Growing Up Asian American

Musings

epcot disneyworld growing up asian american

For the conclusion of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, I thought I’d participate in an “Growing Up Asian American” tag.  I also feel guilty that I didn’t do more posts dedicated to this month, so hopefully this can help make up for it.😁

1. Which ethnicity are you?

100% Chinese 🤗

2. Which generation are you?

I consider myself to be a 3rd generation Chinese American, but I think according to the Webster dictionary, I’m 2nd generation.  My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. when they were young, and in fact, my great grandfather on my dad’s side was working in the U.S. and would occasionally return to China.  While in California, he found a suitable husband for my grandmother to marry.  And so my grandmother then immigrated to the U.S. essentially as a “picture bride.”  On my mother’s side, my grandparents were married and had their first child in China.  Soon after my uncle was born, they immigrated to California.

3. What is the first experience where you felt that demarcation of being a minority/different?

It’s hard to say because when using the words “minority” and “different,” this question seems to imply that learning I was Asian American was a bad experience.  But between growing up in San Francisco, which has a huge Asian American community, and my parents who were actively engaged in Asian American community organizations, knowing that I was Asian American was something to be proud of and something I learned at an early age.  Especially around Lunar New Year because I could brag about how the huge televised SF Chinese New Year Parade was an event that honored my culture.  Plus…red envelopes!😆

But it’s hard for me to pinpoint what exact experience made me realize I was a minority.  And even if I did realize that being Asian American meant I was different, being around a large community of Asian Americans reassured me that it wasn’t wrong to be one.  In grammar school (K-8th grade), the popular girls were Asian, the MVPs of our female sports teams were Asian, the girls most of the boys liked…were Asian.  I owned a hoodie that said “Generasian” on it and practically wore it everywhere I went when I was a tween.

From a young age, my parents made it a point to teach us about our ethnicity and culture and to expose us to the community.  An experience that I think is unique to cities and areas that have a dense Asian American population.

4. Were you always proud of your heritage or was there a time you rejected it?

The time in my life that I regretfully rejected being Chinese American was in high school.  To this day, I feel like I am still fighting to win back that Asian American confidence I once had in grammar school.

And maybe this pertains to the previous question, but I distinctly remember one day in high school when I was trying to get my books out of my locker.  I was in a rush because I gave a presentation in my previous class in which I had to dress up as a jazz singer.  Trying not to be tardy, I had to quickly change my clothes and head to my next class.  When I got to my locker, the guy who owned the locker above mine, was leaning against them and therefore blocking my way.  Instead of stepping to the side, he just ignored me.  And this wasn’t the beginning of the year; he knew I had the locker below his.

I finally spoke up and asked him to move.  He scoffed, turned to his friend, and said something to the effect of “She thinks she’s a Chinese princess over here.”  And those words don’t seem scarring, but for some reason, they stuck with me.  Why is it that all of the sudden I’m a demanding Chinese princess for speaking up?  But as someone who is also a major introvert, I don’t like to cause a commotion (in public at least😅).  And if speaking up prompts that kind of response, then maybe it’s better if I just held my tongue.

So throughout highschool, I tried my best to not come off as “too Asian.”  And granted there’s probably more to unpack in that one experience (me being female, him being male, him trying to be cool, me being stressed, him being a Sophomore, me being a Junior), but the overall tone of this interaction was racial.

5. What are some stereotypes that you struggle with?

Because I’m Asian American, many people assume that I’m smart and quiet.  Both which feed into the model minority stereotype – which is a larger, more general stereotype about Asian Americans.  And I agree, there are many Asian and Asian American families that have been extremely successful.  My family is probably even considered successful.  We’ve had the privilege of not having to worry about money, living in a house we owned, being able to work free of disabilities, and having English be our first language.  But there are also so many families that experience economic struggles, domestic violence, and immigration issues.  And they’re often overlooked because so many people believe the model minority stereotype.

But I like to think I have my smart days.  Ask my boyfriend about the countless million dollar ideas I’ve pitched to him.😂  And in school, I did manage to get some good grades and took a few honors and AP classes.  But don’t be fooled because I had to get good grades in those classes to offset the ones I failed in.🙈

And in general, I’m pretty quiet and keep to myself.  But that’s because I’m an introvert.  As a child, I was probably taught to be quiet rather than loud because that’s the respectable thing to be in Asian cultures, but if I was an extrovert at heart, I would probably be more outspoken.

