Shawna Cubarrubias: Migration & Culture

Interview

           

            My name is Watani Phatany and I was born in Thailand.  I just graduated from a high school in Thailand and I was very excited to attend the same college as my friends, but my mom would tell me otherwise.  On a Sunday morning she came to me and said, ďWatani you go to America to study and have good time, I will see you when you get back, okĒ.   That was the last thing she said to me.  I remember my mom crying all the way to the airport and my father; I knew he was crying deep down inside him.  It was very hard to leave my family behind since I was the only child, but I knew they wanted what was best for me, my education in the US.  Since, education in the US is only for some people, people with lots of money.  I was very proud to have that chance because we didnít have a lot of money.  I knew that my parents had worked very, very hard in order to send me to school in the United States. It was not my choice to go and study abroad, especially when it was so far away.   But, deep down I knew it was for my best interest, since a college in Thailand was not as prestige as the US.

     After, a very long airplane ride I finally made it.  Yes, I told myself you made it you survive the first step of the journey now lets see if I can conquer the rest of it.  After I had arrived to the airport in Fort Worth, Texas I remember feeling very scared and nervous.  My aunt who was living in Texas at the time picked my up.  She was so happy so see me and I was too, because she looked so much like my mother.  And as soon as I walked outside, sweat started to pour down my face because it was so humid.  The car ride seem like am eternity because I was so anxious to see her house and finally meet my uncle for the first time.  My aunt had met her husband who is an American from Texas, while she was volunteering at a hospital in Thailand.  They decided to get marry and she would move back with him to Texas.  It took sometime for her paper work to be process and completed, and than finally they were reunited back in the states.  Finally, we had arrived and my uncle was waiting for us in the living room with such a pleasantly welcoming smile on his face.  Oh! My goodness, her house was so beautiful and I remember thinking that I wanted the same thing for my parents someday.

     I remember my first day of school; it felt like kindergarten all over again.  I was so terrify because I only knew very little English from my tutor back home.  I speak with an accent and that was ok back home because every one did, except the tutors, well most of them didnít.  Everyone I met during school was very nice and friendly.  I thought to myself, wow! There are so many people from different country and backgrounds. I met Sarah, who was very friendly and she had show my around campus and a little bit of the city.  After that, Sarah and I became a really good friend. I met my husband Tommy through Sarah, she had introduced us at a friends gathering, ever since than we started dating.  The communication between both of us was very comfortable because he speaks a little bit of Thai and loves Thai cuisines.

     After meeting Tommy, who is now my husband I felt like I fit in a little better.  Also, the majority of our friends are from some where else, too.  Even though, after I had my first child I started working more as a hostess at a Thai restaurant.  It was really easy for me to get the job because I was very knowledgeable about Thai foods.  We had a lot of American customers who sometimes can not understand my accent.  As my son Jaydee got older I had practice speaking English to him more and more and that helps. 

     My aspiration for my son is for him to be able to understand my Thai culture.  I started to attend weekend ceremonies at a Thai temple in Saginaw, Texas.  I would take my son and make it a habit to go every other weekend and it helps me during the time that I really miss my parents back in Thailand.  I didnít really adapt well into the American culture, it was too fast pace and maybe because I came over as a young adult.  Ever since, I started to attend the temple I have met many friends who are also from Thailand.  Thai people like to cook so we always have a weekend party and share our experiences with each other.  And a lot of my friends are either married to an American or single.  We bring such a diverse group of people and stories to the table.

     I was very lucky that after my visa was expired, I didnít have to return back to Thailand because I was already married to a US citizen.  I plan to go visit my parents back home, but in the mean time I send money to them once a month.  I hope for them to come and visit, but they are afraid of flying.  Although, my parents are still living in Thailand, I know they approve of me having my own family in the US. I miss them a lot.

     But, my husbandís family did not approve of us dating and getting married.  They assumed that the only reason I was marrying their son was to extend my permanent stay in the country.  There was so much anger and hate towards me and I always thought that it would come from somewhere else, like other people in the society, not my family.  Eventually, my in-laws accepted the fact that I married for love and not a green card.  After, the birth of my first born, my in-laws and I became somewhat closer.

     My experiences in the United States, has been a really rough ride at first.  But, after meeting all the wonderful people it made easier to live in a foreign country.  I would not change it for the world, especially my family.  I didnít really experience any prejudice or race issues.  My life is great!  Now, that we live in Arizona, except the fact that we moved from humid to dry heat. 

    

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