19 October, 2009

In a flap with from-confusion

I discovered that I no long know where I come from! Most of my life I've said (if I am speaking to an Australian) that I come from Toowoomba. (If I'm overseas, I say Brisbane and then explain where that is lol.) Toowoomba is becoming a tenuous place to lay claim to, after all I haven't lived there since I was a teenager...more than several years ago now. What led me to this conclusion was the flap I found myself in at the womens' conference on Saturday. At lunch time I was required to go to a certain group for lunch and during lunch to present a short devotion. I arrived and didn't find anyone I immediately knew, found lunch was under way and jumped into the food line. The ladies behind me asked, "Where do you come from?" Later I realise they were attempting some mild chit-chat, but at the time it threw me and I asked back, "What do you mean?" Well, we got off to a wonderful start because that threw them into a flap and so, with all of us flapping around like chickens in a dingo raid, it was getting rather messy. I could have given them any number of answers:
  • Toowoomba (not really true anymore)
  • Japan (but that needed some background)
  • OMF International (if they were really enquiring about what mission I was from)
  • Wynnum (where I'd slept the night before)
  • Brisbane (probably the correct answer, though not technically correct, because we're just outside the boundary)
Then I sat down and discovered that the people I was sitting with didn't realise there were missionaries in Japan! Though after a short explanation from me, they soon dived into a reasonable conversation, for which I was very grateful. On the way back to the main area after lunch I chatted with a lady who asked the quintessential bad question and one of my most hated: "So, you must really love Japan?!" After that I was most happy to sit down next to missionary friends and relax. The speaker only told me I was too busy and should take more time to reflect on my experiences. Phew! That is easier than trying to answer difficult questions.


Ken Rolph said...

The "from" question is almost as bad as "what do you do?"

I'm not sure in our mobile times that people are really "from" anywhere anymore. That doesn't help in polite conversation. I try to answer with a polite, "in what sense?" The answer can depend on the context. For example, I was at an awards night with my wife, who is a teacher. The questioner was really asking which school I was from. So the appropriate answer was that I was just a spare husband.

"From" also depends on the knowledge of the questioner. I could say I am "from" Blacktown or Sydney. "From Blacktown" would have little meaning for people far away, so I would just end up saying that it is part of Sydney.

I think we need to interpret the intentions of the speaker and have a ready answer which takes the conversation in a path which we would like it to go.

Wendy said...

Good advice, Ken. I'll try, "in what sense" in a sensitive voice next time. I was struggling to figure the intentions of the speaker and blurted out the first thing which came to mind. Usually I'm better at conversation than that...it wasn't a good moment.