Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Needing to Know if Our Tour Guide is Australian or Not

Last week we went to NYC.

Our family doesn't usually do educational tours when we travel. We usually just walk, eat, and chill. But this time, we needed to catch up on homeschooling hours, so I insisted we go on a Tenement Museum tour in the Lower East Side.

We opted for the Sweatshop tour because it's about Jewish history.  I thought it would nice to learn more about our heritage.  Well it's not exactly our heritage. My grandparents were all Chicago Jews, not NYC ones.  But the tour was about Russian immigrants, and my ancestors were from that area of the world.  So it kind of fits.


Our tour guide was Raj, an Indian guy who had an accent that sounded Australian to me.  I was extremely curious about this, but too shy to ask.  Well, really.... it wasn't just shyness. It was probably also shame.  How could I have this blog for nine years, know all this stuff about Australia, and still not be a brilliant expert on Australian accents?  Why after all this time and studying, do I still get confused?

To make matters worse, I was wearing my I Love Melbourne shirt.  So if I asked Raj if he was Australian, he might actually conclude I'm this fan of Australia who is dumb when it comes to accents.  If I didn't have the shirt, maybe I would have asked, because then he might have seem me as a normal person with an average interest in Australia rather than a sort-of-weird-crazy person.  

Also, Raj was quite busy talking about Jewish history and responding to related questions from the other tour participants. There really didn't seem to be an appropriate time for me to blurt out, By the way. Where are YOU from originally? And if I did that, what if everyone there thought I was referring to him being Indian. Because then that would be one of those racist things—the idea that nonwhite people have to be from somewhere else.  Although maybe it wouldn't be seen as racist since he does have a non-American accent.  I think if you have an American accent and people demand to know where you're from, it's racist.  If you have a non-American accent, maybe it's a more valid question.

So...I never asked Raj. I did ask Tim and Jack after the tour. Did they think Raj was Australian. Jack said maybe he was, or maybe he was South African.  South African didn't seem right to me.  I decided Raj was probably Australian.

And I thought about it every so often on the trip.  Okay, I was actually mildly obsessed. I dreamed about Raj twice. And I think I was also kind of having this fantasy that we'd randomly run into Raj somewhere in NYC, and I could ask him.  Hi! You probably don't remember us. We were on your tour, and I was just wondering. It's not super important or anything. But...are you Australian?

Sadly, we never had a serendipitous encounter with Raj.

Jack and I talked about him at the airport. I think I brought up the Australian stuff again.  I also said something about Raj being a good actor.  He didn't just fill our vessels with interesting facts.  He seemed to really get into the stories he was telling us, and the emotions/opinions of the various real-life characters.   He was so good at it, that when he portrayed the thought processes of anti-immigration people, it was actually a bit scary.  It almost seemed like he agreed with the anti-immigration ideas, even though since is an immigrant himself and he works at a pro-immigrant museum, this would make little sense.  And mostly he did seem pro-immigrant.

I guess what I'm trying to say, in my clumsy way, is he did a great job of becoming different characters.

It wasn't in a typical historical-museum reenactment know where they put on a costume, change their accent, and show you how to churn butter.  It was more subtle—maybe more along the lines of dissociative identity disorder.

When we got home to Texas, Jack did some Googling about Raj.  I'm not sure if I asked him to do this, or he did it on his own.

But...he found out some fascinating things.

First of all, Raj is NOT Australian.  He comes from New Zealand.  Why did I not think of that possibility earlier?  If my brain had been properly working, I probably would have.

Hey! You know what. There HAS been something glitchy in my brain lately.  I've been having various muscle jerking for the past few months.  If the part of my brain that deals with muscles is glitching, isn't it also possible that the part of my brain that deals with New Zealand is also not working 100% properly.  So yeah...MAYBE it's not my fault.  I'm going to blame my neurons.  Do neurons deal with New Zealand?  I'm not sure.  But let's just pretend they do.

So, Raj is from New Zealand.  His real/full name is Rajeev Varma.  Although now I'm wondering if he told us his name was Rajeev, and I just heard Raj.  Did he have a name tag that said Raj?  I can't remember.

The most exciting thing, though, is Rajeev Varma really IS an actor.  When I mentioned the actor thing to Jack, I didn't mean it literally, like as a career kind of thing.  I was picturing something more along the lines of someone who doesn't act professionally or as a serious hobby, but who has a secret talent that he sometimes uses in his career/daily life.  Maybe at most, I would have guessed that he occasionally does community theater.

But no. Rajeev is a professional actor. He has a show on Netflix—Brown Nation.  He plays the main character!  And according to IMDb, he's been doing screen work since 1996.

It was very exciting for us to learn that our tour guide was a successful actor who might end up being famous one day.

If he becomes famous, will he continue to work as a tour guide?  That would be nice if he did—as long as he still enjoyed the work.  I think it's possible.  I know there are actors who teach at universities, and stuff like that.

I did start to wonder if maybe the other people on the tour already knew that Rajeev Varma was an actor. I started to imagine that they were all Brown Nation fans who signed up for the sweatshop tour with hopes that a Netflix star would be their tour guide.  Maybe we were the only ignorant ones—ignorant about the difference between Australian and Kiwi accents, and ignorant about Netflix programming.

I don't blame myself for the latter. There are so many shows made by Netflix I can't keep up.
If it weren't for Jack googling to find out where our tour guide's accent was from, I'd probably never learn that Brown Nation existed.   And this is coming from someone who studies IMDb on a daily basis. Australia-thing, and my curiosity over our tour guide's accent, might have led me to yet another show to add to my huge list of shows and movies I want to watch.