Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Befriending Locals

By Kyonne R., BSILR'18

Kyonne R. ILR’18 & Ijeoma E. GH’17 with a family they befriended at the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens.

My limited experience here in Mysore has helped me to develop a more nuanced approach to the unsolicited attention I experience as a foreigner in a new land. I am a 6’4”, 250-pound Black male traveling through Mysore, India. I assume that there aren’t many Mysoreans of my size and stature - evidenced by the inaccessibility of kurtas in my size. In my limited travels, I have seen people who are as dark, if not darker than myself, but my hair, my style of dress, and the company I keep seem to be dead giveaways that I am not of this land. And for that reason I’ve gotten quite a bit of unsolicited attention since my arrival - attention that somehow I didn’t expect, coming to a region of phenotypically black and brown people.
What I often take for granted, however, is that the local population might be just as enamored by me as I am by them. Out of fascination, I have taken countless pictures of individuals who are just navigating their lives as ordinarily as they ever have. That is of course unsolicited attention for them as well. Since my presence is both unsolicited and unanticipated at the local hospitals and grocery stores, I can’t blame someone for wanting to take a picture of me for the records. And at the end of the day when I am sharing an account of my day’s adventures with friends and family, it’s always pleasant to have a photo to go along with it!
Taking selfies while waiting in line for the boat to the Dubare Elephant Camp.

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