the sides and looked up at the night sky. The fog of the city had dampened out the stars but in the distance the city skyline glowed in a warm, sepia light, reminding me of the town that lay not far away from here. A cab driver was now honking at me to get out of the way, glaring his headlights into my eyes. I unhurriedly climbed out of my cart and turned my back on it. Then, with a sudden swiftness, I walked away and into the station. There was nothing I had to look back for.

avnee jetley ’12 is chicken tikka masala.


VISIONS

there is by Amy LaCount

there is infinite space between the curl of my lip, chapped with serenity and the linger of my toes, dipped in broken logic   (my voice falters as the exit sign disappears) the tachycardic rhythm of my shattering bones so i exhale, all big, like at the doctor’s and dive into the antimatter.

amy lacount ’13 is a freak bitch, baby.

Harmony Larene Woo ’10 Ebonized Walnut

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spring 2010

Globalization Annie Wu ’13 Pastel

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VISIONS

Untitled by Nara Shin extreme hot temperature: Cell phones will explode, reads the sign taped to the outside of the bulgama. Aged women lounge around the white-orange clay furnaces, sneaking looks at the commotion I am causing. My dad, his crimson face dripping like a sponge, carries me into the closest igloo-shaped sweat lodge and lowers my flailing body onto a wooden block. The hot, heavy air smothers my screams and my kicking legs turn to rubber—I cannot fight back. “Now, once you start sweating, the sweat comes out very easily. Sweat holds salt and all those bad things, and your body needs to get rid of it.” He sighs and pats my head. “The things I do for you.” My father is very concerned about our family’s well-being. Speckled rocks and stumps of black charcoal inhabit our water cooler, twice-filtering our already “alkalized” water. My childhood is tainted with memories of nightly ear acupuncture, sessions of buhang (having “bad” blood drawn out through needles and suction cups), and facing ridicule for wearing chunky gold chains to school that supposedly “balanced the ions” of my body. I cringe when my father comes back from trips—his idea of a souvenir is whatever miracle health supplement the locals have convinced him to buy. His most recent trip to Canada added royal jelly powder and capsules of shark cartilage to our already-crammed medicine cabinet.

“Dear, why isn’t our daughter sweating?” he asks my mother. He taps my left arm and frowns at his fingers, feeling no moisture. It may be because, as soon as he left his guard post to go to the bathroom, I dashed out of the clay dungeon, gasping for the piercing, cool air. For years I’ve waged an underground war against my father’s conviction that his way is better than the logical, scientifically proven, even legal way. I flushed the muddy herbal concoctions down the toilet and hid the bottles of dandelion pellets, which looked and smelled like dried hamster droppings, and claimed that this was child abuse. My dad, on the other hand, continues to believe that there is a creature somewhere out there that secretes a cure for perpetual health. I tell him that humans have already accomplished that: it is called gnc. All of this did not help strengthen my faith in him as a pastor. While the congregation revered the ground he walked on, to me, he was the man who told me I couldn’t date until I was twenty-five and had shouting matches with my mother, which he rarely ever won. I didn’t need any more reasons to ignore him. I couldn’t even argue with him because God was always on his side. Why couldn’t he ever take “no” for an answer? I buried my face inside my hands when he argued with a policeman that the reason he was going twenty-seven miles over the speed limit was because “we were late for Sunday service.” And although I said I would not step onto that airplane if he did so, he tucked six hams into our family’s suitcases when we flew from Korea to Los Angeles.

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My eyes travel to his right hand, clothed by a large, pinkishwhite burn. When I was little, my mother worked overtime regularly at the hospital while my dad studied for his degree by day and cleaned office cubicles by night. But, when I was awake, my dad was the one who bathed me, fed me, and bought gym socks for my teachers at the end of the school year (because he thought that all Americans did that). He had burned himself after spilling hot vegetable oil while making breakfast for his three little daughters. With every awkward brush of my hair, his scarred hands taught me the rationality of faith and the beauty of believing in something with the utmost dedication. This represents the greatest difference between us. Here I am, residing in a haze of hesitation and stagnation. I have no certain views. I find it easier to just go along with what people say and keep my snappy comebacks to myself, writing them down in my cell phone. And I find this kind of skepticism about life weak. I grew up trying to understand my dad. My mom always scolded and pushed, but my dad just believed. 200% Passion is the handmade sign he hangs on his office door. Behind it, he sits at his desk, often fasting for 40 days at a time to revive the spirit of his congregation and emailing me John Milton poems or a video clip of the U.S. Navy SEALs’ training in Florida (“Just look at that log they are rolling over their shoulders!”). He somehow still has enough strength at the end of his 18-hour workday to give me an essential “life-saving” lesson in self-defense (“Never trust boys. Boys only want one thing. Here is a weak spot, two fingers here”). And now, I find this passionate approach to life attractive, in a crazy, illogical way. I drink my third bottle of water to rehydrate myself after the sauna fiasco, situating myself as far as possible from anything that produces heat. I choke at the sight of my dad, who looks like he is sucking on a large piece of candy, a result of stinging his head with bees freshly caught by the creek (“Their poison kills all the bad things in your body. Bees are nature’s penicillin”). Though I won’t let him come near me whenever he holds tweezers in one hand and his box of bees in the other, I entertain whatever new philosophical idea or advice he gives, because you know what? I’ve been pretty healthy my whole life. “Nara!” Glasses perched on nose, highlighter in swollen mouth, my dad, lounging under the shade, waves for me to come over. He shows me the book he’s reading—100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World, by John Tirman. “Look here! Look how America is such a bad country. So, you have to go and fix it!” Okay, Dad. I will. *This nonfiction piece takes place in Seoul, Korea and is 100% true. nara shin ’13 has a whole other story about her mom.


