Enjoying hot pot with friends. Digital painting by the author.

A Love Letter to Tomorrow

And Other Stories of My Asian American Upbringing

Thanksgiving with Fried Rice

It’s a cold winter day. After my family parks on the curbside, we carry our foil-covered dish to the door. Happy Thanksgiving, come on inside! We’re immediately flooded by the familiar smell of home-cooked Chinese food; the aromas fill the air, followed by the sounds of oil over sizzling heat and the familiar greetings of family friends. I scan the room, trying to take it all in at once. In one corner, a handful of adults laugh and chat over a game of poker. At the obligatory “kids table”, a handful of children sit and stare at their phones, absentmindedly tossing around some Mahjong pieces and arranging them like dominoes. The endless trays of food stacked together for the potluck resemble presents under a Christmas tree. That’s when I see it: in the middle of the kitchen island sits a beautiful Thanksgiving turkey, stuffed with sticky fried rice.

Goodnight, I Love You

In traditional Chinese families, it’s uncommon for parents and their children to tell each other “I love you”. The direct translation, wo ai ni (我爱你), is usually used between romantic lovers, and even then, it’s not used as commonly as it is in English. More generally, Chinese parents are often more reserved about displaying exaggerated outward emotions. This story is a familiar one, a confrontation of the traditional versus the novel, the familiar versus the foreign.

A Love Letter to Tomorrow

It’s a warm, summer day in Dallas. I’m sitting with a group of friends, eating pho at a local Vietnamese restaurant, watching the shadows flicker through the windows, dancing on the carpet below. The restaurant is mostly empty, so the owner has a chance to strike up a conversation with us. We ask her about what brought her to Dallas, what motivated her to uproot herself from her native country and travel to America. She said something that has stuck with me ever since: Ever since I was young, I was told that in America, you could find Heaven. Today, I’m still searching.

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Jordan Lei

Neuro x Machine Learning x Art. PhD Student in Neuroscience @ NYU. Penn M&T 2020. www.jordanlei.com