WORTHINGTON -- Since Anazthasya "Ana" Anthony moved to Worthington a few months ago, she has experienced a few cases of mistaken national identity when somebody -- incorrectly -- assumes she is of Hispanic heritage.
With Worthington's influx of immigrants from countries to the south and Ana's coloring, it's an easy mistake, but Ana hails from a country on the other side of the world -- Malaysia.
A tropical country of about the size of New Mexico, Malaysia is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. Peninsular Malaysia is separated from East Malaysia by the South China Sea. Ana grew up on the peninsula in Petaling Jaya, a suburb outside of capital Kuala Lumpur, known for its towering skyscrapers and mix of ethnic groups.
Ana's own family is representative of the country's diversity: Her father is of Indian descent and her mother, Chinese.
Her older sister, a doctor, lives in Australia, and her younger sister is a senior in high school.
"Malaysia has a lot of Chinese and Indians," Ana explained, noting that three out of four of her grandparents were born in Malaysia, the fourth in China. "It goes back to the British occupancy, when they brought in a lot of Chinese and Indian people."
Ana describes Kuala Lumpur, which she refers to as "KL," as a crowded, bustling city.
"People don't go by the speed limits, and you'll see lots of people on scooters, a whole family of four on one scooter," she said. "And the funny part is, the father driving will be the only one wearing a helmet. It's very diverse, with a lot of ex-patriots. There are a few areas in KL where there are high populations of Americans, Australians, people from the Middle East."
Although Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, Ana was brought up Catholic, and she attended a convent school.
The national language is Malay, but English was the language used in Ana's home, and she also can speak Cantonese and Hakka.
Employed by an American oil company, Ana's father spends month-long stints on oil rigs, then is home for three weeks with his family.
Her mother recently retired as secretary for the president of Avon Malaysia.
"In Malaysia, the retirement age is 55, not 65," Ana noted.
The school system in Malaysia is extremely regimented. All students, even in public schools, wear uniforms and abide by strict dress codes that don't allow makeup and dictate even what color ribbons girls can wear in their hair.
While the grade structure of the school system is somewhat similar to the U.S., students don't graduate with a diploma.
If they choose to pursue advanced schooling, they must first take a pre-university program, with common options among the upper classes to continue schooling in the U.S., Australia or England.
"I thought I wanted to do law, so I signed up for Cambridge A Levels -- a year and a half of math, law and economics," explained Ana, who decided law was not the path she wanted to follow after all. "I knew I wanted to write, so I changed my mind and geared toward mass communications and started looking for a reasonably priced mass comm program."
Ana's research led her to St. Cloud State University, which offers in-state tuition to all international students.
She and her mother arrived in Minnesota on Jan. 3, 2008. Previous trips to New York, where her mother's sister lives, had prepared her for the snow, but the cold was shock for a person used to a year-round hot and humid climate.
But Ana acclimated to the weather and found a thriving international community on the St. Cloud campus.
After receiving her bachelor's degree, she was hired as the education and city beat reporter at the Daily Globe in June.
"At first, I went back and forth between going home and staying here," Ana said, admitting that she has suffered pangs of homesickness. "But it's just that the lifestyle (in Malaysia) doesn't appeal to me anymore; it's a different work ethic and lifestyle. As an international student, I can stay here for a year and then be on a work visa through the sponsorship of the company I work for."
Ana has made annual trips to Malaysia to see her family and plans another in December.
She is also able to talk and see her family via Skype on her computer.
Besides her family and friends, one of the things Ana misses most about her homeland is the food, which is very important to the Malaysian people.
"It is such an eating culture," she said. "There is a lot of open-air sitting places with food vendors open 24 hours, and always street vendors. And if someone tells you there is a good restaurant two hours away, you are going to travel that far for the crab legs or whatever it is they told you about."
As is typical in Southeast Asian countries, rice is a staple of the Malaysian diet, and Ana grew up eating it every day and continues to include it in her diet.
"If I don't eat rice for two days, something is missing," she said with a laugh. "I still make a lot of Chinese food, stir fry. My mom was a very good cook, and that's what we ate a lot.
"You'll never go hungry if you visit a Malaysian family," she continued. "We're very hospitable, because we like to feed people. If you go to someone's home, they don't ask, 'How are you?' They ask, 'Have you eaten?'"