Saturday, 14 January 2017

3 countries

So, in fact, there are many different ways in which a person can be 'Asian'.

To acknowledge and notice the nuances of the vast difference between the cultures of the East and the West, sometimes being born of one but thrown to the other can cause you to think, and think for your whole life.  As an Australian-born-Chinese, I've seen all the differences in food, attitudes, priorities.  I have seen what it is to belong and not belong, to feel unique and proud and frustrated.  A lot of my identity has been built around being 'Asian'.

But, you see, calling myself 'Asian' is already a somewhat misleading, broad term.  Asia is a continent.  Asia consists of India and Korea and the Middle East.  I may be from both China and Malaysia, but that's two countries out of 48.  And that's where I go wrong.  I call myself 'Asian' because in a predominantly white country, I'm of a rather large minority, and we label ourselves as 'Asian'.  'Asian' isn't a culture.  Chinese is a culture, but 'Asian' is many.

Two days ago I flew back from Malaysia, a country consisting of three major cultures: Malay, Chinese and Indian.  All are Asian.  There, my cousins and my uncles and aunties label themselves as Chinese.  Chinese people have their own stereotypes, as do the Malays and the Indians.  None of them call themselves 'Asians' because being Asian is a given.  While people from Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea may 'look the same' to people here, in Asia there is a wide distinction in culture, food and appearance - I say food because food is very important to most Asian cultures, as it should be.

But then, with internet and movies and Netflix taking over the world, pop culture in Malaysia has become quite westernised.  While girls my age do enjoy K-dramas and Animes, my Aunty has said that 'nobody tells anyone they watch K-dramas.  It's one of those things they want to sweep under the rug.'  They all enjoy looking 'tumblr' and eating at 'hipster cafes'.  They'd rather eat eggs benedict than roti canai.  As my cousin said, 'they're all trying to act white these days,' and as my uncle said, 'P A T H E T I C what does that spell?'

However, this is a huge generalisation.  Unlike the way she describes some of her school mates, my cousin dresses a lot more 'kawaii' as her friends put it.  With school-girl skirts, stockings, pastel colours, shiny miniature boots and pigtails, she is the picture of one of the Japanese school girls in her Animes, and I think that's cool.  Every day she uses a cushion foundation and lip creamer, all bought from Korean makeup shops, going for the dewy look rather than matte everything with wings as sharp as knives.

This seems to be the picture of beauty in Japan, where we visited for a week before the new year.  In advertisements all over subway stations and Shibuya Crossing, girls had perfect, moist-looking skin.  Their eyeliner was much more discrete than those I see here, and to my surprise, their wings were not turned up but rather finishing with a little straight flick.  Sometimes the wings would even be turned downwards.  This difference in beauty, which I thought was actually much more attractive, must be the manifestation of a thriving Asian culture, which, for the first time I'd ever seen, was not trying to be white.

In Japan, everyone walked fast and everyone was well dressed, including the boys.  Girls would wear pink and white long furry jackets, outrageously sparkly eyeshadow with blue eyeliner, or Moschino-style embroidered jackets or pants, and nobody would blink an eye.  It was rare to see a girl in simple jeans and a coat.  It was much more exciting.  Boys would have hair sitting perfectly, wearing bomber jackets and hipster glasses, somehow making their pristine Adidas sneakers look classy rather than basic.  Walk into a 10 story Forever 21 and you'll find that floor 5 upwards is men's clothing.  They have their own celebrities, pop culture, technology and language; and they're proud.  Now this is an 'Asian' I want to see more of.

But then, in some ways, while factoring in the westernisation, there has been a beautiful modernisation of the Chinese culture in Malaysia as well.  Walking into a cheongsam shop, the beautiful Chinese patterns, silks and collars have been fused into beautiful, plainer dresses fit for any Western girl trying to branch out, or printed on batik the same way Indonesians make their clothing.  While tossing the Yee Sang we add salmon, because it is both easy to find and tastier, and when eaten it tastes like a salad with balsamic vinegar dressing.  Pineapple tarts sit on kitchen counters alongside butter-cream cupcakes.  While this culture in itself is Chinese-Malaysian, and while they may not be as acquainted with western culture as people who have immigrated over, they still, in some ways, have the best of both worlds.

