Friday, 11 September 2015

"What Are You?" & A Book Review!

What do you think when someone asks you, "What are you?  Where are you from?  But no really, what ARE you?"

Surprisingly this is a question I get fairly regularly.

I know what you're thinking, "In this day and age?  No way."

Please, trust me on this one.  I get looks of disbelief because I look Asian - I have the black straight hair, the short frame (some say "vertically challenged") and the accent of a typical North American.

Here's how my conversations usually go:

"Hi, where are you from?"
"Oh Canada...really?  So you were ...born there - you weren't brought over?"
"Yes I was born there."
"Okay - but where are you really from?  Because you look Asian!  I mean what are you?"

I am at this point smiling as politely as I can and deep inside just feel frustrated.
Here's what I really want to ask people who ask me such questions:

  • I came from a uterus - what about you?
  • I do know I look Asian thanks...I mean had you not told me - I would have had no idea. (I say this in my mind very sarcastically with a dose of humour.)
I try to not be offended by those questions but I just wished more people would believe me. 
When I dig my heels in and continue to say, "I swear - I'm Canadian and not just because my husband is one too" - I still get doubtful looks.

Here's some "I don't match my stereotype background"-friendly questions/things to try instead:
  • "Oh cool.  What part of __________ are you from?"
  • "Where are your parents from?"
  • "What is your culture?"
  • "Want to go grab a pizza?"  (Just kidding - no wait.  Who turns down pizza?!)

Funny story for you:

We were in the countryside visiting my in-law's and one of my cousin in-laws was visiting and we're standing about the kitchen chit chatting and here's how that conversation went...

"Hey - you speak English really well."
"What?" - me stunned.
"Youuuuuu *finger point*....speak *open and close motion with the hand*....English....well *thumbs up*"
I stood there for awhile with our family members and just thought what the heck was going on in this kid's mind.  He was about 19 and it wasn't the first time we've met.
"Dude - I'm born here." was the politest and softest hit to his ego I think he could handle.
His face slowly bloomed red, he spat out apologies and we all had a good chuckle after that.

So anyway, back to why I'm writing this post eh?
Lately I've been mistaken for a man.  I don't look like one, I don't sound like one, however - my name, Dominique - being the feminine form of "Dominic"- gets mistaken by one for the other regularly.  That's fine - I think it's hilarious when I show up for something second-hand and the person thinks it'd odd I know what Dominic is going to buy.

I guess now I'm trying to appreciate the Asian part and am trying to embrace that cultural part of me but I don't know how.
I look Asian, I don't have to shave my legs and I don't have very hairy arms (okay - zip all) and I can chow down on Dim Sum with chop sticks with the best of 'em.
But inside I've always felt like a trapped little blonde girl.  Which probably explains why I have all those silly little blonde moments...yup.

I've been to China and Hong Kong twice in my life and seriously got excited when I saw a white person.  Never mind another ethnicity than Asian.
Have you ever tried crossing the street in China?  NOBODY stops for you unless you don't look Asian. Unfortunately I blend in quite well and had a wicked hard time making my way across the road.
Non-Asian = Tourist attraction - don't be offended if you get asked to have your photo taken.

Anyway, back on track (sorry!) I've recently connected with my biological maternal side of the family and it's hard.
They've been quite welcoming but we have a small problem some of us.


Many of them speak Mandarin and I can't even introduce myself in Mandarin.  Wee bit of an issue.
I am in touch with some that speak English but it is tricky because of time zones!

So I was going to sign up for a Chinese language course but that's a bust because I'm enrolled into Finnish language courses and psychology (in Finnish nonetheless) and I'd feel bad if the hubster had to take the kids on 3 nights in a row with minimal assistance...and we all know bedtime is protest time.

So what I did do was buy from Book Depository - Chineasy. (Affiliate link).
I have it on my computer desk on top of the pile of mess that's also here...I'm learning a lot - although I have yet to practice anything!
I love  the illustrations that go with each character and symbols and it does make things possible to remember!
So if you're looking at studying basic Chinese and have a hard time remembering things - Chineasy may be the way to go! :)
Here's a quick video - in fact, a TED one - featuring the author Shaolan.
While this is a very short book review (especially since I haven't finished reading it - that'll take some time as with most language skills bookss!) - I'm quite pleased so far and can strongly recommend it.
I had been thinking about this book for over a year!! I can't wait until the Chineasy app comes out too.
I first saw it on Facebook - someone shared it or perhaps it was the Book Depository Facebook Page (as a random popular book) and those images displayed in a quick video I watched had stuck in my brain for a long time.
So clearly it was a sign right?

Okay before I get sidetracked - yet again - I'm hoping that this book and some hands on practice with a Chinese friend (I need to make some and I genuinely CANNOT wait to meet them face to face and have them doubt their eye sight...) will give me the skills I need to communicate the basics with extended biological family members.
Maybe and hopefully, before I'm 40 I can accept that in fact - 50% of my DNA is Chinese and 50% is Malaysian-Chinese (seriously I don't know the difference - working on that) and share and encourage this side of my culture to my own children.

Have a good weekend!

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