That summer of 2005, I learned a lot about myself. I learned about how inflexible I could be with how things are done and how that tends to drive people away. I learned that I was fairly particular about how certain things were done- even to the point of arguing about the best way to get from point A to point B in NYC, and that certain things weren’t worth alienating people for. Basically, I learned that I needed to chill out, a lot. But, what I didn’t realize was that I had gained some recognition that what was perfectly normal and common sense to me could be understood as being completely foreign.
Following that summer, I returned again to my bubble of an Asian Christian fellowship, my culture shock from the summer quickly becoming a distant memory as I returned to old habits and being surrounded by people who understood all the things that I took for common sense and simple reality: relative frugality and the value of hard work; ambition and the prestige surrounding a good job; stupid immature jokes and watching tons of anime; familiarity with Asian foods; and of course, family style eating.
I moved on to medical school in San Diego, and again, unintentionally, found myself surrounded by Asian people. I didn’t exit my comfort zone again until January 2010, when I did an away rotation in Montana.
That month in Montana was one of the best in my lifetime. The medical part of the rotation was a total joke, entailing a half day of work in a barely busy clinic. The rest of the day was spent skiing at Big Sky, Montana and living with a group of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the privilege of spending time with. Despite the fact that I was the only Asian of the group, we had enough in common through our mutual experiences in medical schools across the country that I never felt like I was the odd one out at all. The culture shock part didn’t have anything to do with the people I was living with, but instead with the fact that Montana isn’t much of a diverse place. It was the sort of place where I, myself, would stare at Asian people because I never saw them around. Having spent my entire life in places where Asians are at least 10% if not more like 30% of the general population, Montana was the whitest place I had ever been. It even became almost a joke, where if I had seen someone Asian, I’d run back and tell the rest of my roommates. There was this one party called Snow Bar, which will live in infamy due to the degree of drunkenness and hilarity we had managed to achieve, where there was a whole bachelor party full of Asian guys. Intoxicated, I had walked up to one of them and announced to him, “HEY! You’re Asian too!” He had stared back at me, completely bemused, and quite honestly, I don’t remember what happened after that. Probably some short awkward conversation.
And now, this brings us to Utah, where my husband and I were placed/had elected to do our residencies.
(again, to be continued…)