Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Encounter With a Foreigner

Let me preface this post by telling you about an experience from my childhood. One time my mother had to take a taxi, and I was with her in the front seat. In those days we didn't have car seats for children, and so children were given that most coveted "head goes through the window like a bullet" seat in between the driver and the passenger in the front seat. Often we would be standing there so that we could see out. Our only protection was our mother's arm that would shoot out in front of us to keep us from falling when the car braked. So on this particular day, I was standing or sitting on the front seat in between my mother, and the taxi driver, who happened to be black.

I was between 2 and 3 years of age, and had never seen a black man before. I was quite fascinated, and I am sure that I stared. At one point I turned to my mother and said something like, "Momma, him got black hands." My mother, who probably wished she could camoflauge herself the color of the seat, simply answered, "Yes dear, that's his color." A moment or two went by and I said again, "Momma, him got black nose too." My mother was probably perspiring at this point, but simply answered, "Yes, dear, that's his color." I don't know how long I made her squirm, but at some point I accepted her explanation and quit asking.

The other day we went out to dinner with some new friends. They brought along their 7 year old daughter, and their 12 year old nephew. I am sure that we were the first foreigners the little girl had ever seen. At one point she turned to her mother and said, "Ma, I have noticed that foreigners speak chinese differently than we do. They have an accent." Her mother probably wanted to squirm at this point too, but she just explained that chinese isn't our mother tongue. A little bit of time went by and the little girl leaned up next to her mother and said, "Ma, I have noticed that foreigners have tall noses." Her mother, a little embarassed, explained that many chinese would like to have bigger noses, and some get cosmetic surgery. Of course I know she was just being nice. We explained that foreigners don't like too big of noses either. A little bit of time went by and the little girl must have been staring at my daughter, for she said, "Ma, I have noticed foreigners have long eye lashes." Her mother nervously laughed and said that chinese women wish they had longer eye lashes. Yet a little while later the little girl leaned up close to me, and then said to her mother, "Ma, I have noticed that foreigners' hair smells good." Her mother laughed and said, "It's probably the shampoo that they use."

AFter awhile they put a little stool up near the front seat to make room for more passengers in the back, and the little girl was given the stool to sit on. At this point she was sitting right next to me. I asked her if she would like to sit on my lap. She seemed a little nervous, so I said, "I'm fat, so I'm comfortable to sit on." I also told her that I was a mom too, so she could sit on my lap. She never did take me up on the offer. But I noticed at one point she slyly reached out her finger, and ever so imperceptibly touched my thigh to see how soft it was.

I hope that this little girl will have a good perception of foreigners from this experience. And I hope that next time she meets one, she will feel more comfortable around them. As for me, I smile every time I think of this experience. :)

5 comments:

Rummuser said...

That young lady will grow up to be a very understanding person.

Vid said...

I know that feeling. Other students' fascination with my race seems to be inversely proportional to how old they are.

blackwatertown said...

Good story. My kids haven't had that experience, because the neighbourhood was so racially mixed when they were young. It was funny having my older one pick up different accents.

Grannymar said...

Great story. I remember poking a finger into the fat arm of an aunt when I was small. I came from a family of stick insects, so a chubby arm was strange to me back then.

Amber said...

ROFL It cracks me up that she poked you to see how soft you were ;)