Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mi Kyine, February 8, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Introduction / coming to the US / family

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Partial Transcript: 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.

Segment Synopsis: Mi Kyine introduces herself as being from Myanmar, having moved to the United States in 1978, at age 18, to pursue Premedical Technology at Truman State University (then referred to as Northeast Missouri State University). Kyine remembers the tropical weather back home and having to wear coats and gloves her first winter in the US. She talks about her father's career as a journalist, who was imprisoned in Burma for nationalizing the newspaper he wrote, which still runs out of Rangoon. She says that after moving to the US for work, he asked for and was granted political asylum to stay. Kyine speaks briefly on friends, family, and her life in Missouri.

Keywords: Burma; Missouri; Myanmar; Northeast Missouri State University; Political asylum; Truman State University; United States; Yangon (Rangoon)

GPS: Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar
Map Coordinates: 16.8409, 96.1735
GPS: Truman State University, Kirksville, MO
Map Coordinates: 40.1892, -92.5824
00:05:36 - Experience in Missouri / Moving to different states

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Partial Transcript: Um-hm, so, I want to kind of go back to the journey, um, that you kind of went through.

Segment Synopsis: Kyine says she enjoyed the work and environment at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, she didn't feel like people treated her differently for being Asian, and established a diverse community of friends and coworkers. She describes how, after living in St. Louis for over three years, she followed her then-fiancé to Auburn, Michigan to work at the University of Michigan. Kyine says that the area reminds her of Lexington, but more cosmopolitan and with more Asian restaurants. Kyine talks about moving to Florida and Arizona afterwards, before finally relocating to Lexington.

Keywords: Migration; St. Louis

Subjects: Arizona; Auburn (Mich.); Florida; Lexington (Ky.); Michigan; Missouri; Saint Louis (Mo.); University of Michigan

00:10:58 - First year in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, um, now let's talk about your journey coming to, um, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Kyine says she accepted a job at the University of Kentucky after a friend recommended it her to, having first visited Lexington for the interview. Kyine says that between being stereotyped as a “Burmese girl” and disrespected as an outsider in the workplace for the first time, moving to Kentucky was a very shocking experience. She talks about how at first she took it offensively, but seeing their ignorance as childlike, Kyine now views her coworkers more like close-minded children. She recounts instances of sexist and racist stereotypical comments made against her. Kyine says that she considers herself an American and America as home. She discusses enjoying the peace and cleanliness of when she lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, in comparison to living in Kentucky, which was her introduction to poverty.

Keywords: Foreigners; Outsiders

Subjects: Burma; Gambling; Home; Immigrants; Kentucky; Poverty; Racism; Scottsdale (Ariz.); Sexism; Stereotypes; University of Kentucky

00:22:32 - Community in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Hm. Um, I think you might be kind of related to the next set of questions we have.

Segment Synopsis: Kyine says that, having moved frequently in the past, building a community of friends in Lexington has caused her to consider staying despite her criticism of those who never leave Kentucky. Kyine says that through neighbors, coworkers, casino-goers, and strangers, her community varies in age, education, and background. She mentions that she found additional community in joining a foodie’s group to try new restaurants in Lexington. Kyine mentions the success of one of her friends and the death of another, and says that even though her friend group is quite diverse, it was unintentional on her part.

Keywords: Community; Diversity; Foodies

Subjects: Casinos; Communities; Gambling; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.)

00:29:43 - Hobbies / Home

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Partial Transcript: Um-hm, so, you have lived here in Kentucky for six years. Um, can you tell us about activities you enjoy doing in Kentucky?

Segment Synopsis: Kyine discusses her social life and definition of home. She mentions enjoying going to the casino, Thursday Night Live, street parties, hosting parties, and anything with a crowd. Kyine mentions she used to host more parties in Florida than she can in Lexington due to a smaller apartment. Kyine discusses how, for her, home is wherever she is, and her favorite part of making a new home is building new connections.

Keywords: Building community; Hosting; Thursday Night Live

Subjects: Casinos; Florida; Gambling; Home; Lexington (Ky.); Parties

00:34:25 - Asian-American identity and experience

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Partial Transcript: Hm. Um, let's talk about, um, some of the challenges that you have experienced in Kentucky as a, um, Asian American.

Segment Synopsis: Kyine says she does not feel she’s experienced many challenges because of her race and identity in America, but she acknowledges having been stereotyped as a nail tech in the past and how others see her as different. She talks about how her upbringing did not expose her to racial tensions as they are in America. Kyine states her ex-husband and his family taught her a lot about American culture, and that while she doesn’t think about her Asian identity much, Kyine does struggle with the identity of being a divorced women with an aging body.

Keywords: American culture; Racial tensions

Subjects: Aging; Asian Americans; Asians; Divorce; Identity; Kentucky; Sexism; Stereotypes

00:41:34 - COVID-19 impact on social and work life

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Partial Transcript: Hmm. Um, we're going to move to the next set of questions about, um, how COVID-19, um, has impacted your life.

Segment Synopsis: Kyine says that the COVID-19 pandemic mostly affected her social life and gambling habits. Kyine talks about how she was unable to partake in her usual social activities because of the pandemic, but she looked forward to working her lab at the University of Kentucky, where she studies human chromosomes. Kyrie says that, since her role did not directly work with COVID-19 patients, only samples, she only dealt with minor workplace adjustments. She says another impact of the pandemic on Kyine’s life is that she began gambling more often when the casino reopened, and after dealing with financial issues she settled on only taking a small amount of money with her to the casino.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Covid; Social lives

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Gambling; Human chromosomes; Pandemics; University of Kentucky

00:46:17 - Anti-Asian racism in America

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Partial Transcript: Um so, you may kind of mention this before, but I wanted to, kind of, double check, right?

Segment Synopsis: Kyine recalls experiencing anti-Asian racism in Flint, Michigan in the late 1980’s when people threw eggs and tried to damage her car because it was a Japanese-branded Honda. Kyine also mentions an incident where she was called a derogatory term, which she laughed off, and describes herself as too positive to remember more instances of experiencing racism. Kyine says that, despite the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes since the pandemic, she does not feel COVID-19 has impacted her own identity nor that the Atlanta Spa Shooting was more than an isolated incident.

Keywords: AAPI; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; Atlanta Spa Shooting; Coronavirus; Covid; Hondas; Racial slurs

Subjects: Asian Americans; COVID-19 (Disease); Flint (Mich.); Racism

00:50:51 - Overall experience in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: 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.

Segment Synopsis: Kyine says that one thing she has learned after living in Kentucky for six years is her own strength to survive in this environment. She says she is surrounded by people she views as understanding the world poorly, close-minded, and divided, but at the same time, she has met a lot of new friends, learned how to deal with things, and feels that she fits in, which makes staying a possibility. Kyine asserts that being viewed as Asian generally results in positive treatment in America because people affectionately view Asian women as “china dolls.”

Keywords: Community; Ignorance

Subjects: Asian Americans; Communities; Kentucky; Privilege