WANG: My name is Rong Wang, and the date is February 8th, 2022. I'm interviewing
Mi Kyine for the Stories of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in Kentucky
Oral History Project. Did I pronounce your last name correct?
KYINE: Close, it pronounced "Kyine."
WANG: Kyine. Oh, definitely not close. Mi Kyine. Um, so, we're going to get
started with some of the, um, basic, basic questions about who you are. Um, can
you tell us a little bit about yourself, um, you know, what's your--you know,
when you were born, where you were born, and kind of the stories about yourself?
KYINE: Yes. I was born in country called Myanmar, used to be called Burma. I
came to United States when I was 18, and I've lived many different states in the
WANG: Okay, um, let's think about the first state, um, when you first
00:01:00moved to this country, where did you land?
WANG: Um-hm, was it for school?
KYINE: Yes, I follow my father. He was here for a political asylum, and I follow
my father but I had a student visa at the time.
WANG: Um-hm, where did you, um, study?
KYINE: University called Northeast Missouri State University in Crooksville, Missouri.
WANG: Um-hm, um, what is the major that you studied at the university?
KYINE: I was in Biology--um, Premedical Technology. I did medical technology study.
WANG: Um, what was your first impression when you moved to Missouri?
KYINE: Um, coming from a large capital city of Burma, it was very small, and
very, um, quiet, and very firm community, which I wasn't familiar with.
WANG: Um, how about the weather? Was it quite different from where you grew up in?
KYINE: Yes, definitely. I came from tropical country and there were no snow or
never cold weather. So, my--my first winter, I had to wear coats and gloves and
hats, and I wasn't familiar with the winter clothings.
WANG: You said, um, you were basically moving because your father was seeking
political asylum. Can you tell us a little more about that?
KYINE: Yes. My father is a journalist from Burma. In Rangoon, there is a
newspaper my father founded--is still running at this moment. And, um, he was,
um, put in prison and the newspaper was nationalized. And, when he
00:03:00came out of jail, they offer him in charge of this, um, communication and
journalism and entertainment system of the country, but, um, he, um, told
government that he was going to United States to study updates. And then, when
he arrived with his family, he asked for political asylum to stay in US.
WANG: Um-hm, um, besides you, who else came with your father?
KYINE: My father came with his wife and a child and my older brother, and I
followed them a year later.
WANG: Um, what was the main reason that you wanted to move across, you know,
countries at that young age?
KYINE: My country was in trouble with the military government, and we did not
have universities, and there was no future, and no education system.
00:04:00Mainly for education and have a better life--to make a opportunity of, um,
growing to be an adult person.
WANG: Um, let's talk about something a little, sort of, different. Um, can we
talk about people that you care about? You know, you have lived in so many
different places. Um, do you still have, um, family that live in the country?
Um, you know, people back home, do you still keep in touch with?
KYINE: Yes. I have a real sister, older, and the mother, but, um, we just
occasionally talk on telephone. And, um, it's kind of lost, um,
communicating...and then, so many years have passed by, so, it's not like
that close to them anymore.
WANG: Which year did you--um, when did you move to this country? Can you?
WANG: '78, oh my gosh. That is crazy. Um, what about--um, you said your father,
um, when he moved here, he moved with his wife and the child. Was it--was it a
KYINE: Yes, my stepmother.
WANG: Do you still, um, stay in touch with her?
KYINE: Yes, we were very close.
WANG: Where does she live?
KYINE: Florida, Fort Lauderdale.
WANG: Um-hm, so, I want to kind of go back to the journey, um, that you kind of
went through. Talk a little bit more about your life before Kentucky. So, you
started your new chapter in this country in Missouri. How long were you there for?
KYINE: I was in university for four years then I went to, um, medical technology
school in Kansas City, Missouri.
WANG: Um-hm, so, that was probably another two years?
KYINE: So, 1982, I moved to St. Louis, Missouri--
KYINE: --and I worked for University of Missouri--University of--Washington
University in St. Louis, Missouri.
WANG: Um-hm, um, how was St. Louis? Was it different from the first city that
you landed in, in this country?
KYINE: Yes, I--I enjoy St. Louis, and I enjoyed the working, single life, and it
was really--it was a really fun place and, um, fun learning to be a professional.
WANG: Um-hm. When you were in Missouri, um, did you have a lot of friends from
school? From work?
