continued from SERCAAL Recap, Day 1 of 3. . . .
- Saturday, October 10th -
Waking up on the floor of Jo-Ann’s dorm, I remember the Ring Ring Ring’s at 8am in the morning. Yes I was irritable. Yes I was underslept. Yes I didn’t know where I was for a moment. But those ring ring rings reminded me that I had a keynote to do. So off I was in a mad dash waking up poor Jo-Ann to have her drive me and Eugene to the Reitz Student Center as soon as possible. I had 20 minutes until my keynote and already I wanted to curl up in a corner in a fetal position and dream of Tempur-Pedic® mattresses. Beautiful beautiful Tempur-Pedic® mattresses. . . .
We arrived at the student center and were immediately served brown bag breakfasts (ingenious!). I managed to scarf down a few muffins before going on to deliver my keynote. How did it go? Well, here’s note to self: never write down jokes. I’m funnier -- if I’m funny at all -- when I’m joking off the cuff. Otherwise, I can’t really say how I did except that my audience looked like they were paying pretty close attention (at least from the pictures, that’s my only evidence). Kudos to them, because it was 8:30am in the morning and if I were them, I would have slept through my own keynote speech. And if you’re reading this and you did end up sleeping (shame on you!), ECAASU was kind enough to put up an edited transcript of my keynote speech online: http://www.ecaasu.org/site/?p=676
I took a few Q&A and then quickly segued into leading the general mixer where all 100-150 attendees got into a large SERCAAL (circle, haha, GET IT?! If you don’t I’ll pat your head and give you a biscuit) and I asked random questions. It’s pretty much playing “never have I ever” except it’s about 9:30AM in the morning, you don’t have a drink in your hand, and you have to stand up and sit back down if you’ve done it.
I figured some of you might be interested in the results, so here were some of the following questions I asked:
• How many of you took a shower this morning? (about 1/3 didn’t....dirty people)
• How many of you have peed in the shower before? (about 1/3 admitted they have, and the rest are LIARS)
• How many of you identify yourself as South Asian American? (2 people)
• How many of you have the “Asian Glow”? (1/3 did, 1/3 didn’t, the final 1/3 didn’t know what “Asian Glow” meant)
• How many of you have taken Asian American studies? (about a 1/3)
• How many of you voted in the last presidential election? (about 1/2, the other 1/2 didn’t citing that they were too young at the time)
• How many of you have been in an interracial relationship? (about 2/3 with a good mix of both guys and girls . . . very impressive)
• How many of you have dated/hooked up with someone who was White? (2/3)
• How many of you have dated/hooked up with someone who was Hispanic? (1/3)
• How many of you have dated/hooked up with someone who was Black? (1/4)
• How many of you have dated/hooked up with someone who was South Asian? (probably no more than 4 people)
• How many of you feel your parents would be upset by interracial relationships? (3/4)
• How many of you find yourselves sometimes judging interracial couples? (1/4)
• How many of you have been teased because of your ethnicity? (2/3)
• How many of you have teased others because of ethnicity? (1/2)
• How many of you have ever been ashamed of being Asian American? (1/3)
• How many of you have ever considered being an Asian American politician? (only about 1/5 . . . surprising!)
• How many of you have been victims of a hate crime? (2 people stood up when they thought it meant “violent” crimes but when I said it included hate speech, about 2/3 of the conference stood up. In solidarity!)
We then discussed whether it was surprising that in a ballroom packed with East Asian and Southeast Asian Americans, fewer have dated a fellow South ASIAN AMERICAN than any other ethnicity including White, Latino and Black. We also talked about why many of our communities are mutually exclusive, what was the correct approach to confronting hate crimes, and a few other related topics to the questions I had asked. It was a great way to get a good visual picture of the conference and the overall makeup of our collective experiences as Asian Americans.
