Part 1: “K, Thanks, Bye” to Cultural Bullshit (Or more appropriately, “You Are Your Culture.”) / by Saya Iwasaki

5 years ago, I was riding on a 6 train in New York City when an eclectic lady in her mid-40s settled in the seat next to me. Without hesitance, she turned to me and asked, “Where are you from?” Pause. Maybe it was the international vibe of this city, or the repetition of hearing this question so many times, or the fatigue of a long day’s work… but I didn’t know how to answer her question. Born in New York City to a Japanese family, I spent my childhood in the Republic of Congo, evacuated to France at the outbreak of the First Congo War, spent a while in France and Switzerland, and the rest of my life up to college in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. My parents speak Japanese, my older sister speaks French, my younger sister and I speak American English and my uncle speaks Burmese. Despite being born in the US, my first American experience was at 17 when I stepped out of JFK airport. Born and raised in between cultures and languages, I never associated my roots with a set location.