In Disguise

29 May 2023

When I walk into the restaurant, heads turn to stare. Happens often enough when I’m the odd one out. Maybe even more so when I’m with a group of my friends. A group of East Asian dudes in small town White America. Well, maybe not even small town, just white. But then I open my mouth and out flows my perfectly slang infused slurred English and off comes my disguise. The waiter knows: maybe I’m not from around here, but I’m from a place not too far away.

”Sorry”. That’s a common phrase I used. Not to apologize for anything important, just the inconvenience of not understanding the local language. Usually, a “sorry” is enough to get the person (from my recent travels: Japanese or Vietnamese) to speak in English, dashing their expectations and disappointing them to some degree. I’m just another tourist, this time well camouflaged with slanted eyes and yellow skin, ambiguously Asian. “I got you, didn’t I? You really thought I wasn’t an American, just because I’m not white.” I think to myself with a sly smile.

”Futosu adzuki”, I say raising one finger.

Kindly, the Tayaki Lady hands me one and I pay. Otsuka-dono is dying of laughter in the background.

Yeah, I got that word wrong. But I got through that transaction okay. But Lady probably thinks I have some screws loose. It probably happened even more times with my broke ass Chinese in Taipei. And that’s the third disguise, the one that’s harder to see. The shimmer of the invisibility cloak giving me away. Well, it’s probably much more obvious than that, my American accent is a real dead giveaway.

”One chicken curry.” Kodai lists out our order.

”How spicy?” asks the waiter.

”Uhhh what are the levels?” The right level of spice is enjoyable, not tolerable.

”We have mild, medium, and hot."

"How spicy is medium?” Always have to double check.

”It’s Canadian spicy.”

And in my brain I go “what? wtf is ‘Canadian Spicy’… Ooooh it’s white people spicy… Oooh yeah, we’re not in the States anymore.”

But everything in Canada seems so similar and half the time I forget I’m in a different country. I’m rarely exposed in Canada, but I’m sure there’s always subtleties that might give me away.