Regina I.



I Am From Eating Every Grain of Rice

I am from chrysanthemum tea,
from gai lan and lap cheung in a clay pot,
from durian, longan, and lychee.

I am from the persimmon trees.
The overgrown kumquat bush, dragon fruit cactus, and guava trees
whose roots stay grounded as I make my own.

I am from a suburb in San Gabriel Valley,
the bark of our dogs while we feed the chickens, turtles, and koi.
The excitement of stir-fry as the wok clanks,
the unmistakable smell of white flower oil to heal aches and pains.

I am from Saturday afternoons at the library and Sunday visits to Hsi Lai Temple,
from poh poh’s phone calls, piano lessons to aunties bearing gifts of fruit.
I am from Animaniacs and Sabrina the Teenage Witch,
from Stephen Chow action comedies to “Shanghai Tan”
to the news on Channel LA 18 and KMRB AM 1430.

I am from eating every grain of rice, saving the last drop of water, and reusing tin cans.
from afterschool nights in my father’s construction van.
from long summer days without A/C to missed field trips to Knott’s Berry Farm.

I am from making dumplings while watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos”.
from jook with scallions, dried prawn, and century eggs on a winter day.
from steamed catfish, chicken feet, and cha siu bao warming my belly.

I am from a pantry full of dried shiitake mushrooms, wood ear, and goji berries.
from a cabinet filled with hoisin, black vinegar, chili oil, and XO sauce,
from a 50-pound bag of jasmine rice under the table to ginger hanging over the sink.

I am from special days with tofu fa, egg tarts, and red bean almond jelly cakes.
from white rabbit candy, mango gummies to koala cookies.
from pineapple buns to homemade orange juice while playing mahjong.

I am from sik jo faan mei ah? and siu sam di to say hello and goodbye,
from o mi tuo fo and guan yum po sat bo yoh with Buddha in our hearts,
from the smoke of incense, bead bracelets to guanyin at the shrine.

I am from jade bangles, baoding balls, and stone lion statues.
from portraits of my mom wearing a cheongsam for her wedding,
from albums of neon makeup and bell-bottom pants in a home before my time.

I am from Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou.
from devastated land and starting over after the Chinese Civil War and World War II.
from yei yei and mah mah meeting on a dirt road while selling fruits and vegetables.
from gong gong matching with the daughter of a housekeeper.
from sent-down youth facing countryside labor during the Cultural Revolution.
from emigration to British Hong Kong, immigration to the United States.

I am Regina.

(Written in a faculty diversity training program course, Inspired by “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon)