Author Archives: mhajek

Car “Breeds” are Just as Important as Animal Breeds

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 24
Occupation: Veterinary Technician
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/05/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main story: 

With the current 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, veterinary technicians (hereby referred to as vet techs) are still slated to go to work as animal care is finally looked at as essential by most all of the U.S. However, nobody outside of the people who work in the clinics are allowed into the clinic. Vet techs are doing patient intakes over the phone and then asking the owner of the patient what car they are in so when they exit the clinic to the parking lot to get the animal to be taken inside and treated they know which car to go to. Because of this, vet techs are also having to learn what different car makes and models actually look like on top of everything else. So this meme is relatable across all veterinary clinics as this is the standardized procedure. But the other joke in the meme is the reference to car models as “breeds”, obviously dogs and cats and horses have breeds within their species that vet techs all know. And now they are having to memorize a whole other form of breed. 

Background: 

The informant who made the meme is a veterinary technician. They are almost attacked by animals every day they go to work. However, no matter how crazy it gets with the animals, they maintain they could not imagine any other job. 

Context: 

The informant is a coworker of mine, I am also a vet tech. They sent the meme in our clinic’s group chat. 

My thoughts: 

I found this very funny and highly relatable. As a vet tech myself, I find myself on the phone with clients and asking them what car they are in and only half of the time actually knowing what their car looks like. The other half of the time I am googling on the computer on my way out their car make and memorizing it quickly so I do not look completely out of touch and incompetent when I walk outside looking for the owner’s car.

A Ship Must be Christened

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 58
Occupation: Yacht Captain
Residence: Huntington Beach
Date of Performance/Collection: 1/25/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Story: 

The following is a conversation between the informant and myself. The informant will be CP and I will be MH. 

CP: Before a ship’s maiden voyage, a woman has to christen the ship. 

MH: What does that mean? 

CP: The tradition of christening or blessing a ship before its first voyage started centuries ago, when sailors would ask the gods for protections and make offerings of sorts. Eventually it evolved into a woman being named sponsor of a ship. And now it is tradition for her to break a bottle of champagne in the stern of the ship before it goes off. 

MH: Why a woman though? 

CP: The sea is often compared to women. The sea is beautiful and mysterious but also dangerous and fickle. The stereotypes of women being beautiful yet difficult transferred to the seas. Yet they are so engaging you always find yourself back with her no matter what. 

Background: 

The informant was a yacht captain for his whole life, like his grandfather. He grew up on the water and he says it is the only way of life he can accept. He maintains that the sea is his first love and will always have his heart in a way that nothing would be able to, except for his children. 

Context: 

The informant is a family member of mine, and we had the conversation over dinner while I asked him about odd nautical traditions.  

My thoughts: 

The sea being gendered as a female seems extremely antiquated to me and misogynistic in nature. However, there is also the narrative of the earth being a mother and the sea is tied into that. The Earth gives to the world and the seas give a lot. The ocean gave food to people, learning how to sail the seas meant new lands could be explored and new goods and foods could be found. It allowed for a strategy of escape incase of attack or incase of famine. But I also kind of like the fear and reverence for a strong female is so great amongst men that they made the sea female. 

A Captain must go down with his ship

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 58
Occupation: Yacht Captain
Residence: Huntington Beach
Date of Performance/Collection: 1/25/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Story: 

The following was a conversation between myself and the informant. The topic was on nautical traditions. I will be labeled as MH and the informant will be CP. 

MH: So what is it about the phrase “the captain will go down with its ship” ? It is always said in movies and books, but is it a real thing  ? 

CP: It absolutely is a real thing. There is a sense of pride for the captain. The ship is your ultimate partner at sea. Yes you have your crew, but the thing that keeps you safe is your ship. She shelters you, gives you a pace to sleep, a place to eat. And most importantly your ship is what lets you sail the seas freely. 

MH: So the captain going down with the ship is a sense of duty to the ship? 

CP: Sort of. Letting the ship sink alone is a sad moment. But also, the captain is the last person off the ship, well a good captain at least. For safety reasons, the captain is in charge of the ship so he is also in charge of evacuating the ship incase of emergency as he knows it best. Because of this, it ends up that in a lot of shipwrecks it is too late for the captain to escape by the time all crew and passengers are off. 

MH: So a good captain remains on the ship, and a poor one jumps ship early and lets people fight for themselves? What if the captain has a family?

