Our youngest son, (who looks very Anglo and not so much like Mr. López), is “Student of the Week” at his Elementary school.

The “Student of the Week” has many special privileges, one of which is inviting your parents to eat lunch with you in the cafeteria.

And so this is where my husband and I ate lunch today, squished at a too small formica table, surrounded by 8 year olds.

Many of the kids recognized me, calling out my name and waving – my own mini paparazzi with pizza sauce on their faces instead of cameras. No one called out to Mr. López – they only stared silently.

We sat down at the table and began to eat when one of our son’s classmates piped up.

“Excuse me, Mister, are you Chinese?”

My husband looked at me, leaned in and whispered. “Did he just ask me if I’m Chinese?”

“I think so,” I said, not entirely sure and trying not to laugh.

“What did you say?” Mr. López asked the boy.

“Are you Chinese?” he repeated just as openly as the first time.

Mr. López looked at me again, as if to ask me what he’s supposed to say, which made me laugh more.

I set my fork down. “No, he’s not Chinese. He’s from El Salvador.”

The boy’s face was blank.

“Do you know where El Salvador is?” I asked.

The boy shook his head.

“Um, okay, let’s see… Do you know where Mexico is?” I tried, thinking I could give him directions south from there.

The boy shook his head again.


He shrugged and shook his head.

I sighed and turned to Mr. López.

“Está jodido, better just tell him you’re Chinese.”

11 thoughts on “Chino

  1. wow.
    My kids have asked some whoppers… “is that a man or a woman?” was my favourite.
    I take it you don’t have a diverse asian population around there? We are a regular melting pot of the east here… chinese, japanese, korean, vietnamese, polynesian, indo-china, india, middle east, tibetan, you name it, we got it! Other areas too, not just the far east. The boys learned fairly quickly to not snap judgements of someones nationality. However, when they were younger, anyone Asian was Chinese, anyone of darker complexion was Indian and anyone white with an accent must be from England…
    At least the youth you encountered was bold enough to ask! You may have helped him be more curious about other parts of the world!

    • @ Pol – My kids are guilty of the same thing, (though they were much younger)… The worst ones are when they noticed little people, (“Hey look at that lady! She’s smaller than me!”) — And people born without limbs, (“That guy is missing an arm!”)

      That’s cool that your city is so multicultural. Our city is not very diverse. I believe it’s something like 82% White, 11% Black, 2% Latino, and then a very small handful of Asian, Indigenous, etc.

      Honestly, unless you go buy Chinese take-out, or take a Martial Arts class, you don’t see Asian people around here. (I have no idea where they grocery shop, do their banking, etc. – I never see them out and about!)

      Anyway, I hope this area becomes more diverse, (the Latino population has already doubled in the 5 years we’ve been here, so that’s a good start.) Otherwise, I can’t see myself living here permanently. I really miss the diversity and culture of living closer to D.C.

  2. Wasn’t there a map or a globe that you could have used to show him where it was? OMG that is so funny! I love the true freedom of speech that comes only from the young or the old.

  3. haha! People always ask me if I am Chinese or Japanese. They say it’s because of my eyes. To which I reply “well, my entire Mexican family has these eyes.” They usually just look at me completely dumbfounded.

    • @ Grace – My husband has gotten mistaken for Chinese before, too. One time we were at McDonald’s and there was a Chinese man in front of us in line. He was having trouble ordering so he turned to my husband and started speaking to him in Mandarin. My husband told him in English, “I don’t know what you’re saying” – and the guy said in broken English, “Oh – you no Chinese?” … My husband shook his head and the guy said, “But you look! You look!” and pointed at his eyes. LOL.

      Mr. López has the famous “ojos chinos”, (which I love so much.) … Our older son does, too – but our younger son does not.

  4. Hahaha! I’m sure we would have had a problem, because Hubby is such a smartass, he would have responded with something mildly inappropriate, just to make the kids laugh, at which point they would have all lost their recess for being rude. We try to leave him home as much as possible, lol.

  5. Honestly, some Chinese look latino and vice-versa. Clean-shaved, my husband look kind of maya-ish… and sometimes I really can’t tell toddlers’ ethnical backgrounds!

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