Walkabout: Part I

Beads of sweat dripped down my neck as I fought the urge to scratch at the feverish mosquito bites being rubbed raw between the skin of my feet and my tennis shoes. I winced. With my backpack protectively clutched against my chest, I traced the shape of my camera lens and its cap with my fingertips, as if that would somehow protect it from being stolen from the locals keeping a close eye on me. I took a deep breath. Warm evening air hugged the inside of my lungs as I sprawled out on the powdery white sand. Clouds the color of Tang and pink lemonade littered the sky of my fourth Koh Samui sunset in a row. My camera never left my backpack.

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Too White, Too Black and Not Enough Asian

In 2013, an article by National Geographic was published featuring a visual portfolio of what they expected humans to look like by 2050. I remember the awe I felt in the pit of my stomach when I realized that a lot of those future humans — looked like me.

I am “mixed”. White, black, and Asian with a sprinkle of Native American. When I was a little girl with tightly coiled curls and large almond eyes I was called a “mutt” by other kids, and yes, sometimes their parents.

If you’re mixed too, you’ve probably heard a few, if not all, the following:

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The Day I Woke Up a Child and Went to Bed an Adult

I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock. Its blaring noise always made my ears bleed as it screamed at me to start my day. With my eyes half open, I shuffled down the ladder of my wooden bunk bed. I was still in summer mode and not excited for another day of third grade.

My mornings typically went like this:

  • Brush teeth.
  • Make lunch (usually pb&j’s).
  • Get dressed.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Kiss my still-sleeping mom goodbye.

But something different happened that day.

My mom was already awake. I could hear the tv on in her room. It was unusual for her to be up so early as she worked nights. I remember feeling worried. She told me my Yijah (grandma in Thai), who lived in New Jersey, had called her with news — one of the twin towers had been hit by a plane.

My mother and I plopped down in front of the tv as we watched the chaos unfold. It didn’t matter what channel, it was on every channel. I watched people jump out of the flaming towers. I watched the second tower get hit. My mother’s fingers delicately parted and combed my unruly curly hair as we watched hundreds of people die in real time. I don’t think I blinked once. My mom still kept doing my hair. She told me I had to still go to school.

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