Whenever I meet new people, I always dread the inevitable question:
“So, where are you from?”
It is a simple enough question that should result in a simple enough answer. But of course this is not the case, so in order to keep things simple I tend to respond with:
“I was born in LA…”
Which is then usually followed by either a smile—or a smirk and:
“Oh, what’s it like there?”
…Which I always answer with:
“I have no clue…”
To which the remainder of the conversation is met with either a soul-crushingly awkward silence, or almost worse, a further invasive 20-question probe into where I could possibly be from.
Now, I am never tying to be coy, or even evasive, and I am not a military brat, either. I am a full-blooded mutt and proud of it! My father was Brazilian and my mother is half-Filipina and half-Spanishy-French. I never met my father, since he died before I was born (supposedly, explanation…to be continued….) nor have I ever met any of his relatives, but I have met, and have almost been raised by, most of the family on the maternal-side.
Before I left the US at age 4 I lived in a little town by the name of Thibodaux in Louisiana with my aunt, who (story also TBC) I thought was my Mother. Naturally I don’t really have much memories of life there, save for these few gems that I managed to recoup:
(I like Shrimp)
But I could tell that life was pretty care-free as it tends to be for little kids.
After I left Louisiana my “Mommy-Aunt” and I reunited with my Grandmother and Aunt who I would later discover was actually my mother. I’m sure you can imagine how confusing that must have been, but even though I have asked on multiple occasions, I know now that I will never get the full truth from either my Mother or Aunt on why I was “being protected”.
(My “Im tired of your bullshit” face)
Moving on, once I turned 6 I moved to Portugal and then I moved to the Bahamas at the age of 7 and stayed there until I was about 11 with my Uncle. After that time, I spent the teenage years of my life growing up in the United Arab Emirates, pre-bling-bling fancy paradise that it is now known for. The highlight of my first 3 years there involved a day trip to Dubai, which at the time, was the only place that I could score some good old Dunkin’ Donuts and a Wendy’s baked potato.
When I first arrived to the US at 18 and met people, I would tell them that I was from Abu Dhabi, which would be responded to with blank stares, or the tired but true:
- “You aint from round here” (Praise Baby Jesus)
- “Wow, you speak real good English for a Muslim” (Born and raised Catholic)
- “Whoah, you ever get kidnapped by terrorists?” (Clearly, no)
After a while I even received the enviable nickname of “Durka Girl” from some co-workers during my life-guarding days, since back then Middle-East= Terrorizer.
(UAE a.k.a. Durkastan)
In fact, a coworker from a ship that I was once stationed on admitted to me that our colleagues within the work center all that I was a pathological liar. Fortunately this impression changed once he met my Mother when we pulled into Hong Kong in 2009, who then verified my story. Interestingly enough, after that moment, I finally started to actually get along with my co-workers…
(“Where is you NOT from??”)
Sometimes I envy people who have lived in one or two places their whole life. It must be comforting to know where you come from and have people who have known you for your whole life. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me–and I’m grateful, at least now.
I have had the opportunity and misfortune to have lived a varied life, in various different places and circumstances and I wouldn’t change it for the world! After all, it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you are going. So I leave you with this final gem!