KYINE: Um, I have a lot of friends from both school and work and neighbors.
WANG: Um-hm, um, what was--um, was what it like, um, being Asian,
00:07:00living in, um, Missouri at the time in 1980s?
KYINE: I don't see any difference. And, um, I look back and, um, a lot of my
friends are Italian because, um, St. Louis is a hail area. A lot of Italians,
and, um, my neighbor is a Jewish lady from, um, Chicago, and, um, she tends to
entertain a lot of international students. And my coworkers, some were American,
and some are half Asian, Filipino, and half are Caucasian. And I look back and I
was surrounded by community of multiple races, and we don't feel any
00:08:00difference and that we don't--in the '80s we never felt racial stressed or
anything or title at all.
WANG: Um-hm, um, so, you were in, um, Missouri probably for a good maybe
five--six years, or was it longer than that?
KYINE: I was there about three and a half years because I moved to follow my
boyfriend, fiancé later, to Michigan.
WANG: Um-hm, okay. Where--where in Michigan?
KYINE: I work for University of Michigan and I live in, um, -----------(??),
near in Auburn, Michigan.
WANG: Um-hm, do you remember which year you moved to Michigan?
KYINE: Probably, I was 26, so.
WANG: So, um, in Michigan, what was, kind of, your first impression?
KYINE: Very cool, emotional (both laugh) than Missouri, and, um, University of
Michigan reminded me of this, um, Lexington, Kentucky a bit, but a little bit
more cosmopolitan. And, um, it's a lot of Asian restaurants and then, we were
young and we--I have a lot of friends, we go out, and never feel anything
different about being, um, Asian or having an accent. I was well accepted, and
nobody really differentiate me with anything because they are very, um,
internationally accepted with all the foreign students there.
WANG: Um, you mentioned that you lived in different states. So, so far, we have
Missouri, we have Michigan. Um, what are--what are the other states
00:10:00that you lived in before moving to, um, Kentucky?
KYINE: Then I went to, um, Florida, and, um, Arizona, and I went back to, um,
Arizona, and then, um, I came here.
WANG: Um-hm, um, so, was it all because of work?
WANG: Um-hm, um, so, out of all the states that you lived in before coming to
Kentucky, what was--what was the state that you kind of liked the most?
KYINE: Well, it's all different--different part of life too, what stage of life
I was in, and I really like Arizona, but the problem is, the weather is too
severely hot. And, um, so, I would say Florida would be the next flight for me
to move back to.
WANG: Um-hm, so, um, now let's talk about your journey coming to, um,
00:11:00Kentucky. How did you end up in Kentucky?
KYINE: It was kind of a surprise and I never think I would end up here. My job
was, um, laying--I worked for commercial lab and they were laying off some
people, and I just had the crazy idea that I wanted to move somewhere lowkey, no
stress. And then, I happened to have a friend who's working for University of
Kentucky. So, he said, "Well, come on over, this place is fun." And so, I had an
interview, and with my experience and all these years of experience and ability
to publish many paper and work experience, I got the job, and then it all
happened so fast. And two weeks later, I was moved--I was already
00:12:00here. I didn't even know what happened. (both laugh)
WANG: Um, how long ago was that?
KYINE: Six years ago exactly.
WANG: So, you never--did you even visit Kentucky before you take that job offer?
KYINE: No. I--I visit for the interview, and then I fly back one time to look
for apartment, but it's from my record, I always moved to places I've never been
to because I wanted to experience.
WANG: Um-hm, um, but also at the same time, I think, having a friend that's
working here that helped, right, kind of, the process?
KYINE: Yes, they are my--I consider them my family.
WANG: Um-hm, um, so it's--you've been here, um, for six years. Um, can you
describe to us about your first year in Kentucky?
KYINE: It was extremely shocking for me. Living in, um, many different states
and--and lab setting, this is my tenth lab, and, um, I have never
00:13:00been treated as, um, outsider ever. In Florida, I work in three different labs
and, um, people here are always--I felt that my supervisor and coworkers are
labeling me as a "Burmese girl, Burmese girl," and I don't even consider myself
a Burmese girl, I consider myself American. Since my coworkers are born after I
arrived to the United States, so I felt I'm more America than they were, plus,
um, I have experience at different states, living and traveling and eating
different kinds of food, different kinds of weather. And, I felt they
00:14:00were not respecting my experience and my background, but somehow they are
labeling me as a foreign person.
