Friday, January 18, 2008

Identity Crisis

In Pohnpei earlier this week, some of us had a conversation about the questions people ask when they first meet you. We were listing and comparing the different questions that people ask in different locales, such as the US, Hawaii, Saipan, and Indonesia.

In Indonesia everyone just wants to know if you're married and how many children you have. If you're not married, they want to know not if you are getting married, but when you are getting married.

This got some chuckles from those of us without kids.

In Hawaii people always ask, "What are you?"

I've been asked that question many, many times, not just in Hawaii. It is always mildly insulting. What am I? Don't you mean who am I or where am I from?

Deep down I know that the person asking that question never means anything insulting by it. They just probably think that you look different from them and they want to know why, but what are you going to do?

On Saipan I've noticed people tend to ask others they are meeting for the first time two questions, "where are you from?" and "how long have you been here?"

After you answer, the first thing the question asker does is compare the amount of time they've been on Saipan to the amount of time you've been on Saipan. If the time is short, you're a newbie, like Bev when she first got here just over a year ago. Then as you progress from describing your stay in Saipan in days, to weeks, months, years, or even decades, your self-prescribed local authority increases. Extra points for being Chamorro or Carolinian. Negative points for being Bruce Bateman.

They then weigh your answers taken together, apply a label, and for the foreseeable future you are "one of those California boys"or some other vague stereotype.

I find this all stupid.

Since this is a blog about all things Angelo, I might as well explain my answer to those two questions.

I'm from Saipan. But I'm also from Massachusetts. Oh yeah, I'm from Florida, too. And I went to school in Virginia. By the way, I've also lived in England and Japan. I've been registered to vote in Saipan since 2000, but I've also been registered to vote in Florida since 1996. When I lived in England and Japan, everybody thought I was American. When I lived in America, everyone thought I was Puerto Rican or Brazilian, but I would tell them that I was half-Micronesian. Now that I live in Micronesia, most white people think I'm brown and most brown people think I'm white. And yeah, I've lived here all my life, but I've only been back for two years.

My name's Angelo. I pick up cans and girls.

This whole train of thought started when somebody I've spoken to twice before tried hammering home the argument that I'm an asshole by saying, "I've lived here for 33 years...and you're an asshole."

I've had a few conversations about this post since I put it up.

Somebody pointed out that Americans always ask, "What do you do?" It is really a veiled attempt at asking, "How much do you make?"

Also, on Saipan, other Chamorros always ask, "Who is your Mom?" and "Who is your Dad?"


bigsoxfan said...

Quote of the year, so far. "I pick up cans and girls" How about; "I hug tree's and girls and occasionaly Brad Ruzula"

Thoughtful post.

Winter Park Fords said...

I suspect that that person does not have 33 years of experience but rather has relived the same year 33 times.

Mapongo said...

Si Mapongo, maila’ hatalom Mapongo,i
ya un li’e’ kao pine’lo-mu.
Sa’ interoroha chinle’ ina’paka’-mu,
yan ina’tilong-mu.

From a Chamorrita song as sung by Tan Oflong (Rudolfo Atalig Mundo, 1910-94), Rota, circa 1980 and collected by Dr. William M. Peck, with Mr. Gerald M. Calvo’s translation assistance.

Mapongo, come further inside, Mapongo
so you can see if it's your putting [love-making]
Because it took all your whiteness,
and your blackness.

lil_hammerhead said...

The amount of time you've been here has nothing to do with the fact that you are an asshole.

p.s. - thanks for linking me

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

That comment is funny.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

This post is not about whether or not I am an asshole.

This is a post about people uncomfortable in their own skin.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Obviously the monkey picture skank afraid to admit to his/her own posts is more than a bit uncomfortable in his own skin.

One Hot Chamaole! said...

Well if it's of any consolation, I get mistaken for being an Iranian (or other M.E. countries) here in the US and when I was in Iraq. When I was in Europe, I got gypsy or Turk. Being a Chamaole just makes life fun :) But yes, the whole guessing game is pretty stupid and it really shouldn't matter.