Khin Su Hlaing, 7th Grade
Being a part of both worlds, America and my southeastern Asian country of Myanmar, life isn’t easy. I’m not always able to do things that would come normally for an average American girl like sleepovers or going to the movies. I envy the freedom my friends have. Whenever I complain, my parents remind me, the United States isn’t Myanmar. We came to America so we could provide you a better education and future, if not for that we would’ve stayed, they tell me. It’s not that my parents don’t appreciate being in America, they’re worried I will be swept up in the modern culture of today’s technological world and forget our traditions and Arakanese roots. They say I’m already 75% American. My parents are just joking, reminding me I’m still Arakanese no matter where I’m living. I’m like any kid, never satisfied but then who is? Whether I show it or not, on the inside I couldn’t be prouder of my heritage, something I realized visiting Myanmar last summer.
When I got out of the plane, the place my family described didn’t provoke the reaction I had been expecting. I was expecting more, it took a while before I saw that Myanmar was more. After experiencing a fair share of hardships like mosquito bites and nonexistent wi-fi, I became homesick for Oakland. Ironically, the place where everyone spoke my language, could pronounce my last name and knew my culture, made me feel more like a stranger then when I was the only Arakanese at school. Maybe because they were prejudiced towards those who were different because they didn’t have the opportunities that I had. Maybe it was how they were surprised when I described my life in America. Raised in a Western society where acceptance was vital, I had more freedom in America than I thought because I was liberated from being judged. Simultaneously though, I felt a sense of belonging with my family enveloped in the culture I was so proud of being a part of. Seeing how everyone lead their lives with strength and dignity, how the pagodas I visited reflected their pride and never ending faith in what they believed in, I found my anchor. My parents who grew up in Myanmar, immigrated to America with 2 young children and $1.50 in their pockets for a better future. They brought Myanmar to our house in every prayer, every picture displayed on the wall and every story they told. In Myanmar, my dad brought America with every phone call from Oakland and mom by letting us watch TV and tolerating every inconvenience bringing my ipad along caused because it reminded me of home. My parents are the anchors that keep me from drifting away from the waters that are my nationality but still allowing me to reach the blue skies of opportunities in the land of America and for that I honor them with gold medals.