This season’s dosage of cultural unpacking(?)

How do I carry my strategies with me? I can’t believe I’m still quoting E.E Cummings but [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in](a true oldie but goldie) rings very very true.

I miss weeding. I miss the healthy and lush greenery. My allergies have somewhat calmed down a little but I miss being creeped out by worms. You don’t really think about how yard work is woven into the fabric of the American weekend until you start visiting the same malls every weekend. I miss walking everywhere. You only start to appreciate the walkability of a city when you leave it.

I can talk about all the things that I miss but that’s not really why I’m putting my thoughts up for display. Lists don’t really work well when you put a number to the things that you miss about life on the other side of the world. The list will never end. Being stuck in limbo is not how one goes about being productive.

So let’s talk about mindfulness (again). Let’s revisit the(my) need to be efficient and productive. I’m probably not going to get on a plane any time soon. This is probably the first time in a while that I’ve been this grounded, this committed physically to who am I and what I do with myself given my permanent(we’ll see) geographical address.

You realize things have changed. The old haunts you used to frequent aren’t as popular anymore. You realize that as cliche as it might be that you are the stranger in your own city. There’s nothing wanderlust about it. There’s just no reason to glamorize this transitional phase of my life.

I’ve had some time to reflect, to unpack my baggage. The one thing that sticks out? You’re probably not the same person that left and that the people around you – they’ve changed too. You’ve got different beliefs. You’ve got different perspectives on how you think your life should be like. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just what it is.

My strategies need some tweaking. My yoga practice needs to be more consistent. Right now though, I’m feeling pretty secure with my new squishy body pillow, weekly fix of durian and spoiling GG.

I’ll check in again in a bit. Say hello to fall for me. There’s a lot that I would give for some Spotted Cow and cheese curds.

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Hello, Goodbye.

I love riding down John Nolen Dr in the mostly empty bus. The lake is beautiful either way. On sunny days, the water is calm but it’s almost silvery – sunlight is my favourite bleaching agent. On dreary days, well… the humidity feels like a welcum breath of fresh air.

I’ve stayed away from writing mostly because I’ve lacked the time or when I do have the time, I just want to be the most unproductive that I can be. I’ve also been more hesitant about writing because it is reflective, it is cathartic, it is….a little exposed.

I’ve noticed that my fashion sense feels very early 2000s, feels very antiquated and modest. I don’t think I actively seek out modesty but there is something about the fashion trends now that I find a little too tacky for my taste. Baring my midriff only feels normal when I’m in the piping hot yoga studio. Or maybe I’m just the OG auntie millennial.

Which is why this process of saying goodbye, of packing things up, of moving on feels anti-climactic. I think all that built-up anxiety of cultural re-adjustment simmered and settled in the Malaysian heat. I’m positive a lot of the unpacking that I have left will take place later privately in the other side of the world. It is almost as if, my personal reflection is shielded by this unspoken, given sense of modesty.

Maybe, change is something I love even if I have a tendency to romanticise the past.

Maybe, saying goodbye and doing all that mental unpacking will happen when I feel more locked in geographically.

It’s a little lull before my fave John Nolen Dr scenery turns into airport runways and living like a nomad.

My contentment feels cosy. It is a modest expression of security as I write from underneath my purple polka dotted throw.

Smell you soon, bubba, GG Tan, and most certainly, airplane exhaust.

 

 

 

 

If we’re really playing the identity politics card…..

Then I would already be a valuable asset to your organisation. I would be your diversity checkbox complete.

I offer you a college degree, I offer you cultural competencies – GLOBAL cultural competencies.

I offer you a third lens, I offer you a step back from America’s own identity politics.

Perhaps my accent slips sometimes, maybe I use different words, but I am culturally ambiguous. I am neither American nor am I extremely Malaysian.

I do your nitty gritty work, diligently – only asking the important questions because I don’t believe in wasting time.

I do not goyang my kaki and I leave my politics at home.

