May 15, 2011

"So, where are you from?"

"Yeah, but where are you from from?"
"Uh, Australia?"
"What, are you aboriginal or something?"

It's an awkward question for me, where are you from. The amount of times I've had this conversation with people is actually ridiculous, and it always ends up with me being aboriginal. I guess I could solve this by starting with, "Well, if you go back 5 or 6 (or maybe more) generations on my Dad's side you'll find a few random European countries? I might even be Swiss!" But seriously, why can't I just be Australian?

I was born here, and my parents and grandparents were born here. I've never been out of the country, I grew up on meat & 3 veg. and I think Perth winters are bloody freezing! Also, I don't think kangaroo's are weird. They're awesome! And when Santa comes to Australia, he chooses them over Rudolph, because let's face it, Prancer wouldn't be able to stand Australian summers.

In fact, I actually had an identity crisis after my year 8 Society & Environment teacher told me off for saying I was Australian, and forced me to tell her where I "originated". I wish my 12-year old self had had the wit to say "the Garden of Eden", but alas. I went on to explain that at least 6, maybe 7 or 8 or more, generations back on my maternal Grandmother's side, you'll find an English woman who refused to marry the Lord of the Manor because she was in love with a man who had to work hard for his minimal wage, and so was disowned. And that 4 generations ago on my maternal Grandpa's side you'll find a drunken German sailor who was afraid of tall trees.

But I digress, I love the abundance of nationalities in Australia. The fact that you can ask, "where are you from?", and get a thousand different answers is seriously cool! But when will I be able to say I'm Australian and then tell people all the cool stories about my Australian ancestors who scrubbed the seat for the drop toilet out back because James Mitchell**, Governor of Western Australia (who eventually became Premier of WA), was coming to shoot birds with his good friend my great-great-great-grandfather? Because my 12-year old self would really like to know.

Note: To Grandma, if Mum thinks it'd be nice to tell you I wrote this blog, I'm sorry if I've butchered some of the stories in your book. From what I can remember they were scrubbing the toilet because John Forrest was coming, but he might have come to visit on another occasion... I promise when I've finished my philosophy essay, I shall find your book and make sure I got it right :)

**Note Number 2: So, Grandma corrected my grammar and told me that it wasn't John Forrest, although I'm sure someone related to me knew him, it was in fact James Mitchell. Whaddya know?


Catherine said...

Hey, Rhi: When I've finished my Adult Transitions assignment, I'D love to read your Grandma's book!!! xxx Cath

Anonymous said...

it's especially bad when people ask me where i've from because i'm half asian. i tell them the true answer which is that i'm australian, but of course that never fails to trigger looks of disbelief.
a better question to ask, and one i enjoy answering, is 'where are your parents from?'.

Rhi Nelson said...

Where are your parents from works...maybe. Except for the part that my answer would still be the same :P

Bethia said...

you totally have to say to someone that you come from the Garden of Eden. I would love to see their reaction :)
A very good point though i think, especially when you contrast it with a conversation I had with a taxi driver once, whom i asked the same question. he commented [extendedly] that he was three generations australian and everyone asked him where he was from just because he was arabic-looking, and what did it take for him to be Australian?!?
it seems that we feel we have no genuine, AUSTRALIAN identity which has positive substance. It's like you need to be in another country to be able to refer to yourself as australian or something. it's wierd. I like your point :)