On December 18, the very last day I was in Huancayo in 2011, I felt like a real Peruvian for the very first time. No, I didn’t get my Peruvian citizenship (even though I would like to be a legal Peruvian one day). This was even better: a stranger thought I was Peruvian!
I’ve had people think I was Peruvian before, but I often end up making a mistake in my speech and give myself away. Or I’ll tell them I’m actually from Canada, which seems to make so much more sense to them. This time, it was different.
It was midnight and I was nervous about taking the colectivo home by myself. My nervousness came out as chattiness with the colectivo driver. We chatted about anything under the sun from what it’s like to be a colectivo driver to school to family to work to Christmas. I mentioned that I was leaving for Lima that night.
“So are you from Lima or Huancayo?”
“I’m from Canada,” I told him.
He turned around to get a better look at me and shook his head. “Yeah, right.”
“But I’m Chinese by blood,” I clarified.
“It’s obvious you’re Chinese, but I don’t think you’re from Canada.” He didn’t believe me! Rather than be offended, I was ecstatic! He truly thought I was one of the many Chinese-Peruvians who have been living in the country for generations.
Maybe it was because I mentioned the classes I took at the local university or because I knew about all the areas we talked about in Huancayo or because I followed the Peruvian soccer team. My Spanish grammar, vocabulary, and accent must have also been good enough for the conversation we were having.
Five minutes later, as we pulled up to my stop, he turned around to say, “I’m still doubting you. Where are you actually from?”
“Canada!” I told him, although maybe I should have just said, “Peru.”
What was the turning point when you really felt like a part of your country/organization/family?