I don’t ask for much but I work twice as hard. I have to because I don’t have a bloody choice.

So if we’re really playing the identity politics card and you want to talk about diversity, inclusivity, then my nationality would not be an issue.

I am the “new wave” of “expats”. We are yellow, brown, black. We have college degrees. We are not your undocumented immigrants.

We pay taxes. We pay as much as you do if not, a little bit more than you. We get paid a lot less.

We pay taxes but we are almost never eligible for services or resources.

So why? Why is it so hard to see the true value of my work, our work?

Why do you continue to be sceptical about what we can bring to the table?

Why are you saying no to the diversity and inclusivity that works and is cost-efficient?

 

 

 

 

 

Respect & Gratitude – On & Off the Mat

Today, I write about frustrations. So if you’re looking for some heart-warming story of my ‘story’, my cultural identity, you might not appreciate my scathing unforgiving tone.

Frustration #1:

Millennials – It’s such a bloody dirty word. Well, rightfully so.

Bullet point numbah 1: Living in another country ≠ the summer you spent studying abroad

Number 2: You don’t bloody delegate work so you can goyang kaki 20 mins before your other responsibilities while your fellow millennial does your dirty work.

Numbah 3: Contextual decorum – nobody wants to see your midriff ala Lady Gaga @ the Super Bowl. Save the thigh high boots and miniskirt for a night out.

Frustration #2:

Respect for the Mat & Practice – Perhaps I am too religious of a yogi but some things, you just cannot forgive.

Item numbah 1: My Mat is my real estate – stay the fuck off it.

Item number 2: Shut the fuck up, yoga is a physiological conversation with yourself. Honour and respect the silence.

Numbah 3: Being a teacher is to learn to not shame your students. There is nothing wrong with staying grounded and not feeling like one has to ‘challenge’ and ‘push yourself’ every yoga class. Save that yoga-shaming for a Crossfit class.

Now, on to big girl things like a little restorative yoga and moisturising.

Live and let live with a little gratitude and respect, dear reader.

Thoughts on Home(s) 2.0

It’s my fourth winter in Wisconsin. This post is way overdue.

I am finally content with my cosy little one bedroom apartment despite the smell of Korean, Indian, and different types of Chinese food aromas (stench, when I am grumpy) wafting through the cracks of my apartment door. It could smell like dhaal in the afternoon and come late evening, it could smell like kim chi. I have to say, my floor is pretty international. In a way, we are the new generation of expats. Will we be recognised as expats? Probably not, an American who studies abroad is considered more of an expat than we ever will be. But this is not why I am writing this.

It is hard for me to write nice things about Madison. It has never felt like home. Mostly because it feels impossible to find any sense of community. This is probably why it has taken me so long to write nice things about my home(?) in Madison.

There is a sense of security in knowing that I will come home to my apartment after travelling. It’s been a real bitch having to take the bus to and from OHare to get on a plane but I have started to appreciate feeling grounded whenever I am in Madison. It is a funny feeling. When I am in Madison, I always feel un-grounded; unsure of when the next time will be that I have to get on a plane. When I am away from Madison, I find grounding in knowing I will be home — sooner or later. It is a slow process of learning to value my living space. Perhaps, this is why I am so nitpicky about my apartment.

I also like how convenient it is for me to invest in my yoga practice. Despite how much I abhor the clientele at the yoga studio I frequent, there is nothing more that I look forward to in the evenings. My little walk to the yoga studio, my waxed pits being free to sweat in the heat and of course, that practice of mindfulness and patience. Oh, patience.

Leaving the college bubble has been difficult. Adult-ing is hard but it is because of leaving the college bubble that I have managed to stumble upon my meaning of home here in Madison. It is being able to understand the work that local community leaders dedicate themselves to that gives meaning to my 4-year existence here. All it takes is a meeting where you are a silent observer because you are new and have, virtually zero working experience.