WANG: Hm, um, did that kind of impression that they are labeling you as an
identity you don't necessarily identify with--did that happen like during the
first year, immediately? How long did you--did it take you to realize that
they're actually labeling with something you don't--you don't agree?
KYINE: Oh, as soon as I walked in, because they kept asking me stupid question,
like, "Have you ever had this before?" Yes. I have eaten this many times because
I have been living in United States.
WANG: So, do you think this type of comment or questions is a form of just
ignorance or like a microaggression to you?
KYINE: Originally, I was very offensive, then I tried to understand
00:15:00their little, small window of view. It's like a children if a visitor come to
their home, they never exposed to any outside world. So, I started to treat them
like they are children, never seen a relative from India coming in town, or I
was just too large person to fit in this little world--to their little world.
WANG: Um-hm, so, the coworkers and supervisor that you talked about, um, where
they're from? Are they all from Kentucky area?
KYINE: They're born and raised and living, um, three minutes away from their
parents. And then, they all went to university--every single one went to
University of Kentucky, and it's almost like they are sorority-fraternity team
and I'm an outsider.
WANG: Hmm. What are the questions they ask you--is it about like food or?
KYINE: Oh, they assume I eat Asian food which I don't, and, um, they
assume...whatever they think I am is not really who I am, and it's just very
frustrating for me sometimes. And the other thing is, I am independent woman
with--I have been single woman and they do not understand a single woman living
alone, buying houses and cars, and getting repaired. They kept telling me I'm
going to get ripped off and that makes me very angry.
WANG: There's that kind of, um, sort of, like, ethnicity stereotype, but there's
also gender stereotype in there?
KYINE: Yes, um, I felt like I am a single woman and I'm just going to get
screwed by everybody which I don't believe in it, and it was, um,
00:17:00quite a struggle.
WANG: Hm. So, they're basically projecting their kind of views and perspectives
KYINE: Yes, yes and--and I was very shocked to see that 2020, people in this
country are feeling that way and, um, acting that way. It's really shocking to me.
WANG: So, what helped you get through your first year in Kentucky?
KYINE: Well, I was so frustrated and so angry, and I started to gamble and I
start letting myself out with this gambling world--introduce myself to this
gambling world. So, I just--when I gamble, I forgot about everything.
WANG: So, it's your way of escaping basically?
WANG: Um-hm. Um, do you regret doing that?
KYINE: No. I accepted my responsibility, and I say, "I do what I need to do, "
and this is my life lesson, but, um, I know how to cope with this now. I--I
understand where they came from and I'm trying to get along and, um, I've been
rewarded with the nice salary raise. And, um, my work is getting easier for me
because, um...it's just really easy for me. So, I'm just trying to relax, and
then, trying to enjoy life and meeting friends, and just, um, I'm okay.
WANG: Um-hm, um, where would you consider home after leaving all the
KYINE: It's kind of hard to tell. I would say...I don't really consider--home is
where I am right now, what I am now today, but I live the longest in Arizona,
and, um--but, um, since I don't have my home or my house anymore, when I look
back, I don't even want to go visit anymore.
WANG: Um-hm, but you don't really consider, um, Myanmar your home, right?
Because that's something you left behind.
KYINE: Yes, I think that's my pattern. I was grow up somewhere, I live there,
and I move so my home is where I am right now, and, um--but I look forward to my
second move, but I had no idea where I'm going, what I'm doing, so I'm just
going to live for the moment.
WANG: Um-hmm, so I would say your home is probably more, kind of, a larger sense
of, like, this country, right? Versus a specifically particular city or state
KYINE: No. I consider myself American and I live in America.
WANG: Um-hm, um, you did actually mention that you really, really liked your
time in Arizona. I think you said you actually lived there twice. Um, what are
the things that you miss about your--your life--your time in Arizona?
KYINE: Um, I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is the most beautiful city, and
then--it's clean and, um, no crimes at all. And, um, it's like, um, a little
artificial world, everybody's happy. To me, like a mini heaven. Everybody's
happy, it's beautiful, so many restaurants to eat, and, um--mostly
00:21:00it's clean, and we never see a homeless person--one person ever.
