July 25, 2011

the (un)invisible man

There are millions of experiences out here for the experiencing and perhaps the most poignant is the experience of being a minority. Dispatches from the frontier: being a minority sucks.

I can't disappear, I can't fade into the background. I'm always on display. Sometimes it's not so bad and some days it's unbearable but it's something that never comes off and never goes away.

My otherness is impossible forget as each day brings subtle, flat and overt reminders addressed as offhand comments or jeering children or slurring drunks. As tiresome as these things can be, especially one year in and one to go, they bruise only. More than insults and irritation it's the isolation. There are some things that nobody in my village ever really "gets." Somethings I can't explain to even the most willing, educated, kindly people in the township. The people I consider to be my closest friends. I wish they could just listen and understand and change their outlook seamlessly but, obviously, that's a bit of a fantasy.

I can't help but compare my experience as a minority here with my previous experience in the majority...needless to say I think I've become more sensitive.

But like nearly every hardship I face in Peace Corps I can stand outside of it, to some extent, as my life here has a two year expiration date. None of my challenges are permanent and that's comforting. It's like in middle school when some teacher duck tapes your thumb to your palm for the day. It sucks but not too much because you know it's only for the day. Owing, perhaps, to the time bound nature of the experience I am afforded a rather clinical perspective of my own frustrations.

*************************Edit 19/9/2011**********************************
This is a really stupid post and some pretty lousy writing.

Basically what I wanted to say is that I'm tired of being stared at all the time.  Anonymity has gone the way of, I dunno, decent cheese.  It's not something I'm likely to get back until I come back Stateside.  Something that I do appreciate is the perspective I have gleaned from this experience.

I mean, every possible factor is skewed in my favor.  The stereo-type of white people here is that we are healthy wealthy and educated.  Even the nature of the experience is finite, there's a two year window that I have to put up with all this and afterwards I'm back in the happy majority bubble.  I can't help but contrast that with what minorities in the US have to put up with.  Most of the stereo types are negative and the experience certainly doesn't have a two-years-and-you're-free time stamp.  I can't even imagine how much weight that is to carry around.  As comparatively easy the experience is for me, it still drives me up the wall.

1 comment:


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