Journey to the ancestral “homeland” constitutes a rite of passage for many of my second-generation Asian American peers.
For me, the urge to travel to this “home”land flickers weakly at best, stifled by the fact that it would be little more than tourism with all the baggages of my Western and American-born privileges. In quest of homeland, I would find myself in a position which contradicts the journey in the first place: I would be surrounded by strangers in a time and space where we meet but never touch. Can I feel home in a home that isn’t and never was mine? What connection am I expected to have with these strangers I may have, in another life time, loved or hated or fucked or killed? What connection do I have with these strangers who I still love, hate, fuck, and kill by virtue of my position?
Strangers that I care deeply for, yes, but strangers still.
I have been grappling with similar ideas since I landed in Cambodia. Early on, I understood my privilege, and I’m uneasy with it: many Khmers, including members of my family, barely expect to visit bordering countries in their lifetimes, let alone the United States.
I thought that I was here to understand my relationship to Cambodia as a Khmer American. It’s an ethereal question. I feel an inexorable bond to this country, to the way foreign interests shape its politics, to the way money flows in and out and trickles down in a slow, thin stream to the general population after filtering through politicians’ pockets. The reason I care is as simple as the fact that people I love, people I share blood and ancestors and history with, live here. …(more)