Issue Five: Expectations

Asians Between Cultures

My hips have never lied to me, about how present they are. Although I spent a large portion of my childhood in the US I was still Japanese. In Japan, infantilized female bodies are idealized and somehow standardized by men who should be dematerialized. I was already insecure that I was too American, because people told me I was, and this obnoxious behind made me more American by association.

A boy at my weekend Japanese school told me I “shouldn’t show my fat thighs” and I believed him; I exorcised my closet of shorts and skirts. I massaged and stretched my bum out nightly in front of the mirror as if I could mold it away if I worked hard enough. I was ashamed of my junk.

None of my attempts to hide or shrink my buttocks proved to be effective. Because bodies don’t work like that, duh. Neither does the sense of belonging to a culture. The size of my rear wasn’t what was keeping me from owning where I’m from. The self-loathing I developed over my bottom was more demeaning than “not being Japanese enough.”

I know now that I shouldn’t self-loathe. I know that my Rubenesque booty can lift heavy boxes, sit me comfortably on various surfaces, and knock people over. My celebration of my butt is now a celebration of myself that’s not conditional to how much I ascribe to any cultural expectations. So yeah, my butt rules.

Issue Five: Acceptance

Asians Between Cultures

Why do I need to go to Chinese school?

Probably something we’ve all said growing up. But my parents never really forced me to go, and I didn’t. I thought it wasn’t necessary. I thought it would just make me “more” Chinese whatever that meant. Going to Chinese school wouldn’t make me better at English. Going to Chinese school wouldn’t make me “cool” (whatever cool really meant). I so badly wanted to assimilate and keep a facade that, no, I wasn’t really Chinese. I grew up here. I know English. I’m great at it at school. I can speak it. I am Australian.

In a town where there were only 2 asians in my grade in Queensland, I realised that me wanting to be more Australian was just me trying to fit in with everybody else. We were all 8-10 year olds that faced a need to fit in and be a part of everyone else. I put my cultural identity to the side to be more “Australian”.

I’m older now, and I wish my parents had forced me to go to Chinese school. I have accepted who I am.

Who you are is really what makes you unique and YOU. Embrace it. Hold on, being Chinese Australian IS pretty cool. Being Chinese Australian, we have the privilege of knowing more than 1 language that is a part of our cultural background. I am Chinese Australian.

Why do I need to go to Chinese school?

I need to go to Chinese school to keep a part of me, part of my culture alive. I have a sense of fulfilment for being in touch and learning about parts of my cultural background.

Learn about your history, traditions and inform yourself of the experience of another culture that is a part of you. Just be you and always remember where you come from and more importantly, who you are.

Go to Chinese school!

Issue Five: Eating

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When I first started going to school (kindergarten to Grade 2) me and my sister, along with these two other kids, were the only Asian kids in the entire school. Usually we'd go home for lunch because we lived close by but the days we'd have to eat lunch at school were rough. My sister didn't sit with me, and my friends for the most part didn't eat at school. Bringing my container of rice and ulam made me super uncomfortable because none of the other kids were eating a lunch like mine. I was the only kid who’d whip out a spoon and fork at lunch. Occasionally people would send that 'what is that' kinda look my way and sometimes people would be vocal about it. From then on unless my lunch was “normal” I didn’t want to eat at school. We ended up moving to one of the Catholic schools when I was in Grade 3 and it was completely different; Filipinos made up the majority of the population. But by that point I was too uncomfortable to eat my lunch in public even if the people I were eating with were Filipino. Heck I still am. I didn’t realize that my fear had its root that deep until I took the time to reflect on myself. It’s a slow progress but I’m working on it.

Issue Five: Foreign

Asians Between Cultures

I’m often mistaken for an Australian-born Chinese, but in reality I have a bright red Malaysian passport. I hate that I feel ashamed when I tell someone that I am an international student. I’m not ashamed of my culture, where my parents were born or where I grew up. Instead, I’m ashamed of the stigmas & stereotypes plaguing ‘our kind’.

I was fortunate enough to attend an Australian International School from Year 2-10. As a product of our Aussie curriculum, Aussie teachers & befriending Aussie expats, many of us ‘locals’ grew up immersed in all things Australian. Our personalities; a confused love child of Asian & Aussie cultures. At the end of year 10, I moved to Perth to pursue a better education. I thought I was a perfect fit.

