Sharing things

Nuam and Olivia: Family ties, intersectionality and figuring out where home is

November 04, 2021 The University of Edinburgh Season 5 Episode 5
Nuam and Olivia: Family ties, intersectionality and figuring out where home is
Sharing things
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Sharing things
Nuam and Olivia: Family ties, intersectionality and figuring out where home is
Nov 04, 2021 Season 5 Episode 5
The University of Edinburgh

In our fifth episode, guests Nuam Hatzaw and Olivia Sweeney talk about family ties, intersectionality and figuring out where home is.

Nuam is a current PhD student in the School of Divinity researching the theologies of migration, diaspora and identity among Zomi in Europe. Nuam studied at SOAS in London for her undergraduate degree, before moving to Edinburgh for her Masters in World Christianity.

Olivia graduated with an MEng in Chemical Engineering from the University of Edinburgh in 2017. She is currently a Junior Consultant at sustainable waste consultancy, Resource Futures and also a Black and Green Ambassador working to lead, connect and celebrate diverse community action for the environment. In 2019, Olivia was named among the 'Top 100 Most Influential Women in Engineering' in the UK and Europe by Inclusive Boards in association with the Financial Times. She has also worked with the Royal Academy of Engineering on their 'This is Engineering' campaign.

As usual we start with an object, but in season five we celebrate hidden corners and unexpected connections. Subscribe now for University of Edinburgh community exploration and really good chat.

You can find more information on the Sharing things website.

Graphic images designed by Chris Behr. They are part of his Nice Things icon set.  

Show Notes Transcript

In our fifth episode, guests Nuam Hatzaw and Olivia Sweeney talk about family ties, intersectionality and figuring out where home is.

Nuam is a current PhD student in the School of Divinity researching the theologies of migration, diaspora and identity among Zomi in Europe. Nuam studied at SOAS in London for her undergraduate degree, before moving to Edinburgh for her Masters in World Christianity.

Olivia graduated with an MEng in Chemical Engineering from the University of Edinburgh in 2017. She is currently a Junior Consultant at sustainable waste consultancy, Resource Futures and also a Black and Green Ambassador working to lead, connect and celebrate diverse community action for the environment. In 2019, Olivia was named among the 'Top 100 Most Influential Women in Engineering' in the UK and Europe by Inclusive Boards in association with the Financial Times. She has also worked with the Royal Academy of Engineering on their 'This is Engineering' campaign.

As usual we start with an object, but in season five we celebrate hidden corners and unexpected connections. Subscribe now for University of Edinburgh community exploration and really good chat.

You can find more information on the Sharing things website.

Graphic images designed by Chris Behr. They are part of his Nice Things icon set.  

[Theme music]

Ayanda  0:05  Hello, howzit? Welcome to Sharing things. I'm Ayanda, your new host for season five. As usual, we've gathered to listen to conversations from members of our community. Let's go on a journey together while we discover the little things that connect us. In this episode we hear from Olivia Sweeney and Nuam Hatzaw. Okay, so we're just gonna start off by just introducing ourselves. Nuam, would you like to go first, then Olivia?

Nuam  0:37  Yeah, sure. So my name is Nuam. I'm a third year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. I'm studying World Christianity at the School of Divinity.

Olivia  0:49  So I'm Olivia, I graduated from Edinburgh University in 2017 with a master's in chemical engineering, so I spent five years studying up, up there with the School of Engineering. So now I work as a sustainable waste consultant, down in Bristol, for a company called Resource Futures. And I also have a side gig [laughs]. Well, I'm a Black and Green Ambassador. So that's a National Lottery funded project that aims to lead, connect and celebrate diverse community action for the environment. So it's about exploring that intersection of racial and climate justice. So I do lots of things. I have a radio show, and I have a project that's all about clean air.

[Theme music]

Ayanda  1:40  So yeah, I think we can kind of just like go into it. But before we do that, I was quite interested in something you said Olivia, about intersectionality. What does that mean to you?

Olivia  1:51  That's a good question. What does it mean to me? Um, I think it's everything, I think it's-- and I don't know if it's human nature to box things up and silo things up, but so much of how we do things in the West and in academia is like, 'this is this, that is that, this is this'. And intersectionality is just about exploring all those blurred lines and the grey in the middle and, and understanding that everything that makes a person or a society or a culture unique is about all those different bits that overlay and how that changes your relationship with people and the world and nature. And I think it's really important I'm, I'm mixed race, so I sit at a very obvious intersection there, that duality. Yeah, we're just very binary in the way we think and in sexualities about mixing that up. 