WANG: Um, did you also miss those things when--during your first year in
Kentucky? When you were, you know, brand new to this state?
KYINE: Oh, it's extremely shocking for me with the Kentucky. With
the--originally my apartment, the homeless people, they got dinner every Sunday,
and I would go out there and feed them fry--um, boil eggs and everything. And
I--first--actually, the real first time introduction to poverty in this country.
And I was never--I've never seen anybody of who are poor and I've never seen
people. And then, um, the other thing I'm really disappointed in Kentucky was,
all these people have college education, but somehow they wanted to
00:22:00live so close to their parents and their friends--high school friends and
family. They don't apply themselves to get a better job. They kept sitting there
complaining why their jobs are no good, and I can't understand this concept
about leaving your nest. They don't understand that, and I don't understand why
wouldn't they just leave somewhere. Get a better job and have a better life.
WANG: Hm. Um, I think you might be kind of related to the next set of questions
we have. Um, I feel when you talk about your colleagues and supervisors, all the
people that you work with, they kind of wanted to stay close, right? So, they
feel like they wanted to have the support from their community, that's why they
don't want to risk moving away. Um, I--I wanted to kind of ask you, um, can you
describe your community or what--what does community mean for you? Do
00:23:00you have that, kind of, support you want from the community?
KYINE: Well, I build myself a little community. I have some friends from all
different age, all different background, and some are very educated, and some, I
don't think they even finished high school, but somehow I built my own little
community with mixture of people and, um, they all support me in my ways of
everything. Like, that's why I don't really want to move again, because at least
I know who somebody can take me to the hospital, somebody will take care of me
if I'm sick, somebody will bring me soup. So, I built myself a little community
here, so this is my home now. Because of that, I'm becoming a people
00:24:00I'm criticizing about, "Why don't you just go get a better job?" I do have a
better job offer, but I don't want to go, so I'm becoming what I'm being a
hypocrite about. (both laugh)
WANG: So um, can you share with us, kind of, how did you build that community?
Did you--how did you meet those folks?
KYINE: Oh, multiple thing, my neighbors, and then my casino contact, and some
from work, not necessarily my immediate coworkers, but some people I share
lunchroom with. And um, so, at three places like neighbors, or sometime I just
meet people in a restaurant and start talking to them, and I invited them to--
we became friends.
WANG: Um, so basically you're welcoming kind of personality, right, that brought
all the people together to be in your community?
KYINE: Yes, I have--I can do that in every city I live.
WANG: Um-hm, um, are there any particular, um, groups in Kentucky that you build
connections with over time? Any kind of, um, I don't know if you go to church,
go to any kind of, um, socialization groups besides the community you built?
KYINE: Um, I recently becoming a member of a foodie's group and that already
gave me, um, three new friends within, um, two weeks of me joining.
WANG: So, basically common interest and trying different kind of food?
WANG: So, basically still that, kind of, common connection, right?
WANG: Um, since you moved to Kentucky, how has your connections with, you know,
different kind of communities or groups you built evolved--um, evolved over
time...in the sense that, you know, um, do you feel like you become closer to
some friends and, um, kind of new--new friends you met over time?
KYINE: Yes, um, I the--met my neighbors and we built like friendship and I see
people grow. And then, I lost some people, they moved away. I have a few
friends. My Indian friend, I'm so happy for him that he's so happy. I saw a few
friends leaving and grow up to be a really good, successful, happy, like not
necessarily professionally, like personal growth, and I'm really happy for them.
I saw a lot of people went down darkness. I lost a few friend--I lost a few
friend--pass and, um, it was the most, um--I don't know about the
00:27:00age, the most death I ever seen in the last six months than ever in my whole
WANG: Were the deaths related to COVID-19 or something different?
KYINE: Not at all, it's just--I have a very close friend and he just died all of
a sudden with, um, some kidney failure and he was healthy boy at 33 and then,
um, it just--well, but the other death is in Arizona, my friend just passed away
with stomach cancer, and then my own brother passed away with the lung cancer in
the--four years ago, so.
WANG: So, four years ago. Was it the brother that came with your father and his
wife back then?
WANG: Um, were you--were you close to him?
KYINE: No, because he's very young, and, um, my parents were divorced so I
didn't really live with them.