Australia, you are such a multicultural nation. Ancient, Aboriginal traditions & a melting pot of cultures of diverse migrants - old & new - who have built this country. I love home, but I’ve always felt that ancient Asian values have been the shackles around my wrists preventing me from reaching my potential. However, with the current policies & changing public perceptions the possibilities of migrating aren’t looking in my favour. Sometimes you forget your past. Like those before me, I just want a better life. I crave the freedom.

Please stop thinking that all international students are rich. A lot of us aren’t. Please stop thinking we don’t work hard. Most of us do. Please don’t think it’s simple for us. It’s not easy leaving everything you know. Please judge me on my character & not where I come from. Australia, I’m so grateful for all the memorable moments you have given me, so please don’t replace them with bad ones.

Issue Five: Memory

Asians Between Cultures

寻根: Exploring my roots. This is the reason I give when asked, “Why?” Why did I move to China?

Ironically, my first memory here is paralysis. Lost in a mosquito-infested forest, gazing up in terror at a sprawling web of giant, glittering spiders on every branch in sight. I wish it was a nightmare, but nope, this “day-mare” defined my first visit to my grandfather’s hometown in Fujian province. Trudging after relatives in search of my great-grandparents’ graves, I never would have imagined returning on my own accord, twelve years later, to unearth their stories and close the gaps within my diasporic identity.

Wherever I go, my Chinese face masks my American upbringing, while my frizzy waves betray my Malaysian heritage. As an artist with a dusty neuroscience degree and better Spanish than Mandarin, I know shame by name. The year my grandparents passed away, I grieved not truly knowing them. Yet it was precisely because I had no words that I turned to art to speak. My first video was a simple tribute in their memory, based on stories shared at their funerals. Who knew that Ah Ma pursued an education against her father’s wishes, launched a successful business, then sold her home for my dad’s one-way flight to a liberal arts education? Since when did Yeye chair an arts society that bridged artists from the mainland and Malaysia?

Retracing their steps, one hometown at a time, I’m discovering that I’m not the first or last to struggle or dream in ways I’ve thought “only I do.” I recently found paintings of my great-grandparents in Fujian that my grandfather commissioned and mailed home from Malaysia. I’m lost – and found – in wonder: Perhaps he felt ashamed for being overseas when his parents passed away. Perhaps he, too, found in art the language to love his ancestors from afar, to preserve their stories for generations to come.

Issue Five: Unapologetic

Asians Between Cultures

growing up asian
and of the female sex,
you get used to being told
what to do
how to act
who you should be
disciplined
patient
understanding
small-voiced
taking up only as much space as you needed

and while these are all virtues
i found myself growing outside of the box
that was supposedly made for me
i grew tired
and frustrated of being unheard
disregarded
so much so that people were shocked
to learn
i had a voice
i built myself a home in a disaster zone
and i learned
and am still learning
to speak up
stand for my beliefs and my self
i refuse to apologize
for who i’ve become

Issue Five: Definition

asians between cultures

It was always difficult trying to define where I should place myself. Being brought up in the UK meant I was surrounded by a diverse range of people. However, I could not always relate to certain aspects of the culture, especially as the area I lived in meant I was the ethnic minority (to a great extent).

“You’ve never had an English breakfast, how?! Haven’t you lived here your whole life?” “Wait… you don’t really listen to English music, or watch English programmes, then what do you listen to/watch?”

I was always a person who primarily grew up with Asian culture. From eating Asian food at home to watching Asian TV programmes, or even listening to Asian music. It became even more prominent as I grew up because I just didn’t feel quite the connection with English programmes/music. Unfortunate as it sounds, it left me to feel rather isolated because I didn’t really have others to relate to. This is what led me to attempt to expand my tastes and reach out to other people. A lot of my friends eventually became exposed to Asian culture through my recommendations, and people who once judged me for my Asian music taste then became interested in it as it grew more popular in the western world.

That’s what made me realise, it’s okay for me to have my interests. Everyone has their own, and those who are genuinely willing to open their minds to new cultures are the ones worth holding close.

Issue Five: Identity

Asians Between Cultures

Growing up in Germany and with both parents being Chinese, I was never confused about both cultures being part of my identity. When people asked me where I was from, I’d always say that my parents were from China, but I was born in Germany. I think of myself as one hundred percent German and Chinese at the same time. What people without this kind of cultural background often don’t understand is that it's perfectly fine and possible to have two totally different countries being part of your identity. You can feel as connected and proud of both of them as you want; there are no limitations just because you grew up in one country or maybe don’t speak one of the languages as perfectly as the other. This can get difficult at times though, when for example people in China don’t see you as “a real Chinese” and people from Germany reckon you’re not German either. You find yourself in between both cultures, clearly identifying with either one of them, but just not one exclusively. To clarify things, I think it’s important to always talk about the issue, and just explain things from your point of view to friends who can’t relate for example. Lately I’ve seen a significant growth in our kind of representation in the media as well, and I love it! I love embracing every part of both my cultures, and everyone should be able to feel like this too.

