Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 9 No. 2 | Summer 1987 (Portland) /// Issue 34 of 41 /// Master# 34 of 73

won first place in the watercolor division of the Portland Art Museum's city-wide student competition. During the week she works in the school cafeteria, and on weekends in a Chinese restaurant. But when she arrived in America three and a half years ago, Truong spoke almost no English. She recalls feeling very isolated in the school, which she found to be impersonal and boisterous. A few teachers looked out for her, but otherwise she felt pretty much on her own. She survived through sheer persistence. “There are just two alternatives for Asian students,” she says. “You either try very hard, or you give up.” She would rather raise her own children in an Asian cu lture, surrounded by people like themselves. Kief Lung Hy, another student at Roosevelt, has been here less than a year and is in that phase of adjustment which Truong found so lonely, when most people can’t understand what he’s saying and the word he hears most often from Americans is “what” ? But he does not acknowledge any problems adjusting to his situation. He is here with his father while his mother and three younger siblings remain in Vietnam. Hy entertains aspirations of a professional career in medicine or dentistry. Optimism reigns as these immigrants, their former lives shattered and their families split apart, get on with the business of doing what they have to do. Beneath the optimism are stresses n e ve rthe le ss as one m ight expect among young people who describe themselves as “ the trans itiog |k fenera- tion.” Some Southeast Asian students feel more caught between two worlds than securely a part of eitter. A group of ten Hmong students gathered at the North Portland Youth Center one evening were quite eloquent on this point.; They see themselves as arbitrators between their parents and the larger society, a position which puts them under pressure to comprehend and sort out a lot of complex cultural information. VinJi The Do, a counselor who divides hisifme between Franklin High and Mt. Tabor grade school, speaks of the different strategies students adopt in their initiation into the new culture. The majority tend to be reserved in the beginning and then enter gradually, giving themselves time to form a reasonably accurate model of the limitations and expectations of their new environment. Flanking them are smaller groups who go to one extreme or the other, fear and withdrawal on one hand, and what he calls “ over-adaptation” on the other. This results in a kind of parody of the youth culture, usually an exaggeratioMf its worst features. They think a lot aboutjpe differences between the two cultures and can be critical o fbo th—of Americans as outspoken to the point of rudeness, of Asians as deferentiqpto the point of self-defeat. One students commented that Ameri- cans are g t i f to get the best for themselves while Asians will think f irs t^ - th e group. Asians think of sharing, she said, while Americans think of independence. It is a profound difference, and students must spend a lot of energy deciding the balance of qualities that will be best for them. Ideally students will develop a bi- cultural identity, participating in both cultures within a personal framework that relates them as complementary rather than contradictory. At Glenhaven Middle School, which has had up to sixty percent Southeast Asian enrollments; a former principal asked a bilingual aide to offer a course in Southeast Asian .history and culture for the American s tften ts , so they would un- derstand and appreciate theirrefugee ■classmates better. TAe course is now S ' * popular among both groups. Al the elementary Newcomer^ S^oo jFa t Buck- man all children receive some instruction in native language literacy. A teacher at Grant plans English instruction around the compilation and translation of native folklore. The culture that will be preserved is inevitably changed because the experiences of the new generation are unique, and they have the task of revising what it means to be Indochinese. Right now the aesthetic traditions and spiritual values of the S.E. Asian cultures are still intact, but whether they survive in succeeding generations depends in large part on the extent to which the dominant culture is sensitive to and appreciative of them. An environment that encourages the vigor and richness of diversity, the dynamic harmony of amulti- cultural society in which uniqueness is valued rather than lost in a flat concept of assimilation, will nurture these commb- nities. And it will allow the children to turn x the next bend without forgetting where they’ve been. Writer Sharon Lynn Pugh has just completed a sabbatical from Indiana Univer- versity, living in Malaysia and Portland. CSQ has published two of her short stories, the most recent being “Lynn Margaret.” Laura Di Trapani is a freelance photographer who fills a number of portfolios for CSQ. Clinton St. Quarterly—Summer, 1987 15 The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens Baha'u'Hah PEACE WON'T JUST HAPPEN The Baha’i ’s have a practical plan to achieve it: “THE PROMISE OF WORLD PEACE” • Recognition of the oneness of God, religion, and humanity • The elimination of all prejudice (racial, national, economic, and religious) • Individual investigation of truth • Harmony of science and religion • Full equality of men and women • Right of each person to a sound, basic education • Spiritual solution to economic problems • International, auxiliary language • Universal peace protected by a world government For your free copy, coll: (503) 636-2355