Had a long day at work, so I'm pulling from a back-up stash of entries for when I just don't have the time.

I mentioned before that I have a very complex self identity.  Part of that was all the moving around while growing up, but another part was that initial move.  Since I was only three and a half when I immigrated from China, I could be first or second generation American, depending on how you want to look at it.  That is probably why I always called myself the 1.5 generation (not knowing that it is actually a recognized term!).

I could be first generation if you feel that anyone who personally immigrated is the first generation, or the children of those immigrants are the first generation.  I could be second generation if you feel that the children of the immigrants are the second generation.  However, children of immigrants are typically assumed to be born in the US rather than brought over at a young age.  So, I don't fit very neatly into any of the more traditional ways of viewing immigrant generations.  It's all very confusing.

I always grew up thinking that first generation meant that you were the first to enter the country.  However, that would put my parents and I on an even field, which didn't make sense.  Hence, the one and a half generation - because I was born abroad, but grew up here.  There are plenty of others who did the same and they may be equally confused as to what generation they are considered.

So I never knew if I was an immigrant because I had an alien card or if I was American because I became a naturalized citizen?  Well, as it turns out, these things never have easy answers and I just accept being a little of both.  Neither one really, yet both at the same time.  This is how I imagine it would be to be a biracial or multiracial person.  You are at once all of your parts, but none of them individually, and the sum of your parts does not equal an even whole, but more than that, with the interaction of the parts.

Rather than be confused or upset by this, I find it rather amusing and fun.  It certainly makes for a lively conversation if the topic comes up.  Self identity is such a complex issue; it can't really be simple for anyone.  So, I like to think of its nuances from time to time, but I never really worry myself about it.  We've all got to find our way in life and this is only part of the discovery.  Then there's figuring out what we to define our lives by, in terms of our hobbies, abilities, lifestyle, and occupation.

This issue is only the tip of the iceberg!  There's a lot we can identify ourselves with, which changes over time too.  So you know what, I'm not about to have an identity crisis.  It's cool.  Who am I?  Well, you'll just have to see.

 
 

I am not sure how it happened, but 8Asians started to follow me on Twitter!  When I was notified of this, it got me to go back to their site to read some of their entries.  I eventually came across an article about teaching your kid Chinese, as a response to an article that the author had read about the decision to not teach your kid Chinese.  It was interesting to see the perspectives on this issue, being one who went through years of Chinese school.  Though I hated getting up on Sunday mornings to go learn, the extra homework that inevitably came with extra schooling, and the difficulty of learning the characters, it is something that I am tremendously grateful for.

So I, for one, lie on the side preferring bilingualism.  I grew up speaking Mandarin at home and English at school.  Any notion that children will get "confused" learning two languages simultaneously is absolutely absurd.  I've never had a problem with that, not even accidentally saying a single word in the wrong language.  Some people seem to have it in their minds that integrating two languages into learning is conflicting, but it certainly is not.  That's the beauty of a young mind.  It can pick up on so much so effortlessly (or at least so it seems).

As I read through comments to those posts, I started to think: it's not just about the communication aspect.  Being bilingual (or multilingual) opens the doors to be bicultural.  And to be multicultural is to understand.  That is not something that can be learned very easily either.  Though plenty of people in their adult lives can move elsewhere and adopt their new culture, a lot of the old culture still remains at odds with the new one.  It's not easy to balance the differing views.  Growing up learning to mesh them, however, could give you a worldly view on things.

Plus, from a practical point of view, if you want to stay in touch with your family abroad and allow everyone in your family to understand each other, it's an important skill to have.  Otherwise, you will end up having to translate (or be translated for) at family gatherings.  I have always prided myself in my Mandarin fluency - it allows me to get around as I need to when I am visiting the country and it allows me to interact with my relatives without needing my parents to translate.  Just by knowing the language, I feel so much more connected to the culture too, since so much of it has historical and cultural roots.

I think the older generations also respect you more if you know the language(s) of your heritage.  So many of them shake their heads and mutter to themselves when they hear of other children who don't know the language or can barely get by with it.  For me, however, they are either proud that I can speak to them or holding back from their mutterings because they know I'd understand what they're saying.  It gives you so much more freedom.

