Monday, August 24, 2009

where are you from?

where are you from?

i find that to be a very interesting question. i think that how you answer the question can reveal a lot about a person. sometimes. i also know that the context of asking the question can change the answer. if i'm in brazil and someone asks where i'm from i'd say the united states. if i was in missouri, i'd say califoria. if i was in pasadena, i'd say fresno. in fresno, i say the tower district.

today, i asked the question of my students and received varying responses. most were pretty standard responses, but a few were mildly creative. nothing memorable though.

as i was driving home and thinking about the question, i remembered a college dorm mate from my freshman year named hans. hans stevenson go go. (i'm not sure if that's how his name was spelled, but good enough). hans had a lot of interesting qualities. he loved basketball. he said one time that eating too much ice cream would give you diabetes. he also said that it was hotter on top of mountains because you're closer to the sun. no lie, he said these things, and really believed them. he wouldn't stack plates on his tray or the table in the cafeteria because that meant you had as many wives as plates stacked (i realize that this was a cultural thing). it went on and on. we made a list of hansisms and put it on a bulletin board in the lobby of our dorm. hans had a very thick accent. he had a pretty different name, as you've probably noticed. he was also a shorter, asian looking man. so, at the start of the year i asked him where he was from. he said new york. that didn't seem like the full answer, so i asked again. turns out he was from the philippines. lived there pretty much all his life. six weeks before he started college he moved to new york to live with family. then, he came to california for school. for hans, the last place he was from, even if it was only a brief time, was where he was from.

this still intrigues me.

so, where are you from?
companion question - why are you here?


Adam said...

I'm from earth.

We had some students in college that said they were from Sacramento but it was the same thing. They'd been there for about 6 weeks and previously lived in Russia or Latvia or something like that for their whole lives.

That might have been a translation thing though like asking where you are from was interpreted as where did you come from versus how do you place yourself in the continuum of humanity by heritage or birthplace.

Adam said...

Oh, and I'm here because my parents had sex.

Or did you mean why am I on your blog? ;-)

Monticore said...

Oh Hans. I remember your strange answer too.

I sometimes think that giving an answer like Hans did is a subtle f-u. And here is where I'm coming from.

When you hear someone with an accent the first thing you do is ask them where they are from. Even if they are only serving you up some fries at a roller derby game. I'm sure they must get annoyed with this and from time to time they just want to mess with you by saying they are from New York or Sac-town. This causes some slight irratation to the person who asked the question and causes them to probe deeper.

I'm going to liken it to the times when I see Ed texting on his phone and I ask what he is doing and he responds "texting. In a way he is saying "why you all up in my biz-nes" So thats what I think a response like New York is saying.

Scott and Malisa Johnson said...

In Columbia there are so many transplants that any resident can be put in one of two groups: Native, or transplant.

Obviously I am a transplant, but where from? California is the basic answer, but California is so big, that many times the asker will continue, "where in California?"

Well, do I answer that I am from Fresno? Bakersfield? Taft even? I was born in Taft (no laughing!) raised in Bakersfield, and spent my early twenties in Fresno.

I find that many times it depends if I am with Scott or not. If we're together and both being asked we answer Fresno, because that is where we were together. But if by myself I probably would answer Bakersfield, just because I spent the majority of my life there, and not Fresno. I would imagine that Scott would answer the L.A. area if asked by himself.

Interesting question. I've often thought how to answer that question in order to give enough information, without a five paragraph essay! :)

Lulu said...

It depends on where I am asked, what my answer is to that question. If I were overseas I would say the states but if I were on the east coast I would say California and if I were in California I would say Fresno. I get more specific the closer I get to where I was born. Of course Fresno is as specific as I get, I dont give out the hospital location or anything.

As far as why I am here, I didn't initially so much have a choice in the matter but I continue to be here because sometimes life can be really wonderful and I don't know what happens when I die so I would like to stay here for as long as possible:)

Also thanks for clarifying where you are from Adam, I had some question...;)

Adam said...

No problem Lulu.

I'm also from the northern hemisphere and the western hemisphere.

edluv said...

i think the strange answer could be a subtle eff you, but i don't think it was in hans' case.

m.wise said...

and what is it in your case, when monticore asks you about texting?

i'm from tulare. i've lived in fresno for 10-11 years now (man, time flies). i came here for college, and stayed because i made some friends here, stopped being friends with some people in tulare, and still live close enough to my family in tulare to not need to actually live there.

auritus said...

My mom dislikes this question, she feels it's kind of.. intrusive I guess? Not from people she knows of course, but as soon as strangers hear her speak they ask her where she's from.

My standard answer is "I grew up in Miami but I went to school in California". I feel as if I lived so many important years of my life in California it would be a lie to say I'm from Miami. And I don't want to say I'm from Berkeley because I feel (maybe paranoid) like there's some baggage associated it with. Like people immediately think of hippies and/or nerds plus I don't want to come across like I'm trying to name drop where I went to school. Not that I think people care, I just don't want people to think that I think that people care.

Yes I'm a little neurotic, what's your point?

edluv said...

i agree that it is intrusive, especially if you're just meeting a stranger at a bar or some other thing like that. i pretty much only asked this kid because he lived in our dorm, and guys were from all over so it's not like he was the only one getting the question.

miriam said...

I like to say that I'm from Vietnam... 'cause I am. I was born there you know. Yup. I'm an immigrant. However, truth be told, the only thing that really connects me to that place is my love of the cuisine and my mother. Everything else about me says I'm from Chowchilla. My family was there nearly 20 years! And now, for the past 13... Fresno. I'm here because it seems to be the place I'm supposed to be.