SCHREIVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- 1st Lt. Ashley Newberry, 22nd Space Operations Squadron space operator, faces a challenge that not all Americans face; carrying on the traditions of her family while feeling she doesn’t fit the mold of a “full-blooded Taiwanese-Chinese” woman.
“When I’m in Taiwan, I definitely don’t feel like I belong there, even though I look and can speak like everyone else, I’m different,” said Newberry.
Born and raised in Temple, Texas, Newberry explained how she’s noticed small, seemingly insignificant, differences in how she lives and carries herself compared to her family in Taiwan.
“It’s not even only because I have an accent (when I speak Mandarin), it’s things you wouldn’t think of that make me different. For example, I would go for a run in a t-shirt and shorts in Taiwan and it’s considered weird,” said Newberry. “Obviously I was American.”
Despite the differences, Newberry feels very close to her family in Taiwan, even if all of them aren’t literal family. Newberry explained many people she would call “aunt” or “uncle” were really just honorifics for close family friends who she respected over the years.
“It’s kind of like we got adopted into another family,” said Newberry. “Because my immediate family tied us to them years ago, I don’t even know how they all met.”
The ties are so strong that Newberry’s family frequently stays with their adopted family when visiting Taiwan, and when in Taiwan Newberry and her family members waste no time in exploring different food options in her limited time there.
“If I had no family there, I would definitely go back for the food. I probably have more photos of food from Taiwan than anything,” said Newberry.
Another way food has been very important to Newberry’s upbringing has been through her parents’ restaurant business, founded in 1972 and still running to this day. The restaurant has been something both parents and all three of her brothers have been a part of, and soon Newberry will have a hand in it as well.
“I’ll be getting out of the Air Force in a year, and I’ll kind of be doing my due diligence by helping out there. I’d also just like to get back to the family,” said Newberry.
Newberry explained that it was actually very odd, in comparison to American culture, for children to leave their parents’ homes at an early age, unless they were getting married. Leaving home could even be perceived as family rejection. The mentality behind it being, “I don’t want you anymore mom/dad/elders.”
“My parents, luckily for me, are traditional in the good ways and Americanized in others. I think I was blessed,” said Newberry. “But if I can retire my mom, that would make me extremely happy.”
Newberry has plenty of food, characteristics, memories and family to keep her tied to her Chinese-Taiwanese roots; however, it does not change the fact she is wholly and proudly American.
“The U.S. is very unique. There are so many people from so many places, you really can’t make assumptions about who they are,” said Newberry.