There is a danger in birds of the same feather always flocking together.
If nothing else, my time in Japan has taught me to embrace differences and diversity, and my greatest nightmare has become to find myself in a homogenous social circle.
Here are some very belated photos from Elaine's birthday when I first got to Melbourne-
You can view the slideshow of Elaine's birthday photoshere.
We all look the same, don't we, except we are made up of an angmoh, three Malaysians, two Singaporeans, a Vietnamese, an Indonesian and a Shanghainese (and others not captured in the photos).
But I really couldn't imagine being in a room full of Singaporeans here.
In my class there are four Chinese girls who always sit in the back of the class and only talk amongst themselves, insisting on discussing everything in Mandarin as the classes are conducted in English. A few of us have tried to talk to them on separate occasions, only to be met with awkward responses and blank stares.
The other day, we had to attend a talk at the Melbourne Museum and I had arranged to meet A midway on the tram. As I got on and sat down next to him, I noticed the Chinese girls waving at me from the other end of the tram, the first and only time they have ever made contact. I waved back politely.
"Did they wave to you when you got on?" I asked A, who is as British as one can get.
He shook his head and we spent the rest of the ride pondering why the girls ignored him, and why one of them was carrying a huge stuffed Elmo and a beach towel to the museum. (We never figured out why.)
Yesterday I had dinner at Ant's Bistro on Little Bourke Street. There was me the Singaporean, two Americans, a Eurasian Aussie, a Brit and an Irish. Our dinner conversation was animated and lively, spanning from politics to climate change to travels to personal experiences.
I couldn't help but wonder how different the dinner might have been with my Singaporean friends here.