WANG: Um, so it looks like when you, um, kind of build the communities that you
have, you know, the connections with--often it's through common interests, um,
or, you know, like proximity, that you live close by and you share some kind of
passion. Um, was it that your intention to build, kind of, a diverse community
or just, kind of, doesn't matter?
KYINE: Oh, I really have no intention of diversity or anything. I'm kind of--I
eat whatever people want to eat. I'm like, go with the flow, happy go lucky
girl. I don't really have--I don't--trying to force people into doing anything I
want to do. At the same time, um, I have moral issues, and I have a
00:29:00friend who likes to drink too much. So, with many experience, I kind of know, I
give her designated driver. I give myself a ride for her, and I trying to
control people to do better things or good things and not to get into trouble
for them. So, but somehow, yes, um, my friends are different race, different
color, different everything, but, um, I don't even think of them as different
race or anything.
WANG: Um-hm, so, you have lived here in Kentucky for six years. Um, can you tell
us about activities you enjoy doing in Kentucky?
KYINE: Well, plus I told you I enjoy the casino actions, but there are
consequences come with that, so I am weaning myself out of it, and,
00:30:00um...I enjoy going to the Thursday night live and I--I love street parties and I
like being with people and watching people in a crowd, so I enjoy those, and I
still go out often to a restaurant. And then, during the COVID lockdown, we are
essential people and we go to work every day, so--so on the weekends, I'll still
go to the park and watch people passing by because I need to be around people.
WANG: Um, you talked about parties. Do you, um, usually go to the parties or do
you usually host parties or both?
KYINE: Both. I hosted a lot of party in Kentucky. I hosted a lot more when I was
in, um, Florida, but, um, with the limitation of apartment size and
00:31:00the guest list, I still host quite a few parties.
WANG: Hm. Um, I want to kind of go back to the home question. When I asked you
earlier, you said you kind of like Arizona the most. You--if you really need to
move, you probably move back to Arizona, um, but you don't really feel like now
where you are is home? But then, when we start talking about your life in
Kentucky, you said, "Well, this is home." So I wonder if we can go back to the
question, um, just kind of push you a little bit more, is it because you think
Kentucky's home, because you're kind of having second thought about moving?
KYINE: Yes, home is where I am right now. Right now, I'm in my home, but,
whatever I live is my home, but, um, I look forward to moving back to
00:32:00Florida in time to retire. At the same time, um, I am reluctant to build another
social surrounding again. So, right now, I'm home. And then, I think I'm just
afraid to settle in one place, so that's why I can't really commit where is my
home. I can't really commit to any of it.
WANG: So, you wanted, kind of, that definition of home comes with you, but also
in a kind of more fluid format, right? You wanted to have that kind of freedom
and flexibility to be able to move if you choose to?
KYINE: Yes, I feel like I don't want to be tied down. I don't--I'm afraid of commitment.
WANG: Um, so, out of all the places you, kind of, um, lived at, we
00:33:00talked about, you know, you missed some of the environment things like low crime
in Arizona, the different type of food you can have. Um, what about other types
of activities? You said you host a lot of parties in Florida. Was there
something you really miss that you were able to actually host larger parties?
KYINE: Yes. I miss Florida because, um, I--I have a lot of--I can host a lot of
parties and dinner parties and my neighbors all stop by. My house is a open door
and whoever wants to eat, somebody to stop by and I can whip up a dinner for
them. I feel like I'm mother to the people around me. At the time it was good,
but the same time if I go back, it's not going to be the same anymore, and a lot
of people passed away already too. A lot of my neighbors have passed
WANG: --So, I guess, like what you're saying is, basically, out of all the
places you--you lived, I think the most enjoyable activity for you is to kind of
build your community, right? You were able to meet different friends, and new
friends, old friends, kind of, um, being together, right? Share the experience?
WANG: Hm. Um, let's talk about, um, some of the challenges that you have
experienced in Kentucky as a, um, Asian American. I think we touched a little
bit about that. Um, besides some of the challenges you kind of experienced at
work, um, are there any challenges you--you experienced, um, possibly because
you are a Asian American?
KYINE: Yes, a--a couple of times. I was, um, in the casino and playing and
some--a black lady came and asked me if I work at her nail shop, and
00:35:00it was--I laughed. It was laughable for me, it was very funny for me, but that's
when I realized, people look at me and they don't see me, they see me as an
Asian person who does nail.
