Ana Amaya

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Ana Amaya is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Amaya and her family come from Colombia; her mother resides in Cary, N.C. while her father lives in California. As a child, Amaya moved around quite a bit, temporarily living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Hillsborough, N.C.; and Durham, N.C. Her parents divorced when she was four years old. Having both come from previous marriages, Amaya has several half-brothers who are very distant from her in age. Throughout her life, she has attended school and, following her parents’ example, decided to attend college to pursue a professional career. The central theme of the interview involved perceptions of gender, expectations of gender, and gender roles, and how these change depending on shifting geographical contexts as well as changing family dynamics. She also pinpoints the idea that her family is traditional in some ways, but progressive in others, particularly when referring to how they interact with each other. Questions were asked regarding family relations, professional aspirations and goals, and Amaya's past experiences with gender-related conflict both in her family and in her daily life. Her parents’ unique relationship was explored in-depth, as well as her relationships with her half-brothers. Because she visits California frequently, stories from her time there were explored, but on a more general level. Very few theoretical questions regarding gender perceptions and expectations were asked. The themes that arose most prominently involved family dynamics, the importance of education, and an emphasis on freedom, made possible from fewer constraints, gendered or otherwise.



Nick Johnson: Alright. This is Nick Johnson interviewing--.
Ana Amaya: Ana Amaya.
NJ: Today is April 14, 2013, time approximately 2:07, and we are currently on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill in an empty classroom in Murphey Hall. Ana, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
AA: No problem.
NJ: Okay. So, let's go ahead and start by you telling me a little bit about your family's decision to come here to the United States.
AA: Sure.
NJ: And to North Carolina.
AA: So when I was--I was actually nine at the time when my mom told me that she wanted to move to the United States. She worked as a bank manager in Colombia, but she lost her job. And as a woman, and as an older woman, I think it was really hard for her to try to get another job, because in Colombia, age is a big thing. If you look in the ads, they'll straight out ask, "Oh, we're looking to hire a woman from ages this to this." They actually--. At the time; I don't know if they do that anymore. So it was really hard for her to get another job. We actually had to move in with one of my aunts. So we were living with them for awhile, and she had this boyfriend that she had met in Colombia, but he lived in Tampa, who was in the middle of a divorce. And he said, "Well, you know, why don't you come move with me?" And so my mom decided that maybe that would be the best thing to do. And I remember being in my cousin's room when she came and talked to me and she was like, "You know you can stay here with your dad, or you can come with me." And then I was like, "Well, wherever you go, I'm going." So I told her I wanted to go. And I think she was just worried about taking me away from all my cousins and my dad and my brothers, but at the time she just felt like there was nothing else she could do financially, because we just didn't have any money at all. So we moved. I think it was in August of 2000.
NJ: You moved to Tampa?
AA: We actually visited Tampa first, but then we ended up moving to South Florida. I don't remember exactly what the town was called, but I think it was near Fort Lauderdale, and we lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Literally, you walked in and it was like a bed, kitchen, and bathroom. And they ended up breaking up because the whole divorce thing was too stressful, and she didn't really know what was going on. So she started working at Bahama Breeze as a cook there, and she also, I think, worked at Golden Corral at the same time.
NJ: Two jobs at the same time.
AA: Yeah.
NJ: And it was your aunt's boyfriend that lived there in Tampa, correct?
AA: No, it was my mom's boyfriend.
NJ: Oh, your mom's boyfriend.
AA: Yes.
NJ: Okay. And you mentioned that your father still lives in Colombia?
AA: Yes, he does.
NJ: What part of Colombia did you originally come from?
AA: Cali.
NJ: Cali. Okay. Do you get to go back very often?
AA: Yeah, I go back every year. When we first moved to the United States, obviously, we didn't have any papers, so I didn't go back until, I think, I was twelve, maybe thirteen. But ever since then, I've been going back every year to see my family. I do a trip usually every year. Not this year, actually, but--. Sad.
NJ: Why not?
