We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

← Back to all stories
Photo ofFinian Ayliffe

I am a first-generation American born in Seattle, Washington on January 24, 2006. My parents are both immigrants. My mom is from Thai- land and my Dad is from Canada. When I was six years old, my family  moved to Sun Valley, Idaho. I like the people here and I love the outdoors.  Since I have always lived with my mom, I’ve always been curious about the Thai side of my family. I have traveled around the world, but Asia was al- ways a place that eluded me.  My stepfather is an expedition guide and filmmaker. He works mainly in Nepal, and last year, I was quite excited when he told me that my mom and I were going to accompany him to Nepal for the filming of a movie, followed by a trip to Thailand. Thailand is the place of my mother’s family heritage and getting to experience that was what I was looking forward to for the majority of the trip. When we arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the first thing I noticed was that everybody looked like and was the same height as my mom: short. The first thing that I said to her was “Wow mom, everybody is as short as you!” She still laughs about that to this day.  The air in Bangkok was humid and soupy. Even just standing outside made me feel like I could lay down and bake under the night sky. Bangkok was much cleaner than Nepal, but Asia has different standards than America. For the next few days we ran around Bangkok, ate at all the best restaurants, and saw as many sights as we could. By the end of all that, I had tasted more kinds of Thai food than I knew existed, wandered around busy street mar- kets that sold everything you can imagine and more, ridden in tuktuks and modern monorails, visited ancient temples and palaces, watched monks pray, taken boat taxis around the city canals, and had my feet cleaned by hundreds of tiny fish in a tank.  Visiting Thailand helped me appreciate what a different place my mom was from culturally and how lucky I was to have that in my family. It also helped me relate even more with these people with whom I share an ancestry with, and it’s really helped me to understand who I am. After our trip, I began to better understand the traditions and customs that we upheld within our household. For instance, at my house, we sit on the floor around a short table where we eat all of our meals, and we eat all kinds of Asian food all the time.  As much as I love growing up in Sun Valley, my recent trips to both Thailand and Nepal made me realize that our small town really lacks cultural and racial diversity. I also realize that traveling to your homeland can help you develop a better sense of identity. It did for me. If all you know is a small slice of America, you can lose important pieces of culture and history that shaped your family. I now understand how important and special it is to hold on to that piece of who you are. 

© Finian Ayliffe. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.