“Where are you from?” my high school classmate from eighteen years ago suddenly asked me when we were chilling at her apartment in Paris.
“Don’t think! Answer right off the top of your head!” my friend insisted.
“Well, it depends. If I want to get engaged in a conversation to the person who asked me the question, I would say ‘I was born in Hong Kong, but I have lived in the states for half of my life.’ And if I don’t feel like talking, I’d say ‘New York.'” I explained.
This has been my approach during my traveling the past year. Usually Europeans are more fascinated by the far East, with one exception: when I was on the bus from Paris to Rennes, I thought the guy sitting next to me – now a friend of mine – was weird, and so I told him I was from New York. He actually got intrigued as he is a musician, and it’s his dream to play music there 😄
“Where are you from” used to be a tricky question for me, when I couldn’t relate to Hong Kong nor the states. And within the U.S., I found that most Americans refer to the previous city they stayed instead of their hometown, so in New York City, I used to tell people I was from San Francisco.
In the photo were Alberto and his brother in A Coruña, Spain, last October. It was taken after Alberto tried to photobomb. He chose the wrong day since I was very moody and was trying to get zen taking photos with my SLR camera. First, he tried to use broken English to get to know me, but I insisted in talking in Spanish. He asked me where I was from. Trusting my intuition, I played my New York card. Sure enough, he said “Oh, I thought you’d say something like Japan, Korea, China!” Then, he asked me for my name. I was tempted to say “Ching Chan Cheng” =P but indeed I answered “MARTA.” It’s tiring to deal with stereotypes, especially when I wanted to be alone. (And yes, he was more satisfied finding out that I was born in Hong Kong and I have a Cantonese name.)
I still like giving a long answer to the question “where are you from.” Oh, and when I was in Morocco, I found it more pleasant being asked “where are you from” instead of being yelled at “Japan!? China!?”
More on my name later…