This past Saturday night I took myself and Ellie out for a treat of Toys R Us and Borders as Ravi was sick. While at Borders, I picked up an interesting book called A Nyonya in Texas, written by Lee Su Kim, a Maylasian, about her time as an Expat in Texas (USA). I had hoped to link an American website where you could order it, but both Amazon and Booksprice let me down.
However, if you ever have a chance to do so, I highly recommend reading it.
This book of short essays published in 2007 is a quick and breezy read. I laughed ruefully at her confusion over being asked “paper or plastic” at a grocery store and “for here or to go” at a fast food chain…especially as, in the latter case, it took a while for me learn that “takeaway” is the proper word here. She gets in the wrong side of the car (been there, done that!). She tries to explain Chinese names to people who think her first name is Lee. She has to explain where Maylasia is, how she learned English, that she isn’t part of a tribe, that although she’s ethnically descended from Chinese who intermarried with Maylasians, she herself does not speak or read Mandarin (and can only speak Cantonese). She struggles with American notions of discipline for children. And she is horrified by American Talk Shows (don’t worry Mrs. Lee…we are too).
She also has several funny encounters at her son’s school, including a teacher’s puzzlement that her son couldn’t explain how to make a sandwich. A lack of understanding easy enough to explain…in a house that always had a maid, why would he know?
I really enjoyed reading about the experience of being an Expat in my home country. Although I can’t tell my American friends where to get it, I’d encourage my local readers to pick up a copy at Borders. You’ll find it with the travelogues.