Monday, August 18, 2008

Something I love

I guess you'd say I have an ethnically ambiguous look. For as long as I can remember, people have made a point of guessing at, asking about, or telling me my ethnic origins. When I was three, these words made their way to my mother:

How kind of you to have adopted a Vietnamese refugee.

This is actually one of my favorite stories. However, it highlights the dilemma I had growing up. My mother is Hispanic. So is my father, both sets of grandparents, and a huge percentage of the population in my hometown. As a kid, all I wanted to do was fit in. As you can probably guess by the above sweet stranger's compliment to my mother, my look didn't allow for it. On a daily basis, every feature that distinguished me from those around me was pointed out and pointed at.

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I find it interesting that something that used to bother me enough to bring me to tears as a kid is now something I cherish and enjoy as an adult.

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Last weekend I was at the National Storytelling Conference in Tennessee. Sure as ever, folks approached me throughout the weekend to guess, ask, or tell.

Hawaiian, right?

Where are you really from?

What's your specific tribal affiliation?

People will linger after a workshop to walk with me on my way out. They wait for a lull in an on-going conversation to introduce themselves. They approach me out of the blue with a smile. Even people who look like they normally wouldn't approach a total stranger can't seem to help themselves.

I love this.

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Yes, I stand out a little. And, as long as you do so kindly, you are welcome to come over and tell me all about it.

1 comment:

other said...

We MUST have some Asian mix in our background, or maybe it's just the Native American blood mixed in... on more than one occasion, people have complimented Sebastian in that same "oh look, a little adopted Asian boy" way... b/c then they ask where he's from...and are flabbergasted when I say, "oh he's mine, as in, from me" and might respond with a befuddled, "but you're not Asian!"...as they look back and forth between me and Przemek for SOME sort of explanation or a "just kidding! we brought him home from Laos" but we just smile and I tell them, "oh, he looks just like my dad" -- which he does, with those almond shaped eyes. And... wait for it! Yes, one might be so bold as to continue, by asking "so you're dad is Asian?", at which point, I collect my things, smile, and walk off.

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