Where are you REALLY from?!

I have been meaning to write this blog for sometime but I thought maybe now as we have landed in India it would be a good time to finish it. The inspiration for this blog was a gentleman who was very interested in me on our first trip to Antarctica.

Now I often get asked the question “Where are you from?” to which I respond “I am from Reading” or if I am traveling “the UK” or for Americans “England” (they love it). At this point there is normally a look that’s comes across the face, I know what there thinking, but I am a seasoned pro now, I wait and see what they ask next. Some folks are intelligent enough to ask what my ethnicity is, that’s a smart question and deserves an answer so, I tell them my father is Mauritian and my mother is English.  Some ask where Reading is, “40 miles west of London” 50% accept that, some afraid they might upset me leave it there, for some that’s good enough. The other 50% still have that look, they half expected for Reading to be 40 miles west of Mumbai or Karachi.  So, here it comes, the next big question….”But, where are you really from?” My reply “I am really from Reading”.

This Gentleman, we will call him Joe, from the moment he set eyes on me seemed determined. Our first meeting was at the welcome drinks. I spotted him looking at me and joked to Steph he would be over before the night was over.  Steph finds this hilarious but could see he was the type, we chuckled.  About 45mins later low and behold him and his wife wondered up and introduced themselves, he was Indian born but raised in the US from a young age and his wife was white and American, they were in their 50’s. About 5 minutes into the conversation out it came “Where are you from?”, now at first this is innocent enough as you are in a new group and traveling together for a week so its just common courtesy when getting to know others but the conversation continued as follows!!!

Fran: “I am from Reading in the UK”

Joe:  “Oh, where’s that?”

Fran: Its about 40 miles west of London, if you know the area”

Joe: “Oh”

Conversation with the wider group continues for about 1 minute, Joe returned to the topic:

Joe “So Where are you from, you know with your skin tone!?”

Fran: “Yeah I am really from Reading”

Joe: “Yes but you know your skin tone, you must be Indian, right?!”

Fran: “Oh you mean me being Brown! Ah right that’s my father, he is from Mauritius”

Joe: “Oh Mauritius, not Indian? You sure look like you are from India”

Fran: ”Alas no”

Conversation with wider group continues for about another minute, Joe returns to the topic:

Joe: “So what religion are you?” (I think he is trying a new angle)

Fran: “I am not religious, but I was raised a Catholic”

Joe: hmmm “What Languages do you speak?” (Yet another angle)

Fran: “Well a little French and Creole and some of German”

The conversation continues with the wider group, Joe is done with his questioning, we retire for the night and Steph and I laugh about his persistence!

Now one would think that this line of questioning was done, right? No, no, no, to Steph’s amusement I had to deal with this 3 more times at various stages of our Antarctica trip, Joe was on a mission to appease himself that I was Indian!

Now on the boat there were about 10 or so of the hotel and bar staff that were Mauritian born and raised, I got on with them very well and they looked after us very well. Joe I suspect must have been doing his research on the boat with these Mauritian’s. On the last night he was prepared.  Luckily for him we got sat next to him and his wife as well as a few others for dinner.

Remember the conversation above, well it was pretty much the same, it was like he had forgotten he had ever asked me. The questioning was intense and this time rapid fire. When I got to the Mauritius part this time he tried to ambush me;

Fran: “I have Mauritan heritage, you know like a bunch of the crew on the boat”

Joe: “Yes but they speak Hindi and are Hindu or Muslim”

Fran:  “and!?”

Joe: “Well you must be Indian, they all are”

Fran: “Well are they not Mauritian first and foremost?”

Joe: “Not really they speak Hindi and are Hindu or Muslim”

I am on the verge of admitting I am Indian at this point so I can eat my dinner and finally get Joe off my back! But I hold off asking…

Fran: “How does that relate to me?”

Joe: “Well you know”

Fran: “Sorry I don’t know?”

Joe: “Oh well no bother then, I was just curious”

Joe was finally suppressed and about bloody time as well.

Sometimes it’s funnier to witness these episodes, ask Steph she finds it hilarious, but I hope you can see the comedy value of Joe. But now is a great time for me traveling, we are in India, there’s not even a question they just all think I am really from India! I am just a face in the crowd and it’s Steph who attracts superstar status……