AA: Well, it's really expensive. Tickets are usually around a thousand dollars. So this year, my brother's getting married and he lives in Germany. So it was kind of one or the other, so I obviously picked my brother's wedding, to go to that.
NJ: So you have a brother. Do you have any other siblings?
AA: I have three brothers. My two oldest brothers, they're both from my dad's first marriage. My dad was in a divorce, married my mom, had me. And they divorced, and my mom remarried, and I have a little brother. So he's also my half-brother, and he is eight.
NJ: So three half-brothers.
AA: Yes.
NJ: And have your parents since remarried other people?
AA: My mom did. I have a stepdad who she's still married to, and my dad currently has a long-time girlfriend, but they're not married.
NJ: What was that like for your parents, if you can remember?
AA: Remarrying?
NJ: No, sorry, their divorcing.
AA: Honestly, I was four when they got divorced, so I mostly just remember living with my mom, but I would usually see my dad every weekend. And my dad's like, he's so strict and neat and we would just have this routine: he would pick me up and we would go up to his mountain house--they're called fincas in Colombia--and we would stay there over the weekend. And that would pretty much be every weekend, or sometimes every other weekend, depending. So I was very close to my mom and she was mostly who I lived with. And especially after moving to the United States, I didn't see my dad as much. And I still don't.
NJ: Would you say that living with your mom is less structured than your dad?
AA: Yes. I think my dad was the strict parent, I would say; my mom was definitely a little more lenient, but she was still strict. I think she really strived to always give me whatever I wanted. So even when we first moved to the United States and we didn't have a lot of money, she would rather buy me something than buy herself something. My parents, they have an okay relationship. They get annoyed with each other and stuff like that, and sometimes if my dad calls, she won't want to answer the phone or, you know, she won't want to really talk to him. But I think it's gotten better over the years. It's had its ups and downs. I think right now, things are a little rockier because he's had this girlfriend for awhile, and my mom doesn't really like her. She's just worried. She's a lot younger, so she's worried that she's like a gold digger, and she's going to take my inheritance away or something. I don't know. But yeah, so they have an okay relationship.
NJ: How has your family in the States changed since your mom has remarried?
AA: When my mom first was going to remarry, I was really jealous. Just because we were so close, I didn't really like my stepdad at first. But we're good now, and I really like him a lot. But what changed for her, I would say, is my mom doesn't work now, so my stepdad is the--whatever you would call it--provider.
NJ: Breadwinner.
AA: Breadwinner. Yeah. So I think that was the biggest change, because before that my mom worked a lot to try to make ends meet, you know? So that was a big change. And then I think that at first she was okay with it, but I think now it's gotten to the point where it really bothers her that she hasn't been working for such a long time. And she's been actually trying to get a job, but it's been really difficult for her. So I don't know. I think it bothers her.
NJ: What kind of higher education experience does your mom have?
AA: My mom has her MBA, so she's very educated and she did really well in school. So all of my aunts, they've put themselves through school, through college. My mom sometimes had to go to night school and all of them--. In Colombia, the way it works is if you're in the top of your class, they pay for you to go to school. So she actually got that, I think, two years in a row for college. She's really smart and I think it just really bothers her that she's not doing anything. And especially when she moved here, the jobs that she had were all so not her expertise, you know? That's not what she wanted to be doing. So she went from being a bank manager to working at Golden Corral, so I think that beat up her self-esteem a little bit. I don't know. Made her feel like--.
NJ: And in tandem with that, what does your stepdad--. What's his profession?
AA: He's an electrical engineer, so he works in the Research Triangle. So we do okay, you know, but my mom really wants to work now.
NJ: And your dad in Colombia? What is his experience with higher education, out of curiosity?
AA: My dad is retired now, but he also--I don't know--I'm sure he has his Master's, I think, and he actually, before he retired, he was the VP of administrations in his company. So he was pretty high-up. Yeah, my whole family has gone to college and I think that it was expected of me to go to college as well.
NJ: That was going to be my next question.
