Wednesday, March 4, 2009
So my friend, Erika Crane, was in a play called Ching Chong Chinaman. Obviously, when I heard the title, I knew I had to immediately go see it!!! She was nice enough to give me two free tickets, so my girl Dolly and I went in uber excitement.
In a nutshell, the play revolves around a Chinese-American family of four that cannot get in touch with their inner "Asian". Comedic trouble ensues when their computer gamer son enlists a 'study slave' from China named (tada) Ching Chong, to do his homework. It's not too long, before the mother engages in innocent romance that the family starts breaking down stereotypes and all the dark skeletons come out of the closet. Then you find it's not a typical Chinese family after all.
Among other things, there were themes of cultural isolation, the laughable Asian Minority Model, and the dark dysfunctional family that we all know too well.
I couldn't stop laughing hysterically. Especially when Erika had a scene kissing her co-star as an obsessed school girl and I almost died 'cause her husband (who is also my co-worker and friend) was sitting next to me and lifted his eyebrow just enough for me to laugh. Apparently I was the only one in the audience who squeeled. Yeah, a tad embarrassing when heads are turning around wondering if it was my first time seeing humans kiss!
To cut this blog post short, the moral of this is how wonderfully connected the play's plot was to the context of me, my life, and pretty much my blog. Also, I realized that I should really go see theater more often in general. If anyone gets a chance, go see a play at your local theater. Not just a major production like Nutcracker or Rent kind of deal....but one based on culture. Culture as in any kind of cultural connotation. You'll find it wasn't regrettable after all!
Posted by Chanida Phaengdara Potter at 3:40 AM
Monday, March 2, 2009
The Infamous Conversation
THE IGNORANT: So, where are you from?
THE IGNORANT: Oh, so you're Hmong!
ME: (pauses in awe)...no, I am not Hmong. I am a Lao person from Laos.
I've been compelled to write a note after this above conversation occurred a little more frequently than I would have liked this month. Especially during some wasteful networking encounters. I'm a mutt, but I grew up with a mesh of cultures that are just simply put, Southeast Asian. Maybe I have an identity crisis...hmmm. It gets tiring to explain everything and then I want to go into the "it's all the same" mode, but the above situation is what happens. So I repeat, DO NOT LET IT GO. I've made this easy for you, my little wontons! Refer them to my checklist below.
It's OK if you just don't know, but it only makes it worse if you assume more than you learn. I love the "where are you from?" question. Sometimes I like to mess around and say "I'm from Minneapolis" and then they start feeling like idiots. I always try to figure out what the hell the hidden intentions are for asking. To judge how cool I might be based on my level of cool Asian culture? To find out if Asians really are all the same? Maybe to just know where I live. Who knows.
In our melting pot age, where nationalism and ethnicity are not one in the same thing...the more appropriate question should be "what's your ethnic background?" With so many Asians who are adopted, mixed, or unsure pure twinkies cringing at this question, you wonder if you ran across the other side of the comfort line or if you should ask at all....blah blah blah. How can I help you with this dilemma?
Let's start with a checklist I came up with called "The Correct Way to Identify an Asian Person":
1. Introduce yourself and ask for their first name. If it sounds Asian, then you hit the jackpot, go to #3. If it sounds anything but Asian, then proceed to #2.
2. Check their last name. If it is American, DO NOT proceed to #3, 'cause they are either married to an American person or adopted by an American family. If it might be Asian, proceed to #3.
3. Ask yourself, "is it Chinese or Japanese?" Sound out their name in the best popular Asian accent possible. OK, OK, I'm totally kidding. If it sounds a little off, chances are you're right. Proceed to #4.
4. Finally, ask them "what is your family's ethnic background?" or "what ethnicity is your last name?" Even if you're positive you know what kind of Asian they are, save the embarrassment. By adding, "I knew that!", you get a 1,000 bonus points with the yellow folks. #5 will come naturally.
5. The Asian person will happily answer you and ta-da! You got a winner of a conversation looking not too stupid and somewhat sensitive.
6. If the Asian person honors your respectful inquiry, you will be allowed a pass into the circle of Asian Awesomeness.
7. Reap your rewards in such forms like an invitation to go over to their house for yummy noodles or Asian drama films. Be warned of possible consequences like weight gain or yellow fever. Although, true tip: food is a perfect starting point to an Asian person's heart.
8. IF YOU WANT TO SCORE AN ASIAN: Maybe you decide you'd like to further this into the realm of romance??? Showcase your Asian knowledge by saying things specific to their ethnic background. For example, "do you cook any Japanese food? I love eating sushi!" or "can you teach me "hello there beautiful" in Thai?". Avoid typically bad pick-up lines like "You can Thai me up any day" or "Mi-so-ho-ni", etc. It is too forced and definitely offensive.
Now that wasn't too difficult, right? If you like this checklist or have an ignorant buddy, re-post, pass it on. If you still have questions, please go see your local 'qualified' Asian person.
May the Yellow Force be with you, my furry friends.