Monday, February 11, 2013


I left Seattle, Washington, USA a little over a month ago. I can still visualize that walk down the jet way to board my first flight. You would have seen a nondescript five foot-something, blonde-haired, blue-eyed (slightly teary) girl ambling down the jet way like any ordinary passenger. In fact, this passenger would probably be so ordinary that you wouldn't even notice her. This is still my perspective.

I have mentioned before that being blonde-haired, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed in this country will get you many glances from strangers. It will even be enough to provoke complete strangers to come and stroke your hair or touch your skin. My first few weeks here I noticed it, but it didn't bother me. Perhaps it was the novelty of being stared at that kept me from really being bothered by it. However, the novelty for me has worn off. I feel at home here. I feel like those around me should be as used to seeing me, as I am to being in their culture. This doesn't seem to be the case.
An ordinary white girl with an extraordinarily beautiful village woman. 
The other day, while walking home Charlie and I were accompanied by a number of neighborhood girls. The girls love to run up to us and try out their English. They say “hello” and ask us for our “good names.” We generally greet them, exchange the pleasantries and then they run off in giggles. This time, however, one of the girls took a liking to me and sidled up beside me to walk awhile with me. Charlie and our friend fell a few paces behind and watched our exchange. I soon heard them snickering behind me and began to wonder what was going on. Once my little friend had scurried off, Charlie and our friend caught up to me and confessed what they were laughing at. Apparently my little friend had been stroking my hair during our walk without me ever noticing. Sigh.

One of the village visits I made recently was to a very remote village near the foothills. The bus ride took us well over thirty minutes, and then we hoofed it another twenty into the heart of the village. It was beautiful. We wandered along the rice paddy ridges from home to home. It was a peaceful scene. The students I was with had kept a steady pace while I had fallen behind to shoot a few photos. I kept an eye on them and made sure I could follow their path. I noticed they had trekked through a shady area, along the ridge of a rice paddy, past a content dog that was happy to watch them pass by. Then I walked by. The peaceful dog went ballistic as if it too had never seen such fair skin. This raucous caused my team and all the village folk within earshot to look up and being to laugh hysterically at the fact that even the dogs notice the white girl. Sigh.
This is the scenery I hiked through in the villages on Friday. 

Beautiful. Peaceful. Simple. 

My team marches on.
Last weekend, while visiting some friends and attending church service near Chennai I was invited to stay for a meal. I was eager to enjoy the fellowship and food with my friends. I had begun to learn their names and stories and was excited to learn more. As mats were rolled out on the floor, and plates were passed around, I took a spot next to a young girl. I was not handed a plate. Instead I was handed an invitation to leave the room and go upstairs where a separate meal had been prepared for me at a table. I was flooded with mixed emotions. I was honored that they wanted to treat me well, but crushed that I was not going to be able to have that sweet fellowship with them. I know it is their culture. I know it is their way of showing proper hospitality. But I didn’t need a meal fit for the Queen of Sheba as much as I needed their fellowship.
This is the line I attempted to sit at the end of for my meal on Sunday. Epic fail.  
I am just an ordinary white girl, trying to remember that I may not look so ordinary to those around me. It does wear on a girl though.  


  1. Yep. I have memories of sitting with my head completely covered by hands trying to touch and "pet" my hair when we lived in Africa. Such an interesting experience because of that lack of physical barrier. In some ways annoying and yet, in others, a unique way of connection.

    It does get old always being treated as a guest when you just want a little family time.

  2. Loving the bigger photos! Much easier to see! Love them as always Emily.