AA: Yeah.
NJ: What do your parents think of you being educated here?
AA: They love it. They think UNC is great. You know, my dad obviously doesn't know that much about it, but he'll do research online and he'll see that we're like one of the best public schools. I think he feels really proud. I don't know. Ultimately, I think he's happy because he knows that I'll have more opportunities going to school in the United States, but I do think it's been really hard for him to have me here.
NJ: In what ways?
AA: Just not being able to see me. I think that was really hard. I don't really tell a lot of people this, but I'm just going to say it. When we moved to the United States, my mom actually told my dad that we--one of my aunts was actually living here at the time in Florida--so she told my dad that we were going to go to Disneyworld with them. If you have a minor, a child, you have to get letters from both of your parents saying that it's okay for you to go out of your country or whatever. So that's what happened, and then we never came back. So my mom never told him that we were actually moving to the United States. So technically, you could say it's kidnapping, I guess. I don't know what the actual implications of that are, but my dad was really mad once we told him that we were staying. And I think he was really hurt. My brothers and I have talked about it and they said that--. My brother told me he remembers my dad calling him, like crying to him and stuff. I don't know. I think it was really hard for him, especially since I'm his only daughter, you know? And I think he just felt really tricked, and I think that also had a big influence on the relationship that my mom and my dad had. It definitely put a strain on their relationship.
NJ: How does you being the only daughter change his relationship with you?
AA: You know, I feel like he--I don't know--I feel like he always treated me like his little girl. And my brothers, you know, he had the same problem with my brothers. His first wife: they divorced, so my brothers left with their mom. So I think he always had these three kids but he didn't live with any of them, and I think since I was littler at the time, I was closer to him too. I clung to him a little more tightly than my brothers did. And I'm not sure how that was for my brothers--the divorce with their mom--but I think that it didn't end on a very good note, so I think for awhile, my brothers kind of had a strange relationship with my dad. I remember my mom has told me now that when they were dating and when they were married, they would only call to ask for money, or that's what he felt like. It's like he didn't see them that much, but he just felt like he was just there for money. So I think he felt that a little less from me, because I was younger.
NJ: What ages were your brothers when your dad divorced his first wife, if you can remember?
AA: I don't remember.
NJ: But they were older than you were when--?
AA: But I think they were a little older. Mhm. And one of my brothers is eleven years older than me and the other one's sixteen years older than me.
NJ: So, big differences.
AA: Yeah. Mhm.
NJ: What do they do for a living, out of curiosity?
AA: Oh my goodness. My brother in Germany, I think he works with a bank, maybe? And my brother in Colombia, I'm not sure. I always ask them and I always forget, so I don't know.
NJ: But they've followed in the pattern of higher education and all that?
AA: Yes. Mhm.
NJ: Okay.
AA: Yeah. I would say the younger of the two is probably doing better now, and he's gotten his Master's, but I know that my other brother went to college as well. I don't know if he got his Master's or anything like that.
NJ: So shifting gears a little bit, before coming to UNC, what did your typical day look like? And you can do both in Colombia and the United States or just in the United States.
AA: So in high school?
NJ: Mhm. In high school.
AA: I guess I would drive to school. I would come home. My mom was always there; she would make lunch or whatever. I don't know. Just watch TV, do homework, and then wait for my stepdad to get home. I don't know. Go out with my friends, go see a friend maybe. Not "go out." I didn't "go out" in high school. Just going to school and coming back home and my mom was usually there.
NJ: Did you participate in a lot of extracurricular activities?
AA: I did. I was in a number of clubs. I didn't do any sports in high school. But I was pretty involved. Sometimes I would stay for meetings. I don't know. It was hard because I lived kind of far away from my high school, so I was always driving back and forth. But there were certain service projects that we would do every Thursday, or things like that. One of the things that we did was we would cook food at this church--they let us use their kitchen--and then we would drive to--. I lived in Hillsborough, and I went to high school in Hillsborough.
NJ: Hillsborough, North Carolina?
AA: Yes.