spring 2010

Refrigerators by Serena Putterman

When I feel broken with missing you, my father makes me watch clips of ukulele performances until I cry. I think he doesn’t understand, but then he tries a different approach.   On a piece of paper he draws a rectangle:       This is Helen Hadley Hall. It’s where I met your mom. Smaller rectangles:       This is my room. And here’s Peter Browning’s room.       And here’s her room. I used to walk       on this       dotted line       to knock on her door.         This big square is the kitchen. There were two       refrigerators, but we both kept our food in this one,       even though it was further from her room.       I had never seen tofu before.   The smallest square yet is a phone booth:        I would overhear her making calls to your grandmother.       She would yell into the phone, Mama! It’s Yue Mei!       Just like she does now.   So while you are oceans away, my dear I will keep this drawing on my wall And remember there was a time before my father ate tofu every single evening. And hope that maybe years from now I will draw pictures of the places you and I have  shared refrigerators.

serena putterman ’12 is Asian because violent Zionists make her blood boil.

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VISIONS

小白菜 Stephanie Teo ’12 Mixed Media

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spring 2010

“I want to tell you how it is” by Ayoosh Pareek

Drops of anger fill me A faucet dripping into a bucket with a fragile foundation And one more drop I might just break Spilling Everything.

My heart is like a painter’s Brush. Moving on canvas Swiftly Yet precisely. Sometimes it splatters Paint All over. It has just begun To paint And There is time to learn. Because It is you it wants to paint, Not Amber reds Nor  Amethyst Blues.

My arms are like branches Unintentionally Growing towards you, The sunlight, By instinct. And if you stop and give your rays to Someone else Then I might  Just Stop living. My body is like a planet Gravitating And Accelerating Towards your molten core Every second  Per second. Me and you are like Einstein’s theory Of relativity. We are relative Like water and thirst Like food and hunger

ayoosh pareek ’12 is living in epiphanies and spaces between cupboard racks (to E.Y.).

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VISIONS

Deidades Vaporosas (Rupture) Camilo Cadena ’12 Oil and Spray Paint on Canvas

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spring 2010

Woman Hugs Child by Masumi Hayashi-Smith Morning light plays on her body like a tender lover she rolls over and holds on to child—a small sleeping anchor to the world of dreams. Mother and child, it could be. One of your own, it could almost be. One of your own, they say she is.

Woman, for an instant, holds child to her chest. Woman belongs to the majority. Child belongs to the minority. (“not majority and minority” they say, “they are one/the same”). But in the embrace, they are a single instant of connection.

What if only having a heart that beats was enough?

Their hearts beat together. Is that enough?

Then the wise man who lies dying hundreds of thousands of times would finally close his eyes to open them again as hundreds of thousands of raindrops quietly falling into the open mouths of youth. Mouths that sing that share their thoughts without fear mouths that belong to a collective body that is one, not the same. One. Not the same.

Enough to prove that the child too deserves equal protection? Enough to inspire her to read a controversial book? Enough to urge her to learn a new language? Enough to change the way she votes? Woman hugs child An instant of beautifully casual tenderness. And when the day erupts into the battlefield of life Will she look back at that somnambulatory encounter as something that made her a part of something larger? One of your own, they say she is. One of your own, we all are. masumi hayashi-smith ’10 breathes in the entire universe.

