Friday, November 9, 2007

Ethnic Ambiguity Rears its Head Again

We've hung out in Delhi probably four days longer than we really needed to, but we're lazy and slow to make decisions and plans. Anyway, we're leaving for Agra tomorrow after a few days of sightseeing and general slothfulness. The Red Fort, Qitib Minar, Bahai Lotus Temple, Humayan's Tomb, and Connaught Place have all been lovely and interesting. We ate a wicked Indian dinner with a lovely couple that we were introduced to here via a great friend back home, and we have indulged in ice cream, lassis, chocolate, and -- uh, apple crumble. Not exactly Indian, but delicious nonetheless.

Since it's Diwali, there are strings of twinkling lights all over the stores and shops, tinsel hanging in windows and doors, and firecrackers going off as soon as the sun sets. It's like Christmas on crack! On the down side, security here in Pahar Ganj is increased because there have been bombings in the area over this festival, and there are police officers patrolling and the bomb squad is searching stores and garbage cans for suspicious packages. There's a guy with a machine gun in the crow's nest a block from our hotel.

The cat that hangs out on the rooftop restaurant begging for morsels of chicken and egg snuck into our room a few days ago through the open window and left a calling card of four muddy paw prints on the not-so-clean-and-not-so-white sheets. However, said cat obviously is overfed, as he did not take care of the mouse I saw scurrying along the bathroom wall this morning. Maybe they're friends.

Anyway, we've been to a few countries so far, and something interesting keeps happening to me over and over -- I've made reference to it before, here. The day we were leaving Annapurna Base Camp, I walked into the dining room for breakfast. A grizzled, scruffy man (no judgment here -- everybody at ABC is grizzled and scruffy, self included) looked up at me: "Where are you from?" I stared at him for a second, wondering what was up. When people ask me where I'm from, they don't actually care that I was born and raised in Canada. What they want to know is which ethnic box on my forehead they can check off.

Before I could answer, a man face-deep in a mound of white rice looked up at me. "Chinese?" His friend looked up from her hard boiled egg and said, "Thai?" When I said, "Canada", they all looked deflated and confused.

In Nepal, people spoke Nepalese to me. In Tibet, I was addressed in Chinese or Tibetan. In Delhi, people have even asked if I speak Hindi. I've been told that I look Korean, Japanese, or Mongolian. A woman in the mountains of Nepal told me that my mother must have made a mistake, as I am clearly of Nepalese descent.

This actually works really well for me, as touts and others who generally feel like harrassing tourists never, ever approach me. BG, however, is the flypaper of the tourist world -- tall and white, with blue eyes and light brown hair, wearing a backpack (Canadian flag luggage tag and all), zip-off pants, and a Tilley hat. Plus, he's ridiculously nice and will actually tell one of these pests thanks but no thanks, but we/I don't actually need your services at the moment, but thanks so ever very much for your offer, whereas my modus operandi is to ignore and continue to walk.

It's fun.

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