Monday, December 24, 2012

Being Asian

Need a break from writing college essays so maybe I'll write some blog essays.  Procrastination seems to be the trend-of-the-year.

I'm Asian.  Yes, I've got the whole squinty-eyed, good-at-math, bad-at-sports thing.  Imagine your stereotypical Asian and then put a windbreaker jacket on him; that's me.

So I always get reactions from peers in the same vein, something like "You're so lucky you're Asian because that means you're really good at math" or what-have-you, and truth be told, it's actually sort of painful being Asian.  Or rather, given accompanying circumstances.  My parents speak Chinese/Taiwanese in the house and are no good at English; likewise, I'm horrible at Chinese/Taiwanese.  So communication works out something like this.

Me: "Can you pass the salt?"
Parents: "What?  You want to buy a car?"
Me: "No can you pass the *points to* salt?"
Parents: "Oh here. *passes eggs*"


Parents: "Hey we're leaving the house, go lock the doors."
Me: "Okay. *does laundry instead*"

Parent-child talks are (thankfully) few and far between, and when they do happen it's a linguists nightmare because we're either A) asking what each and every word means or B) misinterpreting everything we're saying, so I've learned to just do my own thing and hope my parents don't mind because asking for permission is a game of charades every time.

Not complaining, though; mom and dad are fantastic people.  They're magnitudes more progressive than the typical "no food 'til you pray piano five hour!" Asian parent.  Likewise, they're a whole lot smarter and I always feel they were the sort of people overqualified for any position they were ever put in.  My dad's a cook at a sushi restaurant; he studies Chinese medicine and politics in his spare time, while my mom is a teacher and a lunch lady, even though she was a secretary in Taiwan.

Really though, I used to think it was a negative, being Asian.  And then, I noticed something that leverages any communication failures, any culture clashes, any negatives of my ancestral heritage.

We grow our own sponges.

I'm not sure that came across well, but here it is again:


There's a certain type of Taiwanese squash that grows very quickly.  It makes for a great stew and survives year-round.  It's also very soft, so you can knock your teeth out with a hammer and survive on it by swallowing it whole after cutting it up a bit.  Turns out, we use it for something different.  My dad converted the canopy in our backyard into a vineyard by stretching strings over the top.  In three weeks, the squash climbed up the supports and stretched itself over the top of the canopy, and grows by hanging itself from the strings.  After they fully mature, cut off a few for food and leave the rest to die.

When they do die, set the corpses out to dry in the sun for a week, and then cut them open.  Inside is an nifty system of fibers that resemble a soft coral.  It's completed the mighty transform from strange foodstuffs to ultimate dish-washing device.

It's by law the coolest thing ever, and I'm really happy that I'm Asian because it's this sort of cultural vitality that makes living a whole lot more interesting.  I don't even mind that I can't ask my parents where the remote is without making a huge ordeal over it.  Really glad to be a part of this all.

Meanwhile, merry Christmas, everyone, and happy holidays.

1 comment:

  1. lol'd when I saw the title of this post on my subscription list.