Ayanda  2:41  Yeah, Nuam, do you experience those grey areas as well?

Nuam  2:46  Oh, yeah, definitely. It's interesting that you've kind of mentioned this because this whole kind of blurred lines as you mentioned, Olivia is very much something that is of both personal and academic interest to me like I'm-- I was born in Myanmar, but I've spent most of my life in Britain, as you could probably tell from my accent. So I kind of have like a sense of, I don't want to say confusion, confusion sounds very angsty, but I am pretty angsty [laughs]. But I just have a sense of like, I'm constantly thinking about who I am, and where I belong. And do I belong in Britain, because I've spent most my life here but then at the same time, my physical appearance marks me out as different. So this kind of like hybridity in between us is something that I kind of explore both in my academic research, which comes from my own kind of personal like, questions of who am I and where, where is home for me?

Ayanda  3:35  And then in terms of your academic research, what is it exactly since it's something that's so personal to you?

Nuam  3:41  That is a very good question. And as I face my third year annual review tomorrow, I am still wondering that question [laughter]. I'll give you the kind of very quick version of it, which is basically I had one project in mind and started doing it, and I was doing research in Myanmar, which is where I'm from. Originally, I was going to look at the faith experiences and the spiritualties and theologies of Christian women among my ethnicity in Myanmar, and then the pandemic hit. So that forced me to return home. And then I kind of spent the rest of 2020 like most of us panicking, and trying to figure out how to continue my research. And then just as I found a new direction, the military coup happened in Myanmar, which then really closed the door to that research-- avenue of research. So the latest version of my PhD is now looking at the theologies of migrant women from my ethnic group, migrant women in the UK, and Europe. So I'm basically questioning how their experiences on migration, their experiences of life in a context so different from where they grew up, has impacted the way they understand God, they understand the divine, all that kind of stuff. That's very kind of elevator pitch version of it. It sounds much more fun than it actually is. I don't recommend a PhD, I do not [laughter]. If you were hoping to use this as advertising for the University, you're screwed [laughter]. Yeah, it is interesting. I'm just in the middle of it. And it's just horrible. But you know, I always wanted to be called doctor and I certainly wasn't good at science, so this is the easiest way for me [laughs]. 

Olivia  5:20  I know I've been toying with the idea of a PhD purely to be Dr Sweeney. 

Nuam  5:23  Oh yeah. 

Olivia  5:23  I just love the sound of it.

Nuam  5:26  It's so fun. I really want to be called doctor, but I'm pretty happy with like working somewhere that's not academic, but like, just being like the receptionist, but then being like Dr Hatzaw will make your tea and coffee [laughter]. I'm fine with that, yeah.

Ayanda  5:39  And yes, Olivia, just from what Nuam said about her career and how it really links to what she feels personally and her personal experiences, you kind of spoke about intersectionality and how it's your personal experience. And I think it's also translated into, into your career, would you say so?

Olivia  5:58  So I mean, so I've always worked in the sustainability space. And that's very much just what I've always been passionate about. And I had to have a job and study something that kind of meant something, not the chemical engineering, like meant something but the means to the end of meaning something I suppose. And then definitely, as I've grown into my career, embracing more about who I am, and what my experience is, and bringing that in. So, you know, now explicitly being like, you know, a Black and Green Ambassador, when I was 18, I would not have been okay with that kind of job. The environmental sector is a bit all over the shop, because nobody knows what the environmental sector is really. So that's part of the problem. But from the best data we have, it's one of the least diverse sectors in the UK. So embracing, you know, what makes me unique within that, and then like, going with it. So definitely exploring that more and, you know, using it to your advantage that, you know, people always talk about hard to reach groups, which is-- I should- shouldn't swear, should I-- a load of rubbish. Which is a load of rubbish, hard to reach groups, but how I can use the fact that I look a little bit different to people who normally [unintelligible] and bring that in. And, and talk about, yeah, your experiences, and how that, how that matters, and how that plays into things. So, you know, at 18, when I started at Edinburgh, I definitely wouldn't have been like, oh, you know, I'm going to, I'm going to have a job that explicitly on the radio, I have to talk about my race, like, definitely not.

