A Name in Every Country
Verbal Diarrhea and “Foreigners”:
If my family is known for any one thing by our friends, it’s our mom’s chocolate chip cookies…and then after cookies we are most known for how much we travel. Between the seven of us, we have been to upwards of 80-90 different countries (my father having gone to more than 60 on his own). I think it is safe to say that the reason we travel is because there are so many amazing people to meet and places to see around the world, but I’ve also been thinking about all the similarities we find when we travel. My favorite one is that, being a tall white guy, people have an inexplicable need to yell out a word when they see me. In Central America, everywhere I went people would yell out, “Gringo!” (White Person). In South America it was even more vague, “Blanco” (white). In Africa, we had a bit more fun. In Kenya we made a game out of telling other Americans that the Kenyans had given us a name, and that name was “Mzungu,” and we pretended that it meant “Great Warrior.” Each town we went through, kids would chase the car shouting “Mzungu, mzungu!” hoping to catch a glimpse of our pale skin, which to them could only translate to “free money or candy.” Eventually, the other Americans caught on and realized that the name, “Mzungu,” didn’t mean “Great Warrior,” but that it was the name for any white person. Alright, let’s head over to Asia. While I was living in Japan, whenever I walked through the city I would hear people say, “Gaijin” (foreigner). Now in Korea, wherever I go on the street I hear “weigukin” (foreigner). I guess that is to say, no matter where you go in the world, people are naturally indisposed to shout out “white person” or “foreigner” when they see me. Over the years, this has taken a psychological toll. I know my passport says “United States of America” on it, but I’ve definitely began to think of myself as a “citizen of the world” or a person whose nationality is “Foreign White Guy.” I wonder if there is a special line for us at the airports…it’s probably longer with more security checks and less luggage allowed, but that’s ok, us “citizens of the world” have learned to travel lightly.
Adventures in Konglish (Warning: Adult Content):
“Excuse me, do you work here? Oh, good. Okay, I am trying to grill some burgers on my grill at home, and I’m only missing one thing. Would you happen to know which aisle I can find some ‘baby wholes?’ Baby wholes are the only thing that will make these burgers good. If it wasn’t for baby wholes, I wouldn’t even eat burgers.”…I’m not really sure why that name got approved, and Im even more unsure why my friend Kyle bought them without realizing how hilarious it was.
This is also from the Kyle-collection. The story goes like this: “The students were asked to draw a picture of what they did over the weekend. One of the 9-year-old students had gone to the mountain with his family and a friend to look at the stars. As we all know, to look at stars you need to bring your telescope. Also, his friend is wearing a sweatshirt with a rabbit on it.” Wait, what did you think the drawing was of? That’s disgusting! Get your mind out of the gutter.
A citizen of the world…who also has a blog,