autism, culture, health, ideas, living abroad, psychology, travel

Elephants in the Room

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A New Arrival

When I first arrived in Asia, I had different expectations from what I’ve seen in person. I was under the impression everyone was well-disciplined, everything was tidy, and there were no crimes. That was what I’d seen on television, so it must’ve been true. My anthropology professors discussed ancient civilizations not modern culture. I studied the physical geography of the continent in college not the cultural aspect. Those images I’d seen were either distortions or facets of Japanese culture. For whatever reason, the Western media paints Japan as the archetype of Asia. Little did I know there’d be total chaos and gridlock. Not until I landed in Bangkok did I realize the traffic was atrocious. The only reason I knew about the crooked cab drivers was because Nitya, a Thai acquaintance of my mother, told me when she learned I was going there. Nitya further advised me not to point my foot at or touch anyone on the head as the foot is considered the dirtiest part of the body while the head is the purest. That correlates with Buddhism and each body part’s distance from the sky and ground.

No Dogs Allowed

I was certain the locals ate dogs and puppies as delicacies. While that may have been true before, that’s not the case anymore. They own dogs and cats as pets the same as Westerners. Many times I’d drive around Saigon on my motorbike seeing puppies yapping away inside cages. I’d worry they might wind up in a soup, but they don’t. They have puppy mills in Vietnam which are illegal in the United States. People sell them on the streets as pets. While that may be questionable, that’s not as barbaric as the former. I’ve seen locals walking around with their dogs every day. There’s a bodega down the alley from my apartment. The shopkeeper brings in one of her two dogs periodically. They smile and seem friendly with the customers. They love being petted. That tells me they’re not abused, nor are their lives in danger. The only bad thing I can say is I’ve noticed strays roaming streets here and there. That’s because not everyone is inclined to spay and neuter like they are in the West. That doesn’t mean they want to filet them. Just as nobody in America eats possum and squirrels anymore, Asia experienced a cultural shift. This region is more developed than that now. They’re not savages.

An Asian Equation

Another stereotype you hear is that the women are submissive. I’ve gotten into heated arguments with Western women over this. Some feminists presume any Western male who comes here to find a partner is looking for a subservient housewife who keeps her mouth shut and knows her place. That’s another convention long outdated. I’ll bet whoever believes that has never met a Japanese or a Korean woman before. They have a reputation for being a handful. Any skeptics reading this might also want to Google ‘tiger mom’ or ‘dragon lady’ whenever you get a chance. Like the dog-eating, that may have held water in the past, but that’s anything but true from what I’ve seen. In fact, Thai women can be quite aggressive. They don’t mess around. They’ll cut you in half if you step out of line. Overall, Vietnamese women I’ve seen aren’t as bold, but they still hold their own. Just because the women in this region don’t hyphenate their surnames when they marry, have purple Skrillex hair, or cover themselves with tattoos and piercings doesn’t mean they’re barefoot, pregnant, and stuck in the kitchen. Even in this ‘horrible patriarchy,’ women comprise more than half the work force and college graduates. And yes, they drive cars, own property, manage businesses, and have positions of power.

All Work and No Play

How does this relate to Asperger’s? If anyone knows about my condition, I’m sure you’ve heard the suspicions about us as well. I ran into occupational trouble back home over this when I worked at Hospira Labs. I didn’t want anyone to know, but it slipped out. To make a long story short, I was backed into a corner and forced into that position. It was a semi-hostile working environment. One of my African-American coworkers compared me to Nathan, a friend and fellow employee who’d worked there several years. He said to me, “Well you ain’t like no other autistic person I met. You ain’t no math genius. You ain’t discussin’ no string theories and science. You ain’t no computer guru. You ain’t beatin’ your head against the wall. Do you wear diapers, collect toy trains, or watch Star Trek?” This shows you his lack of education. It didn’t bode well when I fired back and told him, “Well you’re not like every other black guy I’ve known. Your name isn’t Tyrone, Jamal, or Leroy. You’re not a basketball player, a football player, or a rapper. You don’t wear Nikes or your pants below your butt like you just soiled them. You don’t drive a Cadillac, an Oldsmobile, or a Pontiac. You’re not in jail or prison. I assume you’re not a deadbeat dad or an ex-con. Do you eat cornbread, fried chicken, and collard greens every night? Do I get to ask who your baby mamas are? Do you have any illegitimate children or pay child support?” The fella didn’t appreciate me placing him in the same box as all the other African-American males depicted on television, but that was the point. I hope he got the message. Not long after I was sacked for reasons unrelated to this.

The Elephant in the Room

The moral to this story is I believe exposure is the key to any education. Any fool can reverberate what one hears on television or what one’s teachers may or may not tell them. First-hand experience is another ballgame as it leaves less room for interpretation. As you can see, even with my background in anthropology, I was ignorant about some Asian customs. All I understood was what I was told by other Westerners or what was depicted on screen. I knew nothing about the corrupt police in Vietnam and Thailand or the stigma about mental health until I came here. I had no idea Asperger’s would be a deal-breaker for certain jobs until I started seeking employment in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, and other places. It’s hard to distinguish these case because, like pedophilia, abortion, and homosexuality, it’s a taboo subject nobody wishes to touch with a 10-foot pole. It’s the elephant in the room. Usually, I don’t divulge it to any colleagues unless I have to because not only is it none of their business. I don’t want them to undermine or mistrust me.

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autism, culture, health, living abroad, psychology, travel

Strange Things Aspies Do

What is a Manamana?

