University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Growing Up Asian in Australia Creative Story
I just had an enormous fight with my mother,
“I forbid you to ever go near the athletic track when you’re under my roof.” She didn’t take the news of my athletic training too lightly. “You go back there, you’re out! Out on the streets!”
I grabbed my runners and slammed the front door on her. When she was out of earshot, I started insulting her with every swear word I knew, in both English and Vietnamese. I started running as fast as I could, but I should stop there and explain the whole thing.
This morning I drifted between consciousness and sleep while everyone bustled around getting ready. They all get up so early and seem to stomp around the house for what feels like an hour before they finally leave. When the noise had subsided I managed to fall back asleep and woke up to my alarm and the foul smell of pho wafting from the kitchen. When I had dragged myself out of bed, I shuffled to the kitchen, enjoying the emptiness of the house. I like having it to myself in the morning, in fact I’d rather have it to myself most of the time, but my family never seem to leave. The house always feels so full. I unfolded and perched myself on one of the new kitchen stools my mum decided on. I picked out the pieces of chicken from the pho and threw away the rest of the noodle soup. I keep asking for something more edible for breakfast, like vegemite on toast, but mum insists that we eat our traditional cuisine.
I left for school, jogging to school is my favourite part of the day. There’s just something about jogging in the morning, I can taste the crisp air as I breathe in and the feeling of it whipping my face and legs wakes me up. I sat outside of the locker bay, I can’t stand going in there during ‘peak hour’, the stench, a combination of sweat, deodorant, and old food, makes me want to puke. There’s always that crowd of older girls staring at me with that look of disgust as I walk through the corridor with my shiny black hair held up in a bun with some chopsticks and my uniform skirt that reached my knees that my mum made me wear. This was in contrast to the blonde hair and pasty white skin the other girls had. Their school uniforms barely covered their bums and I could almost see what they had for breakfast. I was used to it now though, being different to the other kids. My mother was big on honouring our traditional culture, it was getting a bit old for me though. But I strolled through the door catching my breath, and ignored the girls as I have come accustomed to doing every morning. As I made my way to English I reminded myself why I hate school and I couldn’t wait to get to the athletic track just as my mum had told me not too.
I despised English, I was no good at it, I always managed to get it confused with my home language. I was so conscious not to make mistakes. The other kids would give me the strangest of looks when I couldn’t think of the right words, I could hear them whispering amongst themselves whenever I raised my hand to speak. Shazza in the back row would always have a remark, “Here we go, dark one,” after being called anything and everything enough times, I stopped wincing. But class went quickly anyway, which most kids would be thankful for, but I hated lunchtime. I couldn’t stand the other kids staring at my lunch in the cafeteria, I was always eating something different to the other kids, they would grab there salad sandwiches and eat quietly together, whereas everyone could smell my goi from a mile away. I was lucky to get spring rolls one day, at least it was familiar to the other kids. I dreaded lunch time for that reason, I was sick to death of everyone staring at me and asking, “what is that?”
“where did you get that from?”
“why does it smell like that”
Not to mention there was always that one blatantly rude person that would walk past and simply just say, “ew, yuck” I just wasn’t in the mood today after the morning I’d had.
After school, I made my way quickly to the athletics track, I knew my mother wouldn’t approve of this choice but it was the only place I could be myself. I quickly got changed into my active shorts and Nikes and made my way around the track. I could feel the breeze skim through my hair as my loose shirt caught the brisk air behind me. This was my sanctuary, the feeling was bliss. I made my way home, bracing myself for the approaching argument I was about to have with my mother. That feeling of pleasure left my body as quickly as it arrived. I stepped into the front door, and closed it behind me as quietly as I could, maybe she wouldn’t notice I was late home. But before I could even take the first few steps inside, I heard mum coming from the kitchen, “where have you been!”
“I told you not to go back to that athletics track!”
“does this family mean nothing to you?”
“you are too come home and do your homework afterschool, not run around willy nilly out on that track!” “now go and get those shoes off and go to your room!”