Now I can understand parents who may want to wait for their child to start learning another language (like the lady in the article mentioned above, about not teaching your kid Chinese).  For the first few years, it will be relatively easy for them to pick up on the language, so there's no need to throw them into lessons when they're still learning to walk.  This is especially true for people who may not be native speakers themselves, since there isn't much they could teach the child.  However, I do think that anyone of a heritage growing up in a culture other than the one they were born to should start learning the language sometime in elementary school.

I certainly want any of my future offspring to be bilingual, if not multilingual.

 
 

This is a thought that comes up periodically in my life.  It's not that I'm a nomad, but I have no true hometown to speak of.  I am not really "native" to anywhere.  Though I was born in China, I grew up in the United States.  Does that make me "native American" (as opposed to Native American)?  I don't feel so.  Then do I feel Chinese?  Not enough, especially when I go back to visit and the very way I look and hold myself gives me away immediately.  Plus, my way of thought is greatly influenced by the American culture.

Being Chinese-American has always posed a slight problem for my identity.  I am equally both?  More one or the other?  I didn't grow up questioning this, but it's always tricky to answer that inevitable question: "So, where are you from?"  Where am I from originally?  Where am I from now?  Where is my parents' home?  It's complicated, so I usually try to answer with whatever it seems they were looking for.  But really, what am I?

I lived in China for three and a half years (split between Shenyang and Jieshou), Pennsylvania for two years, Kansas for three, back to China for one, Kansas for another one, Missouri for two and a half, New York for three and a half, California for four (split between Valencia for two years and Westwood for the other two), England for one, California for another year and a half, and now Singapore for six months.  So you tell me, which is my hometown?

Even if I were to claim American roots, where do I belong?  The East Coast?  The West Coast?  The Midwest?  I even almost moved to Texas (and would still like to for awhile).

All I know is that England and Singapore are out the running, since they were rather brief stints that didn't occur until adulthood (not that I feel like an adult).  One was for studying abroad and now the other is for working abroad.  Since they are not permanent relocations, it's easy to rule them out.  However, that still leaves the eight major areas I have lived in.

I don't look American because I am Asian.  I don't look Chinese because I have been out of the country for too long.  I don't really fit in to either place like a native would.  I've stayed in places long enough to get to know the area, but not enough to leave a lasting imprint.  Most of my childhood friends would have been lost to me were it not for Facebook.  Yet, even after finding people I knew early on, things have changed so much that we don't even know each other anymore.  Sure, they look similar to what I remember them to be, but watching them mature and go on their own paths... well, that is not something you can really predict from elementary school!

I am quite comfortable with all of this though.  I don't mind being seen as an outsider sometimes.  I still feel at ease where I am and with who I am.  It's just hard to explain to anyone.  I am a melting pot of East meets West, East Coast meets West Coast.  There are so many different factors that shaped my opinions, from my cultural background and upbringing to assimilating into a new culture and traveling the world to experience more.  So if you really want to know where I'm from and how I think, grab a seat, get some tea, and we'll chat...

 
 

What a day!  I left for Kollab around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday and just got back 11 hours later.  It was intense.  From the obscene amount of traffic to get there to getting in early enough for awesome seats (and pit access!), it was quite the adventure.  I even ran into three accidents on the drive down from home (somehow always ending up in the lane where the debris was from the collisions).  Not the best start to the day, but it ended on a very high note.

First, let me explain:  Kollaboration is a sort of concert and talent show all rolled into one, with an after party to boot!  This is their ninth year putting it on in various cities around the country with the mission: Empowerment Through Entertainment.  It's about bringing the Asian community together and promoting the presence of Asian/Pacific Islanders in the media.  Of course, it's not exclusive to only APIs, but it is about awareness and support for the issues surrounding them.  Anyone who believes that APIs deserve to play a larger part in the entertainment field (and really all fields) is more than welcome to come celebrate what has been acheived.

