My name is Stefan Saing and I am a Cambodian-American. My parents are immigrants and refugees from Cambodia and arrived in the US in the 1975 and 1981 separately. My sister and I were born in Long Beach, California in 1988 and 1990, respectively. We moved from Long Beach in 1997 and made our roots in Beaverton, Oregon. The friends my parents made were part of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon and I have been involved with them ever since. From folk dancing, to camping, to youth groups, to board membership, there has always been a place for me among the community.
In college, I was approached by a young man named Sokho Eath, who I believed to resemble a family member of mine, and asked whether I was Khmer (because of my darker complexion). That began my involvement with the Cambodian Student Association at OSU where we were part successful student organizations that wanted to highlight and celebrate their cultures.
I share a little bit about my parents migration story because I think it informs the person that I am. I am both an obliging and rebellious Cambodian son. And I believe that this is a common feeling among many Khmer and “second-gen” people of my generation. The balancing act between, "I am grateful for your support and sacrifices, therefore I will follow your instructions," and "I am grateful for your support and sacrifices, so I will now forge my own path to success".
New Year in the Park represents a multigenerational and cross cultural event to celebrate, rediscover, and connect to our traditional Southeast Asian cultures. There are many in our communities who feel disconnected in many ways and this represents an opportunity for folks to connect with others who might feel similarly and learn from those who feel more connected.
Many from generations past have always felt like outsiders to a new country and moved forward in their lives with that lens -- that this was not their home and they had to do whatever it took to integrate successfully and to survive and thrive. But there was also an identity and homesickness that could not be denied which pushed our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles to preserve their culture. Our generation now is doing its best to define what it means to be both a Portlander/American and a Southeast Asian. The constant push and pull of picking one identity over another is a false choice to me now and New Year in the Park represents a direction where we decide what it means to be [Blank]-American in Portland.
New Year in the Park is an annual event and is open and free to the public! Traditionally, the New Year is celebrated in April to signal the end of rice harvesting season for Theravada Buddhist cultures. We celebrate with Buddhist monk prayers, mini parades, folk dances, and other family friendly activities. The energy brought by the community members is infectious when coupled with dance, food, music, and colors!
We play all day, rain or shine, so bring your dancing boots and maybe your rain boots!