Thursday 26 September 2019

On being Asian (continued)

I. (My band and I were to perform for several evenings in some sort of variety show with other artists in a Parisian theatre
MC: Oh, so how do I pronounce your name? 'Ton Zat'?
Me: Ton That'...  'tʌn tæt' not 'zat'. 
MC: Ah... 'Toon Da'?"
Me: Not quite. 't', not 'd'." 
MC: I see! Thank you!
Me: (I don't think he sees...}
MC: "...and ladies and gentlemen, please welcome singer [...] and her two musicians, [...] and Anghr Doo Dad! I hope I pronounced his name well!" (little laugh)
(the following night)
MC: I guess I didn't pronounce your name well yesterday. How is it again?'
Me: 'tʌn tæt' would be ok. 
MC: 'Doon dæd'. Ok I got it!
Me: (I don't think so...)
MC:" ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to singer [...] and her two musicians [...] and Ann Doon Zat! I hope pronounced his name well!" (little laugh)
(the following night....)

II. (My first piano teacher, an old-fashioned lively lady who wore the same dress week after week, be it winter or summer. She also smelled of powder)
Piano teacher (on seeing my parents): Oh, mister and missus Ton Ton!!!

Girl: So you're Asian
Me: Obviously
Girl: My mother told me never to trust Asians
Me: ... but... you are Asian too
Girl: I was adopted!
Me: ...

IV. (I had put some ads in my neighbourhood for piano lessons to give)
Lady: Could you tell me a little about how you teach children?
(I briefly told her about my method)
Lady: Oh that's fantastic! I love that! When can we start? What's your name?
Me: 'Tôn Thất'
Lady: ... huh? I'm afraid I didn't hear well...
Me: 'Tôn Thất'. T.O.N. T.H.A.T. It's a Vietnamese name.
Lady: Oh... you're an Asian person...
Me: Yes.
Lady: ... Erm... We will call you again... I have to go now... I have things to do!
(she never called back)

V. (a rich American lady singer was looking for a pianist to accompany her for a debut concert of American songs.)
American lady: You're the fourth or fifth person I'm meeting! The first three pianists played well, but they knew nothing about Gershwin and Cole Porter, and American songs... So I asked my dentist, and he gave me the name of your friend who gave me your name. I was wondering what someone with such a name as yours would know about American songs!
Me: You will see after our first rehearsal
(after first rehearsal)
American lady: It's amazing! I would never have expected that an Asian person would know so much more than me about Amercian songs! When I saw your name, I thought "what on earth could he know about that repertoire!" 
Me: (Asians are mysterious and cunning people)

Tall Girl (looking at me adoringly): Oh An, you're so cute! You're so nice! You have everything!
Me: (blushing)
Tall Girl: If you were taller than me, I would FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU!
Me: ...

Situation A (years ago):
Man: So where do you come from? 
Me: I'm French
Man: Yes, but I mean, where do you really come from?
Me: My parents are from Vietnam
Man: So you're Vietnamese!
Me: I was born in France
Man: Yes, of course, I know, you have a French passport...

Situation B (now):
Man: So where are you from?
Me: I'm Vietnamese
Man: I see! I love spring rolls!
Me: ...
Man: But where did you learn French? You speak French so well!!! No accent at all!
Me: I was born in Paris. That helps a little.
Man: So you're Fremch!
Me: No. I'm Vietnamese
Man: NOOO! You were born in France, therefore you are French!

VIII. During dinner, during a music festival. I was introduced to singer Brigitte Fontaine.

Brigitte Fontaine (looking at me with her out-of-space eyes): Where do you come from?
Me: From the table over there.
My manager (gritting his teeth): Aaaan!!!!

IX: (translation class at the Sorbonne University)
Teacher (giving back the first translation test): Well, some people (looking at me) must recently have arrived in France, so their command of the French language is understandably not very good... 
Me: I was born in France... I just didn't know what to do with that text... (I just hated the text and didn't feel inspired at all)
Teacher: mmmmm

(after the next test)
Teacher: You really did improve in French! It's so much better! I was amazed! You Asian people study very hard! I gave you a score of 18 out of 20! Well done!
Me: ...

X. (in Taiwan)
American Guy: So, An, where do you come from?
Me: I was born in Paris.
American guy (studying my face): But... You don't exactly look French....
Me: I'm Vietnamese born in Paris
American guy: Oh I see... Because I thought you didn't look French...
Me: I'm Vietnamese
American guy: So where were you born?
Me: In Paris
American guy: But... that's not in Vietnam, right?
Me: Paris is in France, indeed.
American guy (confused): But... you don't look French!
Me: (I like to fool White foreigners)

Girl: So where are you from?
Me: I'm Vietnamese
Girl: Oh I LOOOVE spring rolls!!!
Me: And I love Mireille Mathieu!
Girl: ???
Me: Yes, she is very popular in Asia. We consider her as the ambassador of French culture
Girl: NOOOO! NOOOO! Not Mireille Mathieu!
Me (laughing to myself wickedly): I assure you. She is very popular. You should be proud of her and your culture!

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