Banana Split: The Introduction

My year of traveling throughout Asia has left an incredible mark in my life! I’ve experienced so much, both good and bad, but I learned something new from each and every day.  Looking back on my time in Asia, my photos and blog posts reveal just what a great year 2010 really was for me. 

Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been easy. I’m afraid that being an Asian-American traveling in Asia was no easy feat for me. I’ve been bottling up these feelings, experiences and observations up for some time now but I’ve come to realize that it’s given me a very unique travel perspective on people, culture, prejudices and social interaction that I should share with others.

I’ve decided to start a series of blogs called “Banana Split” to delve deeper into my experiences as an Asian-American, as an Asian-American traveling the world, and particularly as an Asian-American traveling in Asia.

I hope you enjoy my version of “Banana Split”! 

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I’m pretty proud of my heritage. My mother is Chinese, my father is Burmese. I was born in Burma but moved to California when I was just over a year old. I’ve lived in America most of my life and I’m as “American as apple pie.” I can speak passable Cantonese and Burmese, with a piddling of Mandarin though all with a slight American accent. I’m what some people might call a “Banana”: yellow on the outside but white on the inside.

Baby Connie sitting inside a pagoda in Yangon, Burma

As a child, I wasn’t so proud of my heritage. I was one of the few Asians in my elementary school (my two cousins made up the rest of the Asian population). I got taunted for my “chinky” eyes and home-made bowl-shaped haircuts. At the time, it felt like a slow, tortured death.

The bane of my childhood existence: the bowl-shaped haircut (with my cousin Jeremy)

Growing up, cultures would often clash between my traditional Asian family and my American lifestyle. I wanted to be able to do all the things my American friends were allowed to do, such as stay out late with friends or date boys. I was always in trouble because I refused to be the typical Chinese daughter. Needless to say, I was quite rebellious in my teens and fought off my Asian-ness to show my mother just how “Chinese” I really was.

My parents always said to me, “You think you’re American but you’re not! You’re a Chinese girl!” Somehow the Burmese half was always left out…

It’s been a difficult process coming to terms and finding my place in the world with my Asian heritage and cultural upbringing while living and growing up in America and I think I’ve done well with it so far.

Then, 2010 happened. Traveling as an Asian-American in Asia has called my identity into question a number of times over the year. I struggled with it, became frustrated with it and now, I’ve decided to write about it! To be continued…

I know not all my readers are Asian-Americans but do you think it’s a worthwhile topic to explore? Are YOU interested in this unique travel and cultural perspective?

© Connie Hum 2011

Categories: banana split

30 Comments

  • As an Indonesian with a Chinese ethnicity living in the US for the past 11 years — YES.

  • Nicky Pallas says:

    I’m interested to hear! Kinda like me traveling to latin american as a bolivian-american, with even less bolivian in me to show on the outside

  • Sally says:

    Wow, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for more. I loved hearing your story as it’s so different from my own & other travelers & other travel bloggers out there. I have been living in Asia for 4 years & involved in the travel blogging community for a year. It seems like most of the people I meet who are traveling through this part of the world or are blogging about their travels in other parts of the world are white and middle class (more or less). Sure, we all have different stories & backgrounds, but it’s refreshing to hear your story. I look forward to reading more!

  • Connie says:

    @Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World It will be interesting to hear about your adventures and experiences coming up as well!

    @Nicky Pallas I can definitely see the similarities!

    @Sally Thanks for the encouragement! I wasn’t so sure about blogging about this at first. I was afraid of opening a can of worms and fueling flames to what some people might consider racism or prejudice. I’m looking forward to writing more as well and getting feedback from readers on their own experiences and thoughts!

  • wow! on the one hand, i’m really sorry anyone, and you, feels this way. on the other hand, good for you for doing this! looking forward to more. :)

  • Connie says:

    @Lorna – the roamantics Thanks Lorna and you know what? It hasn’t been a horrible experience at all. It was just sometimes frustrating but most importantly, very different for me and I wanted to share it. I’m glad to hear there are people like you interested in hearing it!

  • Matt says:

    Haha, your readers are in for a real treat, it really has been a test eh. It’s about time you spoke of the trials and tribulations you face being Connie Hum in Asia. You’re a bloody hero for getting through it, coming out the other end with a great big, pearly grin and some amazing tales to tell. Looking forward to the nitty gritty… Love love love…

  • Annie says:

    I am really excited to read more of you story and about your experiences!! I think this is an excellent topic and it will be great to see how you have grown and reflected throughout your travels!

    It always makes me sad that kids have to deal with things like this growing up and I wish it never had to be this way! But here you are stronger for it and still learning as you go! Love it!

  • Connie says:

    @Matt You were pretty great too in helping me deal with it all and for putting up with things yourself!