NJ: Okay. When did you move to move to North Carolina from Florida?
AA: Well, I lived in South Carolina before--.
NJ: Oh, okay.
AA: I moved to North Carolina.
NJ: So you went from Florida to South Carolina to North Carolina.
AA: Yes.
NJ: Okay, cool.
AA: But I've lived in North Carolina since 2007, so since I was a sophomore in high school.
NJ: Cool.
AA: Mhm.
NJ: So, continuing with that story?
AA: Oh. There was this place--it was called the Daniel Boone Plaza--and there's like a hotel there where a lot of homeless people live, or people that don't have a lot of money. And we would just bring the food there; they already knew that we were coming. And we would just pass out food and things like that. It was nice. ( ).
NJ: So, sticking with this same kind of question, what did your mom's typical day look like?
AA: You know, I think just sending--. Well, I guess at that time, my brother wasn't in school yet, so just watching my little brother, cooking, cleaning. I think at the time, when I was in high school, she didn't have a lot of friends--close friends--and she did have a few but they lived kind of far away, so she didn't get to see them very often. So I think she was pretty alone until I got home or my stepdad got home. She pretty much did all the household chores and she would cook dinner after. And that was about it, I think.
NJ: And she hasn't been working since you came to North Carolina, correct?
AA: Yes.
NJ: Okay. And your stepdad? What did his day look like?
AA: He was usually gone by the time that I went to school, but he worked at the Research Triangle still. He usually got home around 5:30 or 6:00. And my stepdad's pretty lazy. He usually just comes home and plops down in front of the TV and drinks a beer and naps. That's about it. Plays with my brother, I guess, too.
NJ: And your brother? Did he have a similar day to yours?
AA: Well, at that point in high school--my brother didn't start kindergarten till I entered college--so just be with my mom all day, I think. And there were a couple of neighborhood kids, I think, that he was friends with.
NJ: What's your neighborhood like in Hillsborough?
AA: Well, in Hillsborough--. We also moved while I was going to high school there.
NJ: Or whichever neighborhood you most strongly associate your childhood--.
AA: Okay, I was already thinking of one. So it was pretty much one of those neighbor-hoods where all the houses look the same. And we have actually never owned our own house in North Carolina, so we've just rented because we bought a house in South Carolina, but then we moved and we since haven't bought a house. It was a pretty standard neighborhood. There wasn't like a big Latino community or there wasn't a certain--. Do you know what I mean?
NJ: An ethnic group?
AA: Yeah, an ethnic group that lived in there. It was just a pretty regular neighborhood. It was a good diverse group of people too, I think, around the neighborhood. And that was in Durham, by the way.
NJ: In Durham. Okay.
AA: Mhm. Yeah.
NJ: Interesting. How would you describe your family's social presence in whatever community they have fit into since you came to North Carolina?
AA: I would say I think it was always hard because we never really became friends with our neighbors. We were never really that close to many of the families that lived around us until now, I would say, until where we live now. So I don't think we had much of a social presence, you know? I think my mom mostly kept to herself and she's kind of struggled with English and learning English. So I think that's one of the biggest things that hold her back is just like not being able to communicate. I remember we did have a really nice neighbor. I remember she worked at Duke. She was great. And my mom really liked her, but it was hard because they didn't speak the same language. So it was such a task for her to tell her anything almost. I think it was kind of exhausting after talking for awhile, so she just wasn't that close to any of her neighbors. Like I said, my stepdad ( ) stays in the house.
NJ: What changed between then and now in terms of comfort levels being involved in the community?
AA: I think where we live now, there are a lot more minorities where we live now, but they're mostly Indian or Ethiopian, most of our neighbors.
NJ: That's not one you hear about every day.
AA: Right? But they are all so nice, I think because they all have that in common, like, my mom with them. The wives don't really speak English that well, and then they all have these little kids, and my brother's gotten really close to the neighborhood kids. I think that has really made them talk to their neighbors more, I think, my brother's relationships with our neighbors. So I think that's mostly what's fueled that greater presence in our neighborhood now.
