“Do you want some sushi?”
That’s what a local Namibian said to me, as I walked through an eatery looking for some lunch.
During my trip in Namibia, it felt like a lot of time I was the only Asian in the country.
And I got a ton of attention.
While in Windhoek (the capital of Namibia), we visited the main mall (listed as the top three attractions in Windhoek on Tripadvisor) and eyeballs were all on me.
Like not in the racist way – not in the ‘go back to where you came from’ way.
But it was an inquisitive look.
The ‘who are you?’ and ‘what are you about?’ look.
So any other day, if someone had jumped the gun and asked me to eat sushi when I really wanted fried chicken – I would’ve been like ‘wtf.’
But this assumption that I was Japanese happened over and over again.
‘Are you Japanese?’
‘What’s Japan like?’
‘Arigatou gozaimasu! (ありがとうございます)’
Were phrases that were thrown my way, over and over.
When 5 guys approached me in a township and asked me to teach them karate – I decided I may as well just pretend to be Japanese.
you all know
that at some point in history
there was an Asian Australian doing that karate kid crane thing in the middle of a slum.
It wasn’t the most comfortable situation to be in – but I realised that this behaviour comes from a simple lack of information.
Africa is a growing and emerging continent – but the structural problems that impact the continents beautiful population means they have an incredible lack of access to information regarding the outside world.
And when I finally understood that – my discomfort dissipated.
And I was happy to oblige them even for a moment.
Because after all the struggle that these people have been through – if an Asian guy doing some karate kid shit makes them smile – I wasn’t gonna take that away from them.
I also didn’t tell them that I actually hate sushi – and all of you just gasped.
An Asian not liking sushi.
How can this be!!!!
That stuff is –
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
Get in touch ~