Monday, November 12, 2007

Citizen of the World

After a 2-month plus hiatus, I have returned to the blogosphere. Guess I had better start blogging after the numerous complaints I received from friends & "fans" (hehe ... I wish) that my blog has not been updated in ages.

Where to start when so much has happened? The world moved on ... and so did I.

Guess one of the key things I experienced during all these years of travel either backpacking for pleasure or 5-star travelling for work, one common thing remains. More times than not, I have been mistaken to be a citizen of a country other than my own!

During the heydays (in the 90s) when I used to backpack alone, I have always been mistaken for a Japanese. I could rationalise away that perhaps because in those days, one rarely find Asian ladies backpacking on their own except for Japanese ladies. One of the most funny/exasperating experience was in Bali. I got "hit" on so many times by the local "toyboys" as they thought I was a rich Japanese lady looking for sex. (I was warned beforehand that it is quite the thing for Japanese women to look for sex in Bali.)

Then there was this trip to South Africa where almost every caucasian or African that I met would wish me "Konbanwa". My friend insisted that because of my "Japanese" appearance, we had probably been overcharged for a lot of things. Till today, I place the entire blame on the red bandanna that I wore during my trip. Perhaps that made me look a little like a Japanese lady. *shrugs*

But then, I had to view myself slightly differently when on a business trip in Tokyo, an old lady stopped my Japanese colleague by the roadside (we were walking and chatting while on our way to the train station) and asked him what nationality am I. She said that at first she thought I was Japanese until she overheard our conversation in English. It seemed that no Japanese spoke English the way I do. So, I was mistaken for a Japanese by a Japanese. Hmmm ...

During my backpacking trip in New Zealand in 1999, I met and travelled with a group of Europeans on this "hop-on, hop-off" bus service. Although we met a lot of Japanese backpackers throughout our journey, I never befriended any of them due to language breakdown. They spoke no word of English. Neither do I ( speak a word of Japanese). In any case, my travelling European companions commented that if they were to close their eyes and listen to me speak, they would think that they were speaking to a European. Moi? With a European accent? Huh?

Recently, during my trip to Sikkim, India last month, I had another weirder experience. Sikkim is a state of India but is unlike the India we expect. It is located at the northeast of India, bordering Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. Majority of the population is made up of Sherpa, Lepcha and Gorkha. Most of the population looked more Tibetan than Indians. In any case, one morning while I was out and about the mountains taking photographs, I was stopped by a man speaking in Nepali (or Hindi). He was looking in my general direction and I thought he was talking to someone behind me. When I looked behind, there was no one.

I said, "Are you talking to me? I'm sorry, I don't understand you."

And his reply, "Oh! I am sorry. I thought that you are a Darjeeling girl."

Me, a Darjeeling girl? Huh?

Then, just last week, I was in Bangkok for a meeting. The folks at the hotel and at the night market all thought that I was Thai and spoke to me in Thai until I kindly corrected them.

Am I a citizen of the world or what?

Now, this final experience take the cake. Upon my arrival at KLIA from Bangkok, and as I was walking out of the arrival hall, one of the taxi touts started hassling me. The first word out of his mouth was, "Konnichiwa! Taxi?" What??!!

On my homeground, with my own people, I am still mistaken for a citizen of another country!

Go figure!


Soo said...

ha ha sis.. you are so funny!

Tze Lun said...

Sounds like you'd blend in with the rest of the world with no problems at all!

Dangerous Variable said...

well.. i guess you are the glocal person that everyone sees. Should you be flattered?

Kinda nice travelling the world and getting screwed because people think you are rich jap chick :)