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An Alt-Hapa Project: 29 Hapa anecdotes

2019.03.01 05:54 brickbatsandadiabats An Alt-Hapa Project: 29 Hapa anecdotes

Hi there. I’m a happy hapa from an WMAF relationship, married, and about 30 years old. I was born in California and spent a lot of my formative years in Taiwan and Singapore. I am a living counterexample to the reflexive talk of toxicity of WMAF relationships and the screwed up cultural and parental issues that these people are alleged to face by our counterparts in hapas.
Since hapas gathers almost everything it has from anecdotal evidence in a self-reinforcing fashion, I thought it would be an interesting project to share my own anecdotal evidence. I often say on this sub that I know many hapas, and I do - so using the good ol’ magic of Facebook, e-mails, and the dregs of my own memory, I undertook to look up the hapas I could remember knowing and ask them how they’re doing. For most of them, this is the first time I’ve contacted any of them in years.
What I’m going to write here is the unvarnished truth. Some of these people are not happy and some are struggling. However, many of them are happy. I did not ask them for permission to use a lot of personal details so I scrambled things around a bit. Without further ado, here is the list.

Name: Fred
Background: WMAF, Taiwanese/American
I knew Fred from high school where we were part of the same circle of friends. I remember him always being a happy-go-lucky, gentle kind of guy. He joined the US Army as a 68W (combat medic) and planned to become a doctor, but two tours in Iraq and some serious resulting psychological injuries from it have put paid to those plans for now. He is recovering and living with his wife and daughter.

Name: Alex
Background: AMWF, Indonesian Chinese/American
Alex is another high school classmate. He did his Singapore military service, got married, and is now riding high after founding his own company. He described his life as “great.”

Name: Nataszja
Background: WMAF, Czech/Taiwanese
Natazsja I met during Chinese language summer camp in Taipei before college. She’s always been an artist and is unironically living the life of a Bohemian in Prague. She struck me as unusually centered when she was in her 20s and the same seems to be true now.

Name: Trish
Background: AMWF, Indian (from Uttarakhand)/American
Trish is genuinely one of the most perpetually cheerful people I’ve ever met. Through our years together on the school swim team she never had anything but a smile on her face. She’s channeled that energy into politics. After graduation she got her JD and became a lawyelabor activist in Washington, D.C. for a major labor union.

Name: Kristin
Background: AMWF, Singaporean Chinese/American
Kristin is an acquaintance from Model UN (this probably reveals something about my nerdy awkward high school self) who I kept in touch with occasionally over the years. She’s living a fabulous life in Singapore as an architect, helping build skyscrapers in China. Her only family issue? I was sad to hear that her father, whom she deeply loved, recently passed away.

Name: Kav
Background: WMAF, Taiwanese/American
Kav has almost the same background as me and we were friends in high school. She and I were on opposite sides of the Taiwan political spectrum (her mother was hardcore KMT, mine DPP) so we spent a lot of time sparring about it. I asked her how she was doing and she replied with a novella about how awesome it was to be a newlywed working at a think tank in DC.

Name: Rich and Allen
Background: WMAF, Taiwanese/American
These guys are twins and were in all of my classes in high school and freshman year of college - yes, we even went to the same college. I lost touch with them after they pledged a fraternity their freshman year, but after reaching out they were eager to catch up. Neither of them were depressed when I knew them well, and they’ve certainly gone up in the world - both of them got Ph. Ds. One of them is now a nuclear engineer working for a nuclear tech company and the other is a management consultant, jetting all over the world and making bank.

Name: Kenny
Background: WMAF, Korean/American
I didn’t know Kenny all that well in high school even though he was in my AP chemistry class, so I didn’t have much hope of getting in contact, and indeed he didn’t respond. From what I gleaned from Facebook stalking, his life consists of Tough Mudder events and being an engineer at General Electric, and not at all being a depressed human wreck.

Name: Apple
Background: WMAF, Taiwanese/American
Apple is the daughter of a family friend. I’ll be honest, she didn’t have the best time growing up. She was pansexual in a time and place where her parents didn’t accept it, she had major familial issues because of her parents’ divorce (and her father’s adultery and subsequent remarriage) and ended up being sexually active at a young age, doing hard drugs, and self harming for quite some time. I wasn’t able to reach her, and I hope she’s okay.

Name: Amber
Background: WMAF, Taiwanese/American
I knew (and briefly dated) Amber in college. Amber didn’t have the greatest time growing up. Her parents divorced and both remarried, and so she told me a lot of stories of mixing up cultural alienation with familial alienation. She also had a very tough time in college: she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and our relationship couldn’t stand the strain. When I got in touch with her recently, she told me she finally had things under control, was in a great relationship, living in a vegan co-op in Boston, and was finding work in tech education.