CP: Pretty much. But a good captain will also view the crew as family and he is in charge of their safety and making sure they get home to their families as it is his job to get the ship from A to B safely. A good captain would not be able to go home to his family knowing he did not do everything to save his crew. 

Background: 

The informant was a yacht captain for his whole life, like his grandfather. He grew up on the water and he says it is the only way of life he can accept. And he maintains that even though he loves his kids more than anything, he would have to go down with his ship if it came to that as that’s the promise he made. 

Context: 

The informant is a family member of mine, and we had the conversation over dinner while I asked him about odd nautical traditions. 

My thoughts: 

A I can see how there is a sense of duty to the ship and to the crew. It does make sense that the leader goes down with the ship. I think initially the tradition sounds antiquated and dramatic. But when hearing him explain the reasoning behind it makes sense. Simply based on evacuation the procedure, if the captain is the last person to evacuate he can’t always make it off the ship in time.

Vietnamese Friday the 13th

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese
Age: 25
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/11/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): English

 Main Story: 

The following is transcribed between myself and the informant, from this point forward the informant will be known as TT and I will be MH. 

TT: Are you familiar with Friday the 13th? 

MH: Yes, I am. 

TT: In Vietnam we also have Friday the 13th, but it has a different context then the commercialized one in the United States. The story goes, in the early 2000s there was a storm in a city in Vietnam and that city was semi-destroyed in the storm and many people were displaced. The people in the surrounding regions banded together and came into the town to deliver aid and help out. Then one day, well Friday the 13th, two busses carrying people who were supposed to be delivering aid crashed and almost everyone died in the collision. And now the day is cursed. 

MH: Is there any relevance of Friday the 13th as we know it in America, or like are the two ideas completely separate? 

TT: From what I remember the two are not linked but purely by coincidence. 

Background: 

The informant grew up in south Vietnam, however he moved here for school alone when he was sixteen. While adjusting to America he found this to be an interesting coincidence and parallel between the two vastly different cultures. 

Context: 

The conversation happened over FaceTime during quarantine. We were talking about tattoos and how tattoo parlors do “flash tattoos” (pre-designed tattoos that clients can pick from that usually only cost no more than 50$) on Friday the 13th,  and how often they are spooky themed. This then got us talking about the concept of Friday the 13th and the odd parallel between the culture of it here in the USA versus in Vietnam. 

My thoughts: 

I think the concept of the unlucky number 13 is fascinating as it centers from the western christian ideal of the 13 disciples – the 13th being Judas the traitor of jesus- so there were really only 12 proper ones. The fear around the number  was popularized in the 1890s in England. This trickled in building codes as most western buildings, especially in the U.S. omit the 13th floor. However, my friends and I are familiar with the fear of 13, and Friday the 13th, from popular slasher films in the 1980s-90s. It’s interesting to see the presence of fear surrounding Friday the 13th in a non-western culture.

Don’t Look into the Mirror at Midnight

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese
Age: 25
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/23/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): English

Main Story: 

The following is transcribed between myself and the informant, from this point forward the informant will be known as TT and I will be MH. 

TT: There is this thing in Vietnam where you can’t look into mirrors at midnight. 

MH: Is that like a Bloody Mary reference? 

TT: What do you mean?

MH: Well there is a theory if you look into a mirror at night with the lights off and say Bloody Mary three times she will appear next to you. The “she” being a young girl covered in blood and the assumption is that she murders you I think. 

TT: Oh no, haha. That’s scary. Well, this is similar I guess. If you look into the mirror at midnight exactly then you can get transported to the other side because a portal opens up. 

MH: Is the other side like a spirit world? Like a heaven or hell situation or something different? 

TT: It’s like a spirit world. I’m not fully sure exactly where the myth came from, like if it is christian or not, but I’ve always been told it’s like a waiting room between everything. So maybe kind of non denominational? 

Background: 

The informant grew up in south Vietnam. He remembers a lot of the culture there being surrounded in superstition. This is one of the ones that he still thinks about, and he still doesn’t look into mirrors at midnight because of this. He claims that even though he’s a scientist by trade some things are better left untested. 

Context: 

The informant and I are friends, and the conversation happened organically while I was talking about some of my favorite ghost shows and spooky things. I then asked him if he had any prominent ghost stories or warning tales growing up. 