Nuam  7:32  Does that ever get taxing, talking about your race and your identity as part of your day to day job? Because I feel like sometimes for me, I just don't want to be reminded--

Olivia  7:42  Yep. 

Nuam  7:43   --of the fact that I'm in like--

Ayanda  7:45  Samesies, I'm tired [laughter].  

Nuam  7:49  --you get invited to, like, do BAME things, and you're like, oh, I'm the only brown person you know, all right.

Ayanda  7:55  Yeah, I have all the answers. I know everything there is to know about the BME community. 

Nuam  8:00  I love to speak for the entire community personally [laughter]. 

Ayanda  8:04  I am the representative.

Olivia  8:06  So yeah, it does. What's good about Black and Green is it's by the black community for the black community. So within the team, and the kind of like, your immediate hub, you're around people like you or you know, who aren't going to ask stupid questions, and are not going to treat you like an EDI consultant. So that's nice. So within the kind of my immediate circle, it's actually been really nice, because, you know, when I was 16, I moved to a grammar school, and then every university at the time, I don't know what it's changed to, isn't the diverse place, so it was really quite a shift for me to be around a diverse group of people all the time, as opposed to just when I'm with family and friends, in my work. So it's alright, because the kind of immediacy of it is people who get it. So that's nice. So you're held in kind of that space and then you go to all these meetings, and you lose the plot, and then you can come back and be like, I don't understand why people say stuff like this? So it's nice to have that balance. But if you, if you didn't have that kind of back there, it would definitely get too much. And I think I'm still learning how to do it. And what I want to say, and there's definitely still stuff I don't say, and don't talk about. And I don't know if that'll change, or if that's just my boundary. 

Nuam  9:28  It's hard to find a balance, isn't it? Because you know, you're personally invested in this project as well. So you do want to talk about stuff that's important, but at the same time, you know, as we've all mentioned, it's emotionally draining to be constantly reminded of this. So, but then I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel like I have a sense of duty almost to kind of be like, hey, if no one's going to talk about this then I should because I've got personal experience, but then, you know, yeah, that's a lot of responsibility on someone.
Ayanda  9:54  Yeah, I can agree with that. Just like from personal experience when I, I kind of ran for elections and I, and I became BME officer last year and just happened to be the time where Black Lives Matter picked up so much momentum. And I found myself in the middle of things like, we've been saying this for so many years, we've been singing the same song for so many years. And like finally now people want to sit down and listen to you and like pretend like you're the expert, and it got exhausting, but-- and yeah, and it's very important to kind of have space for your personal life. As Olivia said, you have those people that you go back to and your objects today relate to those people. 

Nuam  10:33  Oh I love that segway. She's done this before [laughter]. 

[Theme music]

Ayanda  10:46  So Olivia, would you like to share with us what you brought with you in spirit today? [Laughs]. 

Olivia  10:51  So this is my-- actually, I even took off the bracelet that matches. So I have brought with me a necklace that my parents, i.e. my mum got me for my 21st birthday. So it's, it's a Tiffany necklace, but with a really long chain, so it comes down to like my breast bone. And it's the classic Tiffany heart, with my initials engraved in the back, so O. M. S. And at the time-- I don't know if my mum will listen to this podcast, unless I share it with her. At the time. I was really grateful for it because it's a lovely thing and it's an expensive gift and-- but it's like [whispers] I'm not gonna wear that necklace. I don't do hearts [laughs]. And it was like Tiffany as well, like, do you know that the judgy part of me, but then-- I wear it every day, I wear it all the time now [laughs]. And I really like it and everyone says when they see me wearing it or notice it, they're like, that's not really you is it but it kind of works. So-- and then I got a matching bracelet for my graduation as well that I also wear all the time. So yeah, it was one of those, why the hell has she wasted this money on this necklace? But then she knew me better than I knew myself and it ended up being my go to, my, my everyday piece.

Ayanda  12:17  Yeah. 

Nuam  12:17  So, wait where is it?

Olivia  12:19  So [laughs], it's at that the jewellers being fixed because I have-- do you know, like a kneeling chair desk thing? 

Nuam  12:28  Yeah. 

Olivia  12:29  But I put it away in the office because I'm the only one who sits on it. And I was rushing because I do too many things. And I've got my necklace, because it is really long, I got it caught on the wood, like the arms and I pulled up and it broke the chain. So it's at the jewellers being soldered back together. So yeah, with me in spirit. 

