One summer, I was walking with my two siblings to the annual Bon Odori festival in Seattle. As we walked side by side, our faces may have looked similar, but our personalities and clothes were completely different.
To my right, my older sister was chatting on her phone, while fixing her Abercrombie shirt. To my left, my younger brother set his iPod headphones to his ears and cranked up the volume. I wore the traditional Japanese happi coat that my grandmother bought for me when she traveled to Japan.
Many people have told me that I’m the only “Asian” kid in the family. I didn’t really know what they were talking about until I looked a little closer.
It wasn’t the clothing that was defining us. I started to think about many things that night. What makes me more “Asian” than my brother and sister? Both of my siblings are more Americanized, and I don’t want to be apart of that.
It’s not a major problem, but I just don’t want to lose who I am. So, I try to do activities that will separate me from what my siblings normally do. If there is any cultural event taking place anywhere, I try my best to go to it, such as Bon Odori, Aki Matsuri, the International District Summer Festival, or even mushroom picking with my dad.
My brother and sister, on the other hand, always tell my parents that they don’t feel like going and never attend. I used to be this way, but my conscience always told me that I should go to these kinds of events to keep in touch with who I am. There are times when I feel like I’m fighting to keep our culture alive in our family, not only because my siblings are Americanized, but because my parents are, too.
They both seem to be losing their speaking abilities in their own language, and since none of us can speak anything other than English, I’m trying to learn everything they’re losing to keep our Asian side afloat. My mom told me that when I was younger, she stopped speaking to me in Chinese at an early age.
I remember my brother telling me that he’d rather take Spanish than Japanese because it was easier, and I also remember my sister telling me that she doesn’t care much for learning it, either.
I felt a little distressed because these were my own siblings pretty much saying to me that they don’t care to learn about their own culture.
If I could, I would turn back the clock to when I was younger and somehow engage myself and my family in activities that will help us grow and branch out into our different cultures. If that were possible, then I would do it in a heartbeat. ♦
Aleyna Yamaguchi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The stories in this issue are written by SYLP students, not Northwest Asian Weekly staff. Opinions herein do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the newspaper.)