At the start of this month, without my even noticing it, we hit the six-month mark of being back in South Africa. And though I was unaware of the date itself, I have become aware of the growing length of our stay here, as I’ve increasingly been thinking back to my previous home, and what I miss about it. And what I’m missing most from Asia is its ‘style’-- a word and a concept with countless failings, but the best I can come up with. By style, I do not the stodgy images of ‘Asian Style’ that generally fill decorator’s hardcover tomes on the subject: pristine teak wood houses, oversized ceramic vases, gilt encrusted Naga heads. Rather, I’m missing the unique substance of everyday living in Southeast Asia: hip ironic graphics on the wares of a Chatuchak t-shirt vendor; Fanta bottles gathered at the feet of a hallowed shrine; gleaming labels in a modern department store, paralleled in the bags for sale on the sidewalk outside; green plastic chopsticks gathered next to a stack of matching green bowls at a street-side noodle shop. I miss the incongruous mix of ancient, contemporary, high-end and low budget that made my life in Asia vibrant, colourful, and always a little unexpected (and, as readers of Primitive Culture, it’s ok to admit that you miss seeing that here too).
I’m mostly very content with living in South Africa now, but I certainly don’t want to be done with Asia forever. With Piesang, we’re hoping to bring some elements of Asian style to South Africa. And the long-term goal is that eventually we’ll be able to start making return trips to Asia, to seek out new flavours, do some shopping, and re-hone our senses of taste. And along with that, there will be new bursts of Asian style on the pages of Primitive Culture.
Illustrated: Asian Style Cities, from top: Bangkok, Saigon, Taipei.