But as an Asian American female, the expectation that I’m to be quiet and submissive is compounded.  There have been multiple times in my life where a stranger would try to dominate the situation because they figured I’d roll over and they could get away with being overly mean.  But be warned, I have held my own in a few instances!  Asian American females are also often hypersexualized.  Luckily I’ve never had to deal with those kind of encounters, but unfortunately, many Asian American females do.

6. Can you speak your language?

Sadly, no.  I can order a chicken bun and know a few baby words (milk, bad, “don’t pick your nose” is a handy one), but that’s the extent of my Cantonese.  Don’t even ask me about mandarin. >.<

7. How has being Asian American affected your relationship with your parents?

Since my parents are American-born, they were better equipped to navigate my “American” upbringing compared to my immigrant grandparents raising them.  And as I mentioned earlier, teaching us about being Asian American, and to be proud of it, was something they prioritized.   My mom made us watch Flower Drum Song, one of the first movies to feature a predominantly Asian cast.  For the release of Mulan, my family coordinated with my friend’s family, who was also Asian American, so both our families could see it together and celebrate Disney’s first animated Asian heroine.  They would even bring us along to events hosted by those Asian American non-profit orgs so we could meet their colleagues – aka social justice advocates, like themselves.  In fact, my parents’ involvement in Asian American non-profit community organizations is what inspired me to take Asian American studies and Sociology classes focused on non-profit orgs in college.

8. How do you feel about your heritage now? Do you identify with it?

Yes, I am grateful to be Asian American and identify as being Asian American.  But occasionally, I also feel hesitant to fully claim it because there is a myriad of Asian American experiences that many have experienced, but I haven’t.  I never knew what it was like to have to translate English for my parents.  I never had to feel ashamed of my “weird” Asian food at school because I was usually signed up for the school provided lunches.  I did have classmates pull their eyelids to the side and make funny faces at me and my friends, but my teachers knew to immediately educate them on why it wasn’t appropriate.  And I won’t get into being Asian v. Asian American.

9. What is your favorite thing about being Asian American/your heritage?

I think being an Asian American female gives me a unique perspective on the world.  It enables me to provide a different POV to others and hopefully encourages them to share theirs as well.

I’m also proud of the leaders in the community that fight for the social injustices that affects the Asian American community.  And I’m especially proud of those who try to further Asian American representation with more diverse and dynamic stories.  Asian American representation is something I value and the reason I started this shindig in the first place!

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If you’ve made it through this whole post, thank you so much for lending me your eeaaarrr…eye!😉  I hope telling you my story encourages you to tell yours!  And even though APAHM is coming to a close, we can still ask each other these questions and talk about our shared experiences year-round!  The more we tell our stories, the more we can learn from one another and grow together.

ABW

Shanghai Disneyland – Experience

Musings, Travel

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Last year, I was able to travel the world with a close friend to visit all of the Disney parks within a year.  The catalyst for this trip was of course the opening of Disney’s newest park, Shanghai Disneyland.  I thought it would be a few years until I was able to visit again, but last month I was lucky enough to travel to Shanghai for work.  And duh, of course I had to make a special trip to the park.🐭

Now that I’ve visited the park twice, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences.  And hopefully, this will give you some insight before your first or next visit to Shanghai Disneyland!

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Dibs!

You’ve probably heard already, but parkgoers in Shanghai Disneyland are pushy.  But know that it is not meant to be intentionally rude or mean-spirited, it’s just cultural norm.  So be mentally prepared for it.  There are tons of photo spots around the park and instead of forming a neat line, people crowd around in a circle and jump in once the spot is open.  If you’re in line and there’s space in front of you, people behind you look over your shoulder until you move up.  Or even worse, they’ll try to move around you to occupy that space and essentially cut you.  And again, this isn’t because they’re trying to be mean to you.  It’s more a “take it or lose it” mentality.  If you’re taking to long to get your photo, then I’ll go ahead of you.  If you’re not going to move up in line, then I’ll move up.  In a country where resources are sometimes limited, many grow up feeling the need to be more assertive in taking what they want or risk not getting anything at all.

As an avid Disney park-goer, this is a completely different and somewhat intolerable environment.  My advice is to take it in doses.  It’s much more bearable.  Wait in line for a ride and then go find a place to sit while you eat.  After you finally fight the crowd for that photo, head to Tomorrowland to watch the Tron bikes zoom by for a few rounds (the lights are actually mesmerizing).💫🚴🏻  Just break up your day if possible instead constantly battling the crowds for 10 straight hours.

