Interchangeable Asian Party

For the past six or seven years, our colleagues have regularly confused me and fellow female Asian-American NPR reporter Ailsa for one another.

elise/ailsa. for whatever reason the difference is very tricky for many of our colleagues. Oh and the great sage/our pal Kumari is the best part of this photo, obvi.

We would receive the other’s emails and compliments for the other’s stories. I would come into work and people would ask me where my little dog was (Ailsa’s). She got a lot of congrats on my Seoul posting a few years ago. These nagging microaggressions happened so often that in 2013, Matty made a desk sign for me that featured side-by-side photos of me and Ailsa so that people could have a handy visual reminder of who’s who. (You don’t have to point out we don’t really look alike, we are aware.)

Now, I’m one foot out the door at NPR and Ailsa has moved here to LA to start hosting All Things Considered from the best coast. You could say we are … interchanging. So we hosted a little “revolving Asians” party to welcome her, do another bday gorgefest for me and most importantly, to poke fun of our long running plight and the friendship we forged as a result.

I love LA because it takes all comers, people are always here for random reasons and it’s full of friends from so many walks of life. To illustrate, here are people who made it out for boozeday Tuesday, an incomplete list:

— The regular drinking buddies
— My college dorm mate
— The dad I take turns doing carpool with
— My across the street neighbor
— A Defense Department friend who lived in Seoul the same time as us
— A pair of reporters I hired in 2011; one who had just landed from DC
— People who CAME ALL THE WAY FROM PASADENA to VENICE, so they may have started driving last week
— Mari, my Japanese interpreter in Tokyo who is also a working actress now doing a bunch of pilot season auditions in LA
— A civil libertarian I met a party & shared an Uber with two weeks ago
— Husband, armed with cake
— A guy named Bob who I met at a 7 year old’s pool party last summer and confessed he had a big crush on Ailsa Chang. Somehow I remembered this and made sure to track him down to invite him out. This delighted him and and Ailsa both, but especially him.

Welcome, Ailsa! It’s an honor just to be Asian, but also not bad accidentally receiving all the love that’s meant for you. 😉

Very low light on the patio but the point is our friends became friends and that brings me great joy

The Asian Reporters All Look And Sound Alike Problem

The disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov is a technology implementation story in a big way, so I’ve basically been under water at work ever since Oct 1. Since it’s a huge story that encompasses many of our beats, it means that I’m working more closely with the Washington desk, which is where my fellow Asian NPR reporter, Ailsa Chang works.

Ever since Ailsa started covering Capitol Hill, my co-workers began complimenting me for HER great reporting. Whoops. Part of the problem is our names — Ailsa is pronounced “EL-sa” and Elise, well, has the same sounds. The other issue is likely that we’re the two Chinese-American gals who cover sometimes overlapping topics.

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Matty created a poster for my desk as a guide. And yesterday when we were both on the Hill we took a pic together to help people out on social media:

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But after all my public service announcing, I came back from the Hill only to get an email from an admin guy saying “You have an interoffice mail on Beth’s desk.” I rushed over to Beth’s desk, since I love getting mail, only to find it was addressed to Ailsa, not me.

/facepalm.