NJ: And you obviously speak English fluently and I imagine your brother does too?
AA: Yes, he does.
NJ: And so do their kids.
AA: Mhm.
NJ: Yeah. Thank you for talking about that. Last question about your family now--well, not the last question but one of the last questions--and we've talked about this a little bit, but how has your family dynamic changed since you were in Florida to now in North Carolina? And by family dynamic, I mean your relationships with your parents, your stepdad, your brother, et cetera, and their relationships with each other.
AA: I think we've become a lot closer. Like I said, I was really hesitant to like my stepdad, just because it was my way of rebelling, kind of. It was really childish, but I mean, I had just lived with my mom for so long and, literally, we had shared a bed for so long, which is probably not healthy. It was a really big change. I do think my brother also brought us a lot closer, because once we had him, it felt more like a family, so I think that also brought me closer to my stepdad. And just seeing how he's behaved over the years, I think, just providing for us and--. I don't know. He's always tried to be nice, but he's never tried to be my dad, per se, really. So it's definitely changed. My mom also--. I think they went through a rough time where they weren't very happy together, and I see now that they're a lot happier, and I wonder if that's also because of my brother or not. I would say we are a lot closer.
NJ: And how about on the other side, in Cali? How is that family dynamic different since you don't get to see your father very much?
AA: Yeah, my dad and I--I love my dad and he's great and I know that he loves me too--but we don't talk that much about our personal lives. I don't call my dad to tell him something. Usually, I call my mom. But it's been good, I think. My dad finally has--. Like I said, I think at first, he was really angry that I was here, but I think he realized that I was also going to have a lot more advantages here with school and things like that. So I think that ultimately he has accepted it. So I think their relationship has gotten a little better and now with this whole girlfriend thing, it's been kind of rocky. I also have my hesitations about her. I don't know.
NJ: Can I ask what those are?
AA: Well, okay. So my dad is sixty-six.
NJ: Whoa.
AA: Yeah. But he looks great; he's in such great shape. It's crazy. He works out way more than I do, I think. But she is, I wanna say, like, thirty-seven or thirty-eight. So it's almost a thirty-year gap, which obviously leads me to believe--. And I remember when I visited him one time--this is before they were living together--we went to her house and she lived in a not-so-good part of town and it didn't seem like she had much. So I guess my natural assumption is that she could be with him for money. And, like I said, my dad had a really high executive position. Yeah, I think that's been kind of weird for my brothers and I too, just with this new person. But part of me is also happy, because he was just by himself before, so at least I know that he's with someone. So I like that my parents have both met new people that they're happy with now.
NJ: That's really good for them.
AA: Yeah.
NJ: To suit my fancy, do you and your mom ever talk about what she likes in a partner?
AA: I don't think we have specifically, really. I don't know. I think one of the biggest things--and I would say that this is why she first really liked my stepdad--is I feel like my whole family has a really good sense of humor, so I think that was a really big thing for her. And I would say it's also a big thing for me.
NJ: Does she ever talk to you about what you like in a prospective partner? Or has she ever talked to you about family plans before?
AA: Sort of, I guess. I always tell my mom that I'm not going to get married until I'm, like, twenty-eight. And she's like, "Perfect." [laughter] She's a big believer in just letting me live my life and make my own mistakes, so she's never put any kind of pressure on me to get married or find a boyfriend or partner. But I think she does want that for me. I think she worries sometimes that I always--. Sometimes I say that I don't want kids, and I think that for her is a little weird. But I don't think we've talked specifically about what I want my future husband to be like. I think she kind of knows, I guess, a little bit.
NJ: A little bit intuitive?
AA: Yeah.
NJ: So we're going to shift gears again.
AA: Okay.
NJ: How have your personal convictions evolved since you were younger?