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You’ve been warned.

After a while, you might want to start yelling at the crowds.  But just know that security and cast members are not the most involved when it comes to altercations between guests.  Last year, while waiting in line for Tron, a guy cut past me and my other friend. The rest of his group was not far behind and I could tell what was about to happen.  Fed up with pushy guests all day, I grabbed the rail to prevent his friends from passing.  Of course, the guy was immediately upset and started to yell at me.  I sternly explained that his group needed to go to the back of the line.  Or alternatively he could go ahead, but his friends could not.  It was a single-riders line after all and it didn’t matter if they were altogether – they would be split on the ride anyways.  After a few minutes he pushed me backwards.  And this was a full-palm double handed push.  Luckily, his friends were behind me and actually caught me, but my friend and I were literally stuck in this tangled mess of flailing arms and loud yelling.  This showdown happened within earshot of cast members and they did nothing.  No one rushed over to mediate or to assist.  They literally just stared at us.  Not fun.

However, during this past visit, two women began yelling and thankfully it didn’t take long for cast members to show up.  BUT it still took cast members almost ten minutes to actually resolve the situation.  The Tarzan show actually had to be delayed.  And your girl just wants to watch a half-naked man do some aerial arts, so you can imagine how annoyed I was.  At any other Disney park, cast members would have escorted those ladies out in a flash.  But I think park operations are still learning how to handle guests.  So before getting into an argument with anyone, just know that you could be on your own.

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Spread the love! ❤

On the flip side, most cast members I encountered were helpful and friendly, IF you approach them politely.  Walking up to a cast member acting like they’re the crazy ones for not speaking English, just sets you up for a bitter interaction.  And believe me, I’ve seen that happen before.  Not a pretty sight.  So please don’t be that “ugly American.”  PUH-LEASE.🙏🏻  We have enough people in the world that hate Americans already.  In fact, try proving everyone wrong.  Show them how humble and polite Americans can actually be.💁🏻  And cast members deal with tons of unpleasant guests all day, that they’d probably be more than happy to assist someone that is actually nice to them.

Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Rose Cup Shanghai Disneyland

Do you suppose the sign says “Best Cup Ever” in Chinese?

Traveling in China as a Chinese American is an interesting experience.  Everyone expects that you’re just like them, but you’re really…not.  Most people I encountered in China automatically started talking to me in Mandarin.  As an ABC (American Born Chinese), I grew up speaking English.  And on top of that, my grandparents immigrated from Southern China, which means they and my parents speak Cantonese, not Mandarin.  So even if I did know some Chinese, it would still essentially be a different language.

So when I approached someone at the park, I would actually feel embarrassed for a split second.  They would start talking to me in Mandarin and since I couldn’t respond back I stared at them like a dear in headlights.😓  The worst response I’ve gotten goes back to my Tron incident.  The guy that pushed me yelled “You’re Chinese, why don’t you speak Chinese!” while we were arguing.  The “ugly American” in me yelled back “I’m not Chinese, I’m American!”  But I immediately regretted it.  There’s this sense of identity loss if you don’t speak the native language of whatever ethnicity you are.  Not speaking Chinese for some reason makes me less Chinese.  And to some extent I agree.  I’m not Chinese.  I’m Chinese-American.  And that shouldn’t mean I’ve somehow dishonored or disowned my Chinese roots.  Others, of course, feel differently.  But if you’re an Asian that doesn’t speak Mandarin, just be prepared for lots of people expecting you to know the language and to instead dish out lots of humble apologies in return.

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She’s a girl worth fighting for.

Other than the Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron rides, what I also love about Shanghai Disneyland is how Mulan is much more well-represented around the park.  She has her own spot in the parade, she’s shown in park decor, and is one of the princess stories shown in their storybook attractions.  And in the parade, Mulan is actually wearing her warrior outfit!  Not sure how the parks landed on that, but can we just appreciate the fact that it’s exposing kids to the idea that princesses don’t have to wear dresses?!  It’s also an introduction to non-conforming gender individuals and I’m 💯% on board with that.

But the fact that an Asian Disney character is so well-represented in a Disney park just feels…validating.  Yes, Disney came out with an Asian female led movie, but when she’s barely represented in the parks or in merchandise, it almost feels like Disney was just throwing Asian Americans a bone.  “Here you go, your Asian princess. Now back to our regularly scheduled non-colored princesses.”  We are not a charity case.  I get that Mulan isn’t nearly as popular as other Disney princesses.  I’m a merchandiser, I get that they have sales goals to meet and the safest bets are with white princesses.  But with the new Mulan live-action movie coming out soon, I’m hoping that will change.

