Thai-American. Ethnically Thai, culturally straddling the United States and Thailand for as long as I remember. Until January 2011, my interactions with Thailand, the actual country, were a brief stint in 1984 and somewhat longer stay in 1991.
1984 – Age 2.5ish, Status: Lone child
My mother and father tried to follow the most proper recent-immigrant tradition of leaving their child(ren) in the old country to be raised by relatives while they worked in the new, sending love and money over the sea. That lasted about 3 months before my mother sent my father on a rescue mission. My mother never ceases to amaze me, but that is another story altogether.
This was also the year of the deaths of both my mother’s and father’s fathers in February and December 1984, respectively.
My brother was born in February 1985.
1991 – Age 9.5 to 10ish, Status: Eldest child who was upset that she had to leave the US during the beginning of what she considered of the “coming of age” period
My father is the only male in a family of 4 children. In Asian cultures males hold a special cultural space insofar as they are first in line to provide a sense of future legacy and male stability. Males are second in line to have a heightened sense of familial obligation behind the eldest child. Practically speaking, this translates into when there’s trouble at the fish farm, it is all male children hands on deck ... in the literal sense. So, we go. Sell most everything we don’t need (e.g., cars, homes, furniture) and transition to Thailand (with a brief layover in Fresno, CA). I live in Thailand for about 6 months. And for reasons specifically unarticulated to me for the time being, my mother, brother and I choose to come back to the US with my father following a number of months later. During this time, I become nearly fluent in Thai, attend a British-based, English speaking school, and get Salmonella.
January 2011 – Age 29ish, Status: Self-proclaimed grown-ass woman with childlike innocence and sense of wonder still in tact
To be continued ... Part 2: Was it all a dream?