I have learnt to accept that I’m not gifted when it comes to being Chinese. I wasn’t raised in a particularly Chinese culture, and the only Chinese thing I have ever done is probably asking for ang pao during Chinese New Year. But I doubt that counts for much.
The thing is, I’m not in touch with my Chinese heritage, so what? Big deal. I wish people would stop making a fuss about it and just accept the fact that not ALL Chinese-looking people know what yung sheng is, or what Seven Lunar Month represents.
(Honestly, I still have no idea.)
As if I’m not bombarded with a high dose of Chineseness on a daily basis, (if it were a drug, I would have been overdosed) today is a day that one particular Chinese person decided to get on my nerve during lunch.
See, let me give you a little background. My default look these days consist on a clueless, blank, confused and helpless look. It just rotates between these four, so take a pick. Sometimes I don’t have any idea what is happening around me or what’s being discussed until I have to ask for a translation. Well, to be fair, normally I don’t really mind this, because that means that the things they discuss don’t really concern me, thus, I don’t need to know. And with the amount of work I have these days, well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing.
Seriously. Sometimes I would fear having clients or office people call me on my mobile because that means something is wrong and in need for my attention. These days I would probably jump in shock or have an extreme anxiety attack everytime my phone rings!
So I’m taking it like a man; being the odd one out.
If I don’t even mind being one, then why wouldn’t some people just let it rest? Alright, so back to my story. This afternoon during lunch I went down with a colleague of mine. We grabbed a packet of lunch and as I was about to sit, a Chinese person approached and started talking in gibberi..ops, I mean, Chinese.
I looked at him blankly, with the hope that he would be smart enough to read my expression. But of course this would be asking too much. He continued babbling and I let him finish his long sentence before I finally said, “I don’t speak Chinese.”
He looked at me in amusement and I decided to ignore him, hoping for a peaceful, undisturbed lunch. Apparently this was too much to ask again, because not long after, he approached me again and said, “Oh, oh, where you from? Malaysia? Philippines? Myanmar?”
Can’t he see that I was having my lunch? And I had been asked this hundreth of times before that it was really starting to get old.
I gave him a ‘shut up’ look but he continued mentioning some other country names. So I said, “Indonesia”, and went back to face my food although I had lost my appetite. “Oh! Indonesia!” he exclaimed as if I just told him I won a Nobel Prize.
Double sigh. Seriously, he then still had the nerves to ask me why an Indonesian couldn’t speak Chinese, and why I looked Chinese in the first place, you know, yada yidi yada, I could already memorize the script by heart.
First, ask where I’m from, then which part of Indonesia, then how come I can’t speak Chinese. Man.
You think I failed to see myself in the mirror every morning and realized that yes, I do have slanted eyes, that yes, I am Chinese? I know I am one, but that doesn’t automatically mean I can speak the language, and even if it does just by basic assumption, why is it such a big deal when you finally find out that I can’t?
At this point, I completely stopped eating, and after less than 15 minutes downstairs, I asked my colleague to just go back upstairs.
In retrospect, I should’ve just answered “Zimbabwe” or something, when he asked me where I was from. Then maybe he would shut up.
Upstairs, my colleague and I were still talking and she told me a story of what happened a few weeks back. Our office has a unisex restroom which means it is shared by both the men and ladies. Normally, we have to wear our slippers into the bathroom so we would know if someone is inside by the missing pair of slippers outside. This signals that we ought to wait until the person is out, and then we’ll get out turn.
Simple enough, right?
See a pair of missing slippers. Means someone is inside. Means, wait and don’t come in!
One time, my colleague was inside. You know, being ladies, sometimes we don’t just go to the restroom to pee. Sometimes after doing our business, we spend some time examining our face in the mirror, look for any signs of aging (or acne), or silly things like that. But that’s our thing, alright? And we should be spared another minute of privacy.
And then suddenly the door barked open and a Chinese guy came in, even though he should have seen that someone was inside. He saw my colleague standing in front of the mirror and asked the dumbest question, “What are you doing?”
At this point as she was telling the story, my colleague yelled in frustration, and she told me that she was this close to actually tell the male colleague to go and f*** himself!
Of course this has nothing to do with him being Chinese, but he happens to be one. And sorry, we can’t help it.