Always About Identity.

This is from one of the blogs I love to read. I have shared posts from here before because I believe in disseminating interesting ideas and stories that generate discourse. The eternal search for identity, not based on the singular concept of a nation and yet many times tied to it fascinates me endlessly. That it is not a fixed constant, anywhere in the world, contradicts concepts fed to us by politicians and media.

In this post about the documentary Beats Of The Antonov, which won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at tje Toronto International Film Festival, Dylan Valley writes:

“The Antonov of the title comes from the Russian planes that are used by Omar Al-Bashir’s regime to bomb villages in Sudan. Instead of a dry journalistic account of the ongoing Sudanese conflict however, the film is a deep exploration of a nation in an identity crisis, with its ruling elite pushing an Arab nationalist identity onto a diverse African citizenry. The title of the film makes a correlation between the bombs of oppression and the resilience of culture, the music of a people and the suffering they endure.”

Here is the trailer

Read on for more and listen to the music. 🙂




New Wanderings. Part 3, Tracing Backwards. Last Stop Paris.

Actually last stop Hong Kong but that was only in transit and does not count. Except that I bought a bottle of booze and Tiger Balm, as you do. It is important for travellers transiting through HK not to buy their duty free alcohol from their starting point. HK customs will confiscate it. I almost bought some at CDG airport when the salesman advised me not to. There was this corporate/bureaucratic looking guy who had three bottles of very expensive Chivas etc taken off him while I sailed through customs. Small travel tip from moi.

So. I took the train from Strasbourg station to Charles De Gaulle airport. The last time I went to Paris I traversed the city on the metro but my dream of doing cross country via Eurail just did not materialise. This time it happened via the itinerary and there was not much time to think or take photos. We drove from Gerstheim and just about managed to get to the station on time with an irate steward waiting for me. (He gave me a mini lecture in ze marvellous French accented l’Anglais 😉 about almost missing the train.)  The Alsace trains are an entity of their own with painted carriages that trundle along the French countryside, quite majestic. I dozed off.

Two hours later I was inside Charles De Gaulle airport, an absolute behemoth.

The train station at Charles De Gaulle airport, like, two levels down.

The train station at Charles De Gaulle airport, like, two levels down.

I checked in and took the RER metro straight to Saint Michel. With five hours to spend on my own I thought it might be worth revisiting Paris. Had I missed the romance in this so called romantic city the last time I was there or is it just a myth like I thought?

The train ride was fascinating, just as I remembered it. Dingy little trains squeaking over the tracks, regurgitating commuters on to dark stations. If a cross section of train commuters can be a representation of a local populace then Paree is nowhere as haute and white as projected by and emphasised by global lore. Predominantly African peoples packed the train and the stations. The poverty obvious. None of the European countries have a comprehensive programme for refugees and migrants, especially poor, illiterate migrants, all of whom are left to fend for themselves and become French/German/Italian/whatever. Consequently ghettoised, ostracised and blamed for all evils. Integration is a two way street.  As I observed through the train, the housing dregs (how some buildings remained standing was a mystery), graffiti and the urban deterioration seemed like a symbol of the inability of the Western world to deal with post colonial globalisation.

Paris was hot that day. It had been a very warm fortnight late spring. After the lush, laid back surroundings of Alsace the heat and grime of Paris wore me down. I was carrying my merino jacket and a backpack full of winter layering for when I got back to New Zealand. Apart from the laptop and camera. (Ah first world tourist issues!) And Notre Dame was chocker with tourists. As if the whole world, mostly Americans, had turned up at the same time. I hung around, took photos, observing this congregation. There were the local Arabs, handsome boys dancing for an appreciative audience, charming the Americans with their French (I seriously doubt if even one American might have thought these boys were Ay-raabs, not that I am assuming it is from ignorance.) Then, as I went for a walk along the Seine, a couple behind me started having a lover’s tiff. They went on and on, I tried not to listen but they were quarrelling in English! C’est romantique oui? They should have tied a lock on one of the overbridges and thrown the key into the Seine. Only 5 Euros to end the row et je t’aime mon amour.

