“Do you know kung fu?”
It was an innocuous question. The Chilean taxi driver looked at me nervously.
This must be what’s running in his mind.
Asian face = Jet Li protégé = Kung-fu Panda
Never mind, I’m 5’0 and can barely lift a table. In his imagination, I was as skilled as a Shaolin monk and could capture a fly with a snap of my chopsticks.
I told him no.
I’m Filipino. I wasn’t raised in a monastery in Henan province.
But I should’ve said yes. Because he scammed me. What happened was he took me for a 15 minute joyride and I had to pay $10 for what should have been a $5 cab fee.
Times like this, Drunk-Eagle-Monkey-Panda combination would’ve come handy.
The joys of going to a country that doesn’t know much about other cultures. A country where I can count with one hand how many Asians I see in a day.
See, I’ve been bowed at by Chileans here. I’m not Japanese.
Yelled at, “Viva China!” I’m not Chinese.
Greeted, “Anyonghaseyo!” I’m not Korean.
The other strange thing was that some Chileans have asked me if I’m either from Peru or Brazil. That’s a first. I thought I blended in before I realized those were the two biggest South American countries that receive an influx of Asian invasion immigration.
my friend Cade, demonstrating his “Asian-ness”
In China, I’m often mistaken as Chinese. Fair enough. But when the Chinese start probing where I’m from, it takes them awhile.
First we go through East Asia. Japanese, Korean.
Then my accent. American. Canadian.
And then finally we go through Southeast Asia. Bingo! Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore…..
Then we finally hit the sweet jackpot. Philippines.
And trust the Chinese to ask me, “So how come you’re not black?”
It’s not racist. It’s just that most Filipinos have a nice bronze color whereas I’m as yellow as a banana. This is the part where I explain I’m half Chinese and half Filipino.
Mixed blood is not a common concept among isolated Chinese whose society largely remains purist Han.
Hence the blank stares from my answer.
Mr Park demonstrating ‘Korean Pride’ in a Mexican restaurant in Chile. Walking down the streets, he’d yell, “I’m Koreano!” to the amusement of the Chileans. Yes, that’s PSY on the flat screen.
I’ve noticed everywhere I go people are often confused and they can’t place me. That makes them scared. Because there is something out there that sticks out in their ordinary world. I’m that splash of orange on Mona Lisa’s face.
But that’s the fun part.
In class, one American girl asked me, “I’m quite confused. So you have worked in China and have traveled to all these Asian countries. You speak excellent English. Are you Mexican?”
Well, there’s always a first. 😀