February 1, 2006 at 11:01 am (Uncategorized)

I met a very nice lady at karate last night. Her son is in Nate’s class and she has a really cute younger son. I’m not sure how we even started talking but she told me her son is also ADHD and we talked about our frustrations with the school system and our children, people in general. Her younger son is three and she said he is completely different than her older son.

Her name is Yuki and based on her accent, was not born in the U.S. I hate to say it, but while listening to her talk and wondering what Asian country she comes from, I was hoping it was Vietnam, since I love clay pot fish so much.

I love accents and I love trying to figure out where people are from. Often, and I’ve been told I do this when I speak German, you can tell where someone is from by listening to the inflections on how they speak English. You still carry the traits of your native tongue, especially inflections and tone. Although I’m not a linguist, I recognized the inflections of an Asian language in Yuki’s English. (I hear that as a sharp, high, very clipped tone, whereas I recognize a German accent more due to the word order inversion, plus I hear it a lot. There’s just a certain cadence as well, a certain flow of the words.)

Plus, I’m a nosy bitch. I like hearing the stories of how they came to live in the U.S. and what it was like in their country and if they ever visit and if they have family there, what they miss, what the food’s like, just anything and everything, especially if they have a clay pot with fish in it.

I think its also an interesting phenomena about the facial characteristics that we totally miss about people outside our own race. Yet, when I stop to think, I compare the facial characteristics of my friend May, who is Japanese, versus my friend So-ok, who is Chinese and can definitely see the unique area of Asia in their faces. So-ok’s face is more round and broad, whereas May’s is more delicate. Mitzco, also Japanese, has the same characteristics of May.

I can see the similarities between Jethro and my friend, Raj. Jethro’s family is from Vietnam and Raj’s family is from Thailand. Similarities yes, but also subtle differences. Like the difference between the former Eastern bloc countries and Western countries, even of the same country, even of the same race, like Germany.

Maybe its even the same among the multitude of African and Middle Eastern nations. When I think about it, I can definitely see the similarities and differences between Syrians, Lebanese, and Iranian individuals, those being the only three Middle Eastern individuals I’m acquainted with and know for sure where they’re from. (Oddly enough, as for inflection in their English, the Syrian, who also speaks Arabic, and the Lebanese, who does not, but whose parents are from Lebanon, have very similar inflections and cadence. The Iranian immigrated to Greece first, then to the U.S. and she has a completely different speech pattern.)

I know facial characteristics are a way to classify and used to justify discrimination. But they also paint a portrait of uniqueness that goes beyond race. Facial characteristics are our heritage, our history, and family traits. Faces are fascinating. Look at some faces (and listen to some voices) today.

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