California Roll Annie Wu ’13 Digital Photography

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VISIONS

Early Spring in Arboretum Zhong Gao ’11 35mm Film

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spring 2010

I Jing Xu ’10 Acrylic

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VISIONS

Honorary Asian by Abe Pressman He was almost a foot taller than I, and he spoke fluent Chinese, along with three other languages. “I was talking to the other guys,” he told me, “and we’ve decided that you’re an Honorary Asian.” It was the summer before I started high school, and I was at an education program for science nerds. Being white, I was in a minority that represented maybe one-fifth of the camp. The kids I had fallen in with were all of East Asian descent, all a year or two older than I was, and could all solve a Rubik’s cube in less than two minutes. We threw math puzzles at each other and talked about our academic interests and the science we would be doing one day. Were they my friends? Maybe…to be honest, though, I wasn’t good at making friends back then, and I have since fallen out of touch with everyone. The first weekend, our counselor took us on a trip to Albertson’s, the nearest grocery store, where we could stock up on junk food, magazines, etc. I, ever the health-food enthusiast, bought half a dozen Asian pears and a bag of fresh vegetables, which I kept in a dresser drawer that I had converted into an evaporation-based refrigeration unit. The next day, someone saw me eating a raw scallion, and remarked that it was exactly the kind of thing his (Chinese) grandfather always did. The comment received laughter and nods. A few days later, I was at a meditation activity, when the meditation tape our counselors were using broke down. After a few seconds of “uh-oh” on the counselors’ end, I asked if I could help, and spent the next half-hour leading the group through a series of Tibetan meditation practices I knew. This came naturally to me; earlier that year, I had spent a few days meditating at a Zen monastery in Japan. I was never fluent in Japanese, but I could translate the language decently, and I had played more untranslated Japanese video games than anyone else I knew. Sometimes, I quoted Buddhist proverbs (although I would also quote Plato). I ate tofu, drank green tea, and loved mochi; I kept my room clean and tidy, did Yoga every morning, saved money wherever I could, and followed the safety guidelines on everything. More than anything else, I was really, really good at math. So what did it mean to be an “Honorary Asian?” I wasn’t sure. To the others, the “real Asians” (all of whom, of course, had been born in America), it was probably a bit of a group joke, a sort of “ha ha, this skinny Jewish kid fits our stereo-

type even more than we do.” To me, it was initially a source of pride that I was cool enough to be part of this “I’m proud of my Asian heritage” club. My personal joke was, “I’m half Russian, and two-thirds of Russia is in Asia, so I’m one-third Asian.” What, exactly, did I identify myself as back in those days? I don’t completely remember, but it has made me wonder if race is something one chooses to identify with, or something that is imposed. As time went on, I began to see problems with the whole “Honorary Asian” concept. There is something uncomfortable to me about taking pride in a stereotype of one’s own group; no matter how positive that stereotype is it’s still a self-judgment and forced definition. But I was going one step further: I was taking pride in a stereotype of someone else’s group—one I did not belong to—and I would always be a bit of an outsider. This begged a question: was calling myself an “Honorary Asian” an essentially racist generalization? When I started high school later that year, and told people that I had been declared an “Honorary Asian,” I was met with blank stares and occasional derision; I quickly dropped the idea and never really brought it up again. I was impinging on something that did not belong to me; without context, it was pretentious and insulting. And that was the end of that. It is still a little difficult to think back on that summer—I don’t know whether to feel proud that I was an “Honorary Asian” for two weeks, or to feel ashamed at this same pride and the subtle, unthinking stereotyping and normative attitude behind it. Earlier this year, at the Brown Taiwan Society’s Night Market, I encountered a poster bearing a line numbered from 1 to 10 and words along the lines of, “With 1 being completely American, and 10 being completely Asian, where would you consider yourself to lie between these?” I was pretty sure the question wasn’t intended for every visitor at the event, or at least not for people like me, who had no Asian heritage at all. I took a pin out of the box anyway, and pushed it in at 4. abe pressman ’12 still can’t get the hang of chopsticks.