AA: I think one of the biggest things that has changed is that I really want to travel. I've been thinking of joining the Peace Corps, maybe. I don't know. I guess one of the biggest things that has changed is also that I kind of decided that I don't want to live in the United States, you know, after I graduate. I don't know. Just kind of wanting to--. I feel kind of lost between here and Colombia sometimes. It's like I can't find myself here totally. I feel like Colombia, one of the things I miss a lot is just being surrounded by nature a lot more, and I think that's one of the things that I miss here. And just like the United States is such ( ) big--I tell my friends this all the time--you drive down the road and everything is a franchise, you know? Every restaurant is a franchise, franchise, franchise, whereas you go to Europe or you go to Colombia and there's little places that are family-owned. It's just more traditional, wholesome. I don't know. I think I'm still looking for that. And I think when I was little, I also thought a lot about marriage. My girl cousin would always do pretend weddings. But I don't know if this has to do with my parents' divorce, but marriage to me is not urgent, so I'm not very worried with the pursuit of a husband or anything like that. You know, there are some times when I really don't know if I want kids or not, if I want to have what my parents have, I guess.
NJ: Have you found that your parents prescribe a certain path for you ever?
AA: I think they did have certain expectations of me, like to go to school, to go to college, especially my dad. I remember my dad, whenever I would talk to him on the phone--. One time, he was like, "How's school?" And I said, "Oh, you know, same thing. Boring." And he goes, "Ana, school is not boring." He's like, "School, you know, you learn, it's interesting." I'm like, "Okay, Dad. Whatever you say." So I think they always had expectation of me to be a good student and stuff, but it's something that--. It's also been important to me, so it's never something that's been really pushed on me. I like being at school and I like being a good student. One of the things that was hard, I think, I told my parents that I wanted to be a doctor. And recently, I decided that I want to be a PA. And I think my dad's had a little bit more trouble accepting that.
NJ: Why is that?
AA: I told him that the reason I didn't want to go to medical school anymore is because it's going to take up such a huge chunk of my life that I'm just--. That's not me. I don't want to go to school for that long, you know? Especially coming to college now, I'm just tired of school. I don't want to do it for another eight years, and I don't want to start my life at thirty. But I think he's kind of like, "Well, you know, it's not that long." He's just the kind of person that--. I feel like he really liked going to school and doing all that and he just doesn't understand why I wouldn't try for it, I guess. I think he sees it as me more like taking the easy way out a little bit. So I think that's why, probably.
NJ: Mhm. Going along with all of that, how have your self-perceptions evolved since you were younger?
AA: Of myself?
NJ: Mhm.
AA: Oh. Self-perceptions.
NJ: And those could be professionally, personally, anything.
AA: I would say I've changed a lot, I think. I think college was the biggest part of that, honestly. I think the high school that I went to in Hillsborough, everyone was pretty conservative and kind of sheltered, you know? A lot of my friends have never been out of the United States either. Most of my friends in high school are white, because I was in the higher level classes and usually I was the only Latino person in those classes. But I don't know. I think I've started to see that I don't--. I can still cherish where I'm from but I don't--like, I don't know how to say this--I don't know. I guess--. I don't know how to say this. I feel like a lot of people, sometimes when they come to college, they tend to group with--you know, they have the Latino sororities or fraternities--and I've just kind of tried to make my own path and make my own friends regardless of what language they speak or where they're from. And it's nice to have friends that speak Spanish, because sometimes you miss that part, especially not being at home all the time. But I think that I've become a more open person. I've learned a lot about all of the inequality that we have, and taking some of the Women's Studies classes that I've taken, it's just opened my eyes to heteronormativity and sexism and just a lot of that stuff. So I think I've become more of an advocate and I'm just really wanting to work towards equality as well. And just more open-minded, I would say, in general.
NJ: With this new perspective that you've achieved through some of these classes, do you ever look back on certain memories that you have of your family and see things differently?
