Janine is a Malaysian American studying environmental science at Western Washington University.
Where are you from?
I eat a lot of food but what’s coming to mind right now is Taiwanese beef noodle stew. I have no idea how it’s made exactly but I usually end up having it somewhere authentic with hand-pulled noodles and a very rich, fragrant broth. The beef is always really tender and easy to pull apart. I just really love noodle soup and this stew specifically is very very flavorful. Ugh. So good.
Home is Malaysia to me, even if I don’t quite fit in there. It’s where the rest of my family is and that’s important to me. That being said, I can’t ignore my experiences and friends that I’ve made here in the States. So it would be more accurate to say that home is where my heart is. It’s where my loved ones are.
Why did you choose your major?
Space and the natural world are big on the curiosity list for me. I’m fascinated by the precision of life. How gravity is exactly as strong as it needs to be for us to exist. How delicate the balance is between animal populations. How specific the optimal ranges are for organisms to survive in a certain environment. I wrote a paper on Voyager in high school. It was the best paper I’ve ever written and my friends still remember that paper and that presentation and how happy I was while I was researching it.
We have a Hari Raya celebration every year with other Malaysians that live in America. People cook the food we like, play games, talk, and catch up. It’s a nice little pocket of Malaysia that happens every once in a while. (I don’t entirely know what the holiday is for, it’s just something that my parents take me to).
Why did you go to college?
No matter how the wind howls, the mountain will now bow to it. I don’t use this quote to describe myself on a whim. But it is pretty close to the way that I’ve decided to live my life in that I try not to succumb to peer pressure or outside influence.
I think I would need a reminder that just because something has been historically repeated, that doesn’t make it okay. And also that if you’re going to pick a firm stance on something, hold your ground with evidence and don’t give in just because people are scary. Except for compromise. Always try to find a compromise.
Veronica Anne: How did it feel to think about and write your answers?
Janine: Okay. Well, it does feel really good to talk about questions like this, and about topics like this, because it’s . . . it’s an experience that I don’t think people put a lot of attention toward, and for good reason; there are more important things out there to think about. But it is still an experience that is happening and it’s not something I can make my friends understand if they don’t have background knowledge of how the culture works or, you know, if they have a weird background knowledge of how the culture works.
I actually think about this stuff a lot. It’s not that shocking for me to think about it and, like, come up with answers, because I’ve been aware of the Asian American thing that’s going on in my life for a long time.
So, yeah, I don’t know, kind of that.
[Veronica Anne forgot to give the last instruction for the poetry exercise, so Janine added the three questions midway through the first part of the reflection.]
Janine: That puts a fun little perspective on this stuff. That’s nice. It’s pretty fun. And they actually do fit pretty well.
I like the thing about, “Why did you come to college?” because I actually wrote a Mulan quote, because . . . I don’t know, when you said to pick a metaphor or image about yourself, I was like, “I’m really not good with that.” And then I was like—for some reason what came to mind was the Emperor from Mulan, and basically one of the only full lines he says is, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain will not bow to it,” which I found appropriate, because there are a lot of things going on. And I’ve been a mediator for a lot of groups of people for a few years, and I’ve discovered that the best way I can do that is to, firstly, always find a compromise. And secondly, don’t be swayed by anything.
And apparently that has led to me coming to college because, growing up, I decided that adults don’t know how to compromise, that there are too many people that aren’t willing to compromise. You’re not going to progress if you don’t compromise, because there’s never going to be any one thing that everyone agrees with. You’re gonna have to find some sort of middle ground and then, you know, you’ll progress eventually. It might be a bit slower, but you’ll progress.
So, I figured if I’m going to do that, if I’m going to have that sort of mentality, I need to get educated first because I don’t think people will take me seriously if I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Veronica Anne: Was there anything else from what you’ve written down that stood out to you in any way?
Janine: I think when you asked me where home is, because I think I’ve been asked that question before. And I always said Malaysia. But then I was kind of, like, that’s not really true because if I go to Malaysia, I don’t know what’s going on over there. But it’s not true here either because, you know, all of my family is in Malaysia; me and my parents, my brother, are the only branch that’s here.
So, I kind of wrote it out that it’s very dependent on where my loved ones are. It’s a bit cheesy for me in my head to say, “Home is where the heart is,” but it is kind of true, because I’m not quite at home because, you know, my grandparents are in Malaysia, my grandfather’s resting place is in Malaysia, and we visited him every year (if we can). But if I was to call Malaysia home, you know, I don’t know. My friends and my boyfriend are here. My general life experiences have been here, and I can’t just, like, throw that away.
So, earth is my home.