South Hero, Vermont

South Hero is the southernmost Champlain island and only a thirty minute drive from my home. Milton is enormous and it’s the last stop before the Islands. Summer weekends are where the Islands really shine, with their farmer’s markets and Vermonters going to their dachas.

Except they don’t call them dachas, they call them “camp” and we’ve always been jealous of our friends who go to camp, because we want one someday.

One afternoon I stopped by for a Filipino Festival here. It was held at a small farm owned by a Filipino family. Tents with all kinds of foods are set up in their driveway. I don’t eat much pork at home, so I pig out on pig buttocks and pork belly and everything I love about Asian food.

Something that has been irritating me a lot lately is when people say “oh, I didn’t know there was a __ community in Vermont” and it’ll apply to say, the Filipino community. I’m not irritated in that everyone should know everything about Vermont, but more that your acknowledgement equals their existence. I asked my husband what constitutes a community? Like, I am the only Cantonese person I know in Milton, does Milton have a Cantonese community? He said with just one other family, it does. Given how big Milton is, then that means there’s a Cantonese community. And it’s interesting because in South Hero, I guess there is a community because on this farm, the family and all their friends are able to hold such food-centered events regularly, at least a few times per year so that means “Vermont has a Filipino community”.

We are in the US, so there’s every kind of community – everyone the world over knows this country is a melting pot of cultures and immigrants. Since living here and working as an ESL teacher, most of my friends are people of color, but I know that’s not everyone’s experience. I know that being a minority in Vermont, I can have a fundamentally different experience than many other Vermonters. People are surprised we have truck to haul hay, straw, and more for our mini-orchard, but then some people are not surprised and are curious to know what we grow and what animals we raise. Some people are disgusted to know we have guns, but some people are like, of course you have guns, it’s Vermont after all, you’re a minority if you don’t have a gun. I’ve met people who don’t know a single Vermonter with a gun, so they have staunch opinions about gun ownership, which is a little bizarre in my opinion because Burlington can surely be a bubble.

Every week I drive a neighbor’s kid to field hockey practice and take her to art class sometimes. People in Vermont will make statements about there being no people of color in Vermont, and here we are, two people of color existing and seeing each other weekly, and can be utterly confused by that statement. I eat mostly at the Nepali and Vietnamese restaurant down the street, so when people say there isn’t ethnic food in Vermont I’m also confused because that’s most of my diet here – the Asian food I make at home and the Asian takeout from our most visited places.

I guess all this to say that I’m irritated when people remark that there isn’t such a community in Vermont, my immediate eye-roll, because I exist, and we exist, and we don’t need to be something you can visit like a Little Italy or Chinatown or something in order to exist.

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