Then there were the Indians. It was nice. An indicator of disposable income, of increasing confidence in the ability to travel and spend. Never mind the awkwardness that generates or the discomfort of encountering a new culture beyond the ideas propagated by Bollywood . Family groups, mummy, pappa, munna, munni, aunty, uncle, and their munnas and munnis. Hanging by Notre Dame, gaping at the cuddling couples along the embankment, calculating Euros v/s rupees. A daughter was lecturing her mother on why they travelled to Paris. Did you come to complain or to see the Eiffel Tower? In Gujarati. The beauty of it, for me, is that I am this non-specific person few can locate so they don’t know that I can understand them. There is the occasional suspicious glance from other Indians but I appear too hippie to fit into any aspirational, upwardly mobile Indian mould.

Second time around in Paris and I know the romance is imaginary, an extrapolation of the need to perpetuate the homogeneity and singularity of a French identity. Some sort of cultural crutch. A narrow notion for an incredibly diverse city; squalid outer suburbs, inner city Dior and high culture including. And the French should know that already.

Thus I took the train back to CDG airport.

PS-The Bangladeshis are still selling roses in Paris.





New Wanderings. Part 2, Amazing Things That Happen

Amazing things that happen when you travel. A golden sunset over the French countryside turns it into a dreamlike landscape. The green of the trees and the grass reflecting multiple hues of this universe. Seems unreal.

Two days ago, back in Strasbourg, I had to pass some time as I waited for my ride back to Gerstheim. I had noticed an art house theatre near Homme De Fer, the big tram station, whenever I was in that part of Strasbourg and since that day too I was browsing through the shops around I thought it might be a good idea to watch a movie. I inquired at the box office, are you showing any movies with English subtitles. Non, she said, but we have a movie in L’Anglais. (Or so I deduced from her French.) Well then, may I have a ticket please.

I had no idea what the title meant. It was time to be surprised. And that I was. I spent one of the most magical one hour and fifty minutes watching a classic in one of the most beautiful art house cinemas I have ever seen.

Cinema L’Odyssée was built in 1914. It is owned by the city of Strasbourg who outsources the operations to private enterprise. It must have been grand in the old days and still has that air about it. Red velvet seats, carvings on the wall, an old projector, old film posters hung nonchalantly, and art house films. A real hang out place for snooty French cinema geeks discussing auteur cinema. There is an underground library dedicated to cinema and you can buy film posters. To me this was paradise, one version of it anyway.

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And then the film I watched, that I came upon by chance. Who knew. Grand Prix Special du Jury and FIPRESCI Award at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. Johnny Got His Gun is a brilliant watch. Donald Sutherland plays Jesus Christ and is so cool 🙂

But another amazing experience awaited me. Reiterating the vast and myriad connections of humanity and culture.

As I entered the gates to the grounds of the Strasbourg mosque (see my photos here), two men and a young woman stepped out. My friend asked in French if we could go in and they welcomed us. Somehow the conversation continued in English, they asked me where I am from. I always say New Zealand but this time, I think it was their brown skin that made me do it, I said I am originally from India. One man started talking to me in Hindi. Namaste, kaise ho? The other said, ah Shammi Kapoor. I said, yeah. He died last year. The man replied that he was visiting London that time when he came to know. Then he broke into a song. Dil deke dekho, dil deke dekho, dil deke dekho jiyu to humne lakh haseen dekhe hai, (I joined in here) tumsa nahi dekha, ho tumsa nahi dekha. We all laughed, hi-fived and went our way. Strange how human beings connect. Not strange that commercial Hindi cinema, before it was exoticised by the Western world and became Bollywood, had a massive audience from North Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, even old Soviet Russia. This man was from Morocco. The young girl with them was amazed at the conversation. My young friend Laura, a local and Alsace, was amused. Just before that I had been telling her that she should persuade her teachers at Strasbourg University where she is doing film studies, to include Indian cinema in the course. 🙂



Once More, New Wanderings. Part 1, Tokyo.

Someone once said, you can’t keep a wanderer from wandering, or something like that. I started planning my next travels even as I was swimming in the warm Pacific waters in Savai’i, Samoa. Which part of the world calls me, I meditated. Japan or South Korea were on my list and May seemed like a good time. Just before the non-stop, tiring days of winter when my appointment diary is full at least a week in advance. I enjoy visiting Asia, any part of Asia. It is home and yet I am an outsider, and I like that feeling. So that was a no-brainer. Until my friend Stephanie called. We met in New Zealand but she is from France and when she went back she would call me randomly on weekends because from France you can call any part of the world and talk for up to three hours, for free! So one Sunday morning, Stephanie called to chat and nek minnit I booked my ticket to France. But you have to go through Asia en route to Europe. Air New Zealand has a direct flight from Auckland to Tokyo and so I had at least ten hours before my next flight to Amsterdam.

