So this is it. After years of blogging as my dog, I’m finally striking out on my own.
If you think that statement sounds weird, you’ll probably think it even weirder that I find it easier talking to people as a huge, slobbery Great Dane than as myself…but hey, when you’re impersonating someone whose main concerns in life are ‘should I eat my own poo?’ and ‘do I bark at the postman today?’ – nothing seems that serious. The thought of having to display some human intelligence now by coming up with witty observations and glowing pearls of wisdom is seriously daunting.
What’s more – if you were hoping to get juicy gossip about my glamorous job or sexy friends, you’re outta luck. See, I’m a writer – which pretty much means that I spend all day – alone – in my pyjamas, having an unhealthy relationship with my computer, and the most exciting event in my work day is when the neighbours go out to hang their washing.
On the other hand, there is something that I can give you juicy details about – and that’s what it’s like straddling the cultural multi-highway.
I’m Taiwanese by birth, Chinese by ethnicity, British by marriage, pseudo-American by accent and currently Australian by residence. I grew up in the Middle East, was educated in the British system, eat with the typically voracious Chinese appetite, have a weakness for American snacks and a love affair with New Zealand. As someone who has lived in 7 countries and embraced several cultures (not to mention cuisines), I can certainly tell you what it’s like having
an identity crisis – er, a rich mixed cultural heritage.
And despite not having lived in Asia most of my life and English being my first language, there is still a part of me that is very much ‘Chinese’ (years of soya sauce consumption does have side-effects). It’s the part that always makes me take a gift with 2 hands, struggle to accept a compliment and feel like I should have haggled for a better price…and it’s the part that somehow still defines me, no matter how Westernised my lifestyle is.
This does not mean that I “see the world in wide-screen due to my slitty eyes” – as some smart-aleck once asked me – but it does mean that perhaps I see the Western world I live in with slightly different insights…
So, I guess this blog will be a place for me to share (among other things) those insights and observations. They might not be witty – or wise – but they might be interesting enough to those who wonder what happens when East meets West and…
Of course – as they say in those Hollywood movie voice-overs – every great journey begins with a single step. I guess a blog begins with a name – something that would reflect what the blog was all about. When I first started researching the phenomenon of growing up Asian in a Western world, I came across the term ‘banana’ – supposedly to describe someone who is “yellow on the outside, white on the inside”.
It refers in particular to all those 2nd generation Chinese and other Asian immigrants (often known as ABC’s “American-Born Chinese” or CBC’s “Canadian-Born Chinese”, etc, etc ) whose parents had moved to the US, UK, Australia, Canada and more…and who had grown up looking completely Asian but living in a completely Western world.
Well, that’s not me exactly but I loved the term and thought it was a fun, light-hearted way to sum up exactly what I feel like sometimes…I was even thinking of a blog name incorporating the word “banana”…until I realised, with more reading, that the term was often used in a derogatory sense – a racist insult, even! Yes, apparently for many, a ‘banana’ is someone who has “sold out” to the West and forgotten their Asian roots, such as being unable to speak Chinese…
The funny thing is, it’s often the “fully Chinese” who use this name as an insult…most ‘bananas’ themselves don’t actually see it as an offensive term. They see it as the perfect description for someone who has had the chance to enjoy both cultures – to have Asian values as part of your upbringing, while at the same time inheriting the ‘white’ culture that you grew up in – and combining Eastern & Western traditions in varying degrees. As one ‘banana’ put it: “By choosing to accept the term, we empower it!” Be a banana and be proud of it!
So yeah – I’m comfortable being a ‘banana’ and see it as a positive term, not a negative one. I see myself as someone who has the best of both worlds. And I do my best to celebrate the Asian parts of me, as well as the Western customs I’ve adopted.
As for my blog name? Well, OK, I chickened out on using something that might have negative connotations – instead, I decided to go for something that would sum up the idea of East meets West…and thanks to all the helpful suggestions from the readers of my dog’s blog, I’ve come up with the perfect name (I think!): Chinos & Chopsticks.
The ‘chopsticks’ part is easy, of course, as few other words instantly conjure up the image & essence of Asia…but the “Western” word took some finding as I didn’t want anything too ‘American’ or British’ or any other bias…well, ‘chinos’ seems like a nicely ubiquitous Western concept.
And it’s got a personal touch too: chinos are about the only thing my husband will wear, despite years of desperate pleading on my part to try other forms of legwear. I’ve finally managed to get him to try colours other than beige (MAJOR achievement) and we’re now working towards accepting other fabrics but it is a slow process…(what is it with men and their lifelong commitment to an item of clothing which they will wear until it falls off their backs?? And then they want to go out and buy another one “exactly like it”?? )
And speaking of my husband – do you know what they call him? A Western person who has embraced Asian culture? An ‘egg‘ : white on the outside, yellow on the inside!