Why yes… Yes we did o’ Gentle Visitors, but today as it happens is also New Years Day… in China and most of Asia anyway, as we move into the Chinese “Year of the Horse” with a hearty “Gong Hey Fat Choy!!”.
“But… Ummmm… Neko…. Why are we celebrating it this year at the ol’ Litterbox?” Funny you should ask. Thank goodness it’s “Diary” day….
You see… one of the silly things about being an Asian/American here in the US, especially in a small rural town, is that for the most part, regardless of your actual ancestry, most other folk can’t distinguish the subtle differences enough to be able to tell just what flavor of Asian you really are and so we always get mistakenly identified as Chinese quite a bit of the time. Seriously. I can’t even tell you how many times it’s happened to me. Like today….
It’s Friday… which here at “la casa de Neko” means “shopping day”. Carolyn works today, but for quite some time it’s been one of my days where I need only check in at work to see that all is well before being able to wander around to some of the local shops on the square to pick up some things that you just can’t get at Walmart. Of course, that includes a trip to a nice little Asian grocery store for all sort of special ingredients to stock this crazy Catgirl’s pantry for the next time I feel frisky and creative dinner wise.
Being by myself, I never pick up too darn many things… just enough to fill a lil’ army rucksack that I’ve had since college. All bundled up and toting that about I dropped by the store to oooh and ahhh over all the exotic stuff on the shelves, pretty much oblivious to my surroundings until I get a tap on my shoulder and practically jump out of my skin as I’m asked “Miss… do you stock any galangal?”
I must have given the woman asking the question that vacant look of “Huh?”, because then I get the follow-up question of “Gal-lan-gal… Do… you.. have… any? Do you understand English?” There was a moment of awkward silence… Then I knew. I was Chinese… again… and apparently I worked here… again. Sigh….
However… impulsive lil’ me was feeling somewhat mischievous this afternoon and so I decided to play along. Just for a bit of harmless fun… A shame I don’t speak any Chinese… I sure could have used it. Still, dropping my voice into my best “lil’ orchid flower” accent and broken English, I proceeded to direct the woman to the proper ingredient, while the owner, Mrs Wu was paralyzed with silent laughter having popped her head out of the back room to discover me in mid-prank. (Thank goodness Mrs. Wu actually did have some nice Thai galangal root in stock… I’d certainly have looked like the world worst grocer without it. )
I also managed to find her some nam pla fish sauce too, but before the woman tried to get me to ring her up at the register (something I hadn’t considered when this evil lil’ prank began), Mrs Wu finally got it together and made an appearance, rapidly berating me loudly in Chinese before pressing a broom into my hands and gesturing to the rear of the store with the distinct impression that I should hurry up and “get busy”. She apologized profusely in English for “her niece’s ignorance” and told her I was only temporary help through the holidays.
Once the woman left… we both broke out laughing full force. Apparently Mrs. Wu thought that the whole incident had been great fun as she’s always been somewhat sore about the average American’s lack of discernment when it comes to telling a Japanese woman from a Chinese one. For having provided her with such a good bit of amusement on a holiday, I got to share some hot tea and chat with her for a good hour afterwards… a very nice experience indeed.
Carolyn thought the whole thing was hilarious too, when she got home and I related the story over dinner. Too much I’m afraid, as she’s been teasing me most of the afternoon, calling me her “little lotus blossom”. Oh yeah…. there will be payback, Miss Simms….
Anyway…. the whole experience convinced me that I probably should celebrate my new honorary “Chinese” ancestry in proper style… after all, I now apparently have a semi-official Chinese auntie. So… with a bow to my humble ancestors… and on their totally fictional behalf.. I wish you all a proper “Happy Chinese New Year of the Horse”.