When I was young, there was a guy in my city whom the kids from my school run away from because he was “crazy.” He would dance all day in front of the biggest appliance store called Star TV where a huge stereo was blaring with Chumbawamba every day. His dance moves were not very clear but to be fair, he was swinging to the tubthumping beat. Everyone called him “Daddy Daddy” as this was the only word he could say. He’d always say it twice, by the way.
I always see him when I walk home with friends and I would shamefully admit I was one of the kids who made fun of him. Back then, people of my city were not good with “different,” hence teenagers and young kids like me were programmed to stay away from him because he can “harm” us.
That was my single story of Daddy Daddy — the crazy, filthy, dangerous guy dancing in front of Star TV.
One day, my mother picked me up from school. No, sorry, that’s a lie. She picked me up from a park near my school as she accidentally caught me cutting classes. I didn’t know she would pass by that area at sunset. She’s a mom! She has a job! Why would she go in an area 20-min drive from her workplace? She was very angry not only because I was playing hooky but because the park I was in was known to be very dangerous for young girls. Many girls have been raped there. She was furious as a tiger. By the way, that was her single story of that place not until last year when they decided to cut all the trees in the park and transform it into a shopping mall. That’s another story only my tree-hugging mother can write/tell.
She was shouting in the car, “I told you not to go there! You are always pushing your luck, Ana Patricia.” Yep, like most moms, when she calls me by my full name, that’s when I know shit’s going down. I was with my friends, geez! Why would she think I will be harmed? Paranoid. I thought. I remember it was rainy and while stuck in traffic, I saw Daddy Daddy approach the car. My mother opened the compartment as if she was looking for a gun (which, she didn’t have, btw). She grabbed a small emergency purse where she keeps all the coins, opened the windows and gave 10 pesos to Daddy Daddy.
“Thank you Ate Jen!”
Wait??? What? Daddy Daddy actually addressed my mom with her first name? What the feck?! I thought I was supposed to be afraid of this person more than hanging out the park? He then walked away and from being Snow White’s evil stepmother furious, my mother transformed to a calm Winnie the Pooh who looked like she just had a tub of honey. Happy. Relieved. Calm. Apparently, she also knew Daddy Daddy growing up. As a daughter to a notorious police colonel in the city, my mother was an ally to everyone. Even the drug addicts will not dare harm her and her children because of my grandfather’s police status.
I told all my classmates about what happened and the next day, I said hello to Daddy Daddy just to try. I even gave him Whammos (our favourite snack from the 90’s). I wasn’t harmed. He didn’t do anything to me but smile. As a young girl who was programmed to be scared of him, I felt relieved. I felt kinder. I felt like my heart was exploding because I made someone happy with leftover food from my lunchbox.
From that day forward, I didn’t have a single story of Daddy Daddy. I had 2, 3, 4 or more stories about him. I would even pass by sometimes and raise my hands as if dancing to his beat. I did say hi to him all the time even if my classmates thought I was weird. I found out he was a good and harmless person, above all.
Where are you from also labels a single story
There are many Filipinos in Italy and when I went there in 2011 to study, I began to see that the single story of Filipinos abroad is domestic help. I’ve been often mistaken as “the help” because I look very Filipino but when I start speaking in English, everyone shifts to the direction of “oh, wait, maybe she’s from Hawaii?”
For years, Filipinos in Israel have been synonymous to Immigration so the hunt for illegal workers have been implemented more than ever. About a month ago, newly moved to Tel Aviv, I was waiting for 24 (bus to Ramat Gan) with a German friend and I found myself standing by the bus stop with five (5) other Filipinas. A police mobile randomly passed by and one of the officers started asking every Filipino for their passports except for me. Sure, I was speaking English to my German friend (Eeew. It’s disgusting that I have to label the characters of my story with their nationalities) but physically, I am 100% Filipina. When people tell me I speak very good English, I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended. However, I always tell them that the Philippines is a hardcore English speaking country.
Again, I have to shamefully admit that I didn’t declare myself as a Filipina and I was thankful the police didn’t ask me. Not because I was staying illegally in Israel but I did not bring my passport. Plus, I am late for a meeting and I can’t afford to waste more time to go home and get my passport. If I had it in my bag, I would definitely surrender myself and volunteer to be checked, too. I swear. Fine, I’ve been told I really look like one of the 0.000006% Hipster Chinese Jews because of the way I dress but it doesn’t mean I can be exempted. You see, the way we dress and talk have single stories, too.