Ayanda  12:51  And Nuam, I believe you brought jewellery as well with you? 

Nuam  12:54  Yeah, we're vibing guys, I'm loving this. I've got my grandmother's ring, we'll see if I can hold it up to thing, can you see? 

Olivia  13:01  Yeah. 

Ayanda  13:01  It's beautiful. 

Nuam  13:03  It's very blingy, I was like Grandma [laughter]. It's-- for the listener, it is [counting] 12345, it's got like, three rows of about six rubies. So what's that, 18 rubies on it? It's very, very blingy. And it was my grandmother's, she passed away two years ago. And then when she passed, I got given it to by my mom. So it's very, very important and significant to me. And I kind of like tend to keep it away because it's very attention seeking, because it's like massive and it's a big cluster ring. So I keep it away in a little, safe little box. But I brought it out today because I thought you know, that's where my mind went to when it said, you know, what's an object of importance or significance to you? And I was like my gran in ring form. So...

Ayanda  13:50  I'm quite curious when you guys look at the special objects that you brought with you today, what's the emotion or special memory that they evoke? 

Nuam  13:59  Do you want to go first Olivia? 

Olivia  14:00  I suppose the special memory is as I described when I was talking about it, that fact that I had that gut reaction of just no, yet I kind of came full circle and really love it and that importance. And I think that's partly my mum knows me better than I necessarily know myself. So I should trust her to just be like what is this woman talking about? But I'm not a birthday person. So even for my 21st I was just like, oh, it's just another day, another year. But it's also that marker in time isn't it and to think back now, I'm only twenty-- only twenty seven now, it wasn't that long ago that I was twenty one but even then to kind of you know, look back and be like, what's changed? May that be physically, mentally, emotionally in that time, is just, I don't know the emotion. Sometimes you get so caught up, I'm always like after the new next thing, like the next goal, and that definitely comes from a bit of the type of university and school, I'm sure we went to you're kind of taught to be looking for the next achievement. And so I don't often look back and kind of reflect. So I think having those things that pinpoint moments is important to be able to do that. 

Ayanda  14:08  What about you Nuam, does the ring encapsulate some kind of emotional memory?

Nuam  15:27  Yeah, I think it's like really significant to me, because it obviously reminds me of my gran. My gran and I were very, very close, she was a remarkable woman. She came over like aged, like very old, she came, I want to say like, 80, she must have been, when she migrated to the UK to look after me and my siblings so that my parents could study at university. Which is insane when you think about it, because like, here I am, like, afraid to try a new restaurant incase I don't like it and she was like, yep, I'm just gonna migrate, [laughs], so I could be with my grandchildren. And she didn't speak any English, she only spoke my language. So it must have been a terrifying experience for her to come over to a completely new context, completely new place where she didn't know anyone and to Glasgow as well, which is like freezing and very rainy compared to Myanmar, where it's like nice and sunny and stuff like that. So I guess for me, the ring kind of like just symbolises like her commitment and devotion to us as a family. And it just kind of really reminds me of who she was as a person. And I thankfully had a good few years with her, and like a good chance to kind of spend time with her and to look after her as she got older and a bit more ill. So I guess it kind of captures all of those emotions of like, respect, admiration, and kind of a reminder of how awesome she was as a person really.

Ayanda  16:44  And I know you said before that you kind of keep it away because it's too blingy. But do you have those moments where you want to wear it just to remember her sometimes?

Nuam  16:52  Yeah, definitely. I'm gonna wear it on my wedding day, which is in nine days.

Ayanda  16:58  Woah, congratulations! [Claps]. 

Nuam  16:59  Thank you. I'm freaking out. I hate weddings, don't do it, elope [laughter]. 

Olivia  17:05  How many things are you going to tell us not to do? [Laughter]. 

Nuam  17:09  Basically don't, don't live my life Olivia and run away. No, it's like weddings are fun. It's like small, but not because I don't, I don't want the day to be about 'these are all the people who have died and can't be there', but at the same time, I do want to remember her. So yeah, I'll wear it on my wedding day and maybe occasionally.

[Theme music]

Ayanda  17:31  And Olivia, can you tell us a little bit more about your mum?