Issue Five: Optimistic

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Imagine growing up and having yourself thrown into stereotypes. Imagine having all of your class, friends and families assume that because you are “Asian” you should have good grades and excel in Math and Sciences. Being told by your family that you should pursue careers like a Doctor, Engineer or Dentist because they have wealth and a title in society.

Meanwhile, there were people around the world who seemed free. I dreamed to be like them, free to roam and create with no boundaries. Being able to use my mind, imagination and to express myself freely rather than studying books and preparing for tests that I found no interest in. For so long I thought I would be a failure and a burden to my family, I struggled to meet standards and with who I was – I hated being Asian and I hated being ME.

Writing this and looking back, I’ve realized that these hardships, memories and obstacles are what makes me the person I am today. I shouldn’t be fearing the future but rather be optimistic about it. I should do what I got to do and do what I do best. It’s not anyone’s job to decide our future but ourselves. The recent exposure of other ABC’s through this issue and the Asian Creative Network empowers Asians as a minority to break the stereotypes and standards placed on us by society.

Sit down, take a breath and figure out who you are, what do you want to do with your life and do it.

Issue Five: Writing

Asians Between Cultures

To write is to nurture a love within myself.

The question I have been asked is - to write about my identity, what it means for me to be in between cultures. And so, you may be wondering why I am starting with the pen.

When I first fell in love with poetry, most everything I wrote about involved the crushes I had at the time. In high school, I wrote a memoir about that examined my heart-wrenching breakup. My teacher noted how, although she enjoyed my writing, I was mostly focused “on the boys,” and not myself.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college, when I attended “Louder than a Bomb,” the largest national youth poetry slam competition in the US, where I was struck with lightning like never had before. Suddenly, I felt all this electricity in my veins to write poetry again.

This time: about myself.

For this part of my identity that I was always ignoring, always trying to justify that I didn’t want to define me, I never found value in writing about this part of myself. Previously reserving writing as a space to pine for unrequited (and unworthy) love interests, no one ever told me that you can, and should, write in a pursuit to understand and love yourself. I didn’t want to be that Asian girl who writes about her racial identity, how being categorized into a stereotype and not knowing Mandarin Chinese defined my existence. I wanted to be more than that narrative, whatever that internalized racism meant to me at the time.

And yet, nearly every single high school student on that “Louder than a Bomb” stage wrote about their racial identity. Their narratives were their own powerful, raw, and vulnerable stories of their journey thus far. With such a palpable passion, it was their courage that gave me the permission to write about this part of myself. In writing, I explored all the questions that my plagued my adolescence - from anger about stereotypes to confusion about my in betweenness to empowering myself and taking pride in my yellow golden skin, writing soon became home.

I performed at open mics in China and in the US. I wrote and acted in an autobiographical play that examined my Asian American identity through the adventures I had around the world.

I felt alive on stage, alive in these words and in this healing process that I was too afraid to open myself up to in the first place. And, just like the high school students that inspired me, I too began to inspire others. For all the lovely people I have been so fortunate to meet and receive lovely compliments from, writing freed me, and gave me the power to be brave, to be bold, and to finally be myself.

I was initially stumped with this prompt because I’ve written about this topic so many times. What more could I say? Why am I still interested? Why is it, that whenever I am helping high school students with their essays for college applications and they want to explore the topic of identity through their writing, I act like the proud parent my own parents are when seeing me learn Mandarin and “embracing my roots"?

What is it about this pursuit that still intrigues me?

One of my students wanted to explore this topic through translation, and examine how he now thinks in English instead of Mandarin Chinese. He thought about abandoning the idea because the concept felt trite - to be in between cultures, balancing two worlds - ok, so what? We’ve heard this story too many times. What could he possibly add to this narrative that hasn’t already been said?

That, too, was my struggle for writing this piece. How do bring life into this topic again? How do you keep writing and finding more to explore, without sounding like another cliche in between cultures (an ACBC, if you will)?

Recently, I read a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert: “Don’t worry about being original. Just be authentic.” In the end, my student wrote about identity. It reminded me why I so love fostering this interest and curiosity amongst others: in order to be authentic, you must be true to yourself. His piece, which was vulnerable and personal, was a raw glimpse into questions, so similar to my own, that have, too, tormented, if not challenged, his existence.