WANG: Hm. Again, that's kind of the stereotype, right? You always kind of, um,
experience. What other challenges can you think about?
KYINE: ...I didn't have much challenges. It's more like, um, just people think
I'm different and somehow I'm so used to living in this country and it
overcomes. Um, my whole interaction is, I need something from somebody, like,
I'll get what I want, and regardless of what their opinion of me, so
00:36:00it really wasn't a challenge. And I don't feel like people treat me differently
just because I'm Asian. I don't feel it that way, so.
WANG: But it's more about the different kind of expectations, right?
You--they--they think--or the perceptions, right? They perceive you as an Asian
that might eat something different, that might do something different, but you
don't really see that in yourself, right?
KYINE: No, and a lot of times, they might ask me like if I cook Asian food, but,
um--and I just say, "No." Then I think if she become friends with me or
acquaintances, they kind of knew what I would eat or what I would do anyway. But
now and then, I'll be told, like--I'll be asked, "Do you know this? Or do you
have that?" I will look at them like, "Yes, it's a simple basic
00:37:00thing, I know." So.
WANG: But not because I'm Asian. (laughs)
WANG: Interesting. Um, we talked about some of those kind of things about
identity earlier. Um, you said you first identify self as American. Um, does the
Asian identity ever come to you? Do you consider yourself a strong kind of Asian identity?
KYINE: I don't know. When I look at myself in the mirror, I know I'm Asian, but
I think I'm among all different people, so I don't really feel that I'm Asian
all the time. I just feel like I'm a person and normal human being, a woman
sometimes. And then, I don't really feel--I don't really feel like
00:38:00I'm Asian all the time. At work, I just concentrate on what I need to do at my
task that can be performed by any--any person, any-
WANG: --Doesn't have to do anything--
WANG: --with race or ethnicity. Um, do you think your self-identity kind of
changed over time since you, you know, 18 years old moving from Myanmar to here
and living in different places, do you think your identity of whether being
Asian, Asian American, or just being a woman changed over time?
KYINE: Well, not really because, um, we were raised multi-culture. I was--I was
in Asia born but I was surrounded by Indian, Muslim Indian, Chinese, and, um, my
family are mixed with, um, British in my family, so we were never had
00:39:00that race issue ever in our head at all. With the--we describe people with the
skin color dark, white. Not in a prejudice way, in a real description of, "Oh,
the Chinese girl have whiter skin, Indian girls had darker skin," but, it was
never, ever introduced to me, so I can't understand this race thing ever. And,
um, I consider like--a lot of my friends in college are black too, and I was
exposed to their black culture, and then--so, race was never ever occurred to
me, and my ex-husband family took me well in their family as a person, and he
taught me a lot of things about America but never in a racist way. He just knew
I didn't know of something, and so, it's kind of hard to explain. I
00:40:00don't have--I have more identity issue about becoming, um, divorce woman,
becoming an aging woman, and more like a look in the body size and the weight. I
had those a lot more than, um, being Asian.
WANG: Hm, interesting. So, it's more than just a race type of identity that sort
of helped define you guys. It's people that have expectations of you being a
woman at this age, you are expected to do what and you don't--you don't meet our
expectations, so we see you as somebody different, is that kind of what you're saying?
KYINE: No, it's more like my own self-esteem about being older. Um, aging--aging
issue, being older, gaining weight for menopause issue, that kind of stuff.
Nothing to do with race--
KYINE: --but actually, my race saved me for not aging. I'm not aging,
00:41:00I look really young, so I have a reverse problem. But, people--
WANG: --Hm, but it's more about self-identification in your--umhm--
KYINE: --people--I have to tell people my age so they won't expect--they won't
expect--they think I'm younger, so I have to tell them I'm older.
WANG: (laughs) So it's more like your self-consciousness, right?
KYINE: Yes. My self consciousness is like, "I need to tell people I'm older and
I've done many things."
WANG: Hmm. Um, we're going to move to the next set of questions about, um, how
COVID-19, um, has impacted your life. I know we kind of talked a little bit
about, um--so for example, um, you--you talked about you used to be able to, you
know, actually enjoy going to the restaurant to hosting parties. Um, so,
how--how has the pandemic impacted your life, work, uh, in Kentucky?
