Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Traveling as I look

Alright, let’s start with my ethnic background, Japanese and Chinese, born in Okinawa, Japan on a US Airforce base as a US citizen. This particular mix has given me a unique look in which I have been able to pass for other ethnic groups. Then there’s my body type, I’ll admit a bit bigger than your typical Asian.

On this trip it really started in Nepal when people thought I was Nepalese and started to speak to me in the local language. Then when I got to Pokhara, Tibetans thought I was one of them. Even the Mongolians in the hills started to speak to me, and when I didn’t turn to answer my guide told them I was from the US.

So does my look give me any advantages while traveling? Depends on your point of view I guess. Sure, I can walk around and people will assume I’m just a local and touts won’t hassle me. However, as soon as I open my mouth everyone asks me where I’m from, but sometimes I feel that I still get a better deal when negotiating a price. Many poorer countries have two different prices for tourists and locals and I can definitely get the local price for admission to sights if I wanted (I don’t because the money goes to support the beautiful landmarks I’ve visited).

Of course the one thing I can’t hide is my size and people almost always comment on it. Even when I’ve dropped twenty pounds and lost all my muscle I’ve gotten comments from guys in Nepal and India about my body. One time this Nepalese guy was checking me out as I was trying to get directions from him (uncomfortable). At the end of the conversation he ask the typical “where are you from” question and then told me I had a beautiful body (can you see my eyes rolling?). Yes I was a bit nervous and promptly left. Though in countries like Nepal and India where men hold hands and show other public displays of affection it wasn’t abnormal, even for a straight man.

I’m not sure what exactly I’m trying to say here, maybe it’s more like a thought for the day.

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