Assignment Making Sense

  • November 16, 2020
  • // Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

My interest in finally engaging with issues in (Southeast) Asia began after living an accumulated time of over a year there. Engaging with various topics, people and cultures, the last and most impactful being my time at Wang Chau village, whose people welcomed me into their community and resistance against eviction and land robbery. During my time in the village, I began to connect what was happening there to greater issues across Asia, such as a decolonial awareness and healing in the making, urban farming, indigeneity, relationship between people and the environment and more. I began seeing Asia as not something exotic where you go on cheap holidays and try exotic cuisine, but as my heritage that I neglected for quite some time. As one of the first generations born abroad, my sense of identity was always kind of intangible. As I grew up in Zurich, the different face never seemed to matter. Yet, there was always an inner wish to blend in, even to become Swiss not only on paper but in flesh. Ocean Vuong describes his experience in the US, as he is taught by his mother to be invisible in order to survive, to assimilate as much as possible, as your ‘yellow face’ is already a point against you (Vuong, 2019). What he was taught, I have internalised more subtly, be it through observation of my parents behaviour or else. This looking towards the West seems common among many Asians and I’m curious about this behaviour. As colonialism imbued its values into the colonised, this created a system of power that has shaped how large parts of the world are viewed as well as how the people view themselves. In Aesthetics of Decisions, I investigated my families escape from Vietnam, in 1979, four years after the fall of Saigon. I spoke at length with my mother and my cousin, who both were on the boat that brought them to Malaysia. I have just started to reconstruct this journey, the atmosphere, the decisions and consequences of that escape, but what struck me the most was my cousins view on Vietnam. He left Vietnam age 19, but never returned. He misses nothing about Vietnam and doesn’t want to go back because of the communist regime. He doesn’t trust the food there and couldn’t share with me his favourite places there. Vietnam is his second country, Australia his first. He seemed skeptical about me trying to reengage with his second country, when I told him about my travel there. Between his determined statements I cannot help but read a sense of bitterness and an ignored wound that will never heal. But maybe I’m interpreting too much and he really enjoys being Australian now. It stands in contrast to my mother, who misses (the old) Vietnam and always saw herself as a foreigner.