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By Dave and Jaja Martin


Where are you from?

"North Carolina. That's a long way to sail from. Are you from N.C.?" The question is often asked by fellow cruisers.

It's a logical question considering "Oriental, NC" is painted on the back of DRIVER. Dave usually evades the question by saying: "The boat is from NC"

When we step out of our car--yes we do have a car--we get a different question: "Wow, did you drive all the way from Colorado?" Another logical question given the car has Colorado plates (see The Martins Have Landed #1).

Things get even more confusing when people put the car and the boat together. "How do you get the car on the boat? Does it fit on deck?"

When we lived in Newfoundland we had a car and a boat for the first time. Our friends knew we had recently sailed from Norway. But the car? It just didn't add up.

When someone has talked to one of our kids first, they will be even more confused: "But, your son said he was from Australia!"

"Where are you from?" is a question that is difficult for us to respond to in one easy sentence. Our answers often elicit additional questions. Before we know it our explanation takes on book-length proportions. (See Into the Light pages 130-132.)

When we were in Europe it was easier because we were from "The States". That response was always satisfactory because we look and sound American. Now that we are in The States, we have to be more specific.

Dave is from Seattle and I am from New Jersey (should I admit that?). We met in the Caribbean, and lived abroad for years. In '96 we lived in Oriental, North Carolina and put together DRIVER. Years later we spent a winter in Colorado--that's where we bought the car.

While cruising down Nova Scotia's south coast this past summer we met many friendly people. When casual strangers asked us where we were from, Dave and I would reply: "Maine". The reasoning was that Maine was close and logical. The strangers would conclude that we were out for a summer cruise. Our intention was not to mislead people, just to give a quick, satisfying answer. We didn't want to bore people with details. In general, a casual answer is all people are looking for. It's similar to the question: "How are you doing?". No one wants your medical history.

One day in Nova Scotia, we anchored off a beautiful white sand beach. While the kids played in the sand, Dave and I climbed up some giant boulders that rose out of the surf. From our aerie we could look directly below to our kids. An elderly man walked by; he veered over to say hi to Chris, Holly, and Teiga. Dave and I eavesdropped from above, undetected by the new visitor.

"Where are you from?," he asked the kids, kindly.

They looked at each other with blank expressions on their faces. Finally, Holly hazarded a guess. "Maine," she said. She was imitating our practiced answer. Dave and I chuckled: our kids had never been to Maine. Neither had Dave, for that matter.

"Oh! Wow!" said the man. "My whole family lives in Maine. What town are you from?"

Unable to come up with the name of a single town, Holly changed tactics. "Actually we came from Newfoundland," said Holly. "We're on our way to Maine."

When the man talked to them about Newfoundland, Chris joined in the conversation and with authority rattled off town names and National Parks we had visited. I was impressed with how well they had handled the situation.

Just prior to the first day of school, Holly and I had another "where are you from?" conversation.

"What should I say to the kids when they ask me where I'm from?," Holly wanted to know. She was nervously anticipating her first day in a new school.

"Tell them you're from New Zealand," I answered. "That's where you were born."

"That answer doesn't work," she said, "because then everyone thinks I'm a different nationality. I'm American, just like them."

"Tell them you grew up on a sailboat," I said. "That's the truth, and anyway it's cool."

"It's too hard going through that explanation with every single new person I meet," said Holly. "Besides on my first day I don't want to do all the talking."

"Well, tell them you're from North Carolina..."


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