22 January 2013

Une Chinoise

When I was in New Delhi, the family I lived with used to insist that someone down the line in my genealogy was from India . . . they couldn't understand where else my dark hair and dark eyes might come from.  Insisting otherwise didn't do any good.

On my arrival in Niger I was continually asked which city in France I was from . . . and once at an international border, the guard at passport control looked at my last name and began speaking to me in Italian!

But this is the first time I've ever been accused of being 'Chinese'!!
While I'm in the city, I'm staying with two dear friends who live in a neighborhood on the same side of the bridge where the worst of last year's flooding took place.  

Until the new bridge and road were built recently, this quartier was somewhat off the beaten path.  

It almost feels more like a village than a growing area of the capital . . . boys herding sheep across a busy four-lane road . . . girls carrying heavy loads on their heads returning home from the market.  Why, just the other day I was at the house alone and I kept hearing someone belch loudly . . . at first I was disgusted that I could hear the neighbor from over the compound wall . . . that is, until I realized it wasn't next door's patriarch, but rather their goat!

The point is, the kids on the block hadn't seen too many white faces before my friends moved in.  Our skin tones are still quite a rarity to so many children who never don't wander too far from home.  

But they are now used to the Chinese!

The 'new bridge' and the 'new road' were both financed by the Chinese government . . . so over the past few years, these little ones grew accustomed to trading out a friendly morning 'bonjour' with a generous 'hee haw' (that's kiddie-Djarma for 'ni hao' . . . Chinese for 'hello').

Walking from my friends' place up to the round-point to catch a taxi yesterday, I was bombarded with children of all sizes shouting 'Chinois!  Hee haw!!  Chinois!!  Chinois!!' ('chinois' is French for 'Chinese')

Chuckling at their silly presumption, I turned to each one and said 'Fo fo!' (Djarma for 'hello'), leaving them gawking and giggling.


Beth B. said...

"Hee haw!" Too funny. My little Youna from last year who is Korean was greatly offended that people in the market referred to her as Chinese. Glad to once again be enjoying the humourous side of life in Niger through your eyes, Deb. :)

Nancy Hall DeValve said...

I guess we all look alike, eh? John always says, "Do I LOOK Chinese?" But that's lost on the kids because obviously they think he does.