AA: Yeah, I think now I realize that a big reason why my mom couldn't get a job is because she was a woman and because of her age. I didn't know that at the time really. It's just crazy to think that she worked at a company for so long and that she has such a good education, but she couldn't get a job anywhere just because of that. I do see in my parents sometimes, they're a little more close-minded. And I know they don't mean it, and I try to talk to them about things. Like recently, I was looking for a housemate and there was a gay guy that I talked to about living with us. And my mom was a little weirded out by it a little bit, and she was like, "Yeah, I don't know how that would be. What if he brought a lot of his gay friends over all the time?" And I'm like, "Well, what about when I bring a lot of my straight friends over all the time?" And I'm like, "It's not like he only has gay friends, Mom. Are you serious?" And she's like, "Okay, okay. You're right. I'm sorry." I see that they're a little more close-minded, but I try to speak to them about it as best as I can.
NJ: Can you remember times when your parents may have taught you something based on your gender?
AA: I guess my mom always kind of prompts me to learn how to cook, but I don't know if that's because I'm a woman or if it's just because she's scared I'm not going to be able to take care of myself. I mean, honestly, in Colombia, mostly everyone has maids, if you're middle-class to higher class. And my mom herself didn't know how to cook until she got to the United States. So she always prompts me to do that, but I don't think there's ever been anything specifically because I'm a woman. And, like I said, I don't see my dad that much. The only thing he hears about is, he's like, "Be aware of your environment." I remember he got really mad at me one time because I--this was in South Carolina, and I hadn't been driving yet or anything--but he was trying to get around, and I didn't know how to get places. And he was like, "Do you not pay attention to the roads when your mom takes you places?" He's like, "You need to be aware of where you are and you need to pay more attention." Nothing gender-specific, I don't really think.
NJ: How do you think your family conceptualizes their gender roles?
AA: Well, I think for my mom, it was different. I don't know. When my mom was younger, my grandparents didn't have a lot of money and I remember she told me that she was the one who would work late at night to help pay for her younger siblings to go to school and other things, even though she had a brother. So I think that's interesting that she was the one who worked instead of it being him. And he was older than her. So it is kind of different, I guess. And just with my aunts and uncles in general, they all went to school and my grandparents always wanted that for them. They didn't expect them--like my aunts and my mom--to just stay at home and just find a husband. So I think that was different, because I think that Colombia is a little more sexist than the United States in some ways.
NJ: What ways would those be?
AA: Just the mentality of--. I have heard my mom say this: she said one time, about men cheating, it's just an expected thing in Colombia. It's like your husband will cheat on you. And it's a fact that that's the way it is, and you're supposed to be okay with that. Just men having things on the side and not having to be faithful, and I think it's just this stereotype that's more accepted now. But I don't think it goes the other way around.
NJ: What do you mean by that?
AA: Well, I don't think that a husband would expect for his wife to cheat on him and be okay with that, you know? But in Colombia, my mom always says, "Men are the same, so if one cheats on you and you find another boyfriend, he's going to cheat on you too." In that way, it's seen as more like men can do whatever they want, and they're all the same so they're all going to do it, so you can't find someone else. I don't know.
NJ: And here? How is it different?
AA: I do think that obviously infidelity is a problem, but I don't think it's something that you go in being like, "Oh, well, my husband's going to cheat on me, and that's like something that I cannot help." I don't see that being an accepted view of your marriage, I guess, as an aspect of your marriage, that he's going to have a mistress.
NJ: In line with that question, can you remember any conflicts you and your parents have had regarding your gender or expectations for your gender?
AA: Not really. I mean, just the whole having kids thing, I think, is--. But my mom has never been like, "No, you have to have kids." I think it's just part of her wanting to be a grandmother. But there's never been any pressure on me to find a husband; I feel like my parents, for the most part, they're just happy if I'm happy. So, for my gender--. Can you think of any examples to see if I--do you know what I mean? What would be something that--?
NJ: Well, you mean a hypothetical example for--?
AA: Right. I'm just trying to think if maybe I'm not thinking outside the box enough for--.
NJ: Oh, no. You're fine.
AA: No? Okay.
