Food, Travel & Life with The Asian Fusion Girl
What Defines Us As Asians
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As someone who has had the blessing to travel extensively and has an obsession with her Asian roots, I am constantly asking the question, what defines us as Asians? There are easy clichés to fall back on- those characteristics that Asians typically share, not all of which are incorrect in my humble opinion. We are tight knit with family. We hold high regard for the elderly. We love rice and noodles. We are disciplined. We are great at math and science. We excelled in school while typically being forced to master one classical instrument, (usually piano or violin). Most of us sported a China-bowl haircut at some point in our childhood. We are at least bi-, if not multi-lingual. Goals of ultimate success in life were constantly reinforced by way of accomplishing the minimum of a college degree, preferably becoming a doctor or lawyer. Most of us did not grow up with a lot of hugs or blatant expressions of love. Food is our currency of love. We love, we hate, we make up, we eat.
But what beyond these clichéd commonalities do we share? In creating this current version of Asian Fusion's website, we engaged in a long debate and survey as to what countries we should even include. By United Nations' definitions, countries such as Iran, Iraq and Uzbekistan are part of Asia. By a 99% consensus of our survey of hundreds of random people, those countries are not generally considered Asian. Does the commonality then lie in physical traits more than anything else? Are we just a people who share the black color of our hair (and even this is no longer a truth with many Asian women dyeing their hair to prescribe to Western standards of beauty) and the clichéd "yellow" of our skin?
The 20th century witnessed the beginnings of what has become a fact of modern day life- globalization. As more Asians living outside of their native countries produce younger generations who have never even set foot in the motherland, it's inevitable that globalization will play a vital role in the dilution of authentic cultures. In its strictest definition, globalization refers to the systemic movement of economic trade, of products and outsourcing and all that creates interdependent economies around the world. In a wider more philosophical sense, globalization also encompasses the recalibration of lifestyles, traditions, cultures and even ethics and faith.
People of one country, one bloodline have migrated to other countries, creating the wonderful spread of ideas, ways of life, food and culture. This spread is not without its questionable repercussions however. Interracial marriage is at an all time high, posing the very real issue of cultural preservation. What is it that we are seeking to preserve within those loosely defined characteristics we associate with being Asian?
Every Asian nation that we have featured here, from the large and well known such as China and Japan, to the smaller, less touristy ones such as Cambodia and Sri Lanka, has its own distinctive history, set of faiths, ethics, traditions, culture, languages, food and general manner of life. No two countries are identical, not even close. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to visit nearly every single Asian country, and more importantly, to have lifelong friends in each. The people of Asia have shown me their genuine hearts, their awe-inspiring work ethics, compassion for one another, hope for a brighter future and tenacity in preserving their individual cultures.
It worries me then, to step outside of Asia, into countries like the United States, Australia and Britain, that all have large Asian populations, to witness the demise of our authentic cultures. Younger generations no longer speak their parents' native languages; the focus on strong family values is not the norm but the exception; children are no longer taught to love and honor the elderly; interest in cultural history and traditions is fast disappearing with no tangible link to modern day life; concepts of authentic Asian food has been demoted to the likes of fusion sushi, ramen in a Styrofoam bowl and deep fried chicken chunks in an indescribable brown gloppy sauce.
Where does that leave us in today's world?
With Asian Fusion, I seek to celebrate the very best of all Asian nations, our people, histories and traditions. I love watching a group of old Chinese men playing a game of Chinese chess while loudly sipping hot tea. I love being part of a week-long Punjabi wedding where I get to witness multiple generations of a family blessing the bride and groom amongst an explosion of vibrant colors and a flurry of dancing that leaves no space for self-consciousness. I love being in the countryside of Japan, helping the lady of the ryokan to prepare a colloquial meal with the precise and calm techniques that are a Japanese trademark. I love being in the middle of an Indonesian island where cell phones don't get reception, rickshaws are still regular transportation and fear of eating es campur from the man on the street does not exist. I love exploring the streets of every Asian nation and witnessing the genuine smiles of village dwellers who have never seen a computer and live happily, as if the past few centuries never happened.
I know that as Asians, we share many amazing and venerable characteristics but we also share the burden of an immense number of issues such as child trafficking, lack of education for the underprivileged and the monumental task of preserving our native cultures. I know that many of you share my profound love for all that is Asia and I hope that you'll also share my commitment to continue the celebration and improve the negative. I don't have all the answers. I am still on my quest to understanding what defines us as Asians in today's world- something I view as a prerequisite to solving the issues.
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