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See ya real soon!

So that is my two cents on Shanghai Disneyland so far.  I’m sure my opinion will most likely change as I visit more and as the park matures.  Overall though, I really do like the park and am excited to visit again since I still haven’t actually done all of the attractions.   And maybe by my next visit, I’ll actually know a little more mandarin!

And stayed tuned for another post about Shanghai Disneyland!  I’ll have tips for your solo trip to the park. 🤗

ABW

Spotlight: The Golden Mickey’s Show on the Disney Wonder

Musings, Spotlight
golden mickey

“Lights, cameras, acceptance speeches!”  On our first night aboard the Disney Wonder, we caught the Golden Mickey’s show.  In my previous post, I mentioned how I cried my eyes out during the “heroism” part of the show, which showcased Tarzan, Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Mulan.  Now you would guess that I would have cried hardest for the Mulan number.  But it was actually quite the opposite.

The sequence consisted of a “karate-style” dance to Be A Man, which is fine.  That’s how the scene is in the movie.  But there weren’t even any Asian dancers in the mix. 😑  Granted, we were sitting in one of the back rows, but I’m pretty sure Mulan and Li Shang were white performers.  And let’s get real for a second.  If this were a Princess and the Frog segment, and Tiana came out as a white person, that wouldn’t fly.  And not even as a white person wearing blackface, just literally as a white actor playing Tiana.  But when it comes to white people portraying Asians or Asian Americans, it’s much more acceptable. Just look at all these movies that have committed whitewashing.  And studios don’t seem to see anything wrong with that.  And that’s frustrating.

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Photo of Mulan sequence above found on google images.

Now those who are familiar with the Asian or Asian American experience, probably know that more often than not, Asians love to emulate white/western culture.  Bigger eyes, lighter skin and hair, pointier noses.  And Asian Americans specifically tried to be more “white” to better assimilate into American culture.  So this craving to distance the group from “Asian-ness,” from being seen as foreigners, would seem to be the culprit for letting a white actress play Mulan like it was no big deal.  But of course, as with any issue related to race or intersecting identities, there is so much more to this than just wanting to be “less Asian.”  But I won’t hold you captive here.

My end game again is this — Tiana, Disney’s first black princess, is now part of many different Disney attractions and shows.  But Disney knows not to hire a white woman to play Tiana.  They would never imagine to do that (I would hope at least).  But for some reason, it’s ok to have a non-Asian play Mulan in a live show.  Do Disney and other entertainment powerhouses get away with it because Asians are the model minorities who won’t make a big fuss over it?  Maybe they figure there isn’t as much backlash to be had because many Asians have wanted to attain a certain level of “whiteness” for so long now that it’s almost second nature?

And for some reason, the only way to get something like this to change is to make a fuss over it.  To be vocal about it.  But why do we always need to rally?  It’s tiring!  I’m tired of having to point out the obvious.  But I guess what’s obvious to me, isn’t always obvious to others.  Oh how I long for the day when the people running these entertainment companies finally realize that accurate, yet diverse, portrayals and representations of POC are necessary.  Anything other than that is unacceptable.

*end rant*

ABW

Note: These comments are my own opinions and this is just what I’ve observed and encountered in my life.  Also, I understand that Disney has made huge strides, specifically in recent animated films, to be inclusive of different ethnic groups.  In this post, I am speaking specifically about the one show I watched while aboard the Disney Wonder.  This could very well have been a one time occurrence, but white actors were still used to portray Asian characters, so my opinions are based on that incident. 

San Francisco Women’s March

Musings, Style
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Go get yourself a copy of Bad Girls Throughout History STAT.

Around this time last year, I was in Hawaii frolicking around Aulani Disney Resort with close friends.  We were enjoying a nice meal and of course started talking about the potential election candidates.  I remember I started to cry because it was just unfathomable to me that people were even considering Trump.  After feeling defeated for the past few months, I knew that it was imperative, now more than ever, to do what I could to show my support.* Support for women and feminists.  Support for POC.  Support for LGBTQIA.  Support for choice. Support for the underserved.  Support for the underrepresented.

