Friday, June 08, 2007

"Where are you from?"

Where do I look like I'm from? (Minus the fabric on my head.)
Where do I sound like I'm from? (Minus the occasional Arabic greeting.)
Where do I act like I'm from? (Minus the fact I don't shake hands.)

Or is it so rare inside my town to find people who were actually born here? Beats me. I started summer school a little late, not making it into my communications class until the 4th university day, which was actually the 3rd day of class. For some reason, "because I wasn't there the first day," I was asked to tell the class where I was from.

Me: Raleigh.
Prof: Really? Raleigh?
Me: Yeah, born and raised. (Looking like "What, do you think I didn't mean it?")
Prof: So you went to Wake Co. School System schools?
Me: Yeah... (um, Raleigh is in Wake Co. so how could I avoid it?)
Prof: Wow, a native.

I've lived in or near Raleigh my entire life, mind you, and never seemed to get such befuddled looks when I say where I'm from. Since I still live in Raleigh, and we are all in Raleigh who were present... why is it so bizarre? I felt kind of like a freak.

Today, though, everybody joined in. Apparently the class was falling asleep... I wasn't, oh no, I was dutifully making a list of things I want to do in August, or sometime in the not-so-very-distant future. But we had to pick a partner and say our names and where we were from, and the partner would report. Let's call my partner Billy. Billy is from Middlesex, which is apparently near the border of Nash County. Nash County and which border, I'm not exactly sure. I know I pass it on I-40 or I-95 but never kept track of which road it was on or how to get there... I don't think I'd like to say I stopped for gas in Middlesex... not to mention it's probably at least 2 miles off the highway. (The interstates in Eastern NC go through "nowhere.") And then he reports, Amy is from Raleigh.

Prof: Oh that's right! I remember, you're a native!

So now I'm thinking, you single me out in the class to ask where I'm from, the only girl in a room of 12 boys, apparently a freak in more ways than one, and I'm supposed to be impressed you remembered where I'm from? I don't know if I mentioned it before, but this is the same professor who pretended to be electrocuted by a wall outlet during class... And this isn't communications like speaking and writing--it's electrical communications theory for cell phones and radio, etc., and well, we do probability and fourier series; what could be cooler? I heart convolution.

Anyway, the question reminds me of all the times lately I've been asked regarding my origins. Yes, the white hijabi is quite a rarity. All hijabis, but since I don't look "A-rab" one must ask I suppose. When I was visiting New York, I stopped in the hotel's little convenience shop to buy sunglasses, and the Bangledeshi clerk was very polite in giving me salaams and asking... "Where are you from, sister?" I mean, very polite but... and we had a nice littler conversation and he seemed so proud I wore hijab. (Immigrant men tend to be this way when they see converts covering, while their wives do not.)

Last summer at a diversity training workshop, I remember one guy in the class asking me as we were out to lunch (it was a group from a coastal county I was eating with). When I said I was from Raleigh he asked dismissively, "No, I mean where are you from?" I explain. Then, "What religion are you?" Isn't that cute?

Perhaps it's a Southern or maybe exclusively Carolinian dialect that allows a person to be a religion.

Where are you from?
What religion are you?

People are funny, I'll just leave it at that. I'm likely to get these questions for the rest of my life so I reckon I oughta get used to it.


Aviator said...

Amy said: "Yes, the white hijabi is quite a rarity. All hijabis, but since I don't look "A-rab" one must ask I suppose."

lol, it looks like they even ask all hijabis, even though they are arab; i faced this while shopping with a friend at Opri Mills, Nashville, where a turkish muslim salesman started to talked with her.

This friend wants his wife to put off hijab! he thinks that hijab makes people look at her more than if she was not wearing hijab. and he argues that Al-Zhar's Sheikh allowed this!!! lol, then i don't agree with him!

i admire hijabi girl who wear hijab, specially in non-muslim country!

Amy said...

Assalaamu alaikum

I think I have heard that some sheikh somewhere allowed women to take off their hijab, maybe in certain situations. I haven't read the fatwa, so I don't really know the deal; my friend had a fit about it once, "How dare he!?" she said. But either way, a husband who wants his wife to take it off to please society is...

well, it's quite obvious isn't it? He's trying to please society.

Whoever imitates a people...