APAHM: If You Are Not Standing Out, You Are Blending In

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.

In an effort to stand out, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and shared personal details with community members, including my relationship history and sexual identity.

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.

Read Andrea’s previous articles and contributions.

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