The Tokyo of my imagination was a high tech city. Flash, futuristic, hyper-urbanised. It is all of that and more. It is old, cranky, creaky and unique.

A friend’s brother, a South Asian from Auckland who now lives and runs a business from Chiba, picked me up at Narita airport and drove us into Tokyo. The plan was to hang out and get a teaser of this great city, sleepover at his house and take the train back to Narita airport next morning.

My first lesson in local history-Narita airport was built on agricultural land where the farmers were forced off by the Japanese government. More than forty years later, the protests and resistance continues. I love such stories. It reinforces in my mind and heart that progress and development as we are taught do not happen as a consequence of ‘modernity’ but on the backs of human beings that are sucked into the vacuum of eroded history. How do nations and their polity plan their movement forward without considering the consequences? Mostly it is a momentary achievement for the capitalists who lobbied for it and make their money.

So we went towards Akihabara over the various highways paying toll along the way. This is the electronic district of Tokyo. There are fancy shops, little holes in the wall packed with all kinds of electronics and SEGA video game parlours. It is really old-fashioned. We parked the car near the station and took the train to Harajuku.

There was a gaggle of girls outside GAP in Harajuku. I suppose they were waiting for a celebrity to show up? There were onlookers looking at the crowd and then there was us, looking at the onlookers looking at the girls. 🙂 A fancy popcorn shop had a long queue just to buy popcorn and young men and women browsed through a very eighties style, garish shopping centre that has mostly local brands displaying wares in an unusual way. It is a mixture between kawaii and classic European. At the main crossing were three head banging youth and others holding up posters that said ‘Free English’. Ah, protesters, I thought. They want free English lessons from the government? Nein, nicht, no! They were evangelising rockers from a church called Free English!  And right across the road was a shop called Condomania 🙂

Evangelising rockers

Evangelising rockers


Dinner was sushi at a place where you can order the food via an electronic board and pick up bits from a train. I love sushi and this one was as yummy as it gets. There are restaurants on every street. Harajuku has at least three Italian restaurants within a diameter of one kilometre and for every Ramen noodle joint there is a McDonald’s.

By the time we walked to Shibuya the shops were closing and people were either going into clubs or seemed to be going home. The main crossing outside Shibuya station is a large scale demonstration of Barnes Dance and as we waited to let the surge of humanity pass us we came face to face with a South Asian threesome, one woman holding hands with two men. They stopped short, as if shocked to see fellow ethnics and their expression changed to ‘wanna-join-us?’ before they were pushed on by other pedestrians. 😉 Then there were the African-American dudes checking out the Asian girls and trying to guess who was Japanese and who was Korean. But mostly they are Japanese. From school girls in their knee length socks and mini skirts to middle aged office workers in their black suits. As if staying out so late at night before a hard day’s work next morning was just what they do.

You could tell the office workers coming out of the little restaurants, the men tanked up with saké, staggering on the streets with drunken stupor; the women still demure, or so it seemed to me. I don’t socialise with my work mates because I don’t want to see them outside of work but I suppose that is the reality for many people or how else can human beings interact in a fast paced existence that has ‘non-traditional’ social structures?

The unique Japanese fashion sense is visible everywhere. That Japanese women have different take on Western clothes, sui generis, is obvious, if you care to know, and I have been a fan and follower for a long time. Japanese men too dress like none other. Not only is there the genre of the pretty Asian, metrosexual male but the middle aged suits too, in their samurai testosterone mode, I noticed, were carrying female office bags. Yes, not man bags but feminine bags. An almost imperceptible shift of gender symbols. The Japanese wear haute couture and designer accessories casually without seeming aspirational like the Indians and Chinese.

The train rides on the Tokyo Metro were the highlight for me though. I love trains, I love train stations. And this metro is better than the London Underground or the Paris Metro. The trains are not fancy and the stations and bridges are old. Everything is clean or someone is cleaning it. But then the Japanese are inherently polite, patient, quiet and orderly (I say at the risk of stereotyping), so that makes the difference?

