#Imagine New Zealand, through the lens of Wen

Wen

My name is Wen. I’m currently studying for a Master’s in Peace Studies
at the University of Bradford. I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
but grew up in New Zealand after migrating with my family when I was a
child.

I believe there is an age-old saying that goes something along the
lines of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’. Eager to
leave the confines of my home in Wellington, New Zealand, after
freshly graduating from university, I made the decision to leave the
place I called home for the past 12 years of my life. I returned to my
place of birth, Kuala Lumpur, and began work in the humanitarian
field. After nearly two years, I resigned and decided to return home
for a month’s break before leaving for the UK to pursue further study.

During my visit, I had not realised how much my time overseas had
changed me until a friend I was having dinner with asked me why I kept
looking over my shoulder and checking my bag. That night, on my walk
home, I subconsciously found myself wielding my house keys in between
my knuckles. If someone told me two years ago that this would be the
person I become, I would have laughed in their face.

New Zealand is one of the most peaceful countries in the world
according to the Global Peace Index. I still have friends who do not
see it as necessary to lock the front doors of their homes. National
politics aside, I do believe that Wellington is especially one of the
closest incarnations to the utopian world John Lennon sang of in
‘Imagine’. Personally, I am not interested in living in a world where
there is no religion, race, country, etc. It is curious how it is
always a rich, entitled, white, heterosexual male that calls for such
things. What I am interested in is a world where we are not judged for
these things, not one where they are completely erased. These are the
things that make us who we are as individuals. In Malaysia, besides my
immediate concern of personal safety, I was always made aware of my
differences. The way I dressed, the way I talked, even the way I
walked, was pointed out to me. I remember vividly, the feeling I had
when I first walked down Cuba Street (one of the more colourful
streets in Wellington) after so long. After years of getting stared at
in public, it was one of pure liberation. No one stared. No one cared.
I was brought to tears. Seeing my distraught, a passerby stopped to
check if I was okay. This obviously made the tears fall even harder. A
world of peace for me is home. Home not in the sense of a place where
my ancestors once decided to lay down their roots. As Irshad Manji
articulated, home is where my dignity lives. This is peace – and
Wellington is my home.

***

Wen and I are in the same group in the Conflict Resolution Class. It’s interesting to see the effect of just a stare. We may not say certain things but the look in our eyes speak volumes.

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