Feb 11, 2014

From Canada

India is famous for stares. Everyone says to be prepared for people to openly stare at you on the street. It's mostly harmless, but some travellers find it very disconcerting.

I haven't been terribly bothered by the stares. I noticed them, but it all felt a little bit familiar because I am one of those lucky people who just doesn't fit in anywhere. From Turkey to Thailand to Brazil, I get stares. And let's not even talk about that time at the Tim Horton's in Shelburne...

Anyway, here I can see that I am sending a few mixed signals as I walk down the street. Shopkeepers love to shout out things just to make you look, and I walk around to a chorus of people shouting:

"Korea? China? Japan?

Most of the time I just walk by, but sometimes over my shoulder I say, "No, CANADA." No one ever believes me. Even in longer conversations with people (both Indians and tourists) I tell them I'm from Canada and they say, ”You don't look like you're from Canada." Eventually I tell them my family is Chinese. That's what they really want to know. 

A French man asked me the other day, "But where are you from in your HEART?" I said, "Canada, one hundred per cent." 

I also think it's kind of funny because many Indians tell me they have relatives or friends in Canada. Yet it hasn't occurred to them you can be proud of your heritage and be a citizen of another country. 

Sometimes when I say I'm from Canada but my family is originally from China I get asked, "Did your mother marry a Canadian man?" I met one Swedish girl who, on hearing me explain that I'm Canadian, innocently asked, "So you are adopted by a Canadian family?" I can only try to imagine what would happen if I explained to people that I was First Nations. It make me sad. 

In the end we are stuck with this reality, and I've been taking it as a reminder not to assume anything about anyone at first glance. So let them stare, and maybe they can get used to the idea that not all Canadians are white and not all Asians are from Asia. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. 

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