Have you ever had that incident where you are mistaken for someone else? Or people think you are from somewhere when you are really not? I’ve had a couple of those kinds of incidents. However, my most memorable one would be when I was mistaken for a Fijian native – in Suva.
It was 2012 and I was in Fiji to compete in the Fiji Karate International tournament. I had gone there as part of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) team which consisted of Crystal Mari, Nigel Bana, Quinton Bougan and Sensei Luke Goa as coach. We had arrived a couple of days before the tournament and our training schedule allowed free time during the evenings.
In was then that I decided to do a little sightseeing of Suva alone on foot.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn so I walked along Victoria parade and soon arrive at a traffic light. The lights were red at the crossing and in front of me were three Chinese men. I know they were Chinese because I could hear them speaking Mandarin.
Now, I’m not an expert in Mandarin but I do understand a few phrases and words, and hearing one say ‘mayo’ was an obvious giveaway.
Anyway, these three, instead of waiting for the lights to go green actually tried to stop traffic in order to cross. It was hilarious!
The most courageous (or foolish – whichever way you look at it) puts his hand out to stop coming vehicles, but you know how impatient drivers can be, especially when you’ve been waiting for the last few minutes for your turn to go.
Every time the man tries to cross, vehicles just swoosh by – and his friends, a couple of feet behind, are trying to play catch.
Eventually, after four vehicles a bus comes by and the driver having seen the men’s attempt to cross decides to stop and let them pass. As he drives by he looks at me, and I’m grinning ear to ear at the Chinese men – and he blurts out something at me in the local vernacular and laughs.
I didn’t understand a word he says but I laughed too. I can only guess what he was saying but at that moment language was not a barrier for me to understand the context of his words. He was talking about the men who had tried to cross earlier. He was probably making some kind of joke on their behest.
My guess is he was going along the lines of ‘crazy Chinese’ or something like that, but it was fact that he thought I was a local that kind of stayed with me.
Ironically, I would be mistaken again the next year along the same area; this time by the crew of a PMV bus.
Being mistaken for a Fijian, at the time was double funny for me, especially after witnessing the trio trying to halt traffic so they could cross.
Anyway, I have to stop here, but I have a few more adventures to share about Suva including one where we get swindled by a street hustler but that will be for a later date.