Almost all my life I have been a learner and networker. Being the firstborn in a Filipino-American family in the 1950’s, I learned early on that the responsibility of gaining acceptance and respect in our mostly Anglo community lay on my shoulders. Observing and learning the culture in my school and our neighborhood, and then passing on the information to my parents and younger siblings were tasks I took on as my role in the family.
My parents were rabid American patriots, and talk of American history, politics and pop culture were the norm between my mom and me, and even with my usually-quiet dad and me. Concurrently, my parents exposed us kids to the beauty of Filipino arts and culture in a myriad of ways. But the most influential person in my young life with regards to understanding my Filipino and Asian heritage was my maternal grandfather, a resident of Manila but a once-a-year visitor (with grandmother, too) to all their grandchildren in the U.S. I developed a fascination and desire to “be Filipino” which culminated in a summer visit to Manila when I was turning 14. The visit morphed into a 3-year stay (including high school) with my grandparents in Manila! Eventually, I went to college in the Philippines, married a Filipino, birthed three daughters, and pursued a music career there, totaling 14 years. Then my family and I lived and worked in the U.S. for 11 years (in three different time zones). We had grown to a family of six before returning to Asia to live and work for four years. In 1998, we returned to the Pacific time zone, moved in 1999 to Mountain time, and in 2003 back to Chicago! Then in 2011 – 2012, my husband and I had the privilege of living in Japan to serve survivors of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami.
So what does all this have to do with helping Asians/Asian Americans thrive in Chicago life?
I have come to realize that in my experiences of traveling and living abroad, and in returning to American life in 1974, 1983, 1998 and 2012, many have turned to me for practical help in TCK* and “2nd-gen” relational issues. As a TCK who has moved around a lot within the U.S., I have had a rich variety of situations and circumstances to learn from and raise my children in, as well as watch and coach my husband in his assimilation.
Getting well established and enjoying life in an American region that has the distinct four seasons, a unique and colorful culture, and a very diverse population can be tricky not just for recently-arrived Asians (from the home country or the west coast), but even for 2nd generation, young Asian Americans who are finally on their own. I have found that many may not be well-trained in everyday housework, adult decision-making, European-American etiquette and cross-cultural sensitivity. It is my desire to help my readers become very comfortable in the small and everyday workings of private life, as well as the significant items of public life. Chicago is such a great city full of fascinating and inspiring people, and a breeding ground for greatness in many aspects of American and international life. I hope you will use this blog as a resource for seizing and making the most of life here, to avoid learning the hard way or too late in the game!
*Third Culture Kid