Olivia  17:36  Now I need to think about if I'm going to send this podcast to her to listen to [laughter]. And therefore what I say. So my mum is, is great. My mum and dad are very different. And again, there you go, intersectionality, it's like I planned this all to link together. My mum and dad are very different, but very similar at the same time. So they-- both of their dads died very young. So I think that really shaped their lives. And they've been together since they were like 18. And I won't say how old they are now cuz that would definitely upset my mum. So my mum brings that kind of-- she's the artistic and the emotional one. So she studied Law and English, and my dad was Maths and Computer Science. So they're very different ways of thinking. So which is why I'm lucky enough to have kind of both of those in me. And my mum, so-- and then she gave it all up to have, me and she tried to, she did go back to work for a while but she was like, I don't want to leave her in a nursery. So and so I think that's, you know, as a woman, I'm always thinking, do I want kids? I don't know, but like trying to balance all those things that you want. And I, I don't know if I would not work. I don't know, I haven't had kids. They worked really hard so that me and my brother would have a life where we didn't have to think about things or worry about things. Yeah, she's just, she's just very cool. And sometimes we don't get on and it's hard-- so my mum is white/British and my dad is from the Caribbean. So when talking about race and those things, those conversations can be hard because it's coming from a different place with each person. And my mum obviously doesn't have the experience of not being non white. When we were learning about how to talk about those things, it's hard to talk about those things. You don't get it mum, you don't have to walk down the street and be like this, so there's been a lot of growing and coming together. But today, I had a day from hell for various different reasons. And I could just call her and have a minor breakdown on the phone. And then I was okay. And she sent me a card in the post the other day just because and it says 'nobody is you and that is your power' on the front and she just sent me a card that says I saw this in the shop and thought of you because you're awesome. So she's just really, really lovely and she works her arse off to make my life easy, so I can ignore her on the phone when I don't have time to text her back [laughter]. 

Ayanda  20:01  That's beautiful, and what about you Nuam?

Nuam  20:04  So a bit about my gran. I don't really have that many kind of like, I don't, I don't know if you guys got this, but like, it's hard to get a sense of how-- of people's personalities when you're so young. And then by the time you're older, you're like, I only know you as one thing, you are my gran, you're old and that's it. So like, when she passed away two years ago, it was quite cool to kind of like listen to my mum talk and to other people who knew her talk about how she was growing up and how she was as a person before I knew her as at the stage of life. And from all accounts, it sounded like she was a really remarkable woman who was very concerned about everyone around her. And so she grew up in Myanmar, and where we're from, it's the poorest state in the country. So life was hard, life was really hard. And she was a widow, my grandfather passed away when she was-- when my mother was quite young. So being a widow in those times, like you, you're kind of screwed, really, as your husband is your main source of income. But she was very determined. And sounds like, from the sounds of it, very much like your mother, Olivia, in a sense of like, they were determined to make-- to do the best that they could to provide the best that they can. And like her generosity extended to people around her as well. Like, there was a period of time when food-- there was a big food shortage, and she had food and shared it with people, so that they wouldn't, you know, go hungry. And even though as a woman, as a widow, and with like three young children, she would well have been within our rights to be like, sorry, I need to keep this. But those kind of stories that I heard when she passed away was really, really remarkable. Because it was like, oh, wow, like, this is just stuff that I-- you never think to ask. With people around you, above you like, you know, who are you, what's your hobbies, what's your interest? But it was kind of cool to kind of just to be able to reflect on her life like that. But one last things we talked about was, I was like, hey, I'm thinking of marrying my partner. We've been together for six years, and you know, and stuff. Her dementia was like, you know, sometimes she had a moment, but she was just like, okay, you know, just make sure you get your PhD. And I'm like, alright, cool, which I'm going to take as approval that she was happy with my choice in partner. But yeah, that's, that's who she is. I haven't really had a chance to reflect on her since, since a few years ago. So it's quite nice to have this opportunity.

[Theme music]

Ayanda  22:30  Yeah, and I wanted to ask because you mentioned in childhood, you don't really get the opportunity to know your, your people around you as people, you know them, okay, that's mum, that's dad. And I kind of-- I'm quite interested, interested in the, the change that we go through when we're growing up. And kind of like how you saw yourself in the past and how you saw, and how you see yourself now and how much you've changed? 

