Adventures In Wellington And Raising Awareness

helenI arrived back from Wellington last night, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness. I don’t get to see my family often, and so I feel very grateful when I can. My sister and I were watching this short video that talked about how one sustains longevity and good health. The three things they said were important include: healthy social life, active lifestyle and eating a predominantly vegetarian diet. They also mentioned having some red wine, but my taste buds have never really succumbed to the taste of it. Relationships are so important in our lives. They are ultimately what give our lives purpose and meaning, as the connection we build with one another feeds our heart.

Auckland and Wellington / Growing up in Auckland and after living in Sydney, there are definitely some similarities and naturally differences. However, whenever I’ve visited Wellington, I always feel like it has a homely feeling, a place to embrace your creativity and the ease of meeting people and making new friends. Whereas in Auckland, I’ve found that there isn’t a sense of that openness, although it may also be because it’s a big city with many people. Perhaps it’s the corporate feeling that Auckland and Sydney give, but then again that’s why it’s good to explore the secret corners of cities and realise that every city has its own special touch.

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Acceptance and Stories / It’s not easy to talk about certain topics with people in our everyday lives, and that’s why having those close to you where you can talk about anything is so valuable. I think the reason why it’s not always easy, is because we live in a time where people are always going to disagree on some things. I watched a Netflix video called Nanette with Hannah Gadsby, and it nearly made me cry. It was touching, emotional and eye-opening. The stories we all hold are what ultimately connects us together. She talks about mental health, LGBTQ issues, gender and art history. If you get a chance, I highly recommend watching it.

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Media representation / After watching Crazy Rich Asians my head was filled with so many thoughts and I may or may not have shed some tears. I feel like when you grew up as an Asian in a Western country, you’re never quite completely seen as one or the other. When I’m in Taiwan, most people will sense that I’m a foreigner in my mannerisms and the way I speak. When I’m in New Zealand, I will always be questioned about my ethnicity through my physical identity. I hope in ten years time that the word ‘Asian’ and ‘Black’ won’t need to be in the title of films and that it would just be a natural and normal thing to have an all Asian or an all Black cast.

Representation is powerful. When you ask teenagers who they looked up to while growing up, many may refer to a character from a book, film, tv show or game. However, growing up I saw films that were clearly whitewashed and wondered why an Asian character couldn’t play the part. The main character Rachel is an Asian American, yet she is still not fully accepted by her boyfriend’s Mother, because she is considered American and not completely Chinese. This is an important aspect that many Asians growing up in a Western country may relate to. Our identity can be very personal, and our experiences shape the way we see the world.

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In an article from Variety, it says “It’s an experience many Asian-Americans, like myself, know well. Like Rachel in the film, I’ve been accused of being a “banana” — yellow on the outside, white on the inside — a pejorative assigned to Asian-Americans who have lost touch with their roots.” I was often called a banana growing up, and when I think back to it, sadly I wasn’t fully in touch with my Chinese culture. When I was younger and went back to Taiwan, there were some things that gave me a culture shock or I didn’t quite understand why it’s done this or that way. The term banana makes me think of the term assimilation. Yet, I think it’s simply important to embrace yourself for who you are, regardless of what your accent sounds like or what you look like.

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In Chinese culture, there is a desire to have harmony. This is why a lot of racism is tolerated and hidden under the covers. But, we have to speak up when it’s most crucial and we must educate and tell people when they are prejudicing, being hurtful, making assumptions and falling for stereotypes. I know that many parents who moved to New Zealand, have had to work really hard to build the path and raise their children in a new country. When I look at New Zealand’s media, it’s still predominantly white, even though we live in a multicultural society. I really hope that there will be more and more diversity in the media and that we can hear from all kinds of voices.

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Growing up as a Kiwi Asian / I was reading this article here while waiting at the boarding area at the Wellington airport. I say this often, but when we don’t experience something ourselves, we can often not see or understand the other person completely. If we open our hearts and learn to hear others stories, we can judge less and realise that every person is going through their own journey. I grew up eating Chinese food, with the occasional pasta or roast. I grew up reading Chinese books, going to Saturday Chinese classes, watching Chinese cartoons and when I first learned English as a child, it took a while to fully grasp the definition of certain words. This opened my love for reading because I became curious about learning new words.

Growing up in the countryside meant that there weren’t many Asians. In the article Rose writes “It provokes strange reactions in us, to be almost invisible in the stories we read.” This is incredibly true in the sense that growing up I rarely was exposed to literature that made me feel I could relate to completely. Like Rose, I grew up reading Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. However, there always felt a lack of writing that was relatable to one’s own experience. When Rose talked about being at school, she says “At school I manufactured a clear divide between me and Chinese students in the International Students Block…I took this as a sign of my successful integration. I was Chinese, but I wasn’t Chinese Chinese.”

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I made friends with others Kiwis and didn’t have any close Asian friends growing up. When I was in college, there was this feeling of not being able to completely relate to being a Taiwanese. Which was perhaps why I didn’t make friends with any of the Chinese international students at the time. Now that I’m older, I embrace wholeheartedly my Chinese culture after neglecting it as a child and as a teenager. When I go back to Taiwan, I feel this deep appreciation for Chinese culture. The beautiful language, the rich history, the traditions and the stories people have to share. Rose writes “Before I spent time in China, I had never missed it. I hadn’t known what to miss … As I understood what being Chinese meant to me, I cast off a shame that had started so young that I never realised I was carrying it around.” 