Once more in my eternal quest for place I discovered I could easily live in Tokyo. It is Asia but I don’t have to belong, multiculti, transculti, polyculti that I am. And that is the joy. Only wonder what I would do for a living.


Be The Change

Recently I had a bit of a harangue on a closed forum on Facebook about facing racist attitudes everyday, all the time and how identifying someone with their religion or ethnicity as a lead in to a story reduces the person to a singular thing. Yet. I know, as any other diasporic non-white ethnic, that stereotypes can be positive too. It is how we negotiate that within ourselves and project it to the rest of the world that matters. I have pointed out many times how government created agencies that work to supposedly perpetuate and empower ethnic communities only maintain the hierarchy via food, dance, exotica, otherness and getting white people to tell us what we are. Or do research that does not mean anything to us. One moment Asians are well perceived by mainstream and the next moment not. This ‘they-love-Asians’ report and this ‘they-actually-know-very-little-about-Asians’ very clearly show what a waste time the Diwali and Lantern Festivals have been. But this is not another rant about Asia:NZ Foundation. 😉 Done plenty of those here, here and here. On the other hand I keep looking for whether and how this daily negotiation is expressed to the world. That fine balance between being a tax paying model minority and cheap labourers who are bad drivers. How the world perceives the Asian diaspora is up to us, how we project ourselves. The answer is within the community. So when a group of young professionals like Future Dragonz decide to have an event  it is, like, hallelujah.



Young Chinese professionals, on the face of it, would be the classic model minority stereotype. Highly qualified lawyers, accountants, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs…I know ‘coz I’ve hung out with them, I was at the launch in 2010.   Then why would they bother to challenge that? It is good to be a highly qualified professional. Because it does not mean the stereotype of the bad driver will go away! Because it does not mean jobs will be be easy to find! Because it does not mean the artists and the creatives will be recognised! 

This particular event was inspired by a discussion at the Museum Of Chinese in America The Yin And Yang Of Contemporary Asian American Culture. While this discussion was on a larger scale because America is larger than New Zealand, the topic has global resonance. I don’t really want to go on and on about it.

Contemporary diasporic existence, whether they are fourth-fifth generation Asian or recently migrated in global, transnational times, is different from those gold miners, rail gang, fruit shop, potato farmer images that the Western world still harbours. Or even the pictures from the native country. Diasporic lives encompass multiple identities that move and switch easily from one to another, being Asian, being Kiwi and all in between. We can play on being the other and yet not. Very easy to do so but we also need to and should have critical discourse that we drive. That is the only way because we know that we are the change! It is of interest to me, never mind I am Indian. One of my identities is a global, transnational, diasporic citizen.


Mindy Kaling isn’t Responsible for Being Your Diversity Councillor

This discussion does not apply if you have not seen The Mindy Project. The discomfort that I felt therein but convinced myself that at least it is helmed by Mindy Kaling, smart as woman.

The same sort of discussion one can have about the character of Rajesh Kuthrapalli in The Big Bang Theory. Does it make me uncomfortable that his Indianness can be the butt of jokes or that every character is given equal treatment in that sense. So if Sheldon’s social inadequacies are the source of much amusement, why not Raj’s inability to pick up women?

I know that it is a hard balancing act. Getting gigs to write, to produce, commercial considerations and being a person of colour who has fought and fought to even be there. Diversity? Representation? Or keeping the job and getting more?

When I produced for Radio New Zealand I had to be very mindful of not making all my work about ‘ethnics’ but all New Zealanders. That I am Indian and speak in a strange Indo-Kiwi-down-with-the-bros accent was enough ‘representation’. That I could do mainstream stories without anyone questioning their legitimacy AND could then go on to tell a story about Muslim women, which no one dare question. I was lucky.

But when it came to producing an independent gig it had to be about Asians. I mean, I could not do the blokey New Zealand humour and get funding could I? The trick then was to bring a huge dose of irreverence. (Hail Jon Stewart!) The Asian Radio Show was on air from 2008-2012. I was lucky.

So I feel for Mindy yet I know what the ladies are talking about in this post from Neelika Jayawardane. The thing for Mindy Lahiri now is to have an East Asian nerdy boyfriend and for him to dump her because she is too frivolous. Yeah even if she and Danny have kissed as we knew they would from the first episode.