    @Annie Thanks Annie! Now you’re just putting pressure on me to come out all “wise” and stuff. I was just going to rant about it. =) Seriously though, you’re right. Things like this may be unpleasant but I do really think that it helps make you stronger.

  • puhhLEIGHze says:

    OMG OMG OMG. How are you going to START this story but not FINISH IT!?!! I’m DYING to read the rest of this!!!!

  • Connie says:

    @puhhLEIGHze HAHA! Finally, a post worthy enough to elicit a comment from Leigh! =) Don’t worry, there are plenty of stories to come!

  • Jayne says:

    I’m really interested to hear about your perspectives Connie, not despite but because it is something I have no experience of myself. You seem like a lovely banana :)

  • Connie says:

    @Jayne Thanks, that means a lot to me!

  • Andi says:

    I love that you’ll be writing about this! I have read so many books regarding this issue. Pearl Buck is one of my faves on this topic. Miss you!!!

  • Julia says:

    Well Connie, I think the number of comments you’ve received on this post so far has answered your question! I’ll definitely be tuning in for the next instalment.

    By the way, I’m a white English person and my hair was like that as a kid!!! :))

  • ramblinbess says:

    Yes, absolutely! Like everyone else, I’m riveted, partly because my (ignorant) perspective is that it would be easier to be Asian-American than Caucasian traveling through Asia. Tell us more! Also, if it makes you feel better, I had the exact same bowl cut, which I’ll have to post a picture of shortly. 😉

  • Miss M says:

    Go for it!!

    Would love to read what you go through.

  • i would LOVE to hear about your experiences! i’m always interested in hearing the experiences of non-white travellers, particularly females…especially when traveling through areas where they could look ‘native.’ i’m about to head to india and while i don’t look indian – i’ve been told that i may experience different (not necessarily bad) treatment in certain areas because of my darker skin….when i was traveling in egypt i was often told i look nubian so i imagine i had a different kind of experience than travellers with light/white skin..and one place i really want to visit some day is ethiopia – i wonder what my experience as a black canadian will be there (i’ve also been told i look ethiopian…)

    so yes, i’m very interested! it gives a different perspective and one that i think is missing on many travelogues :)

  • Also, I think it’s wonderful you’re thinking of making this an on-going feature! That’s exactly what I want to do on my blog –to also share my experiences as a black woman traveling..and living in India.

  • Great post! Can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

  • Amanda says:

    I would love to read more! It sounds really interesting, and it seems like I’m not the only one who thinks so!

  • Connie says:

    Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement! I’m really looking forward to writing more in the “Banana Split” series and hearing your thoughts and comments!

    @Julia and @ramblinbess I would LOVE to see those photos! =)

    @kay*(from india.with love) I’m really looking forward to hearing your Indian experiences as well!

  • great post, connie! i’m a banana split myself (or twinkie) and i sympathize 1,000%! being vietnamese-american and traveling around asia for the last year has been eye-opening on many levels. the shame of not speaking my native tongue…feeling conflicted about the current political state of my home country knowing what my “boat people” parents sacrificed to escape it…being mistaken for a “local” girl aka hooker – for the sheer facts that i’m female, asian & solo, not because i look like a hooker, haha! i look forward to your stories. you go, girl.

  • Connie says:

    @traveling thy Honestly, I know exactly what you’ve been going through. In fact, I’d love to hear some of your experiences as well! I know it’s not always easy and great, but I’m kind of relieved that it’s not just me who went through some of these things! Rock on my fellow banana!

  • Great series you are about to start, looking forward to reading your next posts!

    I’m not Asian but right now I’m traveling in Asia and probably what we experience will have something in common. :)

  • Gray says:

    Yes, absolutely this is an interesting topic, it’s what gives you a unique voice. I’d like to learn more about how it has impacted your travels.

  • MaryAnne says:

    I would definitely be interested. I’m not Asian or Asian American but I’m from the very Asian west coast of Canada and am currently living in China. I’m very interested to read about different people’s experiences and perceptions of places, as we are all coming at it from different backgrounds and perspectives. White, middle class backpackers should not be the default norm for travellers.

  • Connie says:

    Honestly, I am absolutely STUNNED and overwhelmed by the amount of support and encouragement I’ve received about my new blog series. I hope I live up to the expectations and hype! =)

  • I am very late on this, but I think this is a fantastic idea! I am thinking about doing something like this when I was in Ireland (just got back yesterday). I still have relatives who live there, and I would love to connect with them and the culture. Although I was in Dublin which is not super Irish in my mind, I would love to visit my distant relatives in west Ireland and maybe pick up some Gaelic? I am truly inspired by your idea and all your adventures~

  • Micah says:

    Great stuff, Connie! I’m definitely interested in reading more!

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