Being an in-betweener


I returned from Indonesia on Sunday morning, after spending half a day in Singapore on Saturday.  I didn’t get to sleep very well on the plane, as the activities of serving supper, drinks as well as the extra-early breakfast interrupted my rest. We got home at around 10.30am after passing immigration and customs without much drama – we declared everything that we brought and the only item that was confiscated by the customs was a whole pack of Teh Tarik sachets that were given to me from my fourth sister because the product contained milk and was made in Malaysia.

I spent the rest of the day like I was in a daze – my body was present but my mind was just all over the place due to sleep deprivation. Yani and I went to church at 2.00pm and when we went to have dinner afterwards at BBQ City in Chinatown, I had to fight myself to stay awake. Yani, who had the chance to catch some shuteye on the sofa before we went to church, managed better. Although the pastor invited both of us to have some coffee in Cibo after dinner, we opted to head home as we were dead tired. Both of us ended up crashing in the living room – I slept on the floor, while Yani dozed on the couch. We got up at 11.00pm to brush our teeth and headed back to bed to sleep.

Alas, I had to get up early and faced Monday, as I had to go to work today. Although I was still pretty tired (I will probably shake this off after a couple of days), it was good to get back into routine again and continue my projects and other things at work. When we were still in Indonesia, Yani commented that it would probably take her a couple of days before she’s fully adjusted to life back in Adelaide. I told her that that wouldn’t be the case for me. Strangely this time, she’s right.

It’s weird to be back here after spending two and a half weeks in Asia. As an in-betweener, I live in multiple worlds. When I’m in Indonesia, I mingle and adjust quite well on physical terms with the locals. Although some of my Australian-adopted mannerism may creep up from time to time, overall, I still behave and look like an Indonesian. My thinking may be skewed towards the west though, having lived in Australia for twelve years in total, on and off. Now being back in Adelaide, I am again a minority with me being Asian. It felt a bit surreal walking around in Rundle Mall today, with the blue sky and cool breeze, surrounded by the locals and the visitors while twenty four hours before, I was surrounded by fellow Asians. I know that Adelaide is my home now. My thinking and behaviours are already better adjusted with the local way of thinking, but I can’t change the way that I look. The notion of home is less clear in my case due to this reason. Physical home or mental home?

I may have reflected my situation here that I was already born an in-betweener: a second-generation Chinese by blood, but raised and adopted the Indonesian way of thinking. Being an in-betweener does provide me with the wisdom to deal with multiple cultures and to be able to assess them from an outsider’s point of view. In a way I lament the situation that my children will be in, as they will have a similar dilemma that they will need to face. They will look Asian but born and bred in Australia. They will need to rehearse the answer to the perennial question of “Where are you from originally?” even if they say that they are from Adelaide in the first place. I hope that Yani and I will be able to instill their identity and the privilege to sit in two worlds, just like what we face in Indonesia and here in Australia.

Published by fuzz

I've finally relented to the lures of blogging - and for those who care, well, I'm a self-confessed geek who's a wanderer at heart, who thinks and analyses too much, and who's trying hard to hold on to his 7-year old inner persona.

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