And, in my case, how can I truly be Chinese-Malaysian if I do not live in Malaysia and I have no memory of ever having celebrated a true Chinese New Year?  Being 'Asian' in a white country is an entirely new 'Asian' in itself.  While in Malaysia, my Aunty was telling me about her experiences going to high school in Australia at the age of 15.  She said that as a new immigrant, she realised that other Asians, those born in Australia, didn't want to be associated with her.  They were ashamed of their culture.  Back in that time, there weren't as many immigrants, and being non-white was an actual rarity, 1 in 100.
Watching Fresh off the Boat, set in a similar scenario in a slightly later time period, while the eldest son isn't ashamed of his culture, he is aware of the stereotypes and fights against them, saying to his younger brother on his first day of middle school,
'So you want to be what everyone thought I was when I walked in on the first day.  You want to undo all the work I've done over the past two years... I'm keeping them on their toes, blazing trails, breaking chains.  Then they see you coming with your violin and your camera, and we're back to where we started.'
And then there's second generation Asian immigrants today.  Stereotypes still exist and we make fun of them, but I can't tell whether we despise them or love them.  I can't tell whether we're fighting them or accepting them as predominantly true.  In an overly politically correct world, I think we are beginning to take pride in our culture while everyone else is afraid of being racist.  It's a newer, more multicultural world in which girls wear traditional clothing out to dinners and dances, and I'm glad to have been born in this time period where it is easy to be proud of being 'Asian'.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

1st of the 1st

January number 1 - what else could this post be?  As I just wrote in my diary, this day marks the end of living in torturous hazy bliss each day, and the beginning of working towards something.  I've decided to spend a good chunk of today reflecting and looking forward, because as of the last few months I have thought of nothing but fashion, money and how people perceive me.  New year, clear head, right?

January - Gelato in Italy!!!
Looking back at 2016, well, it feels as if 2015 may as well have not existed.  It was a year of complete metamorphosis, in both myself and my day-to-day life.  Reading over last year's resolutions, I feel as if I have completed every single one except for "be nicer to people".  If anything, I have been meaner to people, becoming more condescending and less empathetic.  Perhaps that is something to acknowledge and work on coming into 2017.

February - on a hike that feels so long ago
With a perpetually dazed mind, it is incredibly difficult to look back at 2016 and remember any progress in particular.  

With growing confidence, for the first time I was doubting and seeing flaws in other people, and suddenly their desperation for attention and approval seemed so pathetic.  But, at the same time, I was adopting more of this desperation myself.

With growing confidence, I began to take pride in my appearance, starting with hair, then clothes and finally makeup.  

The quantity of friends I have depleted drastically, but the quality of those stuck with me increased dramatically.  And, for once, I feel as if I don't need anybody else.  They make me feel special, and that can only be a good thing.

March - the 'cousins' spend a day at a farm
Freedom came in the form of understanding that milestones don't have a time limit.  Freedom came in the form of independence and driving.  Freedom came in the form of realising that a person has layers, and that you don't have to put yourself in a box and act accordingly for people to comprehend you.  In fact, you don't have to stick yourself in a box for you to comprehend you.

April - Riding a bike around the lake

New year's eve was spent on a plane from Japan to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  With massive headaches, we watched the clouds zoom past on our descent into humid weather.  At midnight in Australia we were eating a massive buttery roti tissue in a hawker shop with no walls, followed by Baskin Robbins on the 31st.  And at midnight in Malaysia my sister and I pulled our beds together, listening to the fireworks exploding above while watching Bon Jovi sing to Katherine Heigl in New Year's Eve.

May - took these pics in this jacket because I felt so supah cool

And now, here we have it.  2017 is spread wide in front of us, and here are my resolutions:

Lay off social media

This has been a terrible problem for me that must've snuck up at some point in 2016.  I spend 3 hours on average on my phone each day, according to the app Moment, and while this may not be awful, it is unacceptable and unhealthy to me.  Enough external approval... it's time to have a little mystery.

June - candid photo waiting for N2 ice-cream
Be more appreciative of my friends

Sometimes I forget that I have them because I know they'll be there, unconditional of the way I act towards them.  It's time to show them a little more gratitude and do something for their benefit once in a while.  It's a lot more worthwhile to spend my time on my phone catching up with them than stalking strangers on Instagram or replying to "streaks".

July - at an art gallery
Be happy for others

Enough with the twinge of jealousy every time something good happens to someone.  Enough with the excuses as to why what they have couldn't possibly matter.  Enough with the grasping at every other thing I have that they don't.  It's okay to acknowledge that what they have, they deserve in every which way.  It's okay to acknowledge that these things can only be good.  They say that you know you're happy with yourself when you become happy for others, and perhaps that's the first step in completing this resolution.

August - my first ever concert
Be confident despite my appearance

Makeup or no makeup, hair up or hair out, contacts or glasses - no matter what, I want to be able to hold that same level of confidence.  I want to be able to speak to people, still feel like an accomplished, confident girl, even with my hair up, glasses on and face bare.  I don't want it to be necessary for me to look great every single day.  Even when ugly, my personality should shine through.

