An active prelude, dear reader. Do this.
Look at yourself in a mirror. Hold up a hand in front of your face with your palm facing you. Now, draw your hand down and along the shape of your face and back up again in a bit of an oval. If you want, you can had a bit of a flourish.
That, there, is what we’ve come to know as the Southeast Asian code for “what are you?” Or, “what are you doing with her?” Or, “you look like your x-Asian, why can’t you speak the x-Asian language that I originally spoke to you in?”
Practice this. We call it the face swoosh, and it will figure into this bit and, I feel, many other bits to come.
We took a trip to the River Kwai. That place of human engineering and torture and suffering resting place of 115,000 souls. We found Sam’s Guest House. A quaint riverfront lodging spot, where during low season, 30 bucks gets you your own cabin with A/C and cooked breakfast.
The purveyor Sam herself checked us in and gave us a general rundown about how things worked. As is the custom here, our passports were taken and copied. On returning them, she glanced down at the eagle and stars and the United States of America on the cover. Then she glanced at Mrs. SAM, who is quite close to pure aryan looking. As an aside, what do you call an almost aryan. You wouldn’t say aryan-light, would you? It’d be aryan-dark, right?
But, I digress. With no hint of malice she commented, “You don’t look American.”
Without much thought and more for my wife’s benefit, I replied , “Um, we were able to get in before the started building the wall.”
There was a long pause. This comment did not register. She doesn’t watch American news. She did the face swoosh. “No, where are your people from?”
“Oh, my father’s Chinese.”
“Oh, I thought you Thai person.” I apparently cannot win here. “You have Thai eyes I’m Chinese, too!”
“Is that right?” I asked. “ we could be cousins!”
It was another very long pause, before the German women sitting near by burst into laughter. I gazed into her large brown, unlaughing eyes. And then she giggled.
“I used to have Chinese eyes then I got the surgery to give me Thai eyes.”
“Surgery?” I recoiled.
“Ya, I used to have Chinese eyes like them!” She pointed at the family photo on the wall. With only a hint of contempt, “look at my daughters. Look at their eyes! They look chinese. I used to look like them!”
Mrs. SAM enlightened me about how there is this big trend to give Asians an extra crease in their eyes. It is said to accentuate the eyes and give them more ‘pop’ and look more western. You can read more about it here.
We headed off to our room, keys in hand. The daughters were sweeping the walk. Struggling to filter the dust with only one eyelid crease. I wondered just how long it would be before they got their crease and their chance to look like mom.