I spent the last three days on a fossil collecting trip to Nevada, watching mountains of rusted iron fade into sand dunes. The only sign of civilization was the paved road that cut across the great expanse of pebble, dirt, and joshua trees.
While I’ve always been a self-proclaimed “city-person,” attracted to the shiny, glittery exterior of urban lights and flashing neon signs, there was something about watching the sun set while my professor air drummed to Pink Floyd and Tom Petty, and being able to see the sky turn into an explosion of magentas, oranges, and gold, and watching as the rays of sunlight being filtered by looming mountains slowly faded into nothing.
On the first night, we stopped on the side of a freeway exit, and watched as the light from cargo trunks clunking by linger midair and dissipate into the darkness like mist. It was completely silent, and there was nothing but a desert drowned in blackness for miles and miles on end.
And yet, in this vast expanse of nothing, when we looked up above us in the sky, we could see an entire world dotted above us, as if someone had carefully hung each star to tell us a story of the galaxy. And in that moment, I realized that surely, this is what writers and poets must have meant when they said that we are no more than dust—nothing more than a microcosm of the universe.
23 Feb 2014 / 9 notes
J.D. Salinger (Franny and Zooey)
9 Feb 2014 / 12 notes
My parents came to the United States with a suitcase filled with things from their previous lives. They worked two jobs, seven days a week, while studying as full-time students to complete their education. My dad tells me stories about how he waited tables late into the night, while my mom sold shoes at flea markets on her days off to earn spare cash to buy a car. They built the privilege affirmative action says we have from nothing but hard work.
I was given the gift of being able to be born into a family that defined the American Dream. My parents taught me English and Chinese simultaneously, spent hours reading me stories of Snow White and Cinderella, and the Monkey adventures in Journey to the West. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that they had learned English from memorizing vocabulary cards and reading old textbooks on grammar.
And though my parents taught me English, they ask me to deal with scheduling doctor appointments for them; they ask me to proofread emails for them, out of embarrassment that they feel their English isn’t sufficient to be taken seriously, it sickens me when I realize that while their mastery of the English language is more than proficient, it doesn’t matter, because the rest of the world doesn’t care.
But you wish you were Asian.
I grew up, hearing the words of boys whose only “standard” for the girls they were interested in was “Asian,” realizing that the disgustingly scary fetish of Asian women is actually a reality. I grew up, watching the world’s understanding of my cultural heritage be reduced to ching chong’s and ling long’s, kimonos, and fortune cookies. I grew up, being asked if my parents belonged to the communist party, when I held in me the stories they told me of labor camps they were sent to at the age of 13, of how one day, they couldn’t go to school anymore, of how my grandparents tried desperately later on, long after Mao’s regime ended, to force their children, now adults, to eat copious amounts of food, as if to make up for times when there was nothing to eat.
But you want to be Asian.
I live in a country that has yet to realize that yellow face is not appropriate on mainstream television, a world that somehow doesn’t realize that statements like, “Kill the Chinese!!” are not acceptable to be aired on talk shows. I live in the 21st century, where the only understanding I can get about the story behind my heritage comes from my own parents, where the only times I can see people who look like me on screen is on Youtube.
I grew up as an Asian American, an individual in a group of people that never really belonged anywhere. Because in the United States, we’re nothing more than descendants of the people who invented orange chicken, and in China, we’re foreigners who fail to adopt the careful nuance of the dialect spoken there. We grew up, holding our ethnicity as something of great pride, and at the same time, of great burden.
Our representation in the United States government practically is nonexistent. There is no proof that we as a group of human beings existed beyond the pages of Amy Tan novels. The caricatures on television taught us that we were nerds, deficient at English and social skills, bound by our supposed tiger parents to live out their dreams.
And because we apparently don’t exist to the rest of the United States, the inherent racism my “fascinating” ethnicity faces also ceases to exist.
But still. You enjoy your green tea and kungfu movies and paper lanterns. You love your Chinese 1 class and your Japanese Civilizations course and Wang Leehom. And my goodness, what you would give, if only you could be Asian.
30 Jan 2014 / 1,079 notes
Alex Dang - “What Kind of Asian Are You?” (NPS 2013)
"Let me tell you about the struggle of Asian parents not knowing the language, so we ate pet food because it was cheaper."
Performing at the 2013 National Poetry Slam.
I used to write very long year-in-review posts that would clog up everyone’s dashboards, but this year, perhaps it was laziness from post-finals that set in, or the fact that I haven’t legitimately written anything in the past 4 months that I genuinely care about, but all I could do was think about the fact that all I have to show for the 52 weeks is a high school diploma, a GPA for my first quarter in college, and 300-ish emails I’ve exchanged with my best friend.
I also thought about how disappointed I was that Miley Cyrus didn’t come riding down on the crystal ball at midnight, but that’s a different story.
1 Jan 2014 / 4 notes
8 Dec 2013 / 12 notes
My TA for English class is obsessed with homoerrotic themes in all sorts of literature, and my TA for my Music History course is obsessive in his disdain for the use of “is.” So for the last few hours, I’ve been attempting to write a paper on “creative” themes that we haven’t discussed in class, and simultaneously attempting to write another paper without using “is” or “are.”
I am 999% done with this week.
2 Dec 2013 / 8 notes
That awkward moment when you’re course planning for next quarter and you realize the possibility that you will never graduate because nothing fits into your schedule the way it’s supposed to.
13 Nov 2013 / 6 notes
We read a poem by T.S. Eliot last year about how some people spend their entire lives, hunched over, attempting to measure life with coffee spoons, only to die, withered and old, left with nothing but empty dreams.
I suppose some people do spend their entire lives attempting to measure every step they take. They have a plan and Excel spreadsheets filled with colors that tell them which step of the way will come after the next, and they want to force the mass that is life and mold it into their plans.
But me, I don’t care to measure life with coffee spoons, or to attempt to force it into my plans. I want to take a road trip across California and like those horrendously hipster photos that I see across Instagram, stop at scenic locations and feel small compared to the mountains and oceans I stand next to. I want to make a bucket list filled with improbable goals to achieve, and somehow, check off each event. I want to discover new music, write songs, share with the world meaningless words that I throw together in half asleep stupors. I want to dream of foreign countries, explore the different parts of the world, and find new adventures to embark on.
I suppose I am a very stereotypical college student, filled with cliche dreams, driven by the sudden influx of hipster-culture, of hippie vans that roll across dusty roads to a soundtrack provided by Blind Pilot.
And so, I certainly don’t intend to measure my life with coffee spoons. But as I stare at the disgusting amount of pre-requisites and major courses that don’t particularly excite me, and the list of strange, eccentric courses that I would love to take, but don’t fit into my allotted schedule no matter how many 8 am’s I move around, when I think about a prospective career that would potentially provide me the means to actually arrive at those foreign countries and experience different cultures… I realize that no one actually intends to live life by measuring out each drop carefully. No one actually dreams of fulfilling a predestined path of mediocrity.
It just somehow happens.
11 Nov 2013 / 11 notes