Jun 1, 2011

Diversity

Something still amazes me whenever I'm in a group of people. I have been in a room of 20 and counted 10 different nationalities. Hubs has been in a  meeting of four and counted four different nationalities. Beyond Australians, I regularly bump into people from Singapore, Italy, Phillipines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Holland and India. There are also many Koreans and (China) Chinese in my area.

Being Malaysian, the urge to determine the ethnicity of every person I meet is strong. In Malaysia, every form that has ever been designed, whether official ones, surveys or those you need to fill in to get a loyalty card, all have the field "race" in it. It's not uncommon to have a "What are you?" thrown at you, if your ethnicity is not easily identifiable from the word go. (and not really in a rude way, just to fulfill a habitual and compulsive need to catalogue people so you understand their background better).

I didn't realise the diversity at first though. Being Asian, I have difficulty telling Caucasians apart, and my first impression (though I should have known better) was that every caucasian was native Australian. But the accents usually give it away. The accents are so varied, you sometimes wonder if we speak the same language! How could one language lend itself to so many tones, singsong ways of speaking and pronunciation?

I was trying to spell a word for a friend, and said the letter 'i'.
She drawls, "Ai?" (which is 'a')
No, "i", I say.
"Ai?" she asks again, fingering the letter 'a'.
No, 'i'. I draw the letter i in the air, with the ever distinct dot.
"Oh, ai!" she says.

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