Olivia  22:57  So I-- again, touched on this, I previously worked at Lush, and I know this guy through there who did some work for us, called Ian, who has a project in London called May Project Gardens, which you should check out because it's very cool and hip hop gardens. So he met me when I was at Lush and that was a couple of years ago, and he met me recently because he's now got a role at Bristol City Council. And he's like, Olivia, oh my god, you're so confident [laughter], what's happened? And that's in two years. And I think that's a big part, to Black and Green and just being like that this, you know, I'm not gonna only let my racial identity or ethnic identity or blackness, what everyone's talking about, I'm not just gonna save that for when I'm at home, or when I'm with people. And I think that's, that's a big thing. And I talked back to 18, so at 21 it was, it was better than 18. But yeah, I would never have just volunteered information around that or called people out on things that they say. Like, I-- still not in all contexts, I do think about my employability, sadly, and can't just be like... 

Ayanda  24:07  You can't be wildin' [laughter]. 

Olivia  24:09  Yeah, I can't be swearing at every person who says something-- [laughs]. 

Ayanda  24:13  Oh I know that too well.

Olivia  24:14  -- that is inappropriate. But yeah, I definitely wouldn't have done all those things now. And even like, so even talking on this, and I have a radio show, I mean, that is beyond the realm of belief, for 21 year old Olivia. I think because I was so hung up on-- not an academic, but being like, in that space like an engineer and quite like this is the way to do things. I didn't really consider that the way to change the world would be through storytelling and talking to people and it was going to be by making something more efficient or designing a new energy source and not to say that isn't part of it, but I think my kind of growth in, in understanding that the narrative is just as important as the tech. Think I'm just more comfortable with who I am. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Nuam  25:09  It's quite nice when you get to that stage where you're like, yeah, this is who I am and that's it.

Olivia  25:14  Yeah, I think that's it. 

Ayanda  25:15  Yeah, what about you know Nuam? 21 year old you and you today? What has changed? What has grown?

Nuam  25:23  Where was I at 21? Oh, so I'd finished my bachelor's degree, I think I've become a bit more-- yeah, like Olivia was saying, I think I've become a bit more confident in who I am and what I believe and what I stand for, and just kind of being like, yep, this is that. I think, yeah, I think I've settled down and I say this, because my wedding is on my mind. I think I've definitely settled down, like my sister is-- has just recently moved to London. And she works in publishing, she's, you know, early 20s. And is just loving life, London single life. She's on all the dating apps, it's very fun. I was kind of like looking at her and talking to her, and being like, oh, I remember those days, those were nice. But obviously very excited for, for what the future holds. I think I've just become more comfortable in my own skin and who I am and what I believe and everything. So-- I've always kind of wanted to go into the career path that I'm going into now with academia. So that's never really kind of a big change for me. But...
Olivia  26:21  I think it's also the confidence to be wrong and change your mind. Like I think I have to be, not had to be right, I would hold, hold on to things like I decided that I'm going to do this and now I'm going to see it through to the bitter end, despite the fact I hate what I'm doing right now. Whereas now I'm like, no, I've got enough going on in my life, I'm just gonna let that go and I don't mind that I'm evolving.

Nuam  26:43  I think it's like the pressure isn't it? Like the-- when you're 21, you're, you're surrounded by so many interesting and amazing influences in your life that you're kind of like, oh, I want to be like this person, or I want to be like this group now. And then you kind of, and it takes you a while, at least certainly for me to kind of find like the kind of group or the type of person that you want to be and to be okay with the fact that it might not fit with a or it might not fit with b, but you know, whatever, like, this is who I am.

Ayanda  27:09  I must, I must agree. I mean, I was 21, like three years ago. So maybe I don't have that much to say about like, you know, growth. But I think moving away, like from home and coming here, I've there's a lot that has changed about me. And I think the beauty of it, as you guys mentioned the whole thing about being comfortable in what you believe in, I think I'm approaching that as well and kind of getting into that space, but how do you then interact with the environment around you, that is used to you being a certain way? And now you've changed, how do you, how do you like, deal with that?

