Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ode to Vermont

Book signing of Vermont local, Tammy Hedrick's "Stella Rose"
Speaking of Asians living in remote parts of the US, yesterday, I spent the whole day digging and reorganizing old knickknacks for our new home in Vermont. Just a few months ago, my mother packed most of her and my belongings and moved to a quaint town near Burlington, VT, a town with a population a little over 5,000, and an Asian population of less than 1%. Since arriving here, I’ve met a total of two Filipinos: Gabbie, one of Kaya Co.’s fellows studying at Middlebury College, and an 80-year old voice teacher. 

As more Asians migrate to larger Asian-populated cities to join their families and friends all across the US, my family has always gone against the tide. From Oregon in the West Coast, we travelled to Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Florida, Connecticut, and now humble, quaint Vermont. We’ve moved for my parents’ work and away from the comfort of our Filipino community.

As I look back, I’ve experienced countless times “being the only one” – the only Filipino in my elementary and middle school, the only Asian in my friend group, the only one who ate chicken adobo for lunch everyday. The ride alone was often tough at a young age growing up in New England, but it challenged me to see different perspectives. In a sense, this made me feel closer to my identity as a Filipino-American. 

I’ve learned over the years that I’m not the same as most Filipino-Americans I know. I don’t listen to the same music or know the same slang. My parents aren’t nurses or engineers. But the beauty of it is that it doesn’t really matter. Here in New England, we’re small enough that we get ecstatic when we see other Filipinos who have experienced the same journey to get this far.

Driving through Vermont from Massachusetts
While the West Coast has beautiful weather, landscapes and a plethora of other attributes that make many Filipinos flock to places like LA, San Francisco and Seattle, the East Coast has its perks too. We’ve got top-notch education, four seasons, and a new wave of strong, independent migrants, hoping to fulfill their “American Dream”. They say that if you can make in New York, you can make it anywhere. In Vermont, if you can tough it out in the cold among sheepherders, environmentalists and skiers, you can live almost anywhere (knowing that your Filipino side will always be there with you). 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer 2015: A Return to the Homeland & PinoyJeep

Hello PinoyJeep Followers!

Almost eight months have passed since my last post for PinoyJeep (a writer’s block that hasn’t gotten any better over the past year). So first, I must apologize for the bareness, and secondly, I would like to inform you that I'll be returning to the Philippines in just a few weeks, which means I'm back!

Almost two years ago, I created PinoyJeep to document our IP Rondalla Tour to the Philippines. Now, two years later, I will be returning with eight other Filipino leaders from universities across the US for an 8-week internship and learning experience. This fellowship is Kaya Collaborative's first step toward its mission of reconnecting Filipino diaspora youth with opportunities for transnational action in the Philippines as it will be spent with homegrown social ventures and local community partners to design solutions in bridging the disconnect between diaspora and home. After the summer, we will be launched back to our diaspora networks to engineer and implement this reconnection at scale.  I am excited and eager to share my personal stories on this trip as we embark on this mission.

With that said, I will mostly be using another blogging site to update you on my personal journey this summer. Please check out Sierra’s Jeepney Ride. (We'll see how long this blog lasts before I return to PJ...but it's worth a try.)

Thank you for all of your support these last few years. I cannot express how important your views have been to making PinoyJeep a success, and though it has been tough keeping on track, it is always worth the effort knowing that we have viewers like you, eager to follow our journey. 

With much love and excitement for the future of the Philippines!

Sierra Jamir