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"Where are you from?" and other hard questions

“Where are you from?”

This is such a simple question —  one of the basic questions I’ve been getting from every stranger I’ve met in Shanghai (aside from ‘are you a ginger?’ which I’ve been asked twice — two more times than I would expect, but no, on closer inspection I am a brunette). And yet, answering that question hasn’t been easy.

Boston is the closest large city to my home growing up, but I’m not really from Boston. My experience last month has shown me that. Plus, the word Massachusetts is hard for a foreigner to pronounce. I’ve been telling people I’m from New York. But am I? I flew in from New York. Well, technically Chicago, but I’ve managed to block O’Hare entirely out of my mind. New York was just a short train ride away from where I lived in college. It was a train I took twice a month for almost two years and I feel like I’ve really gotten to know to know the city, but there’s no way I’m a New Yorker. I’ve never lived in New York. I can tell you where the best restaurants in Sunnyside are, or never to take the A train. I can navigate my way through Astoria or Bushwick, but I don’t have the hardness of New Yorkers or their bitterness over taxable income.

I’ve lived in the States for 13 years. 5 of them in New Haven. And so it feels like home much more so than home does. I can tell people I’m from Connecticut, but I didn’t grow up in Connecticut. And yet, somehow when I’ve been thinking of home lately, only New Haven comes to mind. I’ve lived on my own in CT for the past few years; my formative years have been spent at Yale. I even had a dream I was at Ashley’s last night, ordering soft serve, when all of the machines broke down. And yes, I miss ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s, where art thou in China?), but I miss the familiarity —  of the ice cream store, of walking down York Street, or laughing at people lining up for Woads. When I come home, whenever that may be, I’m not sure where I’ll be coming home to.


Wow, that just got real sappy real quick. I guess that this is the kind of introspection that drunk cab rides, singing the Marseillaise on a Friday night, bring out of me.

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