Olivia  27:44  Run away [laughs]. So, yeah, university, I was there for five years and then I-- I've moved twice. Yeah, I have an expiry date, I think on, on being in a place. And that's, and that's not necessarily in relation to what you were saying, but I, therefore you kind of don't have to deal with that, which is a nice thing, apart from the people I choose to keep. And they obviously get it and evolve with you and are like part of that. And I think if you're talking about wider society that's, that's a different thing, isn't it? So, I don't know with that. Sometimes you shut it out, sometimes you let it in, I suppose. If people reach out from your-- my past, so to speak, may that be kind of through university staff or through friendships or work, I think they've seen my evolution. So there's something that resonates in that new iteration. 
Ayanda  28:40  Mm hmm. Nuam, what about you?

Nuam  28:42  Um, I think I would say that there's always an element of who the-- of the previous version of yourself in your current version of yourself. So I think, so I'm thinking primarily of the fact that like I went to SOAS in London, I don't know if you guys know it. It's the School of Oriental African Studies. And it's got a reputation for being a very left wing radical University, which I love, love, love, love, love. But my self there is more outspoken than myself in Edinburgh for various reasons. But when I'm back in SOAS, when I'm engaging with activist spaces, all that kind of stuff, like yeah, that's, that's who I am. And how I am in Edinburgh, doesn't necessarily mean that I've kind of forgotten who I am back in London, or that aspect of my personality that's a bit more vocal about political social justice issues, all that kind of stuff. It's just like, I'm, I'm wearing a different hat or I'm not putting it as the kind of the first thing that people see. It's like, this is me in the Edinburgh context. And then when it's appropriate, I'll be like, actually, guys, let's eat the rich. Like, I mean, like those things that you know, you're just I think there is like elements of like yourself, always. It's just a kind of, you're just you're just fitting into the context of where you are out of a sense of necessity, out of a sense of your own self preservation because I don't necessarily want to be known as so and so in this context all the time, so. So where else have you lived Olivia?

Olivia  30:04  So for my master's I spent the year in Sweden. So I was in Gothenburg, which is very cool. And then I moved down to Bournemouth on the coast for my first job with Lush, so I was there for two and a half years, something like that. And then I just moved to Bristol, four days before the first lockdown, March 2020. Interesting timing, already looking at where I'm going to go next, because it's almost been a year and a half. I think I've learned that my expiry date is 24 months. I was actually looking at PhDs in the US or my best friend is in Korea and I was just like, maybe just the working life isn't for me, and I'll just be your housewife and hang about cleaning things. So that's the other option.

Nuam  30:53  I've always said that my dream was to be an academic trophy wife, so I could just be like, the trophy wife. So all I have to do is just like read books and not earn any money, which is already going to be the PhD pathway. But, but this one sounds sexier than-- out of a PhD student.

[Theme music]

Ayanda  31:13  So Olivia has mentioned, you know, moving around, but you know, I'm sure we all have that one place we call home that kind of gives you-- gets you all warm and fuzzy when you think about like, yes, that is home. So where is home for you?

Nuam  31:30  Where is home for me? That's a really tough question. Because I don't know if I have a home. That sounds really sad but I don't know if I can name one place home in a sense of like-- so, when I-- in 2020, I was, I think I mentioned doing fieldwork in Myanmar, which is where I'm from, I was back among my community. And like prior to going there, I was super excited about doing fieldwork among my own people. Because I was like I've grown up in Britain, I don't know the language as well as I want to, I don't know the culture as well as I want to, but eight months of field work will set me straight. And it'll be nice to kind of contact, just connect with people and my culture again. And I got there and I realised oh no, I'm very British, these people can't keep to time at all. And I need a schedule [laughter]. So it's just like, things like that on a kind of jokey level. But on a more serious level, it was also kind of like, oh, I didn't find the sense of belonging and returning home that I thought I would find. And that was quite difficult for me to deal with the brief kind of three months I was there, I kind of got a slowly, a slow sense of realisation that like, oh, I had all these fantasies of being back home, but home doesn't recognise who I am, because I've become to Westernised or there are elements of this culture that I don't find comfortable. So, you know, crap, what do I do? And then that was kind of like a big kind of catalyst for all these big questions I had about like, who I am and where I belong, and what my identity is having grown up in Britain, but also looking physically different from most Scottish people and all that kind of stuff. Like, that kind of was a whole journey that I started in 2020 and still am on right now. So yeah, the question of home is a big one, I don't, I don't know where home is. I don't-- I think home is where you feel comfortable to be yourself. Which sounds very cliché. But I think in my case, it's certainly true. Because, you know, there's elements of British society where I feel very uncomfortable, and I feel very aware that I am an other. And there's elements of my own ethnicity and in my own culture, where I'm like, yep, I also feel out of place here. I think it's where you can feel comfortable being 100% yourself. And for me, thankfully, that's in my partner, and the kind of the life that we're building together. So that's nice. But yeah, I don't, I don't have a physical location for home. I don't think. I think for me, it's just like that sense of like, yep, this is who I am and I don't need to hide any element of it. What about you, Olivia?

