And in being different, one might possibly pique the ire of a local bigot.
On more than one occasion, my skin color has provoked racial slurs that were decipherable only by a traveling companion who translated the comment. But more often than not, being different has been the catalyst for acts of kindness and inclusion whenever I've traveled abroad. Once, while sitting at a bar in French Polynesia, I shared drinks with a middle-aged couple from Sydney who frankly admitted that I was the first black American they'd met. After learning I was headed next to Australia and was looking for a place to stay, they presented me with the keys to their unoccupied Sydney apartment.
Was this affirmative action for travelers? Some might call it that. I call it foreign hospitality, though it was so much more than that. In this all-too-real world of dangers actual and imagined, this world where good people are often ostracized on the basis of creed and color, this kindness was a restorative act of humanity. I have been coddled by paternal Italians, sheltered by benevolent Swedes, fattened by small Indonesian families, and protected from encroaching assailants by big, brawny Aussies who kicked butt without bothering to take names.
Jackson to Michael Jordan, though presumptions are made about my prowess on the basketball court as well as the dance floor, I've learned to surreptitiously roll my eyes while I roll with the punches.
guided meditation for your skin
It's the acts of kinship, not the blunders, that frame my traveler's constitution. As for the Argentine women who asked for a photo, I acquiesced wholeheartedly. The camera flashed. Elaborate poses were concocted, held, and repositioned as black-and-white images were etched onto color film. After a volley of " gracias, " a language-locked silence fell between us. Then suddenly, as if strafed by two Argentine attack planes, my face was riddled with rapid-fire, double-cheeked kisses. Startled by the vociferousness of her own hastily delivered good-bye, one of my admirers giggled and then stared at me.
Something passed between us. Something sweet and pure and prophetic. Something I chose not to spoil with a mundane request for her telephone number.
Besides, face-to-face communication had proved difficult if not impossible. Attempting to converse on the telephone would be nothing more than an exercise in futility.
Instead, I watched silently as she retreated with her friend. Bare it. Make it yours.
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