By Daria Kroupoderova
For Northwest Asian Weekly
When I started interning at the NW Asian Weekly, I knew I would at some point be put in a situation where I felt like an outsider. Being a white female and covering Asian news is really not a big deal, but being a white female who doesn’t speak Chinese, and covering an event that is 90 percent in Chinese, is a big and awkward deal.
My editor asked me to cover a singles event at the public library (a Chinese Valentine’s party). When I looked the event up, the posting was half in Chinese and half in English. I thought that since half of it was English then of course I would be able to cover it. However, when I got to the event, it was clear that it was geared for the Chinese population, with only a few white people attending, me being one of them.
I panicked and called my editor—we both found it hilarious that it didn’t even cross either of our minds that this may happen. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense this would happen. The Chinese librarian coordinated this event and got the word out through other events she holds that are largely attended by the Chinese community. Why didn’t that click for me? I was embarrassed but I stayed and took pictures.
I hunted down the coordinator of the event who was nice enough to translate a few of the introductions for me.
People were allowed to stand up for a few minutes and introduce themselves in any language they felt comfortable in. Out of about 60 people that introduced themselves, there was only a handful that did so in English. I texted my editor telling her this was my “pinnacle of awkwardness” for this internship.
I squeezed myself in the smallest corner and tried to not be noticed. I felt like an outsider when everyone would laugh at something someone said and I didn’t understand. To make matters worse, during the break, a gentleman came up to me and started chatting with me (in English) and I had to tell him that I was there with the media, and not as a participant trying to find a partner. This was the point I wished to turn into a puddle and quickly evaporate into the air.
Even though this was an uncomfortable experience, it was probably the most insightful experience of my internship. I truly knew how it felt to be an outsider, not understanding what the hell is going on, but nodding my head anyway. (end)