Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Noticeably Asian

Today I leave for China on a trip with my MBA program. I've pretty much been looking forward to it all summer and although it feels like summer is over because I am now back in Eugene which makes me feel like I'm back in school, I definitely still have some good vacation time left!

The China trip is a two-week study tour the business school at Oregon takes pretty much every summer. This year we are visiting Beijing and Shanghai after which I am extending my stay in Asia with a week-long visit to Thailand before heading back for the start of school at the end of September.

Today we had our Orientation and sat through several hours of speakers giving us a crash course in the Chinese language, a brief history of China, and the political and economic climate. The morning was quite uneventful to say the least, but it ended with a bang!

In our last hour, we had a Chinese native marketing researcher speak to us on sports marketing in China. As our Managing Director answered some of our questions about our trip, I noticed her "eyeing" me from in the periphery, but chose to ignore it as it was a familiar sort of "eyeing" she was doing. To be specific, it was the kind of "eyeing" that said, "You are Asian, as am I. Automatically, we have a lot in common, especially if you are Chinese, such as myself."

I have become very accustomed to this sort of "eyeing" and I prefer to ignore it more than anything. When I am being "eyed", I think to myself, "Listen, just because you're Asian, as am I, I don't really care. I'm sure that all we really have in common is the fact that we are both Asian but that doesn't automatically make us BFFs." I suppose it's such like when you pull up next to someone on the road who is driving your same model car and for whatever reason, they wink at you or give you a thumbs up or some other sort of indication of approval that you both have so much in common because you're both driving a Honda Accord. Admittedly, hybrid drivers may have this inherent connection, but for the rest of us, not so, and doubley, awkward in the moment.

So, today, as I was sitting in this room, ignoring the "eyeing" going on, our Managing Director introduced our guest Chinese speaker, then turned the time over to her.

She briefly introduced herself and then asked, "You are all going to China, right? Has anyone ever been to China?" She looked around the room full of white Americans. And me.

"Anyone? Has anyone been to China?"

We all sat there either shaking our heads, no, or just staring at her because no, no one has been to China.

"Anyone? None of you have been to China?" she asked again peering around the room, eyeing me with each pass.


And then she did it. Argh!

Looking right at me she said, "You. I noticed that you are Asian."

A bit caught off guard and immediately amused, along with the entire room, I sat up and said, "Um, yup. Yeah. I am Asian."

"You have never been to China?" she asked.

"No. I have not. I am actually Korean, so you know. Yeah."

"Oh, I see."

Yes. Don't we all. I could stop laughing for at least5 minutes. Everyone got a great laugh out of it.