Following the Exit Signs | August 10, 2011
I’m about as ready as I’ll ever be: My red, mammoth sized backpack glares at me from the corner, nagging me to begin organizing all the travel sized knick knacks I’ve collected over the last month. The pieces are there; I just haven’t made sense of it all quite yet.
In less than 48 hours, I’ll be embarking on a two and a half-month backpacking trip to Europe. Alone. While this may not be such an intimidating feat for the average Canadian, let it be known that I’m not all that average…sized. I barely qualify as a passenger in some newer model vehicles. Some days I’m just a large bag of groceries. But what’s more impressive is that my Chinese—Canadian parents have actually encouraged me to take this plunge. Perhaps all this needs to be put into context to be fully appreciated:
My name is Devon Wong and I am your run-of-the-mill “Let’s say five feet” Chinese—Canadian girl. For most of my life, I’ve struggled with the acknowledgement of my Chinese heritage. I’m roughly a 2.5 gen Canadian, with most of my extended family living somewhere between Vancouver and Port Moody. Yes, I drive a Matrix and I’ve been the proud owner of a karaoke machine, but I also get my Chinese food fix from Kent’s Kitchen and I cried during the riots. I consider myself a Canadian.
I’ve been a proud owner of a karaoke machine.
Over the last few years, the hyphenated identity of being a Chinese-Canadian really struck me during my time abroad in Singapore from 2007 to 2008. Many occasions, I found myself confronted with a disbelieving stranger that I was actually “Canadian”.
“You look Chinese though!”, I would be told time and time again.
It was then that I really began a personal quest to resolve my questions around my own ethnic appearance, culture, and identity, and how disjointed those three categories seemed to play out in my life.
I consider myself Canadian.
Fast forward three years later, and throw in a growing career aspiration to become a media producer of some sorts, and here I am today. Twenty four years old and as ambitious as ever. I’m hitting the road to seek a career path that allows me to explore issues around identity and social justice through film, and help to build stronger awareness around marginalized groups that lack access to mainstream media.
I think my parents have slowly warmed up to the idea that my dreams go beyond our South Vancouver basement suite, but it’s been a hard earned journey. The road will be interesting; I’ve never had short luck of meeting interesting strangers. It’s inevitable that I will find myself in some trying situations, but I’m a firm believer in adversity building character (I did live on the equator for 9 months without any air conditioning after all).
I intend to document my travels as a series where I’ll highlight all the cultural exchanges, road anecdotes, and questionable situations I’m bound to encounter over my trip. Stay tuned for my first post from the road, which should be from somewhere between Geneva and Greece.
For now it’s about time I deal with this backpack situation; nobody likes a nag.