Monday, 4 January 2016

You're a Canadian, eh?

   While travelling within Vietnam and Laos in locations where there are few Caucasians mixed in with the locals, I felt like I was on display. While walking or cycling, I could feel their eyes following and staring at me as if I had come from another planet.
   At first I thought of it as a novelty and enjoyed the attention. But after a few weeks, I noticed that I became a bit impatient and I would mutter under my breath that perhaps they should just knock it off. Sure - I looked at them but I didn't stare!
   Whenever I started to get bothered by it, I would stare right back at the person but their expression did not change. I then realized that here are 2 people from different countries on this small world of ours looking at each other with no verbal or facial recognition for each other. I then started a different approach - I started to smile and a majority of the time, the person would smile back and then we became friendly, non-verbal world neighbours.
   When cycling throughout the country side, a majority of the children and adults in the fields and villages could not speak English but they would yell "Hello!"and wave to me. I would yell "Hello!" back and they would all giggle and smile.
   If they didn't say "Hello" but rather just stared at me, I would yell "Hello", wave and smile. They would respond with a "Hello" along with a big smile and laughter.
   And then one day, it hit me - I do the same thing the locals do when I see a Caucasian person walk or ride by me. I stare at them! Why? Because they are different looking from the greater population around me.
   I would then start to analyze them and ask myself: "Where are they going? Where are they from? Are they from Europe? Are they from my own country of Canada?"
  On two occasions during this trip, I was the one being analyzed by a traveller. The first man asked me if I was from Canada. I replied yes and asked him why he asked. He replied that he saw the "MEC" logo (Mountain Equipment Co-op) on my t-shirt as he was from Victoria, British Columbia. We had a nice chat and exchanged our travel experiences.
   The second traveller asked me the same thing as he also noticed the MEC logo. I found out that he was from Toronto, Ontario and we talked as if we had been long-time neighbours.
   I am tempted to write to the Canadian Government to have them consider changing our national icon - the Maple Leaf and instead, use the MEC logo.
   Have I learned a lesson from this trip about interacting with people in their native country? Yes - and that is to relax, allow them to look at me if they wish, have me say "Hello" and keep on smiling. And ... look for that MEC logo.

No comments:

Post a Comment