Celebrity Travel: Go away with BettySoo
“As a group, we had always gotten together physically to write,” said Nobody’s Girl singer-songwriter BettySoo, who’s based out of Austin. “This (pandemic) definitely put our group writing on hold. We haven’t been in the same room since February 2020. Much of the music we write for our group is based on staggering layers of vocal harmonies or counter-melodies, and doing it in person and in real time is a big part of how that stuff comes together. Given the circumstances, we stayed focused on the songs we have, thinking through how we want to present them live once we were finally able to tour and sing in harmony again.” The trio’s full-length debut album, “Nobody’s Girl,” will be released on July 30. Fans may stay in touch with the group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nobodysgirlmusic) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/nobodysgirlofficial).
Q: What was it like growing up as a visible minority in Texas?
A: I grew up in Spring, Texas. It is really just part of Houston now, but 35-40 years ago, it felt more separate to me. It could be a kid’s perspective, but I remember a lot more trees, farms, and rural landscape than I see around there these days. When I was young, I was regularly asked by other kids’ parents, “Are you Chinese or Japanese?” This was done in a kind voice, but it was very uncomfortable as a little kid to have to explain to adults that those are not the only possibilities. Looking back, I am surprised I wasn’t also asked if I am Vietnamese, but I was regularly made to feel like a foreigner and not a fully American person. My whole life, I have heard the word American as shorthand for white, Black and white Hispanic (or) Latinx. A half-Asian kid, for example, would be said to have one Asian parent and one American parent. As a kid who never grasped fluency with the Korean language, I very much felt like a person without a homeland to claim and without a homeland to claim me. I have always felt like a Texan and an American, but as I get older, I become less convinced I will ever be seen as fully Texan nor American by others.
Q: Media picked up on anti-Asian hate during this pandemic. How were you affected by all of this?
A: Anti-Asian hate has been very real for me this past year. Early on in the pandemic, I faced several situations in and around grocery stores and parking lots that made me feel personally threatened and afraid for my safety. I had faced overt acts of racism and racist threats in the past, but it had not happened with such frequency and so near my own home before, at least as an adult. I started having my groceries delivered to my house — under another name — last spring as a result. As for being an Asian American woman in the Americana music genre, I’ve always been made aware of being viewed as a perpetual foreigner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked in interviews or even on stage at festivals how someone like me got into music like this. I am willing to bet good money if my folks had been German immigrants rather than Korean immigrants, that wouldn’t be such a popular question.
Q: Do you remember the first trip you took as a child?
A: The first trip that comes to mind was a family trip to Disney World. We borrowed a van from some good friends and drove from Texas to Florida and back. I loved being able to, for once, say at school that we took a vacation, since it felt like something we never did. I distinctly remember not liking being made to sleep in very uncomfortable places and positions in the van, but that seems like a universal childhood complaint. That trip must have been expensive and exhausting for my parents, but all I can recall past the photos I’ve seen a hundred times is a vague memory of climbing over the seat rows to get snacks and drinks out of the cooler in the back for everyone.
Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A: There are still so many places unchecked on my bucket list. I dream of visiting Turkey, Costa Rica, Egypt, Hong Kong, Japan and a hundred other places.
Q: What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A: Be respectful, tread lightly, observe before you act or speak.
Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A: When I travel, I always have my own cutlery, including chopsticks, a napkin or bandana, a bottle of Tabasco, bug spray and a rain jacket. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had typed packing lists categorized by activity. When it’s time to get ready for a trip, I use these as a checklist to make sure I don’t forget socks, allergy pills, sunblock, phone chargers, guitar accessories and floss.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
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