Ok, first…I need everyone to acknowledge just how similar Canada and Ghana sounds in Chinese…
Canada: ( 加拿大）GEE YAH NAH DAH
Ghana: （ 加纳） GEE YAH NAH
Remember how I said I was practicing how to explain myself as a Ghanaian American to the Chinese?
Well. It sounds like I just need help doing so with everyone, including the person who I see in the mirror.
Today, I gave a presentation on my favorite Suzhou restaurant in Chinese. I was telling everyone how my friend had introduced me to 城东菜 and how I absolutely love the fried rice dishes there. Then, of course, I wanted to add more to my presentation so I went into an explanation about how Ghanaian people also consider rice a staple food. I explained how I felt that was a similarity between the two cultures.
The second I mentioned “Ghana,” I am assuming that is when I started to receive confused expressions from my classmates – including my professors. All of my classmates are American except for the Chinese professors there, including my own teacher, 粥老师。Of course…I didn’t notice the looks until halfway through my presentation but I assumed that was because my tones, as usual, were atrocious.
At the end of the presentation, there was a question and answer. Several students seemed more focused on what I said about Ghana than they were about the delicious beef fried rice that I was heavily advocating! They asked me in Chinese about Ghanaian (or so I thought) dishes and if I’d ever been to Ghana (or so I thought). When I was asked about the Canadian dish, I started to feel confused….the question was something about some kind of famous pudding specific to …Ghana?
I was standing up there in front of the class with my 什么? (What!?) face on asking…What pudding?” Thinking… “This guy doesn’t know Ghanaian food…why is he asking me about some kind of African pudding?” After several more questions, I received my applause and sat down…still feeling a bit confused…and in the back of my mind, wondering why 粥老师had started looking at me strangely halfway through my presentation.
粥老师takes her place in front of the class, pulls out the dry erase board and asks me in Chinese where Ghana (or so I thought) is located. I answer but everyone else is like “北边” (North). I am in my seat thinking, “Since when has the African continent been North of North America? What are they all even talking about?”
Then she says to me…加纳还是加拿大？“Ghana or Canada?” The whole class bursts out laughing when they watch the look of realization slowly setting on my face. Complete 真的吗！？”REALLY!?” look had to be on my face at that point.
I was mortified – and laughing, of course. I told my class…These last two weeks, I’ve been telling everyone 我妈妈爸爸都是加拿大人可是我弟弟，妹妹，和我都是美国人。“My parents are from Canada but my brother, sister, and myself are all American.” One student said that he thought I was telling everyone that I’d been adopted by Canadians. Goodness!! Another student asked me if I’d ever been to Canada…haha. Goodness Goodness…. And the golden comment was “Yeah…you were saying Canadian…how could you be in this program from the U.S. Department of State if you’re Canadian?”
This made me reflect on the many situations that people were shocked that I was 美国人(American) and I was standing there telling everyone that I was Canadian!? This entire time!? …That my PARENTS are Canadian!? …but goodness…the lady that I have become good friends with who owns one of the supermarkets thinks my background is CANADIAN!
Somewhere down the line, I began to confuse 加拿大with 加纳。(“Canada” with “Ghana”). I am appalled that I left those school kids THAT confused about life!! Can you imagine… “妈妈爸爸！今天我有英文老师！她是黑人！我觉得她是非洲。。。可是她告诉我们她的妈妈爸爸都是加拿大人可是她的弟弟，妹妹，和她都是美国人！真的吗！？” “Mom, Dad! Today I had an English teacher! She is black! I thought she was African but she told us that both her parents are from Canada but her little sister, little brother, and she are all American! Really?!”
I’m just going to end this blog here. Too. Funny.
I mean, I was talking the World Cup with people…calling Ghana …CANADA…the entire time!
Yes, I can already hear the, “Really, Shirley…?” reactions from anyone reading this.