Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Am A Banana

Bananas are the fruit of the herbaceous plants from genus Musa and the family Musaceae. They are native to Southeast Asia and were most likely first populated in Papua New Guinea.

"The fruit averages 125 g, of which approximately 75% is water and 25% dry matter content. Each individual fruit (known as a banana or 'finger') has a protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with a fleshy edible inner portion. Both skin and inner part can be eaten raw or cooked. Western cultures generally eat the inside raw and throw away the skin while some Asian cultures generally eat both the skin and inside cooked. Bananas are a valuable source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium."

"Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red. The vivid yellow color normally associated with supermarket bananas is in fact a side-effect of the artificial ripening process. Cavendish bananas that have been allowed to ripen naturally on the plant have a greenish-yellow appearance which changes to a brownish-yellow as they ripen further."

And this is the banana that we have come to know and love. Especially distinguishable by its golden skin and pale white flesh; easy-to-eat without having to fuss about peeling skins, or removing seeds.

We even use the word "banana" in language. We call someone "bananas" when we mean someone is a little crazy, eccentric. As in, "(Insert name here) is going bananas!"

But have you ever called someone a banana? As in, "You're a banana."

Well, I call myself that.
I am a banana.

I have no idea how this term started. But the Chinese people (in Malaysia at least) call Chinese who aren't really genuine Chinese a Banana.

Why? Just like the banana, with a yellow outside and white flesh inside, Chinese who can't speak Mandarin are said to be only Chinese on the outside (in appearance) but like orang putih (white) on the inside.

Why am I a banana? How does one become a banana?

Sadly, it was no choice of mine. I grew up in an English-speaking home, where my parents spoke English with me. I conversed in English everywhere I went -- church, school. Even mixing with classmates who spoke Mandarin and other dialects somehow had no effect on me. I did not pick up any other language other than the one I first started speaking -- English.

Secondary school was when it became a challenge. Because I could not speak (any dialect of) Chinese in a class of majority Chinese-speaking students, I was, for the first time, conscious of my inability. In every important sense, I was severely disabled. Especially from the social aspect.

Yes, we could still converse in English, or Malay. But most of my classmates were shocked. My guess is that this was their first real encounter with a banana like me. How could it be that someone would not know how to speak their mother tongue? Inconceivable!

"How can you Chinese cannot speak Chinese-lah?"

I do not know exactly the reason why. Maybe I was over-sensitive.
But I felt so alone.
I could not mix around as freely as I had in the past.
I felt so inferior.
So insecure.

Those few years in the beginning of secondary school I will never forget. Yes, I had friends. Yes, we do talk occasionally.

But the feeling was there, always gnawing at me.
That I was inferior to them. That I was a shame to my own race for not learning how to speak my mother tongue. I did not even dare make an attempt at learning Mandarin, for fear of sounding foolish, for fear of being looked down upon, more than they already did at the moment. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of failing.

Now I look back and think, How silly of me!
But trust me when I say, at that time in my life, the fear and the hurt was very real. Very, very real.
It was paralyzing.

But I grew up, I matured.

I realized that I was not inferior to them. Not any more than I am superior to them because of my level of English.
Everybody is different, unique. Everybody has their flaws. Everybody has their strengths too.
I grew less afraid.
I tried.
I made an effort.

They laughed. They made fun of my Mandarin-with-an-English-slang. They teased me when I said the words with the wrong tone resulting in embarrassing and hilarious outcomes, or even came up with my own original words not found in the Chinese language.

But I was fearless.

I took it all in, as part of the learning process.
I learnt to not take things so seriously, to learn to laugh at myself, to not be afraid of trying.

Even today, my Mandarin is nothing to be proud of (Mandarin is one damn tough language to learn! Sheesh).
But I am proud of what I have learnt, what I have accomplished, who I have become today.
All because I am a banana.

So, yes, even though the more Mandarin I can speak, the less of a banana I am,
I am proud still proud to call myself a Banana. :)

So to all you bananas out there who have gone through what I have, you are not alone.

Bananas Unite!!!! :P

More on bananas here.

p.s: I just wanted to add these photos of PURPLE BANANAS, by request. :P


★☆inchek [s.h.a.n.d.y.e] ★☆ said...

okay ape dipanggil pisang...

btw... ada pisang kaler purple ke?

try la google dan letak kat blog... aku nk tengok... ngee...

p/s:- kelas english lit sangat meng'horror'kan aku... matilah...

~`w!L`Li@m'~ said...

Banana?? Hmm...well, I'm half of it. At least i'm not as bad. But sometimes, I think we should learn our mother tongue cos well...somehow or rather....you DO feel like fitting in. But bear in mind, we still have a little something that's better than time...and that feels good. But think bout it...just get to learn more Chinese language when you have the time.

Jonathan said...


I know exactly how you feel. I only took Mandarin in college for two years, so I'm now half-banana.

But I speak it with a weird english slang, so I get laughs and strange looks. But I laugh along with them.

All in the learning experience :)

Lisa ^^, said...

Haha okay, I will try to find it and post it here.
Eng Lit it pretty scary especially when you go into the real deep stuff like literary devices (which I know NOTHING of) but...it does seem kinda interesting...Does it not? Haha anyway, we'll see...we'll see :P

>>William n Jonathan
I learned a little Chinese. I CAN understand most or the gist, of what is being said. So I'm not as bad as I once was. I did go for tuition you know. A couple of months after STPM. It was pretty fun. Can read a little too. haha
At least, now I don't take my learning Chinese so seriously, and not so paiseh to speak it out loud, and laugh along with others XD

Anonymous said...

i am proud that i'm not a banana. i've had chinese ed for 11 years. hahaha. chinese is a damn tough language? i agree. it particularly sucks when they want you to intepret traditional chinese in your spm paper. it was a complete and utter hell. i find it cool cos it looks so complicated to write, yet i understand it.:)

yes. we must learn how to not take things so seriously and laugh at ourselves. if not, what's the fun in life? hehe. :)

Arnan Koh said...

banana... haiyo!! that is nothing... i am wondering what they would call me when they learn that after 9 years of Chinese Education and i can't speak very fluent Chinese.. or write anything by the way besides my name...

Lisa ^^, said...

You are the most hebat of all la..Learn ady also can't write...haha At least I have an excuse :P
It's okay....No worries. We'll survive. :)