Then we were off to the workshops! ECAASU was lucky to fill up all 3 workshop sessions with two topics: “Asian Americans: Sex & Sexuality” and “How to Walk, Talk, and Dress Like a Baller: Social Networking Etiquette.” Both of our workshops packed to the point that SERCAAL staff had to ask groups of 15-20 people to leave at a time. Never deterred, ECAASU presented each topic at least twice, with an extra 4th session facilitated during the conference break for those who got kicked out of our earlier sessions. About 20-30 people attended each workshop, and we were glad to meet everyone on a more intimate basis (you can’t get any more intimate than exchanging personal thoughts and stories on sex & sexuality). However, the 3rd workshop on Sex & Sexuality was like pulling teeth -- although it was full, nobody was relating to each other about their views on sex & sexuality except for myself, Rob Scharr, Linda “Alanys” Li, Melissa “Maisa” Reyes (what is with all these nicknames?), and 2 other girls whose names aren’t resonating with me right now (I guess you needed a nickname for me to remember). Rob, Linda, Melissa, and those 2 other girls: Thank you for speaking your minds! I really wished the males could have stepped it up because we need to break this stereotype that Asian American guys are uncomfortable with talking about their experiences with sex and sexuality. Where’s the confidence, amigos? It’s not that hard. (that’s what she [didn’t] say . . . har har har).
Sidenote: What made this conference run like a well-oiled German machine was the fact that everything...EVERYTHING (keynotes, workshops, mixers, performances...) was on one floor. For you future conference hosts, take notes.
Sometime in between the 2nd and 3rd workshops we took a lunch break where we hung out and chatted with Mandeep Sethi. What started off as a 5 minute conversation about what it was like growing up in our respective communities, turned into a 30 minute dialogue about the possibility of uniting the East and West Coast for future networking and collaboration. And thanks to a long lunch break, a scrumdiddlyumptious Floridian “chee-burger” that fell apart when I tried to eat it (delicious hot mess nonetheless), and the eagerness of Eugene, Mandeep, and myself, we left the conversation knowing something unique was about to brew; keep an eye on Mandeep and ECAASU because some amazing things are about to happen! (As I’m writing this, Mandeep just facebook chatted me inviting me out to San Francisco State University for a big West Coast conference coming up....Free trip to California? ABSOLUTELY.)
We then finished our lunch and listened to 3rd keynote of the conference, Dr. Beheruz Sethna, the first person of Indian origin to serve as President of an American University (University of West Georgia). Quite a big deal, and his keynote was no less impressive; Dr. Sethna was able to uniquely present his argument that the idea of the “melting pot” or a series of “separate enclaves” of communities is unsuitable not only for the optimization of diversity, but also ineffective for in business environments and living conditions. Dr. Sethna proved his point by asking (and demonstrating, literally): Would we rather eat a taco salad when it’s blended as a drink or when its separated into its individual ingredients? Although I have heard this speech given over and over in the last couple of years, I never saw someone actually manually blend a taco salad into a drink. On a side note, as this nuclear waste/liquid turd was being passed around, I unwisely decided to take a sip of it. . . . All I remember is that thinking how this would be the closest I would get in knowing what a male foot tastes like.
After Dr. Sethna’s intriguing and fascinating speech and the aforementioned packed 3rd and (impromptu) 4th workshops, the ECAASU team were immediately rushed by our dedicated stalwart brother-in-arms, Brandon Magtalas, to his house for a quick shower and change for the SERCAAL’s closing banquet dinner. Naturally after giving a workshop on social networking etiquette where half of it was discussing dress code, I couldn’t let SERCAAL down; I busted out my newly tailored suit and came in there rolling in like a baller, or at least I tried my best to . . . because no more than 10 minutes after sitting down and listening to Jim Toy deliver an impassioned speech of what it was like growing up as a LGBTQ Asian American since 1971 (quite interesting . . . and I’ve heard Jim Toy speak before about this topic . . . he’s been through a lot), Brandon rushed me out of the banquet hall again to change into a frumpy set of T-shirt and jeans. Apparently I was scheduled to dance with a bunch of other b-boys while Mandeep would go up to perform; how could I possibly turn that down?
So we did our tricks and we did our flips. Naturally, for someone who hasn’t practiced since March, I tried my best to not fail too miserably or break my neck. But it did feel good to perform again.
Finishing a quick cypher, I dashed out the ballroom to change back into my suit. So before anyone could realize I was gone for too long, I was back in my suit finishing my chicken and rice. Clark Kent is overrated.
