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My own sense of being an Asian

 article about My own sense of being an Asian
The auditorium was buzzing with excitement. Students, thronged in costumes and in everyday clothes, were all over the place. The splash of colours was very gratifying - very resonant of the Asian culture.

Yes, it was THE DAY. All students would be graded on their project work for their Bahasa Indonesia module today. I had been taking the level one module in this language for a few months, and at a very fast pace at that. One component would include project work to showcase Indonesia's culture. The project work included donning the ethnic costumes, dancing, singing, playing an instrument and hosting in the language. All to do with the culture of that country.

But lest the reader is mistaken that this article is about the culture of Indonesia, it is not. It is more about the way the projects were presented, which I had enjoyed immensely.

We began the day with the hosts, as was the norm. There were some moments of awkwardness, and some pauses here and there. Nonetheless, it was laughed off in good spirits. In fact, everyone laughed when the hosts made mistakes- for it could have been ourselves making the same mistakes. We gave them claps and cheers when they finished.

Next was the singing. And it was our group's turn. We had rehearsed diligently for it. However, there were some screw-ups. After all, the words in the songs were not learnt in the course of our study at all. Some of them, anyway.

When it was my turn to perform, I simply remembered the moment whizzing by while I was singing. It was as though the lift went up at top speed, and before you know it, you've reached the top. I breathed again when I ended. The audience clapped.

Next was the dancing, and the hand gestures reminded me so much of gentleness and modesty. Gracefulness was there, albeit the dancers were not very professional. The flowers in the hair, the rich colours of the costumes; I indulged, and was rewarded.

The presentation of the dishes for the cooking segment was next. The intonation of the voice was soft and musical, with tinges of shyness mixed in. Nice, I thought. And the dishes melted in my mouth as well!

Why am I writing about this? It was only after that day that I first had a sense of awakening of what it is to be Asian. The students participating that day came from all regions, but the majority of them were Asians. And I could not help comparing that day with some other presentations I had seen from our western counterparts. The assuredness, the confidence, the professionalism with a tinge of flaunting; the clipped British accent with stiff upper lip, the brash American accent speaking English so effortlessly.

I don't know. For many years, I must admit that I've been ashamed of being Asian. I mean, why is it that the West, and not Asia, has invented so many modern devices? And why is it the West had colonized, not us?

And yet, the West likes Asia. Of course, not all, but some. Some Westerners say that when Asians laugh and smile, our entire faces glow with an aura they cannot put their finger on. You do not see that that often in the West, they comment. I often reflect on this, and wonder why.

And then I realize that the West is observing the Zen way of living; practising yoga. Are they chasing something, hankering simplicity, I wonder? Is it that despite all their achievements, they may be successful but they have forgotten how to live?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not siding with any particular culture. But it seems to me, now I look at the history of the world - the past and the present - that the West traditionally seems to be interested in making a profit. And that has made them enterprising - which is good. They are also people with dreams as well, dreams to conquer the world, to make their own existence less negligible, to have something tangible to hold their name to.

I think that we Asians are more content with our lot. We have invented some things, but on the whole, we just want a simple life. If we have to earn money and invent things to compete with the West, we will. The competitive streak has been instilled in us, yes, but we still like our customs and decorum; our traditions as well. It is not only religion, in which the West emphasizes, but a lot of the Asian psyche come into play as well. Our values revolving around the family, for instance. Community values, shunned as they are by the West, all come into play. All these factors are part of being an Asian.

And as an Asian, I am glad that I can write this article, and I hope anybody reading this will get a glimpse of understanding of the difference between the West and the East.

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