This is a follow-up to Can’t Hide These Chinky Eyes – April 18, 2011
In case you didn’t know, I’m Asian. This fact about me is sooo obvious, in fact, that it was blatantly announced to me on a regular basis while I was abroad.
You may recall some of my “Hey! You’re Asian!” encounters in India, Italy and Ireland. (Hmmm, now that I’ve typed that out, I’m growing a bit suspicious of people from countries starting with “I”).
Well, those wouldn’t be the first, nor the last, of such encounters.
Europeans were always pointing out my Asianness. There was that time in Croatia when I was chowin’ down on a plate of cevapi (yum, by the way!), when a group of teenage boys came upon my table and stopped in their tracks. They put their palms together, bowed their heads and shuffled past my table, full-on Geisha-style. No joke!
And then there was that time in Budapest, when I walked by a homeless guy on the side of the road, who jumped to his feet, pointed his finger at me and yelled out, “Ja-PAN girl! Ja-PAN girl!” over and over again until I was long gone down the street.
My all-time fave? BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA.
I was Couchsurfing with a hilarious Slovak law student named Rado. Rado was studying for final exams and pretty much left me to my own devices to navigate Slovakia’s capital city. It was in the few free hours he did have that he would show me what Bratislava had to offer – and remind me of my chinkiness.
My first impression of the city: meh. It doesn’t have a ton of character or defining cultural identity. But Rado set out to prove me wrong.
…Hlavné Námestie (Main Square)…
…the quirky bronze statues all over the city…
…and we went to the Slovak Pub and ate traditional dumplings (a heavy and delicious comfort food).
It was when we walked to the Danube River that things got chinky and awkward.
If Bratislava has any uniquely recognizable structure, it would be the Novy Most Bridge that crosses over the Danube. Novy Most is a suspension bridge that looks like it has a UFO sticking out of it. The UFO-looking contraption is a restaurant and observation deck that offers vast views of the city. Rado was excited to tell me all about it, and I listened politely until he was finished.
I then continued walking – but to Rado’s astonishment – without taking a photo. I’d already seen the bridge and would surely see it again (Bratislava is a tiny town!), so I didn’t think anything of it.
Rado wasn’t havin’ any of that.
Rado: “Thy, don’t you want to take a photo of the bridge?”
Me: “No, I’m alright.” I continue walking.
Rado shuffles along behind me: “Are you sure you don’t want to take a photo?”
Me: “Really, I’m good.”
(Are you ready for this??????)
Rado: “But…people with eyes like yours always take photos of this bridge.”
(I’ll give you a minute so you can read that again.)
(I’ll give you another minute so you can stop laughing.)
(Ok, I’m back.)
Um. Did he really say that? This sweet Slovak kid?
I didn’t say anything. I smiled in amusement and slowly turned around to see if he was joking. Perhaps there’d be a mischievous smirk on his face? Perhaps that young friendly face would express embarrassment or shame for having said such a silly thing?
I turned around to find Rado…
(Are you ready for this?????)
…with his index fingers to his face…making slanted chinky eyes!!!
(Do you need another minute? Ok, go ahead. Let it allll out.)
(Ok, i’m back.)
How could I possibly respond to that?! I stared at him blankly for a second.
And then I totally lost it.
I lost it in the form of uncontrollable, gut-busting, painful, hiccup-inducing laughter. I nearly fell over, I was laughing so hard!
He looked at me with confusion. It wasn’t until I repeated out loud to him what he’d said and mirrored his chinky-eye gesture, that his face turned red with embarrassment.
Lucky for Rado, I’m not easily offended. Not so lucky for him, I would spend 5 more days with him and torture him relentlessly with his own words.
I had my fingers almost permanently up to my face for 5 days, making chinky eyes at my Slovak buddy.
What’s that, Rado? You wanna introduce me to your friends?
I dunno, people with eyes like mine are pretty shy.
What’s that, Rado? You wanna buy me a beer?
I dunno, people with eyes like mine don’t handle our alcohol very well.
And on and on and on.
Ohhh the laughter! It was all in good spirits. Rado’s a great kid and he didn’t mean anything by it. We Americans get our panties in a wad over things like this, but Europeans (Eastern Europeans in this case), not so much. I figure that by responding to his lack of cultural sensitivity with tolerance and humor, I taught him a lesson without making him feel bad about it.
As for the Novy Most Bridge…well, my chinky-eyed tendencies had me going back for a photo after all: