Try to Look Like the Locals

I have given up on blending in. Yes, there are Afro-Latinos here who are my complexion (although I can think of about seven that I’ve seen in the last three weeks, and that’s counting myself) but I still get…noticed. Thankfully, it’s not like I’m the main attraction at the zoo. As the saying goes, you can find Black folks anywhere. I’m guessing the longer than normal looks when I go out in public are more because I’m a foreigner than because of my actual race. Twice in one day two different people stopped me and asked if I spoke English. Mind you, my mouth was closed. I wasn’t talking to myself, singing a song, or counting out money in English. I wasn’t even humming. I was standing. With my lips zipped. Clearly, I’m giving off an American/English-speaking country vibe.

It was funny though. The first man (who I think is Japanese) in my building to ask said he heard me speaking English on a Sunday. By then, it was Friday. The second man was Filipino, which started an entire conversation because my hometown of Houston has a huge Filipino population.

The last person who asked, to his credit, heard me speaking Spanish. And with my broken down (but rapidly improving) Spanish even a deaf person could hear that it’s not my first language. He wanted to practice his English—which is a request I frequently receive—and I wanted to practice my Spanish. It’s an easy enough trade.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that being an outsider-insider has its benefits. I’ve found people to be very friendly and welcoming. Clearly, by the Sunday English speaking comment, I’m being noticed even when I’m unaware of it. That can be a good or a bad thing. I’m leaning more towards good because people are warning me about places to avoid and suggesting places to visit. They’re welcoming me to their country, telling me apartment numbers if I ever need anything, and just being very warm. I love it.

I always said back in the States that if I went missing I would not make the news because my hair does not blow in the wind. For that reason alone, I tend to be super cautious when traveling. Not that I’d make the news here either, but it’s nice to think that I’m recognized and welcomed by some people in my building and, at least so far, by the larger community as well.

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