Dreams Don’t Have Labels Of Caste And Religion – Nagraj Manjule reminsces about his life and ‘Fandry’

The resurgence of Marathi cinema makes me immensely proud in a way that I cannot explain. I am the last person in the world, I would like to think, who believes in ideas such as patriotism and nationalism thus by default, parochialism. Growing up in Girgaum, Bombay, watching Marathi theatre ranging from sangeet natak (musicals) to Vijay Tendulkar‘s masterpieces, old arthouse cinema (Jabbar Patel in particular) as well as the madness of Dada Kondke, knowing inherently that a Maharashtrian audience receives and consumes visual performing arts in a different way, I could not understand why it was limited in its outreach. Or why it faded away.

Now I do and so I feel happy to see the renaissance. From the inane commercial to global cinema it is an amazing spectrum. Then we have artists like Nagraj Manjule whose life experience will always make for brilliant storytelling. I watched this trailer of Fandry and wanted to see the film, I wanted to cry, to feel angry, frustrated, come out of the theatre pumped up to change the world. This film will never release in New Zealand but I imagine myself doing all the above anyway. Nagraj has nothing new to say yet it needs to be told over and over to sensitize us. So thank you Nagraj. Here is to more path breaking stories via Marathi cinema.

F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b

Since the time we saw Nagraj Manjule’s debut feature ‘Fandry’, we have been shouting out from rooftop that it’s a terrific debut and a must watch. Click here to read our recco post. This week, Fandry is releasing outside Maharashtra, and with English subtites.

The show details – Date: February 28 to March 6

Delhi NCR
PVR MGF Mall 9:10 PM
DT Cinemas Vasant Kunj: 3: 30 PM

PVR Indore 5:00 PM

After the film’s release and the acclaim it got all over, Nagraj wrote a piece for Maharashtra Times. Much thanks to @GoanSufi who came up with the idea to translate it in English for wider reach, took the permission, and did it for us. Do watch the film if you haven’t seen it yet. And then read it.


Remembering   Fandry

Now that Fandry has released, I’m reminiscing about all those incidents that are linked with it. These…

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Yoga? Heavyset and Black Women Need Not Apply

Yoga and the Western world. Yoga in the Western world. Yoga for the Western world. Yoga comes from the Western world. Know what I mean? These last two weeks there are has been an online storm about yoga and appropriation, especially by skinny white women. This post ‘It Happened To Me’ brings to the fore how removed yoga is from its Indian roots except for the use of Sanskrit words and concepts of mindfulness that suit the ideas of existence within these parameters only. Attend a yoga session with someone who cannot pronounce the Sanskrit words, who talks of being in the moment and does it all slowly and deliberately, and then you will know. It cracked me up. I really don’t need white people telling me about my culture and practices the same way I don’t need bearded patriarchal self-styled gurus turning yoga into a mystical art. To me, yoga is about self awareness and practicing it as a way of life. But when someone from a privileged existence turns it into a race issue and body issue, and hence political, that becomes a matter for discourse.

Neelika Jayawardane analyses it well in her post linked at the top of the page.

Now for an academic analysis.



From one of my favourite blogs Africa Is A Country.

Songs for, about and dedicated to Nelson Mandela. RIP. I am lucky that he was a living inspiration in my life and not a figure from the history books. 

Backpacking 701. Samoa.

It was time. Itchy feet urging me to figure out my next travel destination. Two years since I partook in any transnational perambulation with the intention of adventure and the eternal search for place. A colleague at work suggested one of the islands. A short break in the sun, away from the Wellington winter. The Pacific Islands have never been on my radar as a destination. The sun and sand and sleek, tanned, non-bathing bodies lounging at beach resorts disconnected from the locals is not my idea of a holiday. But you don’t have to do just that, my colleague said. Drive around the islands, visit the markets, go to church. Yeah, I never thought about that. Samoa in my backyard and I did not see it! So it was. Backpacking 701. Cheap, economical and keeping me on my toes.

There was a band playing at Faleolo airport as we walked out from immigration; a bunch of dudes in lavalavas strumming guitars at 3 a.m. Welcome to Samoa. Talofa lava.

The first ferry to from Mulifanuana Wharf to Salelologa, Savaii at 6 a.m. carries cargo. Passengers huddle around the sides, shielding themselves from the sun, watching the magical dawn over the Pacific Ocean.