My thoughts: 

Mirrors seem to always draw some sort of attraction for the paranormal. Like broken mirrors bring bad luck, your fractured image can cause your mind to fracture or a demon to present itself to you etc. I am not sure when this first started, but there is always mystery with mirrors and what is looking back at you (is it really you?) and I find it interesting to see that this spans across cultures all over the world.

Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese
Age: 25
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/15/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): english

Transcribed from my friend telling me about an event from his childhood memories. 

There is a festival that happens in Vietnam in the autumn, or mid-fall. It goes according to the lunar calendar, it is on the 15th day of the 8th month, which is usually somewhere between september and october according to the western gregorian calendar. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty lit. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, it has the mooncakes and the fun red lanterns. It seems to mean something different for many people, but what i have always gleaned from it and what my family and surrounding area focused on was the simplicity of it. A lot of people are poor, so these lanterns are made out of paper and it is just a fun thing for kids to run around and play with. It was never a super fancy thing, but the moon cakes are great. As kids we would literally just run around with our friends and our lanterns. Sometimes you could use this as an opportunity to flex on the people around you by bringing a cooler or more complex lantern than your friends. People could make lanterns there. There was this giant dragon that people would get inside of and dance in. It was just a really lovely time to be a kid and hang out and families were all cool with each other for the most part then and outside things didn’t matter, just the quality time with the people around you. 

Background:

The informant grew up in south Vietnam. While he hasn’t been back to Vietnam since he moved here for school nine years ago, he still has found memories of moments like this. He really appreciates the more family-focused and genuine interactions the culture there can promote versus the often isolationist  and heavily commercialized culture he experiences in the states. 

Context: 

I asked my friend about his favorite memories growing up at home. We were just eating dinner before quarantine was in place in Los Angeles and reminiscing about our childhood and simpler times in the world. 

My thoughts: 

Growing up in Southern California in the U.S. I often feel I did not necessarily get wholesome family experiences as they are not as attainable in the culture here. The closest thing I can think of would be going to Disneyland with my family, but that was more or less a financial burden on my parents for my sibling and I to have fun. Nothing ever really joy filled for us all to come together and just vibe, outside of maybe 4th of July. 

Veganism for Buddhism according to Lunar Calendar

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese
Age: 25
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): English

Main Story: 

The following is transcribed between myself and the informant, from this point forward the informant will be known as TT and I will be MH. 

MH: Are there any food specific traditions you and your family or area would partake in? 

TT: Well, I really am not sure if this is outside of where I grew up or not, but according to  the lunar calendar on the 15th and 30th of each month we would go vegan.

MH: Every month? Is there religious value to that or just something that is done?

TT: Well my family is Buddhist and a lot of Vietnam is Buddhist so I feel it is something most connected to those values. The families my family was friends with would also partake in that. I’m confident it has something to do with being “pure” in the eyes of Buddhism. Even though I no longer live at home with my family and do not align with any religion, I instinctually find myself wanting to eat vegan a couple times a month out of habit. 

Background: 

My friend grew up in South Vietnam and often thinks about the more rigidly held traditions he and his family would partake in back home. He sometimes misses that familial, communal and regional duty to tradition experienced there versus the lack of heavily structured traditions that exist on the grand scale here in the states. 

Context: 

I often find myself eating vegan and I find I feel better, and I was asking my friend – who mainly seems to be extremely meat focused- if he could go vegan and then it launched us into this conversation. 

My Thoughts:

I think there is something to be said about cycling through being vegan. Many people who are not even apart of Buddhist cultures believe that being vegan cleans your body and can also in turn help you mind.

Vietnamese Funeral Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese
Age: 25
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/29/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): English

Main story: 

Transcribed from my friend telling me about an event from his childhood memories. My friend will be referred to as TA and myself as MH. 

TA: Funerals are a bit different in Vietnam than here. Honestly, it gets a little crazy with the amount of people. But essentially what happens is that when the person dies they are put in a coffin for people to come and visit- I don’t know do you guys do that here? 

MH: Catholicism does open caskets during the funeral service in the church but that is usually the extent. 

TA: hmm, yeah this is usually a couple days long. So the date is set for the main service and then the few days leading up to the service like every single person in the family, including distant relatives, come visit and pay respects. It’s kind of insane how many people roll through. And then, on the main day when the casket is on the way to the burial grounds people will line the streets to say goodbye. 

MH: Like the entire way? 

