“what country are you from?”

I like to at least try to fit in when I’m living in other countries – to outwardly appear as little like the foreigner that I am. I fancy that I passed fairly well as a German when I lived in Germany. But in Spain it’s hopeless. This is my everyday:

My hair swirls around my head in a frizzy, light brown mane as I powerwalk – my natural pace – between and around the sauntering, bronzed Spaniards with their flowing, deep brown locks. For the sake of comfort and relieving stress on my shoulders, my backpack is lashed to my waist with its wide, grey mesh straps, and it bulges with my tennis shoes and other workout paraphernalia, as well as textbooks and a massive umbrella.

I can feel the eyes of the women toting their oversized purses – never a backpack, no matter the load! – fall on me as I pass. Or maybe they’re staring at my blindingly pale arms, which my tank top exposes to the world. It’s 65 degrees and I’m still sweating from exercising; what else am I supposed to wear? Perhaps if I moseyed along at their pace, I wouldn’t be drenched even if I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, like the rest of the population. I doubt it, though.

My feet are squished into my comfy Toms, which have neither heels nor platforms to make me seem taller. Nevertheless, my strangely broad shoulders stand the chance of knocking some of the Spanish women I pass in the chin. That would be tragic indeed, as I’m uncertain if their wispy frames could withstand a brush with my solid one, especially with their ankles suspended at odd angles several inches off the ground. They might tumble over, their flowy blouses fluttering all the way and their smoker’s lungs wheezing out gasps of surprises. If that happened, I’d grasp their delicate fingers with my meaty paw and lift them to their feet before apologetically speeding away.

They are different stock here, and I’m never going to physically fit in. So I’ll enjoy my sleeveless shirts and throw my fuzzy hair up in a bun on all the humid days, and I won’t be surprised when the first question I’m asked is, “What country are you from?”