Savaii is the bigger of the two main Samoan islands but less developed. Villages line the coast from top to bottom. I stayed at Jane’s Beach Fales, swimming in the Pacific Ocean and gazing out at the horizon enjoying the downtime. There was nothing else to do except church on Sunday. I have never been to mass and it was an interesting experience. The service was in Samoan and English. When the priest spoke about giving, he looked at all of us, the visitors, and spoke only in English. Geddit 🙂 After the service he individually thanked us for attending mass. Then, true story this, as narrated by Rusty from Glenorchy, the priest saluted Heil Hitler to an elderly German couple! They took it well Rusty said. Samoa has a history of German settlement before the World Wars but I am sure it was still not kosher eh? Okay, bad joke.

I took a taxi guide (Ropeti Paulo, phone 7254413) around Savaii and the state of the villages was interesting. They get poorer as one goes northwards. Lots of big churches every two villages and double the poverty. God seems to be taking a lot here, not giving. My guide talked about tsunamis, cyclones and bad weather getting worse. What he meant in his limited way I suppose was the reality of global warming. I also suppose few big economies would care if these Pacific Islands were annihilated. Just the other day a New Zealand court rejected a bid by a Kiribat man seeking asylum here. The first ‘climate change refugee’ in the world.

Three days later I was in Upolu, in the capital Apia. The bus ride from the wharf to the city was just like being on a Maharasthra State Transport (ST or eshtee as the locals call it) except that the bus was smaller and very colourful. Apia is a mixture of the rural and the urban with some gorgeous architecture thrown in. I stayed downtown at Tatiana’s Motel close to the bus depot, the flea market and shopping. Apart from generally walking around and absorbing the goings-on, as I love to do, there were two places I wanted to visit.

The Robert Loius Stevenson Museum is housed in the home he built. A gorgeous abode oozing history. After RLS died a German businessman bought it, then the colonial New Zealand government took it over before the first head of independent Samoa moved in and moved out. The story is that some crazy RLS fan offered millions for the structure to be restored to its past glory and be a museum. Good for us. 🙂 I re-read Treasure Island before visiting Samoa and my gosh was it fun! Now all his books are on my to-read-again list. (Trivia-RLS introduced pineapples in Samoa when he brought them over from Hawaii.)

The other place I wanted to see was the cigarette factory that New Zealand built. This was after ‘smoking is injurious to health’ became a public health issue globally (as a Wellington doctor working in the public sector told me). Samoans smoke a lot; everyone smokes, from old men and women to young people. There are a few hoardings across the islands that warn about the harmful effects of smoking but few pay heed. New Zealand already exports fatty meat leftovers to Samoa, America feeds Samoans Spam. Western colonial powers do have a lot to answer for apart from invading countries and creating empires. Anyway, I went hunting for the cigarette factory because I was curious. Very inconspicuous it was, behind the beer factory, apparently making Rothman’s cigarettes.

The cigarette factory in Apia. As close as I could get to it.

The cigarette factory in Apia. As close as I could get to it.

Fatty meats for Samoans.

Fatty meats for Samoans.

One thing very obvious in Samoa is the Chinese presence. Not the old Chinese-Samoans nor Chinese tourists but Chinese money. Samoa’s new parliament house is made from Chinese money, the roads are being built by Chinese money so is other infrastructure. My taxi driver back to the airport told us that the Chinese are even sending over labour to work at cheaper rates than the Samoans. Of course the quid pro quo being fishing quota because Samoa has pretty much nothing else to offer. So while post Kyoto protocol talks are stalled China has already depleted the oceans of fauna. And it is more than just being a big country with a hungry population. This is about global power and hegemony. Look at Chinese presence across Africa. (I think I should learn Mandarin beyond the four sentences I can speak *wink*.)

I loved Samoa. The people are lovely and warm. I loved the sound of the water, its changing nature and colour. It is definitely on my list of places to visit again. Like China, Hong Kong, Berlin, Sikkim and Dharamsala.

I love the anonymity of travel; the mere act of wandering in search of belonging but not quite. I see myself as an integral part of humanity rather than from a specific place. Samoans would ask me, where are you from? One taxi driver called me palagi (pronounced paa-laa-ngi, white in Samoan), another asked if I was half Samoan and half Maori and a third if I was a Latina or Spanish. Only one guessed my origins. Of course my tattoos confuse people even more. Can’t wait for my next expedition.

(For photos visit