Lately I haven’t heard anyone mentioned about going back to live in Minnesota. I think it’s safe to say that that someone has adjusted and accustomed to his new life in California.
For me, I still have some adjustment to do, specially whenever we visited Asian-enclaved places where I am surrounded by many Asians to the point of being so conscious and uncomfortable.
Asian people don’t make me uncomfortable, let me rephrase that, it’s just that I am still so deep-rooted in what I had known growing up in the Midwest where Asian are far and few in between. It’s not common to drive out of the city limit and still see Vietnamese restaurants popping up a long the road or among the nooks and corners of the typical American landscape. It’s not common to walk into a random strip mall and see a group of Vietnamese/Asian people convene or speak the language. You see, after being a minority for so long, I am so used to being invisible…
But in California, specially when we were in southern California, and also in San Jose/Milpitas areas that we just recently visited, being in a crowd of Asian/Vietnamese made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Mr. O, the boys, and I stand out as a pack, we received too many stares, glances, and elbow-chucking curiosity from onlookers. And I tell you, I am not one who likes receiving attention in public.
It kind of bring me back to 13 years ago, at the onset of my dating Mr. O, and when we held hands walking around Chinatown in Boston, elder Chinese men and women stopped their tracks to look, stare, and perhaps curse us…This unwanted attention is not new to me, but coming from large crowds of my people whose language I understand so well does add a new layer to my consciousness.
I just need to learn how to deal with it. It takes time!
Anyway, being in California, even at two-month in, I sometimes still feel like I am on a vacation and will eventually go back to Minnesota as soon as the vacation is over.
As a Vietnamese American growing up in the boonies of Americana, California is a place of novelty; as if it is a surreal entity by itself. We have heard and read about it — the options of food, the warm weather, the Little Saigons formed by Vietnamese communities. Back then, whenever someone told me that he/she was going to California for vacation, I envied them because it’s the second-tier of “return to the homeland” whereas that homeland is within the border lines of the U.S. (The first-tier is of course, Việt Nam!) You get to eat hell a lot more authentic Vietnamese food and with hell a lot more options and choices, more people speak Vietnamese with and to you, you get to meet those Vietnamese-American singers that you could only see by watching Thuý Nga Paris by Night videos for years (although I did not meet any when I was in OC and my brother knows a few), and then you can wake up the next day doing the same thing as the first…to experience life that is similar to the one you once had in your home country.
It’s a simulation of cultural cognition to reinforce, and perhaps regain, somewhat of our identity that we have either lost or mixed while adjusting and assimilating to the mainstream American culture where we became part of the minority for so long.
California does that to me…it is a version of reverse cultural shock. 😀
A few days ago I was at a Bánh Mì shop in Milpitas, I told the shop-keeper lady that we came from Minnesota and the bánh mì I had there were not as good as hers. She then asked me how long I have left of my visit before going back to Minnesota. It then dawned on me that I wasn’t visiting from Minnesota, but from the northern side of the San Francisco Bay.
And oh, I have gained about 10 pounds from eating all the delicious food! So obviously I failed my so-called healthy eating routine that I set for myself a month ago. I told Mr. O that let me pretend that I am a version of Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love, minus the Pray part; I eat a lot, and love a ton!
And I am happy to be me. 😀