On Ethnicity

Yen is one of the Uzbekers who came to join our group after the evac there – here we’re doing the classic Chinese picture pose after the concert. Like most of the wonderful people here in our group, she’s just as beautiful and pretty on the inside (brilliant, I should say) as she is on the outside. Our friendship is particularly valuable here in this case because we’re the two of the three Asian-Americans here in this particular group – the fact that she’s Chinese was a particularly welcome feature since we can have plenty of intelligent conversations about Chinese culture as well.

In many ways, sometimes I feel that I’ve been too sheltered – though in America I’m considered a minority, almost all of the places I’ve lived I was the majority – at CHS, where 90% of the student body was Asian, and at Berkeley where close to 50% was Asian. Intellectually, I realized that I was in the minority, but I had never felt it until I joined the Peace Corps, being that I was one of the three Asians in the group of 48.

Seeing Yen’s face in many ways a relief to me, because who else can I talk about asian familial culture with, who knows what kind of Chinese foods are real Chinese foods and which aren’t, who has enjoyed the same culture and language that I enjoyed?

Yet, joining the group, working and having fun with everyone has largely made me realize that my active, constant thoughts about my ethnicity were essentially misplaced – most people don’t care what your background is – it’s about who you are as a person that matters. I feel that most of the people around me are genuine, intelligent and open people that share a connection, despite the lack of a similar ethnic background.

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