Several years ago, an Aspie MySpace friend mentioned strange things Aspies do. One trait I recall her mentioning was that she’d sing “Doo-doo-doo-doo,” whenever someone would say the word ‘phenomenon.’ That she acquired when from The Muppets when they sang the tune Manamana. Because I found this amusing, I developed something similar. It was my senior year at Texas State University where I minored in anthropology. One of my courses entailed pre-Columbian Native American customs. My professor started discussing the Menominee Indians. So I would sing “Doo-doo-doo-doo” whenever he stated the word ‘Menominee.’ My classmates first thought that was humorous but found it annoying after awhile. I couldn’t tell they were irritated until they started rolling their eyes. I’d been trained to read people enough to realize it got on their nerves. You can’t fault me for trying to be cute.

Pocketing New Ideas

This was the same period when I wore dark clothes during the winter and lighter ones throughout the summer. Some of my wearing habits I shared in my previous note, but I have other quirks. I place my wallet in my front left pocket. I’ve always made a habit of doing this whereas I would put my keys and cellphone in the front cavity. My handkerchief I have in my back left orifice while I set an Islamic kufi beanie in my rear left. The latter two I do as cushioning for my backside whenever I must sit down for a long period. Sometimes I even place my money inside my shoes or socks or in my back pockets away from my wallet to circumvent pickpockets and corrupt police demanding bribes. I always have a cloth handy because I had seasonal allergies when I lived in Austin. It’s a necessity in Saigon and Bangkok, where I last lived, because the smog levels in both locales are ridiculous. Once in a blue moon, I wear the kufi to rebel against the Trump Administration and their anti-Islamic propaganda. The reason I don’t most times is because people in Vietnam don’t care, nor do I want to be guilty of cultural appropriation. I wouldn’t dare go there when I traveled to Kuala Lumpur during Tet after I realized Malaysia is 60-percent Muslim. Aspies get criticized for not having what most NT’s consider common sense or social sense, but we’re not as daft as everyone thinks.

From Right to Left

Between spring 2007 and fall 2013, I trained myself to be left-handed. What enticed me to do that was I learned some indigenous men injured their right arms from constant spear throwing. The same happened to former MLB pitcher Billy Wagner. The ace reliever was notorious for throwing 100 MPH fastballs. I admired him because Wagner first played for the Houston Astros. Unbeknownst to myself and others, Wagner was born right-handed. He broke his right arm twice in accidents as a kid prompting Wagner to start throwing with his left hand. In other words, I wanted the ability to do things left-handed should I ever lose use of my right hand or arm. It took awhile to become accustomed, but doing things left-handed became second nature. Eventually, I could bowl, throw, shoot basketballs, and play golf left-handed. My handwriting looked like that of my mother when I’d write left-handed as she’s a lefty, too. Meanwhile, it resembles that of my father when I scrawl right-handed. Funny how that works! In addition, I yearned to be like Barack Obama for whom I voted during the 2008 primary. I switched back to my right side in November 2013 after enduring a rough patch. A master witch friend in California helped me use natural magic to get out. I guess you can say I’m ambidextrous. Then I moved onto my next obsession with witchcraft.

Raspberries, Kittygirls, and Blueboys

Yet another thing I would do is blow raspberries on my dogs’ and cat’s bellies for affection. I grew up with animals, so I’d play songs while doing the deed. Because I’ve had this habit so long, I on occasion do the same to my pillows. They’re the softest things I can find resembling cats and dogs. Growing up, I had a tortoise shell named Stevie and a British blue named Boris. I’d always call Stevie ‘keegirl’ which is short for ‘kittygirl.’ Boris I gave the moniker ‘blueboy’ because of his fur. Sadly, Boris and Stevie passed. That didn’t prevent me from calling my cat Gracie ‘keegirl’ after I adopted her. It used to drive my mom and siblings up the wall whenever I’d do that. My mother has a habit of asking “How many years have I told you not to do that?” The answer to that query would be more than I’d been diagnosed and after I began stimming. It happens subconsciously. What can I say? Old habits die hard.

Left, Right, Right, Left

Some of the most famous who ever lived were superstitious as am I to some degree. I read somewhere the philosopher Samuel Johnson would always enter a home or building on his right foot for good luck. Henceforth, I do the same. Whenever I put on my shoes and socks, I always slip on the right sock before the left and the same with the shoes. I tie the right one first as well. The same I do when I removed either article. I want to ensure when I awake, the first foot I place on the floor is my right one just like the Ancient Romans. They believed it was bad luck to set your left foot first. That’s where the expression, ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed’ originated. Something similar I do whenever I shave and clip my nails. I first do my right hand from thumb to pinky and then my left. Then I’ll clip my right foot from my big toe little toe before doing the same with the left. Whenever I shave, I’ll do the right side of my face and work my way left. Starting with the right side has become an intrinsic part of my daily routine. Much of this is also out of spite towards the U.S. Coast Guard and military school who’d always make me start walking with my left foot. Therefore, I do the exact opposite.

Going Through the Cycle

The last thing I do is I rotate my clothes and dishes. I hang my duds the way I was taught in the Coast Guard which is with my shirts on the right side and pant pairs on the left. My garments always face to the left when I open my wardrobe. Now that I mention this, I might do the opposite. When I say I revolve them, I mean I go through the cycle. I’ll wear what’s in the front and work my way to the back. Whenever I do my laundry, I’ll place my fresh clothes in the back. I even take my stuff out of the drawers so that I may put them on top while the fresh ones go on the bottom. The idea is to pivot everything and ensure all I don is clean. I do the same with my towels, sheets, and dishes. Whenever I remove plates, glasses, bowls, and silverware from the dishwasher, I’ll clear out the others from the cabinets and drawers and place the crisp ones from on the bottom so the others get used beforehand. I don’t know if this is obsessive compulsive or more hygienic. I just remember when I worked as a dishwasher, my coworkers thought that was strange and time-consuming. Most of them would just stack the dishes on top and use the same ones repeatedly overlooking those on the bottom. Not me!

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