lundi 29 janvier 2007

So not Asian

It all started last month when one of my friends from high school invited me to join Facebook. I had come across it before but couldn't join because my school wasn't listed, which I'm actually grateful for since it is quite addictive. Anyways, with the opening up of the service to everybody, I've been able to reconnect with friends that I haven't talked to since grade 12. Through reading their profiles and whatever else you can do on there, I've come to see just how "not Asian" I am as compared to them. I didn't realize this then but seeing as how I have had very limited contact with people of my ethnic group since graduating from high school, that would make me unaware of such things. I attribute this to attending a Christian college where I was one of two Chinese people in the whole school and to my church where I used to be one of the few Asians in the congregation (that's changed now!).

I've always been more of a "banana" - yellow on the outside, white on the inside - or in more technical terms, more of a Canadian than a Chinese person, so naturally I didn't gravitate towards those Chinese cliques that you find in schools. I was even surprised that I had Chinese friends in high school - growing up, I believed that I was incapable of being around Chinese people because I was constantly getting into fights with them! I'm glad God got me out of that flawed mindset :) But even so, I'm much more comfortable being in a multi-ethnic setting or even with an entire group of Caucasians, which has happened to me on numerous occasions, than I would be with a roomful of Chinese people. Admittedly, I've never been to a Chinese church and the last all-Asian gathering that I went to had me squirming in my seat the whole time. I've accepted the fact that I am Chinese and that my ethnicity is a major part of my life and my faith, but I've also come to terms with the fact that my culture is primarily Canadian.

When some of my friends came back after teaching in China, I was amazed at how much they seemed to adapt to the culture and made it their own. I even joked that they were more Chinese than I was and although I said this in sarcasm initially, I'm wondering if it's true. I don't do a lot of the things that Chinese people tend to do (you know, the stereotypes of hanging out in Chinatown, singing karaoke, fighting over the bill, studying to be a doctor/engineer, playing badminton/ping-pong, etc.) and some of the things that are important to them, I don't necessarily treat it as so (side note: if I could rid the world of one thing, it would be Chinese superstition). There are many times where I feel like such a foreigner when I'm around Asians, first or second-generation, unless they've been as assimilated to the "majority culture" as I have been.

On the other hand, I know that I'm not completely Canadian either - my childhood obviously differs from the typical Canadian childhood. But it's a world that breeds familiarity with me and one that I feel most connected to; it's the world that allows me to exclaim, "I am so not Asian!" half a dozen times, even though I am on all appearances. I never used to pay much attention to my bi-culturalism but after writing part of my thesis on this topic, it's something that doesn't escape my mind anymore. It's a constant struggle with my identity, an understanding of the person that God has created me to be, but it's nice to know that it's an issue I'm learning more about all the time. When all is said and done at the end of the day, I'm not concerned with whether I'm as Asian as I should or shouldn't be, I'm concerned with how much I am living as a child of God.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28

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