“Black traveller duty”

I’ve been on the road this past couple of weeks (in fact, I’m in a coach somewhere in Israel as I write this). I don’t get to do as much travel writing as I would like to, so I’m really enjoying this time – and there’ll be a few articles appearing in different places at some point in the near future. This short blog post sprang from an outtake from the diary I’ve been keeping whilst on the road. it’s about something I sometimes find myself having to do from time to time whilst travelling; something I call my ‘black traveller duty’. Let me explain…

Back at home, whenever I meet a Spanish or Latino person, I use the opportunity to practise my Spanish. Something similar happens to me when I travel to certain countries – and judging by stories I’ve heard, a lot of black people have had similar experiences.

‘Urban’ culture is a global phenomenon; no-one can deny that. One side effect of this is that as a black person trekking through foreign climes (especially countries not known for having large black communities), you will, sooner or later, meet a local who wants to ‘practise their Urban’ on you.

I normally don’t get offended when this happens; the people involved mean well and it’s usually light-hearted and certainly not mean-spirited. And anyway it usually amounts to nothing more than a daft handshake – like yesterday in Shef’amer, when I had to fist-bump a young Palestinian man who works in the restaurant I had dinner in. Sometimes, though, it does get a bit weird. In Turkey last week, a market trader in Turgetreis introduced himself to me as AJ – “A to the mother____ing J”.

Ah, well – it’s all good (strangely, no-one’s said that to me yet). And I should remind myself of this next time I meet Alvaro from Cali and want to launch into “Oye, hermano – como te gusta Londres?”

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  1. Me gusta mucho pero prefiero vivir en el campo. It works the other way. I am a middle class middle aged white woman who went to public school. It is assumed when I travel that I fit a certain pigeon hole. I’m happy to sit in said pigeon hole for them but it’s not me and when I reveal the other me I am surprised by the shock. In this day and age surely we can be accepted for who we are not for what people expect us to be. But hey, isn’t ‘it fun to surprise people occasionally? My husband always wears tweed when he goes to London, on the grounds that it “confuses the natives, they don’t know if I am a Laird or a Keeper”. Indeed they don’t. In a pub one evening a young bloke came up to him and asked him, very politely, what he was and where he came from. He was wearing a tweed suit, smoking rollies (wish he would ditch them) drinking a glass of wine and trying to work out how to read a text from one of our daughters. They were perplexed and couldn’t pigeon hole him. Just as he likes it :)

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