I think, as I change and grow as a person, so does my identity, and so comes more questions, and even more wormholes to endlessly explore. Because identity doesn’t need to be seen as a crisis, or an ending point - it is a space for growth that is meant to be challenged, questioned, and reaffirmed. Identity is what it means to be an ABC - the space in between cultures that creates all this chaos and madness, along with joy and love.

To be caught in this moment of crisis is scary, but also, so exciting. Because if you allow yourself to embrace and live these questions that have previously plagued your existence, maybe you will be graced to meet others who, too, have these same questions and will never be satisfied with a simple answer (see this website!). And, if you are so lucky to have the honor, perhaps you will help them along in this journey, in whatever stage they are currently exploring, or embracing.

Sometimes, all we can do is simply just nurture and encourage others to write about this, like they always have been, or… like they’ve never even dared to try in the first place. Because isn’t it at least worth giving yourself the courage to try? What are the stories we keep locked up, that we are not allowing ourselves to write and to remember and to feel, which hold us back from being who we need to become?

To write is to feel - write when you are frustrated, heartbroken, and ecstatic - all in a pursuit to better understand yourself. To embrace who you are, and validate this identity. In between these lines, whether those are borders, cultures, words… there will always be a home in the middle. You just have to nurture it - finding the hope and value within this space.

Issue Five: Accent

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The last time I visited my family in the Philippines, my cousins and I spent hours sitting outside, swapping stories around a white picnic table. I didn’t have many opportunities to speak in Tagalog while I lived in the States; so, being in-country and all, I tried to spend as much time as possible talking to my cousins in that language. At one point, one of them said, “You know, you have a foreign accent while speaking.”

I remembered looking confused for a hot minute. “Foreign accent? What do you mean?” My grasp of the language wasn’t any more than conversational, sure, but I thought I still sounded pretty alright.

“It’s the way you say certain words, or the way you choose other words for your sentences,” he explained. “It’s apparent that you didn’t grow up here.”

I don’t really think I thought much about being an Asian-American – or a Filipino-American to be more specific – until that night. I guess, for the most part, I still saw myself as mainly Filipino. But since then, I’ve been more cognizant of cultural influences on my identity. Certain ways I view the world and myself are distinctly influenced by being American – the hunger to be more, the hustle to be more diverse, etc. But some ways I express myself – from the art that I write to dances I performed – are distinctly Asian/Filipino in influence. And that’s not bad at all. What I once took as a pejorative, I now embrace with pride.

Issue Five: Self-Acceptance

Asians Between Cultures

Learning to accept who you are is easier said than done. It takes time. It takes hardship. It takes courage. You have to strip yourself down to the bare bones and question what makes you you. Growing up as an Asian-American in the United States, I have felt shame and pride in my dual identity. When I was a child, living in a non-diverse small town, I recall disliking the stares and whispers targeted towards my family and I, consisting of minute mockeries of our food; accents; and appearances. At first, I thought they were weird for making fun of us. After all, what did it matter to them? The food I ate, the words I spoke, and the features I carried had no impact on them. However, the longer people point out how different you are when you never thought you were bears down on your child-like mind. You start to wonder if you were normal. Then, you ask yourself if you should change. And when you’re a kid who simply wants to fit in as best as you can, you try. You don’t realize the traditions you’re pushing back when you attempt to be like everyone else. You ignore the sadness pooling in your mother’s eyes when you refuse to bring the meals she’s cooked for you to school. You lose a bit of the language that has floated across an ocean to be spoken by you. In the end, you forget a piece of who you are. I hid and lost myself when I was younger. I didn’t like being Asian and American. I didn’t like not feeling like I belonged anywhere. Luckily, I broadened my experiences. I met others who struggled similarly. I learned, as I hope anyone can, that I’m neither one or the other. I’m both Asian and American. I am a rich mixture of two countries. I am a bridge between cultures.