Olivia  33:57  Yeah, I would, I would agree with that. That's why I wanted you to answer first [laughter]. No, nowhere is home [laughs]. So my parents have actually always lived-- I've always lived in the same house at home home like so my, my, it should be my house. And it's not not home, but it doesn't fit right anymore, because you kind of and I know you talked about kind of putting different hats on when you're in a different place but I do feel like I regress—

Nuam  34:21  Oh, yeah. 

Olivia  34:21  -- when I'm home home. So that doesn't feel like right. And I've got a really bad habit and my mum gets very annoyed of I will be staying in a hotel for like two days, and I'll start referring to it as home. So I get very comfortable very quickly. Like, I'm going home now, she's like, no, you're not. And I was like, oh, I just went back to my hotel. She's like, really Olivia that is not your home [laughter]. So obviously adapt very quickly. So, and then like you're saying my dad's from the Dominica, which is an island in the Caribbean, and I've been there a handful of times. And my middle name is my great granny, who's, who was one of the reasons we went back home, home for her 100th birthday and I fall into conversation and I call Dominica home sometimes. Which is crazy, because I have no right in a lot of sense to call that home in, in, in a physical sense. But I think because you're-- I'm asked that question not so much anymore. She says maybe I'm just hanging out with slightly more aware people of oh, but where are you really from? So I think that's, you know, that has played in to it and now I sometimes refer to Dominica as home, which doesn't make any sense. I settle into places very quickly, and I have like, my, my stuff. So I will make my bedroom my home. I make my space mine. May that be a hotel room for two nights [laughter]. 

Ayanda  35:42  Usually when you ask that question people, like give you a specific place, oh it's because of where I grew up and I think it's kind of what I relate to as well. I think as I'm growing up, I'm not always going to be like, yes, that place, that is home. I feel like, you know, as you get comfortable with yourself, just kind of just to go back to what we were talking about earlier, when you get that comfort in yourself, home becomes something that's within you, and the people around you and like your chosen family as well. And I think that's really, really cool. And that's really, really awesome. There's hope, guys [laughter]. 

[Theme music]

Ayanda  36:21  Anyway, let me stop being a clown and just ask the final question that we like to ask here at Sharing things. If you had to pick one word that encapsulates the object that you brought with you today, what would it be?

Olivia  36:37  So I was actually going to say, and this is the, the context of what I spoke about. Unexpected would be my-- 

Nuam  36:45  That's a good word. 

Olivia  36:46  I didn't expect to connect with it. When people kind of know me, and they're like, oh, really, you're wearing a Tiffany necklace. That's not what I would have like-- a Tiffany heart necklace. That's not what I've put together, but it kind of works. So yeah, unexpected is what I'm gonna go with.

Ayanda  37:02  What about you Nuam, what's your, what's your object?

Nuam  37:06  Um, I think for me, the word that encapsulates the ring from my grandmother is probably devotion, I think. You know, it just captures the fact that she was willing to come all the way out to somewhere that's very unfamiliar and alien and to endure discomfort, just so that she could raise me and my siblings and help out my parents. And that's devotion. That's, that takes a lot of love and lots of dedication and commitment. And not everyone can do that. And that's fine, but she was able to. So I think that is probably the kind of word that sums up both the ring and what it signifies in her life.

Ayanda  37:43  That's, that's beautiful. And it brings us to the end of our conversation today of Sharing things. But thank you so, so much for bringing of yourselves and sharing so much of yourself so willingly, so freely. As you know, the vibe has been great. It's been amazing [laughs]. 

Hey there, thanks for listening. You can subscribe to our channel on your favourite podcast platform or check out our website to find out more about our guests. See you next time.

Kate  38:35  I hope you've enjoyed meeting members of our University of Edinburgh community to connect with more, join Platform One, our online meeting place for students, alumni and staff of the University. To find out more search Platform One Edinburgh. 

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