Name: Em
Background: AMWF, Chinese/American
Em is one of my wife’s closest friends and also a college classmate of mine. She’s a bundle of energy and a brilliant mechanical engineer, and loves spending hours cooking. In terms of Hapa heritage, Em has a complicated relationship with them because her father died when she was 14 and her mother eventually remarried, so she spent a lot of time trying to process her grief by getting in touch with her roots. Now, almost 15 years later, Em has a story of cultural alienation, but ironically it’s not from her parents: instead it’s the fallout of her long-term relationship with her boyfriend, whose French-Canadian family’s habit of speaking only French and being extremely classist contributed to her eventually breaking up with him.

Name: Lee
Background: WMAF, Korean/American
I knew Lee from college, where she was known as an obsessive science fiction/fantasy fan and one of numerous people who ended up in the social orbit of another classmate who ultimately turned out to be manipulative and posessive, and that was… bad. It didn’t help that Lee was also an undiagnosed manic depressive. She finally managed to break away from that toxic relationship and told me she is now living happily with some of my other dorm-mates from college in Boston and working as a software engineer.

Name: Sharm
Background: AMWF, Indian (Sindhi)/American
Sharm is someone I met in high school (she went to a rival school) and we eventually went to college together, both majoring in ChemE and participating in parley debate. I still remember her wit and humor dazzling the judges even as she flensed her opponents arguments, and how she seemed to get my nerdy memes before those were really cool. She has had a fun time in the weird and wonderful SF tech scene, where she somehow transitioned into doing electronic hardware engineering and is in a polyamorous relationship with three other people.

Name: Karl
Background: WMAF, German/Taiwanese
Karl is someone I knew from summer camp who had probably the most immersive cultural integration into being both German and Taiwanese - he spoke German, Mandarin, Min-nan (Taiwanese) and English fluently at age 18 - and struck me always as someone who would go far in whatever he chose. He’s currently working as a consultant in a German-American business.

Name: Hannah
Background: WMAF, British/Vietnamese
Hannah is another person I met through my wife. She’s a hilarious and high-strung personality with and infectious laugh and various “Hannah-isms” that seem to infiltrate their way into everyday speech of everyone around her. We see her at least twice a month when she comes by for dumplings, drinks, and Settlers of Cataan, and she’s constantly stressing over her life as a Ph. D. candidate in biology. She’s a practicing Buddhist and a superperfectionist when it comes to Viet food, and lives with her boyfriend in New York.

Name: Soph and Mikki
Background: WMAF, American/Filipina
Soph and Mikki are a pair of twins I knew in high school and kept in sporadic touch with for years afterwards. While Soph was always the artist, Mikki was a hardcore scientist, and despite the contrast you could always see how close they were together. Living in Asia, they had frequent contact growing up with their family in the Philippines and would always come back with smiles and stories. Soph became an activist for migrant workers, a big issue with the Philippine diaspora, but her life was interrupted by getting, and then beating, breast cancer. Mikki, whom I consider absolutely crazy for doing this, got a Ph. D. studying infectious diseases and now works with things that make my blood run cold at the NIH in Atlanta.

Name: Kim
Background: AMWF, Burmese/American
Kim has always been an activist ever since I met her in high school, and was known for always championing Aung San Suu Kyi. Her passion seemed to have cooled by college, though, and she got married and had kids relatively early among people in our age group. We spoke about being hapa and one thing she mentioned was that it was people like me, whom she interacted with for all k-12 education in Singapore, that helped make her always feel accepted.

Name: Andrea
Background: WMAF, Chinese/American
Andrea first struck me as flighty, but flighty in the way you are when you spontaneously decide to take the Putnam Exam (a serious, college-level formal math competition) on a whim. She was always casually aware of her asian heritage, but it was never a huge part of her life: she was too involved in gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and effortlessly breezing through the some of the most hardcore math and physics I’ve ever seen anyone do while claiming that they don’t actually like math or physics. She got married a few years ago and converted to Orthodox Judaism and recently helped her husband dedicate a Torah in a new synagogue in Eastern Europe.

Name: Nigel
Background: WMAF, Korean/American
Nigel was one of my swim team captains in high school and was always the definition of “cool.” After school he worked as a technician in China, scrimping and saving enough to return to Singapore and bootstrap his first startup. Now he’s a professional entrepreneur and a damned good one.