How can a human come from a concept?
Why can’t we be just from everywhere? Can I just say, “Hi! I am Trisha. And I am from my life experiences and human interactions.” Why should I be a concept? Why should we be a concept? Why?
Now that you read this, you don’t have a single story of the Philippines. I have written at least 3.
Oh wow, that was a long intro and you might be tired of reading this now but this is how my writer brain works. I am born to tell a story and I can never ever simplify anything. I have to tell you everything that leads me to a particular plot. Most especially when it comes to writing about Israel. You really have to be creative, graphically wordy and specific. It’s a great challenge to write about a misunderstood country but I am getting by, I guess?
Moving on to the single story of Israel
Bombs, guns, 18-year old soldiers, tanks, m16, machine guns, flamethrowers, Gaza, mortars, artillery, poison gas, aircraft, passenger planes that have missiles onboard, rifles, violent, conflict, political turmoil, land dispute — okay that’s enough. Those were a lot of words but this sums up the single story of Israel to the world.
I hope we already developed the real meaning of single stories (aha! You thought this is going to be single in terms of relationship post!).
From African author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I learned that this is a form of curating stories as one thing only and by telling it over and over again, it becomes a definitive story of a particular place or culture. It can be compared to the most popular posts of this blog that sometimes gives passersby the definition of who I am but seriously, you have to read all the articles in the blog section before concluding I am a man-hating hipster who is always drunk or high in Tel Aviv.
Single stories are like stereotypes and while it is true, (aka I am not saying there are no bombs, guns, 18-year old soldiers, etc in Israel), the problem with stereotypes is not that they are false but they are incomplete. It doesn’t give you the whole picture until you experienced it yourself. Through stereotypes, we are defined by our differences rather than our similarities. This leads people to shy away from visiting places they’ve been dreaming of because of what they see in the media.
If you have been here, to like Israel is not a hard task. In fact, I am not the only one who planned to visit and eventually found home. There are probably thousands of us (mostly French) who did the same. The only difference is that they have Jewish roots and I don’t. And to live in Israel without the Jewishness is, hmmm…. a bit visa wise challenging.
Again, I am born to tell a story. A few already came to visit Israel from reading this blog and that occurrence of events still amazes me. If you ask me, I will not give credits to my writing. That wasn’t the reason why people came here. The reason they did was that they have the courage to add more to the single story they have of Israel. It will take a lot of courage to do so because you know — bombs, guns, 18-year old soldiers, etc.
I am not going to give you a unicorn shitting rainbows story of Israel in this post. I am sure at this point, you already think I am a broken record playing Tel Aviv on loop. But the message I want to deliver is not just about this country but the world.
Stories matter. Your stories matter. You matter. Go out there and see the world through your eyes. Transform it into writing. Do not live every day from the stories of others. Write your own! Stories are made to empower and wherever you are from in the world, you have the power to empower. How about starting to write about the city you grew up in? How about writing a short but beautiful status about your beloved family? All these qualify as a story. Please, don’t you ever regard your stories as foolish. There is never a single story in this world. You know that! Say something! Write something!
Honestly, I have to tell you the truth: this country, Israel, has given up. A large number of them traveling in Europe, South America, and Asia have no energies in correcting what people think of their country anymore. They simply gave up because it is pretty tiring when you have to add more stories to the default single story of every person you meet while traveling. Imagine you are from Israel and you are always avoided (like Daddy Daddy avoided) because of your citizenship and/or passport. It’s a curse!
Just a few days ago, I felt so empty and have nothing to give anymore. I thought I have joined the giving up camp but tonight, I am writing this. I promised myself to write more good stories, not just about Israel but all the countries I fancy. I promised myself not to write the bad anymore — there are other media channels that will do that anyway. This world needs the good. Let’s all write about the good. If not the good, at least something we tangibly experienced. Not something we saw from…. what’s that called again? TV?
There is never a single story.
What are your single story experiences from all the places you’ve been to? Did it change anything after your visit? I would love to hear from you! Come on, don’t be shy. Leave your thoughts on the comment box below!
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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.