Wednesday, November 24, 2010
From one qwailo to another
Qwailo - pronounced [kʷɐ̌i lǒu]; sometimes also spelled Gweilo) is a very common Cantonese slang term for foreigners, and has a long history of racially deprecatory use. Nowadays, Gwailo is simply a Cantonese word used to refer to Caucasians.
As I stepped outside a few days ago to check on the weather, two caucasian women were walking by. One looked at me and with a big smile said hello. Thinking that perhaps she was someone I had previously met I stepped out to return the greeting. Walking to my gate, I quickly realized I did not know this women. But often people come hiking on the island are needing a little help with directions so I stepped out to chat.
Immediately she looked at me and asked "Do you actually LIVE here???". With pride I replied that in fact we did live here. The look of shock on her face was almost enough to get me laughing out loud. Her next question was if I actually LIKED it here? Again, with much pride I replied that infact we loved living on our little island. Her look of shock now had me laughing out loud. Incredulously, she took at step closer to look at me and get a better glance at my house. As she peered quizzically at my clothes drying in the sun, she asked "Do you actually go to....CENTRAL" as if it was a foreign destination that most people would know about, but I most likely would not.
note - Central is what the main area of Hong Kong Island is called. This is where our ferries to and from Hong Kong connect. It is a business and banking and shopping hub of Hong Kong. I can not get to or from Hong Kong without going through Central.
I assured her that yes we do go to central, and I informed her that that we go in at least once/twice a week. I reminded her of the ferry that she had to take to get here, and that it is only a 35min fast ferry ride. She obviously had no issues inquiring further into my life, although her friend looked as if she wished she could melt into the sidewalk at this point. As she heard my kids in the house, she asked what school they could possibly be going to. When I informed her that we homeschooled, she was rather horrified and wondered out loud how my children could have any friends at all then!!! ( funny locals in Hong Kong only wonder how my children could possible be getting ANY form of education from home, and foreigners first thing is wondering if my children are being socialized)
I must say, this is up there as one of the funniest conversations I have ever had. I couldn't stop laughing all the way through. Maybe it is the side of me that still enjoys shocking people once in a while, I don't know. I wasn't offended, rather it was the best laugh I have had in a while.
Then today, a chinese/canadian friend of mine remarked that she thought I was chinese as she was approaching me down the path, again hanging my clothes to dry outside on our railing. As I laughed rather heartily at this, she assured me it was a compliment and that from my mannerisms I must have assimilated to island life quite well.
I will definitely take that as a compliment!!!!