“Splat!” The golden mixture dropped to the ground. Trickles of yellow furtively made their way down the rich brown earth, and hints at a mysterious brew of spices dispersed throughout the air. The whole world held its breath as I eyed the scene with a subtle sense of guilt, but enchanted by a stronger, more poignant spell of wonder. I looked at my maid, who did nothing but smile warmly at the naivety of my marveling. Suddenly, my mother entered and focused her dark black eyes on me, now standing shamefaced next to a puddle of Bangladeshi curry. She sighed, exasperated, partially at my clumsiness and partially at my maid’s nonchalance. So my maid cleaned up the mess as my mother pushed me into the house, placed me on a chair, and forced a pair of silver chopsticks into my stubby fingers. I ate the Korean dishes set before me, cringing each time I tasted the fermented paste of the cold, red kimchi.
Growing up in the hands of my maid due to my parents’ ministry mostly meant that I could readily experience her humble tribal culture. I remember spending my days under the relaxing gaze of the sun, learning from her the ways of the local people. The readiness with which she humbly served both my family and her fellow people intrigued me. The most memorable part of my day was sitting on the porch at sundown, feasting on modest, yet inexplicably lavish portions of curry that she had sincerely prepared. Whenever I had a bad day, the golden mixture’s complex spices mixed harmoniously in my mouth, delicately comforting my troubled heart.
My daily excursions to the porch, however, came to a stop as my mother grew increasingly involved in my life. Instead of devouring warm curry and enriching myself in its aroma under the sun, I was forced me to chew on kimchi under the cold stare of fluorescent lights. At first, I protested and tried to escape my mother’s academic restraints, but I gradually grew to understand that they were her own way of expressing love, and accepted my place as the epitome of the Asian stereotype--the perfect student whose parents pushed them to become a doctor. It was a different life from that of the porch, but nonetheless, I enjoyed doing my best to please both myself and my parents, and grew appreciative of my flawless grades and numerous academic awards.
These accomplishments, however, later became overwhelming reasons for the expectations that confined me in chains of perfectionism. I came to the realization that my academic accomplishments, despite the satisfaction they brought, were bland in that they slightly lacked meaningful substance. My increasing desire for a more flavorful approach to life reminded me of my maid’s humble dedication that had spiced up the lives of people around her, including my own. Thus, I embarked on a new season of my life, serving the people of the Thai community, especially those who were less privileged like my maid. I began to embrace and intertwine both academics and service, realizing that they together made up vital aspects of my character.
So now I live as a blend of the two dishes--my mother’s academically and culturally privileged pride and my maid’s humbly and selflessly devoted service both harmoniously manifesting their best flavors in who I am. Without my mother’s constant pushes, I would not have realized the enjoyable results of diligence, and without my maid’s humble service, I would not have discovered the true fulfillment of helping others. I am now entering a new season of my life, to which I will take and serve both dishes. After all, who would know that the fermented paste of kimchi and the aromatic spices of curry complement each other so well? It is only fair that I, having fully tasted and experienced them both, would be the one to serve them.