The next day, I went straight home after school like my mother had said, she made me sit at the bench perched up on those hideous stools and do my homework until dinner time. She keeps telling me to respect our culture, and how if I were in Vietnam, I’d still be at school at this hour. Hearing about Asia frustrates me, it just reminds me that I don’t belong anywhere. But I didn’t have a choice, I sat there alone in front of my open books. I was almost the queen of procrastination, so I found myself questioning why I let her dictate how I spent my afternoon and why those nasty girls at school continuously direct cruel comments at me..
I was much more alert the following day, I sat in bed awake until I heard the front door close, it was the silence of the house and just the sound of clocks ticking, when I knew that the house was finally empty. I jumped out of bed, more enthused than ever, I ran straight into the bathroom and snapped the chopsticks I usually pin in my hair. I spent my time straightening my hair and piling on the makeup. This was something I’d never done before, it took me ten minutes to realise what the mascara was for, only after reading the fine print on the side of the bottle. I plucked and pampered myself until I felt like one of those geisha dolls, I was just missing the pointed conical hat. But I wasn’t thinking about Asia today, today I was purely Australia. A true blue Aussie Sheila. I was enjoying the emptiness of the house as I ran into my bedroom and pinned my school dress up to the top of my leg, a length that my mother would never catch me dead in. I was excited about school today, I was excited for my salad sandwich that I’d just freshly cut diagonally and to see the look on the other girls faces when they see me in the corridor.
It was my favourite part of the day, my jog to school, it was more liberating this morning, I was more excited to arrive at the front gate, although I found myself running slower than usual. The wind wasn’t whipping my face at the same speed, I was conservative, I didn’t want to work up a sweat or do anything that might ruin my hair or smudge my mascara. I didn’t wait outside the locker bay today, I was ready to face everyone bright and early. I walked past the girls whom stand in the same place every morning and instead of the greasy look I get most mornings, each and every one of them looked me up and down, but in a good way. They actually seemed impressed to see me. The look on their faces was worth all the effort I had been to that morning and I was even more excited to get to class.
People treated me differently today, it must’ve been about the way I looked. The kids in the cafeteria looked at me differently than usual, instead of a look of repulse, they were almost captivated to see what I had for lunch. Although my salad sandwich wasn’t as satisfying to the tastebuds as my traditional cuisine, I was more satisfied within myself especially when a few of the older boys said hello to me as they walked by, I couldn’t believe it! I was content with myself today, this was a feeling I hadn’t experienced for a while. I was even more excited to go to the athletics track this afternoon, I knew my mum would disapprove but maybe she wouldn’t know, I could just go there quickly and she might not realise what time it is when I get home.
So I made my way there, I jogged to the track to save time warming up when I arrive. I sprinted into the change room, the smell of sweat was overwhelming and I just got a hint of a mild scent of cheap fragranced deodorant, that didn’t stand a chance in the old water damaged change rooms. I quickly threw my hair up into a messy bun, this wasn’t too different to usual, but my hair was still so silky straight that I looked like I’d gone to a lot of effort. I ran out onto the track as quickly as I had arrived and jumped straight into my lane. It was an exhilarating feeling, side by side my biggest competitor, she always undermined my abilities, but after the day I’d had I was ready to take her on, I was sprinting as fast as I possibly could coming down the 100m stretch, I looked up and to my surprise my mum was standing up in the stand at the finishing line. She looked cross, but all I could think about was beating the girl beside me, she started to fall behind, but I pushed through to the end and stepped over the finish line a length in front.
I set a personal best! As I caught my breath I turned to my mum who was walking towards me, she still looked mildly unimpressed although the hint of a little smile was seeping through her smirking lips. I felt her arms wrap around me, which was totally unexpected as I hugged her back. “I am proud of you,” she said. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you train, I didn’t realise how happy it made you.” “But that beaming smile proved me wrong, and you’re so talented.” These words were more than touching coming from my mother, she then asked about the remainder of the makeup that was running down my face, I’d forgotten to wash it off in such a rush! I explained to her about the people at my school, and that I felt half & half, like I didn’t belong anywhere. She enlightened me to the fact that I didn’t have to change my identity to meet other people’s expectations, she said she supported me in my choice to be half Aussie and I was then allow to attend the training track whenever I wanted.