The following article is part of a series dedicated towards celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM).
Andrea Aribe, 130 YinD
As of today, the list of places I have resided looks like this:
Connecticut > Rhode Island > Sicily > South Carolina > Guam > Florida > Thailand
Of all those places, where has felt like home? The beautiful island of Guam (or Koh Guam in Thai language).
Guam is a collectivist community; Chamorros, indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, value hospitality and family (and are also obsessed with discussing food and the hot weather).
I never did I take for granted the seven years of my adolescence I spent living in paradise.
Unfortunately, that Pacific Islander part of my identity has felt dismissed in both America and Thailand.
The number of occasions I have explained Guam is a U.S. territory is comparable to the amount of times I have clarified I am not Thai.
Sometimes, these conversations with others end with a lingering sense of disappointment that I am not who they expected.
In Thailand, demonstrating my differences put myself at risk of feeling less integrated; I maintain an American accent while speaking Thai to prove my nationality.
However, out of concern locals would assume I am capable of living life exactly as they do, I question disclosing details of my background that could possibly be misinterpreted as similarities to Thai culture.
For instance, my mother and father were born and raised in the Philippines, a country with its own culture.
Yet, where my parents are from somehow suggests a false perception that my morals are identical to Thais and the mystery to my character is solved, creating an impression there is not more to who I am.
Perhaps, it’s all in my head – the weight of an invisibility cloak around my shoulders.
Because, I recognize it is a privilege to have the opportunity to promote a better understanding of Americans as a Peace Corps volunteer.
I understand my community has never met someone like me.
With the support of allies, Americans and Thais included, I will continue to carry an open mind and heart and myself as an open book.
Because personally… I do not want to blend in, and I would trade the perk of paying Thai price for a tuk-tuk (three-wheeled taxi) to be seen any day.