Kollaboration 9 was at the Shrine Auditorium and the after party was held adjacent to it at the Shrine Expo Center.  The night was comprised of seven competitors, six guest performances, five celebrity judges, two freestyle competitions, tons of free giveaways, and a slew of sponsors.  All in the course of three hours.  There were even NINE letters from government officials printed in the program, talking about their support for the show.  (Yes, even Arnie.)

So who all was there?  Well... Kenichi Ebina, Jazmin, Paul Dateh, Kina Grannis, Lilybeth Evardome, Jane Lui, and David Choi competed; BoA, Jo Koy, Kaba Modern, Fanny Pak, Norman Ng, and Team Millennia performed; Printz Board, James Kyson Lee, James Ryu, Welly Yang, and Teddy Zee judged; random volunteers from the audience freestyled; and of course, my lovely AKP brothers and I attended, along with the rest of the sold-out crowd (including Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, MySpace Tom...).

Aren't you jealous?

Well, maybe you aren't.  Maybe you don't really know who these people are.  In fact, the only ones I had known were the Wong Fu guys and Kaba Modern.  David Choi, Kina Grannis, Jane Lui, Jazmin, BoA were very new discoveries that I had just learned about.  Everyone else was new to me.  See, that's the unfortunate situation we are facing (and hopefully eliminating).  How many API performers do you know of?  How many of them are mainstream?  Very, very few.

Jane Lui on the piano, earning her second place.

Kina Grannis at the after party.

Yet, interestingly enough, a lot of popular YouTubers are of some sort of Asian descent.  What happened there?  It seems that having a platform that empowers the individual to make it on their own enables these Asians who are not making it on the big scene to create a following of their own.  Kollaboration is a means of getting those types of artists to the forefront through exposure beyond social media.  Social media is more grassroots whereas Kollaboration is more mainstream.  It can help slowly bridge the gap between online phenomenon and nation-wide star.

As for the rest of the night, there were a lot of entertaining moments throughout, and the performers were great.  David Choi and BoA are really good live and it was wonderful to watch them perform from the pit.  Though it was about six feet deep, I'm really glad I moved there during the intermission so I could see the facial expressions better.  I also had a clear view of the fancy fingerwork that Kaba incorporates into their routine.  My arms did get rather sore and there were times when I started to shake a bit, but it was all worth it in the end.  We were also treated to a sneak preview of another song on BoA's first American album, set to come out next month.

Aww, David Choi was really enjoying himself.

BoA wants to Eat You Up.

When that part of the evening ended, my fraternity brothers and I took a break to get something to eat before heading over to the after party.  I was fortunate enough to come across Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, David Choi, Kina Grannis, and the guy who won the freestyle vocal competition (gosh, what was his name?)*.  And I took pictures with them.  Of course.  ;)  It was sooo exhilarating!  I never run into people that I know from some sort of media outlet.  It's cool to see them in person.

I was catching up with an alum of the fraternity when I came across these people and he took the pictures for me, bemused at my giddiness.  I don't know why I was SO excited (mostly for Phil and David), but it felt awesome.  I have so much respect for them and it's really great to get to meet them in person, even if we just take a picture and I am forgotten.  Phil did ask for my name though when I told him how much I enjoyed his speech at my graduation this summer.  I wouldn't be surprised if he forgot it as soon as he repeated it, but it was a very sweet gesture.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!  I heart Wong Fu (too bad Ted's in NYC).  They're so sweet.  :)

Smiles all around.

Maybe this is why I like low-key "stars" - they don't have some sort of upkeep to make them happy and they really appreciate their fans so much more.  I'm not into the big Hollywood stars and I probably would want pictures, but wouldn't care to really interact with them beyond that.  Part of that is because they probably wouldn't give me the light of day anyway, but part of that is because they've got so many fans they're probably used to that whole lifestyle already.  I'd much rather appreciate those who are more real, living like I am, working in less than ideal situations, but nevertheless pursuing their passions.  Not that there aren't A-list stars who do that, but they just don't interest me.

* turns out that guy is Gabe Bondoc, who is also a bit of a YouTube legend himself.  No wonder he won.  :-P