In order to realize our true self, we must be willing to live without being dependent upon the opinion of others. —Bruce Lee
This past Saturday marked the beginning of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Originally, I hadn’t planned to write about Asian Heritage Month…until a few people asked me a question recently: ‘What do you think of this whole “Stop Asian hate” subject?’ Honestly, I haven’t shared my opinions about it publicly because I don’t have any concrete thoughts on the matter.
What I do know is that the attention feels weird to me.
Of course, I’m speaking for myself and my own experience when I say this: being in the spotlight feels weird in general.
I grew up in a household where we did not speak our minds and did as we were told out of respect/status/authority. And I’m pretty sure some of my fellow Viets/Asians can agree that we’re really good at putting aside our own pain (our parents and grandparents are experts at it) and move on quickly.
To explain this better, we tend to push aside our own emotions/struggles to focus on our main priority: family. Our second priority? Succeeding so we can help our families. And believe me when I say this, it’s like my work ethic was built-in, ingrained in me from the beginning.
As a community, I think it’s safe to say we’ve gone all our lives feeling and living invisibly.
It’s like, “No one cared before and then all of the sudden, we’re important?” Think about it, when was the last time the media has covered AAPI anything? Feels weird to be “visible” — again, my perspective.
I’ve always been very independent so to me, it feels awkward when someone reaches out. Whether it’s to ask me how I’m doing in regards to racism or in anything general, it’s personally awkward for me. It’s not that I don’t need help, it’s just that I’m used to experiencing life on my own that I have a difficult time asking or accepting help.
After much thought, I wanted to share something that I’ve never shared with anyone: I want to learn to love myself more.
And by that, I mean, loving the Vietnamese/Asian side of me more. As I was born here in the States, I’m an “Americanized” Asian. I will never know the “other side of the coin” and I must admit, I feel ashamed that I do not know more about my culture.
What I also know is that I want to share snippets of my and my family’s life through stories.
To begin loving more of who I am, I want to share snippets of my Vietnamese heritage with you. On top of that, I want to share how you can celebrate Asian Heritage Month too.
You don’t know what you don’t know so here are some things you can experience to get to know me more:
My dad said it best: “If you want to experience or immerse yourself into a culture quickly, food is it!” He wasn’t wrong. Whether you’re eating food or making it, the techniques of cooking will always be rooted in the culture where the food was originated.
I’ll never forget how much fun it was making tamales when I was in college. I learned not only about the cooking techniques from my Mexican history professor, but how Mexican families celebrate with food.
With good food, there will always be great stories.
Celebrate Asian Heritage Month by learning how to make an Asian dish, dessert, or drink you love!
Our food is what I love most about being Vietnamese. My favorites?
Bò kho — I grew up always asking, “Mom, can you make red water?” Yes, you can laugh.
Bánh xèo — I LOVED watching my mom make these savory crepes and even as an adult, love watching her make it. And even as an adult, no bean sprouts, please.
Xôi lá dứa — Store-bought or homemade, I devoured this dessert!
Cà phê sữa đá — I grew up smelling coffee in the mornings in our home. Although my dad always had his black, I still think of him when I make or order Vietnamese iced coffee. And I will always have an orange Cafe Du Monde coffee can in my pantry to remember him by when I make a cup.
If I’m up to it, I’ll share more recipes on here. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning how to make Vietnamese food, here’s another great Vietnamese food blogger!
As someone who’s interested in the history of fashion as well, I’ve always been fascinated with clothing from any culture.
Celebrate Asian Heritage Month by attending any Asian wedding when you’re invited to one.
You’ll get to see (and possibly wear) traditional clothing with the most stunning details. Trust me, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for embroidery.
In my culture, the áo dài (long dress) is epitome of beauty when I was growing up. I attended a lot of Vietnamese receptions with my family and always thought the brides were stunning in their bridal áo dài dress.
When I visited Vietnam over two decades ago, I got to see my mom’s incredibly talented family. They made beautiful fashion pieces. They made me an áo dài, a coat from the purple yarn we brought, pillows and pillowcases, and knit bags — things no one else will have, but me!
Anytime I go to a museum, I’m always fascinated by details from artists and their work.
I learned how to draw from my dad. I will never forget when he guided me on how to draw a mallard for a postage stamp contest I wanted to enter.
Celebrate Asian Heritage Month by visiting an Asian art exhibit or museum.
And it doesn’t have to be a museum, find a small gallery. If an Asian artist is having a showing, go and support him/her. And if you can’t attend, share their event details on your social media channels.
The quickest and fastest way to learn Asian Pacific Islander history is to read about it. And if you’re not someone who likes to read, attend APAH events in-person or virtually.
The more fun and engaging way to learn APAH history is to ask someone to tell their own story.
One of my biggest regrets was not busting out a recorder when my mom told me how she came over from Vietnam. We were just having a normal conversation. Next thing I knew, I was asking her questions which led her to telling me her journey. I was so enthralled that I didn’t realize five hours had gone by!
Celebrate Asian Heritage Month by asking your own APAH family and friends for stories about them when they were growing up.
With more people putting aside their phones at the table, it will make for some great conversations and educational moments!
The first thing I thought of when it came to science is to learn more about the Lunar New Year as it’s based off of the phases of the moon.
Lunar New Year is observed by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Mongolian heritage.
I promise you, you will have a fantastic time, learn so much, and eat your weight in APAH food, ha!
Celebrate Asian Heritage Month by planning to take part in a Lunar New Year celebration/event next year!
Here’s a sneak peek of what Lunar New Year is like on my Instagram stories!
I hope you enjoyed my article and learned more about me and my culture. If you want to see more, I’ll be sharing more on my Instagram throughout the rest of the month!