Name: Cordelia
Background: WMAF, Korean/American
Cordelia was someone I knew peripherally in my year who knew more math than I could shake a stick at and got really into public BDSM walking around the dorm. That weird combination aside, she and I actually spoke regularly about growing up hapa and how as a woman she’d get lots of people fetishizing her exotic looks - the one fetish she apparently couldn’t tolerate. She ended up finishing college in two (!) years and of her many boyfriends, finally selected one to settle down with.

Name: Andrew
Background: WMAF, American/Taiwanese
Andrew was one of my mentors in college and a genuinely fun and good person. He was one of those people who loved science and math to the extent that he would never stop talking about it if he preferred, and had an endless well of stories. Unusually among my hapa friends, he was from Arkansas and was a very devout Christian, and led Bible study every week in our dorm. He finally finished his Ph. D. in computational fluid dynamics recently and married his long-time girlfriend.

Name: Louise
Background: AMWF, Swedish/Taiwanese
Louise I met at camp. She’s very very European, and grew up in Gothenburg near the Oresund. I remember her always smiling, her wry sense of humor, and her Swedish-isms in everyday English at camp. I recently had a great time at a camp reunion asking after her life (very happy, apparently) and singing KTV until 3 a.m.

Name: Julie
Background: AMWF, French Belgian/Taiwanese
Julie is a bundle of energy and irrepressible cheer who organized our camp reunion and dragged us from teahouse to teahouse while regaling us of her glamorous-sounding life in Brussels. She’s working as an interior designer and recently married her long-time boyfriend after taking a really big tour of Quebec and then swinging by to see us, her first time in North America.

Name: Marie
Background: WMAF, French/Taiwanese
I’ll be frank, my most vivid memory of Marie was trying to fend off her amorous advances (from a freakin’ 15 year old! I was 18!) during camp. She definitely was a wild child, but as she grew older and we corresponded occasionally she struck me as ridiculously culturally French, even though we chatted exclusively in Mandarin. It was a bit surreal having a debate about Marine Le Pen while typing things into a Chinese IME. She’s all grown up now, and is pursuing her passion project of making documentaries in Shanghai.

Name: Cristine
Background: WMAF, American/Chinese
Cristine was a high school classmate and in many of my social circles. She didn’t actually reply when I tried to get in touch, but I had dinner with her a few years ago and she was in the middle of finishing veterinary school, on her way to becoming a “dogtor,” as she put it. She admitted to me that the single hardest thing in high school was dealing with her severe acne (she still has the scars) but mentioned her exceptionally supportive parents getting her through it.

Name: Mindy
Background: WMAF, Swiss German/Chinese
Mindy is someone I knew through music and as a mentor figure in high school. She was definitely someone who embraced her Eurasian identity and often told me about how she felt she could discuss issues of feeling a lack of connection to Chinese culture (she spoke mandarin only with difficulty and a heavy accent) with me because I shared a similar heritage. Honestly I only ever got kindness, understanding, and some deep discussion of literature from her, but as I reflect on things she was the center of a lot of high school drama as a serial monogamist. She had a colorful life after high school, editing a racy campus-published sex magazine, becoming a food blogger, and doing consulting, but I lost touch with her about 5 years ago after she completely erased her social media presence and I wasn’t able to reach her this time around.

Name: Andrew
Background: WMAF, American/Taiwanese
Andrew was one of my classmates in high school who took an interesting path through life. I think he was one of the most lovelorn people I ever met: he had a series of romantic relationships that ran into the worst luck possible, with his girlfriends moving to other international schools and them trying to keep the relationship alive across national borders. He’s the only person I know who tried desperately to get on the traveling swim team for love. After high school he studied physics, but got more and more into music (he was a classical vocalist), and finally decided his calling was as a musician and not a scientist. He now performs classical vocal music in New York City.

Name: Alex
Background: WMAF, Korean/American
Alex is someone I knew in high school and frankly didn’t like. He spent a lot of time reneging on commitments to academic work, feuding with his family, and just generally acting out. Later I understood that he was rebelling against a very strict and abusive father whose ire, for some reason, spared Alex's older sister but came down, hard, on him. He ended up going to college in Australia and I lost touch with him after that.

Name: Andy
Background: AMWF, Indian (Bengali)/Swedish
Andy is a through and through geek, who introduced me to linux and loved to talk shop in computer science class while everyone else was struggling with the code. His parents were divorced and his father (whom he lived with) had remarried, but Andy made the effort to keep in touch with his Swedish roots as well as his Indian ones. He later went to Pittsburg’s Carnegie-Mellon University for computer science and is now a nerdy software engineer in Singapore. He recently got married to his long-time girlfriend and fellow former classmate of mine.
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