Hey y’all, long time, no writing! I’ve been in Bangkok, Thailand for the past for months for my semester abroad, and the complete shift in pace and experiences in my daily life has stoked a creative fire in me–so here I am!
My experience in South East Asia has been memorable to say the least; I’ve snorkeled with sharks, bathed elephants, got my personal belongings snatched by monkeys, and have eaten the tastiest food I could have ever imagined. But, like many experiences in my daily life, I was made conscious of my race (in a surprising way).
As you can probably imagine, the presence of Black foreigners (or farang in Thai) in Asia is few and far in-between. I have often been on the receiving end of long stares of surprise, wonder, and confusion from locals as I wandered the bustling streets of Bangkok, adjusting to the organized, fascinating chaos of the city. But every once in a while, I would get asked a question that my spidey senses can now sense even before it’s asked– “Can I take a picture with you?”
The first time I was asked this in Thailand, I was wandering through a local food court, hungry and desperate for Pad Thai (the only Thai dish I could pronounce). All the menus were in Thai, and the communication barrier seemed impenetrable. But by the grace of God, a Thai man named Burt swooped in and saved the day.
I would describe Burt as the Thai version of your pushy uncle with a heart of gold. I was skeptical of his help at first; I really was not used to help from strangers. But he ordered my food for me, set my table, and asked to join me for my meal. Burt’s friends talked amongst themselves behind us, listening into our conversation and smiling. As I prepared to leave, Burt asked to take a picture with me:
Overall, I have received nothing but kindness from locals in the countries I have visited. I’ve been complimented on the shade of my skin, my smile, the uniqueness of my dreads (I’ve had multiple people touch them without my consent, but I’ve grown too tired to resist), and my overall appearance. Sometimes I truly felt like a KWEEN.
For your enjoyment, I’ve created a video and collage of one of the most crazy encounters, when my friends and I took pictures and selfies with over TWENTY Asian tourists in Vietnam. They quite literally stood in line to take pictures with us. A mother even urged her toddler to sit with us and take picture! I gagged.
I’ve truly found it interesting the overall curiosity and fascination with Westerners and western culture that I’ve experienced in Asia. However, I do appreciate and welcome it– I’ve never said no to a picture!