A weekly digest of varied conversational musings on day-to-day life, society & whatever the world throws our way.

Travelogue – Part I

AirplaneAlthough we’re no longer in the heyday of glamorous international air travel – given increased security concerns and the tightened belts of nearly all airlines – I still get excited about the prospect of packing my luggage and boarding a plane to visit a far flung location somewhere in the world. I look forward to seeing and learning new things, to having my perspective challenged and perhaps altered, and to change the mode in which I live my day to day life. Mixed in with this excitement too is a bit of trepidation, as I always wonder how I will be received, especially when visiting a place in the world where I will clearly be the “other”.

I recall visiting Asia as a teenager with my mother and brothers at a time when my dad was working and living in Asia – dividing his time between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia while my family stayed behind in Canada. It was a big trip for us as we had never really vacationed per se as a family. Summer vacations between new and old school years mostly consisted of seemingly eternal days outdoors with neighbourhood friends or long day trips in the car where my brothers and I would make up backseat games to while the time away. But this year was special and different and it was a vacation extravaganza: first a stopover in California to go to Disneyland and Universal Studios and to tour Los Angeles a bit and finally the long plane ride to our first of three stopovers: Jakarta, Indonesia – a place I’d had only heard of on the news.

Our “otherness” – so obvious to each of us both on the plane and in the airport – was again made “known” to us by individuals working in the airport who asked us where we were from as we made our way to claim our luggage. The questions, the looks, the stares – perhaps a better description of their gazes – were never malicious, but came from sheer curiosity. Our difference was unique. We weren’t white foreigners – they had seen those often before. We were African, black, and clearly far from home.

Some of the clearest memories I have from this several week tour of Asia are the various instances where people just looked at me. They looked at the braids in my hair – one couple came and stood directly behind me to stare intently  – fascinated by the intricacy of and multitude of braids in my hair. Were they wondering how I did it? Were they comparing me to black people they had seen in movies or on television? I’ll never know because they didn’t speak to me directly. The gaze was usually distant. Sometimes a hint of a smile crept up on a face; sometimes a finger raised to point. I remember that we were never invisible or inconspicuous there. There was no hiding or blending in. We were a five member troop of “others” marching to a different beat.

As I make my way to Asia again, seated in a plane a mere hours away from my destination, I wonder: what will await me this time?

Signing off,

Y.

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Comments

  1. Kat@asecondglance

    There is nothing quite so soul-expanding as travel. Even one’s most basic assumptions about the world are open to be challenged. It can take courage to accept the beauty of ‘differentness’, but those who do are rewarded richly. Bon voyage, and I look forward to hearing the answer to your question!