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I relate to this article in many ways, and how as I am older, I feel proud of my background. Sadly, growing up being bullied for being Asian influenced my neglect of the culture. We change mindsets when we have conversations and raise awareness. The last excerpt I want to share by Rose reads “I want more narratives that don’t come from Pākehā-centric worldviews. I want to hear about the different experiences of being Asian in Auckland, Invercargill and Hawera. I want to know where the model minority stereotype falls flat, I want to know how East Asian privilege affects brown Asians. And most importantly, I want to read about things that I don’t know the existence of yet.” I think that the more we share out stories through conversations, the more we can all be understanding of one another.

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Bridging the gap / This audio clip from 95bfm talks about bridging the gap between New Zealand and Chinese international students. It’s a topic that’s incredibly important because often culture and language can create a divide, that stops international students and New Zealanders from being able to connect and become friends. I’ve been going to the Wednesday meet up that is mentioned, and it’s been a really great experience. It’s good to be encouraging and help others with their English. I think of my parents and other parents that moved to New Zealand from China and Taiwan, and how they had to build their path while learning English. Language can make us feel a sense of belonging, and ultimately a sense of connection.

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Judge less, do more / Education is important, because if we don’t understand something we are less likely to change our mind or gain a new perspective. We might even fall into the trap that ignorance is bliss. An example is recycling, and the impact and influence we all have. We have to judge less and speak more about how we can make a change by being more environmentally conscious. When we listen to different people’s stories, we can be more empathetic and become more open-minded. We need to come from a place of love, no matter who we’re talking to, even when there are times where it’s hard and we disagree. Sometimes it’s not always about being right, but about being compassionate and listening to one another.

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Beautiful Bodies / Jameela Jamil speaks here about changing how we define our self-worth. We probably don’t talk about it nearly enough, about how damaging the beauty standards in the media are. Women are often defined by their appearances, but we have to change the narrative and focus on a person’s value from their attitude, abilities, actions, experiences and achievements. We are constantly bombarded with advertising that essentially tells us that we are not good enough, and therefore we need this or that. I was talking to my sister about this, and saying that we all buy into it in one way or another. Accept your body for what it is, and realise that there is no one size that is the definition of beautiful. Your body is one of the most amazing gifts that keeps you alive.

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Azure’s Cat Helen

13 thoughts on “Adventures In Wellington And Raising Awareness

  1. You touched upon an important point when you said in Chinese culture, racism is covered up sometimes. Harmony and togetherness is prided upon, and tried to be the image many traditional Asian families put up. Like you, I grew up Asian in a Western world…knowing a culture doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll feel comfortable being that culture, but maybe we can over time, or maybe not. I haven’t watched Crazy Rich Asians yet. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But it is a step in the right direction when it comes to representation. Sounds like you had great adventures in Wellington 😊

    1. Very true, and especially when one thinks of the concept of ‘keeping face’ or ‘mianzi’ in order to avoid ‘losing face’ or ‘diu lian’ to avoid conflict, which builds a level of tolerance. I feel like that tolerance can be good or also bad depending on the situation. Thanks for your comment Mabel, I had such an amazing time (I wish I could have stayed longer!).

  2. Love your photos and what you write like always:).

    After watching the Crazy Rich Asian, I’m happy in tears for Rachel but I think she will have to sacrifice more for this happiness.

    About Taiwan, I also fell in love with this place because of the culture and language. I don’t know how to explain, but it’s a sweet and safe feeling whenever I think of Taiwan.

    1. I’m glad it resonated with you. It can be easy to have thoughts of ‘that’s not right’, or judge others unfairly, but I think it’s important to make a change or show love through our actions!

  3. Whew. Such a dense post, I don’t know where to begin! Or even what to say! But it felt like a reflective post where you’re sharing so much about your recent experiences – and I must say that is SO SO cool that you are going to the Chinese international students meet up. Yes. Culture is key and when we are in a new one there is so much that goes unspoken and assumed that it can be elusive to grasp let alone see. xxoo

  4. It’s been a while since I’ve been back on this site and your blog is one of the first I wanted to catch up on!

    One point I find interesting and slightly frustrating is the idea of a banana, how Asians who grew up in the west aren’t considered ‘real’ Asians (as considered by general society). This idea doesn’t really make sense to me, we are a product of who we are, our background amd largely our environment. Asians in Asia and Asians in the West are indeed different, but it doesn’t make one more Asian than the other. Culturally and behaviour, yes, one will be connected more to their ethnic background, but this is a product of environment.

    Wanting to learn about the culture your parents grew up in and where your ancestral history is, can only be a good thing in my opinion :). More knowledge!

    Reading this had given me the itch to visit NZ. Maybe even after hubby and I have kids, I wouldn’t mind showing our future kids where I grew up (while seeing how NZ has grown in th4 time I’ve been away).

    1. Aw Carol, I’m so glad! Oh yes, I feel that too and appreciate you talking about it. I still remember having a talk from an auntie in Taiwan, and she was telling me how I need to embrace being Taiwanese, and how important the Chinese language and culture is. It’s absolutely true, but I was definitely made to feel less Asian in that situation and felt a bit sad that she assumed I wasn’t proud to be Taiwanese because I grew up in NZ. YES if you ever came to NZ I would so love to meet you :D

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