KYINE: Well, we had to keep working, so we were at work all the time
00:42:00and, um, my whole social life shutdown, and I couldn't visit my friends. And,
um, that shutdown time was quite difficult for me, very lonely as to single
people, nothing to do with race, just being single. It was very, very difficult,
and, um--but fortunately I had to go to work every day so that really saved us.
We have human interaction, so that was very nice. And, um...we were so afraid to
get close to people, like touching, physical touch and stuff, so dating is just
out of the questions. And, um, not able to go out to restaurants or be with
people was very difficult, but I have few friends, um, who still do
00:43:00stuff with me, and that was really, um, nice.
WANG: Um, I know you said you work at a lab at the University of Kentucky. Can
you tell us a little bit more about what you do in the lab?
KYINE: Yeah, I do--my normal routine will be, um, we do tissue culture and we do
a microscopic studies. It's are really complex studies for human chromosomes.
WANG: Um-hm. Um, so given the lab environment through the whole pandemic, um,
you know, were you ever scared of going to work?
KYINE: No, because we don't get patient. We only got samples and our samples
came from clinic. So if the person is COVID positive, the sample will not come
through to us--
KYINE: --but if--occasionally during the lockdown time, if the person's COVID
positive, they'll put the sticker on it. It used to be long time ago
00:44:00in the '80s, they'll have a AID'S patient sticker--a precaution sticker for AIDS
patient. Similar to that, they'll have a COVID sticker, which now eliminated--at
that moment, then we just handle them. Well, university--um, well, hospital
people were medically trained to wear gloves and--
KYINE: --caution or protection, and we--we do face shield and we do everything
we would normally do, so.
WANG: So you were not scared of going to work?
KYINE: No, actually I looked forward to go to work because I'll be--I'll be with people.
WANG: Mm-hmm. Um, let's talk a little bit about how pandemic impacted your life.
So, you said, couldn't really go dating, also limited when you can go to the
restroom for dining. Um, what about--what about gambling? Did you still, um, go
KYINE: We couldn't for a long time, they were shut down for a long time. Then
when they re-opened, and we went all out because that's a place we can go. So,
with the mask, and that's when I get gambling heavy again.
WANG: Um-hm. Um, and you talked a little bit about, you see the consequences of
gambling and you're trying to kind of take control of it. Is that something
because of COVID, because of--like, what made you realize that?
KYINE: Um, it's because of my financial problems, and then, um, I don't like the
way, um, I behave. There are patterns I'm seeing, red flags, so I'm controlling
by, um, limiting time and sources--how much time I spend, and then, um,
limiting the resources and I will take only a certain amount of money
00:46:00and left all the debit card at home, and it seems to be working.
WANG: Gotcha. Do you still get to kind of enjoy that experience at casino, right?
KYINE: Yes, um, in a limited time.
WANG: Um so, you may kind of mention this before, but I wanted to, kind of,
double check, right? We all know that we're witnessing the rising incidents
related to anti-Asian--anti-Asian Americans in this country. Um, have you ever
experienced anything like that before, during, or, even, you know, now? During
the pandemic time?
KYINE: Um, very long time ago when I was young in, um Michigan, I felt--I was in
the Flint, Michigan a small town. They are anti-Japanese car and I had a little
Honda. So, people were trying to, like, hurt my car, but it wasn't
00:47:00successful. That was the only time. I think it was because the automotive
industrial, and I was called, like, a "Chink" from the--on the street in Kansas
City one time--
KYINE: --but I just laugh it up because I say, "I'm not Chinese." And then, just
recently in Kentucky, I think that lady asked me if I do nails. That was--it's
kind of--it was funny, but I just think she's just ignorant. I didn't care, but
I'm trying to think. Um, I just don't feel that people are entitled to me. I
think because of my personality and friendliness and I don't feel negative
energy from people.
WANG: Hm. Are you're trying to give people the benefits of doubt, I
00:48:00think more like it, right?
KYINE: Yeah, they might be calling me name, I probably didn't know. I don't--I
think I put a shield on something. I just didn't feel it. I'm trying to look
back, and I think I'm too positive the person to even realize that people are
cursing at me. I don't know, so.
WANG: If you don't mind, I want to ask a little bit more about the incident you
talked about in Flint, Michigan. They were, um, basically targeting your car
because you're Asian and you're driving a Japanese car. What were they trying to do?