I’m not usually a rally kind of person.  The introvert in me always tries to figure out if there’s anything that I could do within my four cozy walls to use my voice instead of having to venture to the outside world.  Sometimes I think I’m a cold-blooded reptile since I get so cold so easily outside.  But today was quite the exception.  Earlier in the week I decided to attend the San Francisco Women’s March and meet up with some old co-workers from my non-profit days. Backstory: We all worked together at a non-profit Chinese American Historical museum in Chinatown (check it ➡️ CHSA).  I probably still would have gone to the march, but knowing that I was going to meet up with these amazing women made me that much more excited.  One of them even printed and laminated these perfect Leia rebellion posters.  I, of course, had to sport my “Rebel” Star Wars cap. 👌

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Poster design from Ladies Who Design.  Download it for free and donate to designer Hayley Gilmore!

I actually had to run off for my family’s Chinese New Year’s dinner that evening, so I really only got to stay for the speeches and saw bits of the march on my way out.  A great lineup of speakers and performers, but I choked up the most listening to San Francisco supervisor, Jane Kim.

“My name is Jane Kim…and I am a nasty woman.” ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻   

She went on to explain how she hired an all female, all mothers, WOC legislative team at City Hall and how they’re “getting the job done!”  Are you crying tears of empowerment yet?  And then when she talked about how San Francisco is one of the cities pioneering for social change, I just couldn’t hold it in.  It makes me so proud to be a San Franciscan.

“We have a legacy of being bold.  We were one of the first cities to marry gay couples.  We are one of the first cities to provide single parent universal healthcare.  We are the first city to bring minimum wage to $15 an hour – and most of those workers are women. So let’s march.” – Jane Kim

img_1892My eggs, my choice.🍳🍳🍳 I like them over easy.😜

As mentioned, I pretty much had to make my way over to Chinatown after the speeches, but did get a chance to snap a few photos of the parade and some fun signs.  Apologizing now for the poor photo quality.  It was pretty gloomy.  And by the time the march started, it was raining and dark.  I’m sure the earth was upset that Trump and most, if not all, of his cabinet doesn’t believe in climate change. 😑

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Of course the city showed its support in lighting up City Hall with pink lights.  But I’m sure it’ll change back to blue and gold once the Warriors play again.  I’ll just have to be my own reminder to make my voice heard and support those who need it most.  And I urge you to help us fight.  Rebel against normalizing patriarchy, sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and bullying.  Rebel against believing that you have no voice.  Rebel against silence.  And for everything that you’ve done so far, thank you. 💗

ABW

OOTD/N:womens-marchRebel hat, Mulan pin: Disney, Glasses: Warby Parker, Girls flag pin: Tuesday Bassen, Egg socks: ikspiari (Japan), Leather jacket: LF, Black skinny jeans: Sears

*UPDATE: I just realized that I did not point out the privilege I have for not feeling the need to go out and march until now.  More specifically, I did not participate in any Black Lives Matter marches or events. That just speaks to the privilege I hold. I was always an ally, re-posting and reading what I could.  But I never felt the need to march.  I never felt in danger because of my race or the language I speak.  I haven’t felt too threatened up until now.  Even though I am a POC, I am not as much a target as, for example, a black male.  And I just wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge that.

Hi, I’m A Bit Wong!

Musings

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Hello, people of the internet!  My name is Alisa and you’ve stumbled upon A Bit Wong.

First things first, not only am I declaring today as A Bit Wong‘s birthday, it’s also my own birthday!  Please deliver all birthday cakes to San Francisco. 🙂  But I digress…

So about a week ago, I was rummaging though some junk and found my journal I kept in college.  While reading through it, I realized how often I wrote about my experiences as an Asian American female.  And to my surprise, it actually felt really validating.  These days, being a 3rd generation Chinese American affects almost every aspect of my life.  Not necessarily through huge, swift “acts of God,” but through smaller everyday interactions and my continuous inner monologue.  Aka microaggressions. Ok, getting a little too heavy now.

Anywho, after consistently scribbling in that journal for 2 years, the entries just stopped.  It was like reading an addicting young adult novel and suddenly nothing. Yes, I’m definitely well above the young adult age range – but I’m a sucker for easy reading.  The point is, A Bit Wong will be my epilogue to the Alisa Diaries: College Edition.  I want to use this as a place to write about my experiences through the lens of fashion, travel, and life.  And we’ll throw food in there for good measure.  I’m not saying every post will talk to one of my identities, but since I live and breathe it everyday, don’t be surprised if it sneaks in once in a while. 😉

If you made it this far, congratulations!  You’ve survived your first A Bit Wong musing.  And I can’t wait to have you back for more.

ABW