Columbus Day

Columbus Day came and went last Monday. I didn’t notice it until my friend S called from Canada and talked about it in passing. Columbus Day is a regional holiday in the US. That means some states and companies recognize it and give their employees a day off from work. Some don’t.

Christopher Columbus was an Itali captain and explorer. It was believed that he successfully made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean. As part of Spain’s colonial expansion, he was hired to set sail to reach India, Asia. On this long, uncharted journey he stumbled upon some islands between North and South America in 1492. He was sure that he had arrived at the Indies of Asia. He even called the natives “Indians.” In fact, he was at the beautiful Bahamas Islands.

If you believe that Columbus was the first man to “discover” America, you may as well factcheck the following story, which does not refute the landing of Columbus and his crew, but it does give an interesting anecdote to what happened when they got there.

When Columbus anchored his ships and waded onto the lovely beach, he was greeted by a group of bronze-skinned, Asiatic-looking people – men, women and children. They looked friendly enough.

To which a woman said, not directly as an answer to him, but to her family as well, “阿乜嚟架?”

That was Cantonese Chinese, sounding like “ah muh li ga,” roughly meaning “What, what is this thing/man?”

“a-MER-i-ca?” Columbus repeated after her.

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