It is coming up to a year of having some sense of the non-profit scene in Madison. It has been bittersweet and uncertain in so many different ways but it is one of the reasons I have nice things to say about living in Madison. For that, I am eternally grateful for calling Madison my home – no matter how temporary it may be.

From one bourgeoisie to another

Who am I to not take ownership of my snobbishness?

Dear reader, today I contemplate the American/Non-American binary that have at times, troubled and stifled my own voice (to feel that one’s voice must be heard and respected sounds so American of me). It hasn’t been all that bad though, I suppose.

Sure, it gets annoying when my American accent slips and I get the ‘mmm, she must be from China’ look. There’s also much amusement whenever I add the word ‘bloody’ into my vocabulary. There’s something about ‘bloody’ that Americans find very tickling.

So, why the bourgeoisie? It’s the smallest of things that irk me. This post feels more like a rant than thoughtful reflection.

It’s another dreary day here in Madison. It’s a good day for a freshly brewed cuppa and writing in a coffee shop. So, I decide to order a sandwich – college students are obligated to serve me. Perhaps it was my resting bitch face but dear darling, there was no need to stare me up and down. Does my yellowness intimidate your blackness? Does my yellowness demand an education in American blackness?

It’s a very interesting phenomenon, thoughts that I know I share with non-Americans. Thoughts that would make an American cringe and push so hard to silence. When the very fabric of racism in America is conceived from the threads of us versus them, one must thread carefully. It is as if, one must pick to identify as a woman of color and ally or be labelled third-world uneducated.

Perhaps, it is that threat of my identity that puts American blackness on the defence. Maybe it is the ambiguity of who I am culturally that unravels the legitimacy of racism defined by the American society.

From one bourgeoisie to another, you and I are alike in our hypocrisy and unconscious ethnocentrism. You are no better than me, I am no better than you.

Thoughts on Home(s)

A quick Google search unfortunately fails to satisfy my curiosity. You see, as I type this on a blustery day in Madison I am sipping on my freshly brewed coffee. Topped off with a dollop of half & half, I am in coffee heaven.

It all started with a visit from Michael to Malaysia. He is an avid drinker of coffee and I was walking down Petaling Street one sunny afternoon prepping for my trip back to America. It was then that I thought of buying coffee grounds for my partner. Tucked between one wanton mee store and another store selling counterfeit goods, I spotted a couple of big tins that I had hoped contained coffee grounds. I motioned to my mother to stop — let’s please check out this.

I walked out of that store buying five packets of coffee grounds. A packet for MYR 24 ( approx. USD 6) and they travelled with me all the way to Seattle, WA where I dropped them off with Michael to enjoy. Prior to getting familiar with Michael’s coffee habits, I only liked the sugary kind of coffee – lattes. When the cost of lattes started to prove ridiculous, I switched to drip coffee with half & half. Fast forward 9 months, I am a picky coffee drinker. I brew my own coffee with grounds from that little store in Petaling Street and always, a dollop of half & half to go with my cuppa. The lure of accumulating Starbucks stars to maintain my gold membership occasionally pulls me away from brewing my own coffee but nothing compares to a cuppa in my little tin carrier.

It’s a little piece of home I carry with me; mixed with half & half from Trader Joe’s. Down to my coffee habits, the hybridity of my difference rings through and through. Dear reader, I write today because it’s a day I yearn for the comfort of my family, dog and Malaysian food and feel like I never want to live the land of America. It’s a tug at the fabric of my cultural identity. If it was not for my library privileges officially revoked, I would have poured myself into academic literature.

I find solace in writing. Writing for an audience perhaps is therapeutic to me because it requires a different method of dissecting my own thoughts. When I journal privately, my focus strays to how the pen feels between my fingers, how I am printing words out, how it feels to flip through pages and pages filled with effortful penmanship. Typing on a computer however, there is no ability for me to personalize the look of my of writing. Rather, the appreciation of writing comes from putting two words together — documenting my thoughts is what brings me joy.

I am rusty, terribly rusty but it feels good to be writing. If you’ve made it this far, thank you.