Assimilating into Tiputa & the Demands of Diplomacy

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4 Responses

  1. Madhu says:

    That’s a wonderful post ,I liked the thoguht and perspective. Would have loved to see you in what you dresses as there 😊

    • Teja says:

      Oh that’s a great idea! Thanks for mentioning it. I should add a photo of what I wore (not that I typically have many photos of myself!). Basically what it meant was that I went around in a batik sarong, which is our version of the Polynesian pareo. I also packed a pareo, but in Sarawak ‘pua’ print, to represent our Borneo side as well.

      In urban Malaysia, nobody wears the batik sarong anymore, increasingly not even at home, because it’s just seen as too embarrassingly provincial (except maybe in fine fabrics, in which case it’s part of formal or office wear). So I don’t actually have full Malay dress in fabrics and cuts suitable for the hot island lifestyle. But in Tiputa, I even went fishing in a sarong + t-shirt, and it felt right.

  2. Susanna says:

    I really appreciate this post. The introduction about diplomacy and how travelers were representative of their country was fascinating. It makes sense, but I hadn’t really thought of that. In regards to clothing, I usually just wear what is functional, and in line with the overarching dress code of a region, so it was good to read about the nuances that went along with clothing. While I enjoyed reading the story, your last summary really packed a punch. Being able to switch based on context is valuable and something I also picked up on as I travel – great lesson.

    • Teja says:

      Indeed, being able to choose different modes that best suit the context, rather than being stuck in your personality preference is sorely needed in the world right now.

      There’s certainly a lot less pressure on the signalling purpose of clothing these days, with a lot more communication between people. But I still feel its relevance because being brown means I can pass for a wide range of people – everything from Mexican to Nepali to Polynesian. Depending on the dominant biases of where I happen to be travelling, if I dress without regard to them, I could be mistaken for everything from migrant labourer to nurse to elite diaspora to drug smuggler to terrorist. In fact I’ll probably write about that when I’m writing about Tonga, I just haven’t figured out yet how to frame such a sensitive subject!

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