Thursday, October 3, 2013
What Everyone Thinks I Do
So I made one of these! Anyone who's ever taken East Asian studies can probably relate to this. I suppose the real joke is that it's me in every picture, so I am doing everything that people think I do . . . which is kind of confusing. Anyway, there is an air of truth to this, um . . . meme? That is, of course, that there are many preconceptions people seem to have as soon as you tell them you're an East Asian Studies major, which goes doubly true if you are a Caucasian male who typically wears glasses, like me. I'd just like to take the time to go over each panel and explain what the idea was behind it. Why? Because it's fun and I'm too tired to post anything that takes actual brainpower. I'm going left to right, top first, then the bottom.
1st Panel: What my friends think I do.
My close friends and I have this running joke in which my sole motivation for choosing to major in East Asian studies was to pick up Asian women. My friends, of course, understand that this is not the case, and while my friends understand this, I have met an annoyingly large number of people who ask me if I like Asian girls, right after I tell them my major. This implies that they believe my major is somehow a result of my interest in Asian females. Of course, what I tell people is that I don't need to spend over $15,000 a year on school fees just to date women of a certain ethnicity. The picture was taken at my 26th birthday party, and the two girls are good friends of mine who came to Toronto for a year to brush up on their English.
2nd Panel: What my mum thinks I do.
All right, so yes, I spell mum with a u instead of an o. There's a long story behind that, but basically if I spelled mum as mom, my mum would never let me hear the end of it. So there. My parents, despite being not Asian at all and, in the case of my dad, not having any particular interest in Asia whatsoever, are very supportive of my studying East Asia, and that's awesome! My parents are quite aware of what it is I actually do, so the idea that they think I sit around all day practising Korean calligraphy is pretty amusing. The picture was taken at the King Sejong Museum in Seoul, by a local friend of mine.
3rd Panel: What society thinks I do.
I suppose this one depends on what society you live in, but honestly I have no idea what the majority of Torontonians (those are people from Toronto, where I live) think East Asian studies students do. One thing I do know is that many Torontonians who aren't ethnically East Asian don't know all that much about Asia beyond the basics, such as that sushi comes from Japan, dim sum comes from China, and kimchi comes from Korea. Hmmm . . . I suppose that's actually pretty good, relatively speaking -- you go, Toronto! Still, I suspect society assumes that we East Asian studies people hang out and talk about geisha and samurais and things while watching anime and engaging in orientalist delights. Not true! . . . at least not in most cases. The picture is of me posing with a Kitana cosplayer at Fan Expo, one of Toronto's major comics, sci fi, etc. conventions. Kitana is from the popular video game series Mortal Kombat, a series that uses a mishmash of Asian-inspired and fairly orientalist visuals in its art design (though I understand it's meant to be totally fantasy and therefore do not fault the series for that).
4th Panel: What I think I do.
This is a picture of me in a performance at Yonsei University in Seoul, where I joined one of the traditional group-drumming or pungmul clubs. It was a blast and I met some truly awesome people from it. As an East Asian studies major I imagine myself as an open-minded person eager to immerse myself in East Asian culture, both traditional and contemporary. I thought that playing in a Korean drum club in front of an audience of Koreans of all ages was pretty immersive!
5th Panel: What my profs think I do.
I'm not really sure what it is our profs think we do, but I imagine they suspect we look deeply at both the historical and contemporary realities and cultures of East Asia, analyzing and drawing conclusions based on what we learn in lectures and readings and such. Well, I love my major precisely because we do this, and I'd say this is at least true for me, though I suppose I can't speak for everyone. What better picture to use than one of a bunch of people examining a temple in Korea. This picture was taken at a temple stay that a friend and I went on in Kangwon-do, South Korea. I'm the one in orange with purple sleeves and my buddy is to my left. Temple stay is totally cool, but it can be pretty rough if you don't know what to expect.
6th Panel: What I actually do.
So yeah, I drink a lot -- or I used to. I used to hang out with a lot of international language students and working holidayers from Japan and Korea. Toronto is a pretty hot destination for these folks, and when they get here, they typically have this vacation mentality and like to drink and party a lot! I would often join them, as I had many friends among this crowd, although I've toned it down considerably since I got back from studying in Korea. In Korea I did drink quite a bit too much, I feel. Let's just say my liver is likely not too fond of me -- though I have been giving it a rest lately. This photo was taken at a "room bar" (it makes sense in Korean), where one can go to a private room and get smashed with friends. It was taken right after a school festival, which is why I'm wearing all blue. Room bars are quite popular in South Korea and are frequented by couples and used often for private corporate parties.
Anyway, I thought that was pretty fun! I'd like to close by saying that usually when I tell people about my major, they often ask me, "What do you do with an EAS degree?" To them I say "East Asian Studies" (EAS) is kind of a deceptive title, because even though I am an EAS specialist (meaning that I study only East Asian studies), through this program I have learned so much about the world at large. It's a pretty eclectic field, and I feel as though, since I enrolled in it, I have learned so much about societies, people, language, and the world at large that when the time comes to start my career, I'll be ready! I already have several ideas.
Also I feel that I don't talk enough about my personal life on this blog of mine, and maybe that should change. I feel I should give a face to this random white dude who talks and rants about Asian stuff. Anyway, until next time!
To all my people in EAS, keep it up!