September - eating cake

Stop looking up to people who don't matter

And this is where my desperation for approval needs to end.  There are select people I barely know who I think are awesome.  They'll be beautiful or accomplished, and every time I encounter them at my best, I'll feel a sense of pride and happiness.  If they're in the same room, I'll claw my way into making a good impression the same way you would if they were your crush, and it's downright stupid.  Those who matter are those who make their way into my life naturally, not because I have some sick need to make them notice me as much as I notice them.

October - candid photo waiting for the light rail

Be less shallow

While it is easier to portray yourself outwardly and only judge people skin-deep, we are so much more than that.  It's time I work on what's inside as well as out.  Just because other people don't know something about you, doesn't mean it's not true.  

In 2017 I would like to work on realising that I am not the only person in the world and seeing other people's needs.  Better late than never.  
I would like to be more grateful of my family, even though I may not show it.  
I would like to explore my own morals rather than blindly believe those of others.
I would like to actively learn new things unnecessarily rather than shun those who do.  It's time to educate myself.

November - picnic at the beginning of summer
Work hard for myself 

We don't achieve things so we can yell it out at the world.  We don't work towards something just because it's what society deems as "successful".  We work towards the kind of lifestyle we want, whether in the short term or long term.  Whatever makes us happy.  This year I would like to work my butt off in my final year of school - but I'm doing it for myself, uninfluenced by anyone else.

December - birthday

Here's to 2017.  Happy new year!

Saturday, 24 December 2016


It's all my one-track mind can think about nowadays.  What should I wear tomorrow?  How should I look?  I've been buying item after item of sparkles and shapes, to which I've been giving the excuse, "but I can't find this anywhere else."  Fashions of the weird and wonderful have overtaken my Instagram newsfeed.  Chanel, Fendi and Louis Vuitton are beginning to look more like heaven than the previously personally dubbed strange world of elitist art.  If only I had money.

The clothes I wear have gotten rapidly progressively better over the last month, and my confidence has shot up with it.  It seems as if appearance and self-esteem are directly proportional, or is that not right?

*don't mind the photos of me below.  Taking photos of my clothes wasn't the intention in any of these cases*

Cap: vintage Nike found in the house
Dress: Cotton On $30

Suki Waterhouse

Sunglasses: Dotti $19 
Shirt: Cotton On $5
Overalls: H&M $30
Bag: Sportsgirl $45

Aimee Song

Bodysuit: Forever 21 $20
Skirt: Kitschen $10

Kat Wu

Bodysuit: Valleygirl $10
Skirt: H&M $20
Pompom: Forever New $17

Jordan Kale Barrett

Playsuit: Cotton On $30
Jacket: Vintage Esprit denim jacket

Alexa Chung

Cap: Souvenir from China
Shirt: H&M $10
Skirt: Cotton On $5

Yan Yan Chan

Sunglasses: Monki $5
Shirt: Monki $12
Overalls: Monki $25

Lily-Rose Depp

Dress: H&M $15


Sunglasses: Dotti $19
Dress: Factorie $30

Peyton List

Sunglasses: $10
Shorts: Valleygirl $20

Now hopefully I'll have better material next time round...


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

What Summer Looks Like

Freedom came in the form of finally being able to spend all the money in my bank account like there was no tomorrow.  Skirts, shorts, sunglasses and summer dresses were purchased in preparation for the days to come.  To live a life that is visually appealing is to live a life infinitely better.

Sunny days with music, good company and food can be all that you need.  An activity as mundane as taking a seat by a glistening lake to have a bite only needs the right people.  It's in the summer that you have the inkling feeling that you must go outside.  There's no need for dark movie theatres or sitting inside restaurants.  It's time to explore and go on adventures.  It's time to be languid and soak up the yellow rays coming your way.

In those final forgotten moments of the school year when results are given and sometimes they are disappointing, reckless loud music and fast drives may be the correct therapy.  To drown out failures for a little while can give some calm perspective later on.  To talk about the consequences or lack of, with no withholding and absolute honesty, is also important.  School can be harsh, but summer makes it better.

A little competition can spice things up.  In a scavenger hunt around the city, people are compelled to go skinny dipping and talk to strangers.  With the sun shining and girls forced to go walking, many little adventures happen on the same day.  And at the end?  Slurpees and donuts for all.

With girls who drive and blast the music, who love hills, photography and watching the sunset, you feel pure freedom and adventure.  As my 17th year was approaching, I wanted nothing more than to feel exactly that.  Nature is for taking photos and sunroofs are for standing and feeling the wind up winding mountains.  Something new, something scandalous and something yummy makes for the perfect day.