Issue Five: Parental Language

Asians Between Cultures

The stories here speaks of a new consciousness amongst young people to find and forge their identity in this brave new world. Being born across cultures is not a choice one makes but should be being a privilege. Some see it as an inescapable state of being. As a practising mental health clinician, I have seen people and families caught up in some of these issues. Some adapt and accept to embellish their heritage. Yet others have had allowed themselves to be swallowed into the abyss of social and family disconnect, torn between wanting to belong to the community they were born into and navigating the parent’s culture and language. E.g. the issue of having to accept or reject language as one’s native tongue and/or accept it a second language. Schools and the education system regard the person as having an advantage over others in high school courses and exams whereas the person, may in fact be as new to the learning of their own language, as any other Australian born here. Should one be punished for not knowing your parent’s native language well? I have also seen young people who cannot communicate effectively with their overseas born parents. The lack of bonding and connection that often is the eventual outcome of this unique language barrier, perhaps almost irreparable. This new consciousness allows for the open and wider exploration of these particular issues, perhaps even at a broader level. One should not to feel cloistered or ashamed of being in this unique situation but to find resolution.

Issue Five: Duality

Asians Between Cultures

"Your Korean is so good!" the ahjumma exclaims to me in her mother tongue.

"Well, yes," I start, also speaking in Korean. "I'm Korean."

"Ah," she grins at me, "but not really Korean, right?"

My smile turns cold and I convince my friends to move onto the next roadshop, that there are prettier things in the Ewha area. I silently reassure myself that my pronunciation's fine. That I'm still as much Korean as I am American.

"Your English is very good!" the store clerk, random stranger, whomever praises to me in their mother tongue.

"Well, yes," I reply, also speaking in English. "I'm American."

"Ah," they ponder, "but where are you really from?"

I stare back blankly until they become uncomfortable, hurriedly packing the groceries or awkwardly excusing themselves. I tell myself that it's another case of ignorance I can spin into a story for future gatherings. That I'm still as much American as I am Korean.

I was teased for how bad I was at math and science. I was judged for my stumbling Korean, scrutinized for my tan skin. I was questioned about my unaccented English (and often still am). I felt like I had to apologize for not being Korean or American enough. However, I've since recognized that my existence as a “foreigner” neither diminishes my appreciation for the two cultures I grew up with, nor discredits how I’ve become the person I am today. I’m forever empowered by and grateful for that duality.

Issue Five: Party Trick

Asians Between Cultures

Growing up, others taught me that my language, my mother’s native tongue, was a party trick. I was asked to dole out silly sentences in Chinese for the amusement of my white classmates. In college, others taught me that being half Taiwanese meant I was either to help men check off “Asian” on their metaphorical fuckit lists or to serve as yet another conquest in the name of yellow fever.

These attempts at teaching me failed, though. I started an entire blog dedicated to fashion and feminism, where I began to tackle issues of race and culture. My most read blog post to this day tackled fetishization and enjoyed 15 minutes of fame on the infamous (but very problematic) hapa thread on reddit.

I’m about to graduate with a double major in Chinese and Advertising, have interned at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and even marched in Obama’s inaugural presidential parade as part of an accoladed Chinese folk dance troupe.

If anything, those attempted lessons taught me to value my heritage and culture and be proud of it. They taught me to value myself and refuse to let others diminish my worth and where I come from. I grew up proud of my culture and intend to show others exactly why my culture is so damn amazing.

Issue Five: Citizen

Asians Between Cultures

Throughout my life I have never quite felt at home in either the western or eastern culture. I was always at a crossroads between the two. My parents would always keep up with Chinese tradition yet we also took on many South African cultural traits too. I have also had my fair share of verbal abuse from other Asians as I was not able to speak Chinese fluently and was also verbally abused by other non- asian South Africans, as the Chinese in South Africa have had a stigma attached to them that we “jumped on the bandwagon” when things changed from Apartheid rule to the new Democratic South Africa, specifically when Affirmative Action or “B.B.B.E.E.”- Black Economic Empowerment was passed into law.

This is due to a misconception that the Chinese were treated as “honorary whites” during Apartheid years, which is completely wrong as it was the Japanese who were given that status. The Chinese were classified as “coloureds” and treated as such.

In saying all of this, I have chosen to use the various abuses encountered as a tool for educating the future generations all over the world. I am an international teacher by profession and since I am able to now relate to both eastern and western cultures, I have used this to my advantage and brought light to various misunderstanding or misconceptions between the two cultures or at least have attempted to. I guess you could say that as a teacher “I am the best of both worlds”, and the more I experience the more I grow into my true identity which is simply just “A citizen of the world”.

Issue Five: Birthright

Asians Between Cultures

It’s strange how phrases that are so hurtful and wrong on so many levels can be said with love. It’s also strange how I’ve grown to learn to understand the context behind the culture and forgive that more easily than I can forgive myself for being ugly.

Ugly being my subjective description of myself. Because no matter how much affirmation I receive from my friends or from strangers, I will always avert my eyes from the mirror because I hate what I see.