NJ: Yeah. It can be anything. I think you've already mentioned a few of them, like your mom telling you that you need to cook. But thinking about those in terms of gender is something that maybe we don't typically do. So I don't know. For example, for me, I once proposed a question to my mom, saying like, "Well, what would happen if I dressed in women's clothes?" And she was like, "No. You can't do that." So it's just something like that.
AA: Yeah. Okay.
NJ: But you don't have to think of any examples.
AA: Yeah. Oh, that's funny. I actually posed a similar question to my mom. I was like, "What if I was a lesbian?" And she was like, "I don't care what you do." [laughter]
NJ: See, that's--.
AA: Yeah, my mom, I would say, is pretty open-minded as well, I guess, for the most part. I think she tends to be a little traditional sometimes, especially because Colombia is such a big Catholic country that I think a lot of times that plays into her beliefs. But I think when it comes to me, she's a lot more open-minded. You know, she's a lot more accepting of what I do and things like that.
NJ: Why do you think that is?
AA: I think we're just really close. My mom always tells me, like, "If something were to happen to you, I don't know what I would do. I don't know if I could keep living." So we're just really close. For most of my life, it was just me and my mom. I don't know. I think we're both a really big part of each other's lives, so she would never let something like my sexual orientation or anything like that affect our relationship. But I think when it comes to the outside world, sometimes she can be a little bit more closed-minded towards other people.
NJ: Do your parents--well, does your mom--still have strong religious ties after coming to the United States?
AA: You know, it's funny. No. I think she's lost that a lot. We went to church a lot when we first moved to the United States, but now we don't really go. And sometimes my mom will go with my brother, but not that often. And I've had conversations with her about religion and sometimes we both say like, "We don't really know. Is there a God or no?" We both are really--. We're a little agnostic in that sense. I don't know. So I think she has shifted away from her religion a lot.
NJ: Last question, I think, and then we'll wrap up. How do your goals align with your parents' expectations of you?
AA: I think professionally, my parents want me to do something that I like, but that also will give me money. And I think that PA school is that for me, so I think that they're--you know, even though I gave up on the whole doctor thing--I think they're still happy that I'm doing something that will have job security and they're more worried about those things too. My mom knows it's also something that I really like. And then, with my personal life, I think I'm starting to go on a different direction than them. I think my mom would really like it for me to stay close to her, but I've been contemplating moving out of the country or joining the Peace Corps, which I think is not something that they expect and, I think, my dad will hate even more because he barely gets to see me now. So who knows how much he'll get to see me if I move away? But I think--. I've never felt a big pressure from my parents; you know, they have these expectations of me. Sometimes I'm really stressed out about school; my mom tells my dad sometimes and he's called me a couple times and been like, "Just don't worry. Everything's going to be okay. Just do your best. Don't stress out." So even academic-wise, I think my parents always wanted me to be a good student, but they know it's really hard. So they're like, "Just do your best. Don't stress out. We're not going to get mad if you get a C in your class." You know what I mean?
NJ: Hypothetically, do you think that would be different if your gender was different?
AA: I think maybe for my dad. I think maybe he would have higher expectations if I was a boy, only because I feel like generally, men are tougher, and I feel like he would just push me a little harder and not be as aware of my feelings and trying to make me feel calmer. But I don't know, because my dad's really supportive too. And I think, with my brothers, he just wants them to do well and be happy. But if I were to say that I'm going to drop out of school, I don't know how that would go. So that would be a little different.
NJ: And actually, last question, just because I'm curious. But if you joined the Peace Corps or went traveling somewhere after college, where would your destination be?
AA: I really want to go to Africa. I don't really know what country specifically, but I've never been there, anywhere in Africa, so I think it would be just a whole different world to see. Because Europe's a different world, but I feel like Africa would just be another world, and then Colombia's a different world, and here. It would be a cool perspective to have, I think.
NJ: For sure, for sure. Well, thank you again for agreeing to the interview.
AA: Yeah.
NJ: And I will be following up with you later to talk about details.
AA: Okay.
NJ: Thanks again!
AA: Perfect. Yeah.