In crowded bars and restaurants, I hear you speak. Over the local patois of “want another round?”, “yeah, nah” and “she’ll be right” – sometimes a voice rings like a bell between all others. Maybe your plane just landed and you’re here with friends, happy to be free from the confines of the aircraft cabin on this warm Melbourne evening. Maybe you’ve been here for awhile and have an apartment up the street. I don’t know you. You certainly don’t know me. One thing is for sure, though.
You sound like home.
Last month at work I spent 40 minutes talking to a complete stranger on the telephone. This is what happens when a voice on the other end echoes a time and place dear to one’s heart. The voice belonged to someone from Malaysia, the country of my birth. It was intelligent, articulate and of course, the English was perfect whilst still sounding like smoky-delicious hawker stalls, my goofy old pals and the enjoyment of breaking fast during Ramadan.
And here I am, sounding like a Cheerful Australian Lady Who Grew Up In The Nice Eastern Suburbs Who Probably Has Some Really Lovely Cats.
Oh, the frustration.
I’m at work, right? In an open-plan office and I don’t feel like being stared at. So there’s no chance of me slipping into the Malaysian-accented banter of my college years. I’m also fighting the urge to ask if the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is still abysmal, what’s the smog situation like, how long have you been here, do you miss home? Where is home for you now?
Instead we talk about the state of our industry, it’s changes and challenges, and what some key stakeholders are up to. I answer questions helpfully. I hold back the dam.
This is my lot now as an older TCK who has made peace with geography and done the unthinkable; I have settled down.
Actually, I don’t know if I can lay claim to the ‘Kid’ part of TCK, being 37 and all. At this point in major life decisions have been made, and my chosen groove is worn in.
Melbourne is now my town. She’s a beautiful city which loves her chameleons. My dear friends and colleagues are used to me and my various accents and I can get a pretty good nasi lemak for breakfast, if the whim should arise.
Sometimes, I’ll hear a voice, just by chance. And I want to ask, “How did you get here? How did YOU get here?” Because I know inside each us there are worlds within worlds, pieces of home from far away.
By Rachel Fung