Sidenote: Shout-outs to the wonderful people at my table: Eugene, Arienne, Eva, Long, Lai Ling, Linda, and Thao! Thanks for making me feel way too self-conscious about my table manners, especially since I forgot to discuss it in my workshop.
The conference then wrapped up with another edgy performance by Kate Rigg including an impassioned disparaging of the Hot 97 racist “tsunami song,” a musical piece on the Asian Fetish/Yellow Fever phenomenon, and a rehash of “Rice Rice Baby.” My praises of her shall not go unsung; we best get her ass to ECAASU, stat! She’s amazing!
A few subsequent thank you’s from the SERCAAL staff (HOLLA FOR A DOLLA!!! YOU DID IT!) signaled the end of the 2 day whirlwind of a truly fantastic conference, and I had the enormous pleasure afterwards to meet many attendees one-on-one as we took pictures, joked around, and gave a lot of hugs. Goodbyes are painful, but hugs make them easier. And ECAASU loves hugs.
Eugene and I then hung out with Kate Rigg and the ambitious AASU Presidents of UF, Philip Cheng and Vanessa Kwong, on how they can get involved with ECAASU. Kate Rigg expressed interest in working for ECAASU as a consultant, while Philip and Vanessa were considering an actual bid to have ECAASU hosted at UF in 2011. We literally spoke to them for a good 2 hours about this so all I can say is that the competition is on, and you better bring your A-game if you want ECAASU to come to your school. UF’s got some serious connections.
. . . Then the afterparty. It was a lot of fun. That is all you need to know.
- Sunday, October 10th -
The morning after I was awoken to melodious karaokeing by my wonderful hosts Kim Sabilona and Jessica Concha. Their dorm is like a freaking hotel...and I won’t tell you where they live because I don’t want everyone to know where the best place in Florida to stay is.
We had a nice breakfast and then decided to drive to Lake Wauberg; at some random point last night I had demanded that I wanted to swim. There was an FSA potluck event going on, so I got to eat from a grill. For a New Yorker, that’s a big freaking deal.
Enjoying an hour or two listening to people sing much better than I ever will (people in FSA apparently love to sing), I dove into the lake for a swim with fellow aforementioned buddies Brandon Magtalas and Melissa “Maisa” Reyes. Brandon showed off his somersault dives, I showed off my racing dives, and Melissa fell into the lake. I swear, If I could have stayed a little longer I could have turned her into a pro diver (next time, Melissa). Of course, this being Florida, I must mention that I was told “not to go too far out” because there were alligators roaming around who wrestle me away via a bloody mess. That’s nature for you.
I took a few dives, laps, and a 20 minute canoeing around the lake before I realized it was time for me to go home. The goodbyes were even more painful because I knew I was never going to swim for at least another 8 months. Just kidding. It was painful because saying goodbye to Christy, Melissa, Brandon, Vi, Diana, Shakila, Merancia, Pauline, SophieAnn, became a terrible ordeal. Never will I meet such a great group of people who were willing to laugh at all my bad jokes.
After taking a few pictures and many more hugs, Kim and Jessica began to drive me to the airport in Jacksonville. We played music and sung in the car all along the highway and almost got lost. After breaking a few speeding laws, they got me there about 30 minutes before my flight was about to leave, which is how I like it. After a few last hugs and goodbyes to a group of wonderful souls, their car pulled away and before I knew it, my adventure was over.
Looking back, I think it was difficult for me to write about SERCAAL without recalling the amazing number of people I’ve met at UF. Missing was the self-indulgent snobbery you would find on the Northeast as nobody I met at UF was “too cool” for school and everybody was willing to get to know you. I think it was one of the few conferences where I was able to remember many people by their first names because they created such a personal and intimate atmosphere throughout the weekend; people actually wanted to be your friend, not because they had to. In any case, I can’t thank the SERCAAL 2009 staff enough for not only pulling off an amazing conference in the nick of time, but also providing me with the unique opportunity to befriend what possibly could be the most down-to-earth group of people I could ever meet face to face. I’ll miss you all terribly. Stay classy, Florida.
pictures courtesy of Alan Ho & Long Nguyen.
written by Calvin Sun, ECAASU Board of Directors.