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spring 2010

White Lace Kristie Huey ’12 Digital Photography

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VISIONS

Eskimo Baby by Eleanor Kim There are so many things I hate about this city but I will never leave it. The heartbeat that jolts me awake when we hit the freeway and I can see the growing white and the fading red of taillights and I know I’ve fallen asleep and he is driving there next to me and I am afraid to breathe in the air that is his and I am wondering if he knows I’ve been sleeping this whole time. The unpleasantness of adrenaline stings my blood, soaking through my paper skin, and suddenly, I am awake. I hate the smell of coffee, I know he takes his black, that he is too serious for cream and sugar. I hate the glowing pillars of the airport. I know he will make me drive there alone to pick him up when he returns. He will stroke my hair, and I will close my eyes and tell myself that the blatting eighteen-wheelers and the crude drivers and the noxious emotion they all release, the way this city sprawls, that all of this was worth it, to be his pet, his darling eskimo baby. I hate this apartment by the beach, the one he tells me costs so many dollars each month. The glass and metal heat up against my skin until I cannot read by the windows but the whole house is made of windows and glass and metal and I cannot read. And then, I go outside and the grit between my toes is not really sand and there is too much space between my toes and my nails for the hidden pockets of melted tar underneath. So I walk to the car and hold my breath for eight hours and drive to the desert where I can finally breathe in the cold, dry, star-ful air. I lean my head back so my field of vision holds nothing but the sky and I hold up my palms to block out the moon because it will remind me of his pale angry face, waiting for when I decide to go back. I will try to keep quiet as I sneak back in but I know he will be waiting for the sound of my tar-covered feet sticking to the shoes his mother sent me from another country because she wants me to walk. It’s good for the baby, she writes. The white-washed wood of the kitchen floor will betray me, revenge for the time I sat there, letting my seasalt tears sink into it and knowing that if I sat there long enough, the floor would warp with my inner waters. That if I sat there long enough, I could change and move and bend the insolubility of that apartment by the beach. The blackness of his eyebrows against the whiteness of his moonlit face will shock me for a second even though I am expecting it and the worst. I think he will yell at me though he never does and the water inside me shivers, anticipating the droplets that will form and break my surface. And I will be surprised when he drops to his knees and buries his face in the flatness of my abdomen, for his tears

are too watery to ever bend the floor but they will bend me because I am not as strong or as hard as the white-washed wood and I can do nothing when he cries. I will stroke his black hair with my too-thin fingers and he will look up at me with a watery smile, and he will open his suitcase full of presents and apologies because although he never yells at me, sometimes he does yell. And he will give me another coat, furred hood, that I will wear once for his pleasure and for the memories from when we met with the snow on my lashes that were too long for my furred hood back then. Later I will hide the coat in the closet with the others because they, like me, are useless in this city. He will dress me in satin, long and slit to show off the back of my knees and the bones of my spine. He will cover me with cold-wet diamonds that irritate my skin. Then he will take me out to dinner on the roof of a hotel that overlooks this city I hate. He will order for me, everything cold and everything raw. We will drink coffee black, and I’ll try not to wince as the sudden sting of caffeine hums into the back of my throat. We will destroy the beautiful architecture of a tiramisu with tiny forks because it is his favorite. On the drive back, I will feel the growing warmth in the hand he keeps on the back of my knee, the one that started with a glass of Riesling, a sip of Eiswein for me. It’s not good for the baby, his mother writes. I will listen to the fluttering drone of the air dying to escape the car the way I fight for a breath or a pause or a fermata poised in the silence of a snow that will never fall in this too-warm city. Just a moment for myself, I plead to the sky, because my life here has been full of moments when I am alone but I seem to lack those moments for myself. When we get home, he will undress me of cold-wet diamonds and cover me with cold-wet kisses instead while I wish for a good book and a thick bathrobe and the comforts of pumpkin soup to steam away the wrinkles in my irises, the floaters in my sky. I will feel his body fill with the desire to fill mine. Then I will turn over and show him the bones of my spine, knotted with a quiet rejection to his brand of desire. But while he sleeps I will kiss his closed eyelids and sigh. I will write back to his mother, assure her I still shop for miniature shoes. I will walk to the kitchen, bare feet and hands touching the wood and glass and metal and windows, and I will make him coffee, its blackness stinging my nose. Because there are so many things I hate about him but I will never leave him.

eleanor kim ’11 likes eggplants and misses home.

49


spring 2010

E-Board Bios susie ahn ’13 likes getting lost in the in betweens. lydia cheng ’13 enjoys a poem with a peanut butter sandwich in her studio. melanie chow ’11 misses pulpo, bacalao, the Guadalquivir, Aldi, overnight bus rides, and her backpack. stella chung ’13 enjoys sipping tea and daydreaming. jiwon kim ’12 ... yue pang ’11 lets it burn, my way, as you’ll always be my baby. ayoosh pareek ’12 finds inspiration between the cracks on the sidewalk. wendy sekimura ’11 is taking it one dawn at a time. panpan song ’12 will give you this confession: alex toyoshima ’11 is on the up and up. vivian truong ’12 is finding that strength. margaret yi ’12 hopes to own a farm someday.

50


spring 2010

Invisible Forces Yunji Shin ’10 Mixed Media

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VISIONS

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SPRING 2010  

Brown and RISD's Asian-Asian/American Literary and Art Magazine

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