Such a strange feeling for me, being a visible minority. I get stares everywhere I go, and strangers sometimes try to interact with me in strange ways. Like the man who said, “Salaam, muzungu” as I walked by. Did he think I was Arabic? Or the man who just wanted to shake my hand. Maybe he thought I was a celebrity? Or the man who followed me for a half block trying to talk to me while I was on the phone. I think he was asking for money. And it’s strange, how I feel some sort of automatic kinship with any other muzungu I see, who presumably lives a similar experience.
I remember this feeling from South America, too, although it’s more pronounced here. There are fewer tourists, and I can’t pass for a fair-skinned coastal countryman. I stand out like a beacon just about everywhere.
I don’t like that feeling. It makes me self-conscious. But for all the discomfort of it, at least their assumptions about me are mostly benign. There’s no malice in it, which is not true for most minorities in other contexts. As far as being a visible minority goes, I’ve got it about as easy as it comes. So easy that I feel weird writing about this. I can’t complain.
Still, I can’t wait to be back where I don’t get a second look walking down the street.