KYINE: They were trying to like--at that time, it's popular to, they don't want
Japanese car--people to buy Japanese car, they want you to buy American car. So,
some bars are doing, like, buy a Japanese car and people beat on it and break
windshield and everything, but I think they're trying to, um, throw eggs or
something. I don't really remember exactly, but somehow are not--they
00:49:00didn't do anything to my car.
WANG: Was that in the '80s or 1990s?
KYINE: It would be, um, late '80s.
WANG: So, I remember the, um, killing of a Chinese man, um, back in--I think it
was probably 1990, 1991, something like that. Um, it--I think it was actually in
Detroit area, right, so I wonder--I think, I kind of connect back to the
background of that, kind of, hating, you know, Asians, because they think
they're stealing their jobs, but also, all the Japanese cars--Asian cars were
destroying American car market. Um, so, I think you are this very warm person
that wanted to give people benefits of doubt, even though people can be ignorant
or rude. Um, so, I want to kind of go back to this question, to think about, um,
whether the pandemic kind of impacted your self-identity as an
00:50:00Asian--as an Asian-American in this whole process. Does it make you think about
race a little bit more? So, for example the killing of six Asian females, um,
in, you know, the salons in Atlanta last year.
KYINE: I personally, um, don't feel anything different to my life about this
Asian people killing, because I still consider that is an isolated incident
about some crazy boy wanted to go to massage parlor or something. It's something
personal, it could have been two white person, it could be two black person. I
personally don't feel that...it was affecting my race or my identity.
WANG: Um-hm. Um, I wanted to kind of talk a little bit about, you know, your
overall experience here in Kentucky, now it's been six years. Um, what have you
learned about your--yourself in your life in this state, in Kentucky?
KYINE: I'm really a strong person and, um, I learn how strong I am to survive
this, um, harsh world--I feel like Kentucky people had a bad deal here and they
are--their incomes are low and their education level and understanding of the
world are quite low. And then, some of my coworkers, they don't even know there
is a special like earthquake or tsunami or people got killed. They don't know
anything about the world or even their own country.
WANG: So, like, basically life outside of Kentucky or state?
KYINE: Outside of their home, their backyard. It just really, um, sadden me to
see that how close minded and ignorant they are and then, prejudice
00:52:00each other, black versus white, versus Catholic, versus Baptist, and--
WANG: --There's always that kind of division.
KYINE: It was very disappointing to me, but at the same time, I've been meeting
a lot of new friends through my foodie's group and they are all over. They are
new generation, younger people from moving in town. So, I'm kind of fitting in
with--in with the people who are coming from out of town moving into a new town, so--
WANG: --Is that why you, kind of, constantly go back and forth between the idea
of moving or staying in Kentucky? On one hand, there are people that, kind of,
just lock themselves in their little world, in their local community, and you
also constantly see like new blood coming into the community that you share some
common interest with, that you actually enjoy hang out with.
KYINE: Yes. Yes, and because, after I move like 12--15 times, I feel like my
aging process and I'm tired to move again. And, um, I don't want to deal with
unknown. At least, I know how to deal with things here. I know how to deal, I
know how to fit in.
WANG: Um, we have covered a lot in the past 50 minutes to an hour. Um, is there
anything that we haven't, um--we, um, haven't talked about but you wanted to
make sure we talk about, because of, you know, kind of, the project itself, um,
the oral history of Asian and Asian-Americans in Kentucky, is there anything
that you want us to kind of mention?
KYINE: Well, I, um, noticed that my friend is from Thailand and she's
00:54:00Asian, from Thailand, but, um--and people, um, think she's Mexican for some
reasons, so--or not really, Hispanic, so she get treated--or she's a very
beautiful girl, so she get treated really well by all races, um. So my point is,
somehow, I'm thinking a positive view being Asian here. It's a kind of positive
factor, people think you are pretty China doll and people wanted to play with
you and love you and treat you well like a China doll.
WANG: Hm, so there's still that kind of stereotype of what a Asian woman look
like, and like, that kind of, um, sort of, I don't know, like the perceptions of
what --what a--
KYINE: --Sweet China dolls and they're somebody they want to be. They want to
love you and cherish you. And in a positive ways, it's not in negative ways.
WANG: Um-hm, okay. Um, this is really great. I really appreciate you, um,
sharing all your, um, experience, um, with us, and, um, thank you for your time.
KYINE: Thank you.