In Korea, your looks are your currency. I haven’t been back since I moved to the US twelve years ago but the message travels over oceans and time zones to find itself lodged alongside my fears.

Years cannot be undone in days and this story is one that hits too close for many. It is passed down and amongst ourselves, this birthright no one wanted. I have cradled it in my heart, letting it gnaw away at me as I rescinded my permission to eat.

The first step to fixing any problem is identifying it. I have my eye on it, fixated, waiting for the day I can learn how to respect myself again.

In my brokenness I sit here, writing that I no longer claim a birthright I have carried for a decade. I bury it here, apologizing to the girl that I used to be, for hating her when she deserved to be loved.

Issue Four: Understanding

Born in Australia, as an innocent child I always thought that I was just like the other children in my grade. Sure, perhaps some of the things I was use to were different. People brushed their teeth after breakfast? They didn’t take off their shoes before entering the house? Those things I simply brushed off. But as I grew older, I experienced more ‘injustice’ per se.

For example, my parents wouldn’t let me leave the house for sleepovers unlike when all the other kids in my grade. I felt as though I was being suppressed from having fun. I would cry and yell at my parents, but they refused to let me go. Or when my friends were allowed to sleep in in the mornings, whilst my parents sat by my side, making sure I practised one hour of piano before I went to school. Why couldn’t I sleep for longer? Why did I have to play this instrument, that wouldn’t help me at all in my life? Sure, as a young child I couldn’t understand.

But as I’ve grown and matured, I’ve come to appreciate the actions of my parents so much more. They have selflessly guided me, to help me achieve everything that they didn’t have the opportunity to do.

Those sleepovers I wasn’t allowed to attend? Because in China, it was common to hear about children who got raped. The piano I played? Because during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, they weren’t given the opportunity to learn. They were letting me use them as a stepping stone, to lead me towards achieving. And although I may have been ungrateful as a child, I can now say thank you, to my mum and dad for leading me to where I am today.

Issue Four: Migration

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Every summer since I was ten, the family pilgrimage from Perth back to Singapore begins. These trips used to excite me. I packed my bag months in advance, stowing away my favourite candies to enjoy on the five-hour flight. But as I grow older, the pilgrimage has grown in length and complexity. More coordination is needed for our family of travellers, who are spread out across the globe – in Shanghai, Singapore, Taiwan, Melbourne. We enter and leave Perth like easy waves that press away from the shore.

I think of the beginnings of this pilgrimage, one that goes beyond me and my mother’s own lifetimes, back to the era where junk ships docked in the Singapore River and my grandfather carted away its contents.

These trade routes carried rice and flour and tea and people. The junks would depart with the turn of the tide, leaving my grandfather at the dock. He carries away bags of rice, one over each shoulder. He doesn’t look back.   

My mother carefully packs a suitcase for my sister – this year, she is the first of us to head to Singapore. The luggage is laden with gifts for our family back home - fruit mince pies, pharmaceuticals, chocolates, thickly cut slices of Christmas ham. We rearrange the luggage at check-in – the ham doesn’t make the cut - and my mum gently reprimands my sister about the weight requirements. We wave goodbye at the departure gate.

“Have a safe flight,” I tell her.

“Okay,” she replies. “See you in two days.”

Issue Three: Embracing

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I didn’t use to embrace being Asian as much as I do now. It took 17 years for me to realise why being Asian was something to be proud of.

Living in New Zealand and being around so many European people, it was easy to conform to the same ideals as them. In intermediate, I experienced my down-fall and disconnection for the culture. This was when I brought my favourite meal to school, my mum's Sweet Corn soup! However, when a girl told me that it looked 'disgusting', all I wanted for lunch was sandwiches - plain old sandwiches. Further along in college, when friends told me “you’re the whitest Asian girl I know,” it made me feel a sense of achievement, like finally, I was being accepted. Only this year did I realise that this conformity disadvantaged me more than anything else.

Through acting, I was given the opportunity to express myself in a way that allowed me to contribute my culture and stories to a society hungry for something new. I realised that New Zealand may not be perfect, but it will acknowledge their need for innovation and diversity.

Being an Asian girl gives me a chance to go against what everyone expects us to be; shy, submissive, conservative. Being an Asian girl and exuding confidence, creativity and drive helps introduce a new type of Asian girl to society, one that they don’t know. One that exist beyond their monochrome lens’.

Being Asian contributes towards my drive to act. I can acknowledge that what some people expect of me is not what I will become, and that society does not dictate my limits.