TA: Sometimes, but not all the time. It’s like here in LA, you wouldn’t line up along the 10 West but you could line up alone Jefferson St leading up to the freeway entrance. That sort of thing, obviously if you are super rural then you could I guess go the whole way; but yeah that’s the main idea. And if you have money then you like have to get live music to be played, but it’s not a party it’s like sad music but you should do it if you can afford it. 

MH: Does it end there? Are there any post burial events? 

TA: Yeah, kinda. You have to go and visit the grave sight kinda frequently after the person is buried and bring them things. 

MH: Anything? Or like their favorite things? 

TA: You bring flowers, and usually their favorite food. And then you kind of just keep doing that forever haha. I guess until you die and the cycle repeats. But I think it’s a nice way to remember the dead. It may just be me though. 

Background: 

The informant grew up in South Vietnam and finds himself questioning some of the funerary tactics found in western cultures. Such as the typical Irish wake where people drink and tell stories and sort of be both sad but also cheery at the same time. 

Context : 

I was chatting with my friend on a video call during quarantine here in L.A. and I was curious about things he finds really different back home in Vietnam compared to here in the United states. 

My thoughts: 

I am Irish and Italian Catholic by heritage. So I couldn’t help but laugh when my friend was confused by the seemingly celebratory funerary practices of the Irish. I do think it was interesting how he found it disrespectful to spend the day drinking and remaining once the funeral service is over instead of a more somber procession. 

CycleBeads as Fertility Tracker and Family Planner

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Huntington Beach
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main story: 

A conversation was had between the informant and myself. The informant can be known as MC and I will be known as MH. 

MC: There are these beads, they are called cycle beads. Think of it like a rosary. It is a necklace looking contraption. Based on the colors of the beads and the amount of them you can tell what days you will be fertile, infertile or menstruating. 

MH: And does this work? 

MC: I mean, it has been proven time and time again in modern medicine that things like these trackers are merely myths. If they actually worked it is most likely sheer luck. The only way to accurately prevent pregnancy is by either not having sex, or using contraceptives like condoms and IUDs. And predicting fertility is still something modern medicine cannot fully conceive. So I am not sure how much to believe about the beads, but they are interesting. 

Background: 

The informant studies public health and took a class on eastern medicine traditions. She found this one to be vastly interesting as women swear by it. But she knows through studying female reproductive health and sexual education that homeopathic methods like this notoriously do not work for most women. 

Context: 

The informant is a friend of mine and the conversation was held over facetime in a very casual setting as we talked about different approaches to health care. 

My thoughts: 

I am in a similar vein of belief with her. I do not know where I stand in believing in homeopathic methods. But they have often been used for centuries so there has to be levels of truth to them. Because anything that people dedicate that much time to has to have a certain level of importance for one reason or another. And there is some level of truth to the menstrual cycle counting with beads, some women do have very steady cycles that are predictable and they can use them to semi accurately predict fertility and pregnancy prevention. But most times I would more so believe that it is sheer luck as reproductive safety is pretty well documented that it cannot be tracked just through simple methods and birth control can only be achieved through methods like pills, IUDs or condoms.

Chicken Soup is the Jewish Penicillin

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Huntington Beach
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/20/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main story: 

A conversation was had between the informant and myself. The informant can be known as MC and I will be known as MH. 

MC: So there is a saying that goes “chicken soup is the Jewish penicillin”. 

MH: What does that mean, and is that recognized by the jewish community? 

MC: I mean, I am in the Jewish community and I grew up with my family making that joke all of the time, so I would say based on my experience yes. And it stems from the idea that if you are sick, somehow chicken soup will cure you of all your ailments in a way that actual medicine – or penicillin- could never. 

MH: And what are your thoughts on the topic? 

MC: Honestly, I have been very sick and then ate chicken soup and felt better almost immediately after, so there may actually be some truth behind that statement. Obviously there are other deeper systemic reasons for why certain communities do not like going to doctors and instead use a more homeopathic approach, but the sentiment remains. 

Background: 

The informant is a member of the Jewish community and also studies public health. And while she does not always agree with homeopathic approaches to medicine, she says that she can;t help but recognize that there is truth in a lot of the methods used. 

Context: 

The informant is a friend of mine and the conversation was held over facetime in a very casual setting as we talked about different approaches to health care. 

My thoughts: 

I am in a similar vein of belief with her. I do not know where I stand in believing in homeopathic methods. But they have often been used for centuries so there has to be levels of truth to them. Because anything that people dedicate that much time to has to have a certain level of importance for one reason or another.