I consider myself an easy-going person.

Hell, some will even consider me a pushover, the kind of easy-going I’ve got going on.

I am the type of person who gets onto a train and while everyone is pushing and shoving their way to a seat, I scan for a place to stand.

I am the type of person who listens to a conversation and waits for everyone to give their opinions before rendering my own, for fear of sounding stupid or judgmental.

I am the type of person who almost never sends back food. Which is why I always give soup a few good stirs, to work up anything that’s at the bottom to make sure there are no surprises. And if I do find a fly at the bottom AFTER I’ve almost finished, I will often just convince myself that I have eaten things that are far worse, rather than make a fuss.

Which is why I rarely order soup. Unless it’s French Onion. I love French Onion. I’ll eat pretty much anything with onions.

Moving here to the US really tested my easy-goingness. Even with a very healthy sense of adventure (I’m always up for a good time or at the very least, good food, bugs and all!), I found myself hopelessly lost in a new world, as though I’d been misplaced instead of having voluntarily relocated. For months, I was very lonely, even as I’d found new mommy friends and my kids had already picked up faint American accents. And then, slowly but surely, I’d adapted. It took half a year, and while America is still not home yet, I am pretty sure I will get there – even if it kills me.

A few days ago, an old friend of mine who’d relocated to San Francisco with her husband last year, called to catch up. We engaged in the usual small talk and soon, the conversation turned to how each of us were coping with the change. As she and her husband have no children, they live very differently from us. Each weekend was almost always a mini vacation. Evenings were spent entertaining or being entertained. What about me, she asked. Oh, you know, playing chauffeur to the kids. Playdates, playgrounds, playgroups. Boring mommy stuff.

“But you’ve integrated so well, Jenn,” she said. “Most of my friends are Malaysians and Singaporeans.”

The conversation veered to news back home, where she’d informed me that a friend of ours was marrying royalty. And then she talked about Mahathir having had a heart attack. I wasn’t aware, as I hadn’t read Malaysiakini in a while.

“Aiyo, have you become an American?” she teased.

I laughed uneasily.

Fact is, I do read Malaysiakini. But I also read the Seattle Times. I do keep in touch with my family and friends back home, and read their blogs from time to time. But I also read American blogs and socialize with my American friends. After all, I have children and I don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing who my children want to be friends with. Not for reasons of wanting to get back into my comfort zone anyway.

It worries me – no, it ANNOYS me – that I may be a little out of touch with the country I was born in. But it’s not like I was Mrs Malaysiana even when I was IN Malaysia. Nobody faults you for being less Malaysian when you wear Nikes or watch every American TV program that Astro can get in, or when you can’t even name your own Deputy Prime Minister when you are IN Malaysia.

So I fall out of touch with things Malaysian some times. Who cares?

Apparently I do. And it irritates the hell out of me.

This is what bugs me: I find it hard to subscribe to the belief that patriotism, or ethnicism, if there is such a word, has anything to do with how much history you know or where you have chosen to live in the world. Neither does it have anything to do with the kind of parent or child you are.

In this day and age, why are people still so hung up on sticking to a set of rules or practices just because of heritage? Isn’t it better to absorb and distill the best you can get from all the cultures and people you meet?

I am a Malaysian Chinese, and I love and respect my heritage. Does that mean I should only go to a doctor of Chinese medicine or a bomoh? And speak only Malay and Mandarin?

Home is not where you’re born, but where your heart finds peace, says Tommy Nordgren, a computer programmer. Or where you belong, says artist Tonda Koroma. For me, home finds you. You walk into a house and despite the rickety stairs and the leaking roof, you know that’s the one because it just feels right.

Same thing with moving to another land. You meet the natives. You eat the food. You celebrate their festivals. Something clicks. And you’re home.

Yes, it is hard to integrate or adapt to a new place, no matter how easy-going or xenophobic you are. It was hard for me. It is still hard because hell, I was 32 when I left Malaysia. That’s 32 years of living in the same place, eating the same food, reliving the same experiences. And while I will never trade my heritage, friends and family for anything in the world – I am not going to let that stop me from finding home – wherever I am.


Listen to The I’mPerfectMom Podcast, featuring Amanda Avigdale‘s ‘Enchanting’, available under the Creative Commons licence.