Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The life as a white


Dated: 22nd May

‘La blanche!’ It means The White. This is perhaps the most popular phrase I receive when I am on the streets. The extremely friendly Cameroonians simply shout at you as you pass by. In their eyes, I am a white. Belinda, the MC Project Director said, ‘There are only two colours: black and white.’ I happened to be whiter than I am black.

Everytime I tell people that ‘Je suis noire (I am black)’, they will laugh and say, ‘Ce n’est pas possible (This is not possible).’

The appearance of a person with alternative skin tone is a huge new thing to many locals. I am stared by almost everyone everywhere I go. Some people will shout at me with various greetings, ‘La blanche’, ‘La chinoise (The Chinese)’, ‘ça va? (How is it going?), ‘Ni hao’. Some people will whistle at me. Some people keep doing it to catch my attention. Some people will try to touch me. For most of the greetings, I can’t be sure of the amount of sincerity and harassment in them, and I will never go beyond responding ‘ça va (It’s good)’, and I only responded when I was in the University of Yaoundé, when I feel that the people are at least slightly less dangerous. For the people who try to touch me, I sweep them off violently. Nowadays, I devised a strategy to clench my fists everytime I am among the crowd. Somehow psychologically I feel that it makes people less dare to disturb me, because it probably makes people think that I know kungfu.

So far, the best response I have heard is from Tim, the Dutch intern. Someone called him ‘You are a white!’ off the street, and he responded ‘You are a black!’. And they shook hands. That scene was hilarious.

Jana the German intern told me, being a white also means that you will be grossly overcharged everywhere you go. For short distance, the Africans get to board the taxi at 100F (SGD0.30), while the taxis will not pick her up if she offers the same price. Being a white also means that some people will ask things from you. Jana’s housegirl told her to get her a handphone. And the same housegirl, upon seeing my MP3, asked me to give it to her. When Tim, Jana and I were watching National Day Parade on 20th May, a guy suddenly came up to Tim and demanded for his camera. Tim’s friend took the camera and ran away from the guy, who then asked Tim to give him 1000F. Tim ignored him, and he suddenly shouted at me ‘Chinoise!’ I didn’t dare to look at him, and kept staring into the street. He is a guy of the size of almost a gorilla, and Jana said he is mentally unstable. I was very much afraid then, wondering if he will assault me. Jana quietly moved between me and him, and we continued freezing for a few tense minutes. The guy eventually walked away. *Phew*

Being a white excites many people. One day, I was at Ubrine’s house, and Vincent the Belgian intern was there too, together with a few other Yaoundé AIESECers. Elviche was plaiting African braids for me. The door was opened, and suddenly a lot of kids appeared on the outside, shouting that they want to see the whites. We invited them in, and they kept staring and giggling at us. I asked one girl if she wants to marry a white. She said yes. So I asked if she wants to marry Vincent when she grows up, she said no, because she said that Vincent will not wait for her. It was truly cute of them.

It still amuses me how people can insist that I am a white, when I am one of the darkest person back at home! I am still trying to live with this notion as being a white. Up till now, it still amuses me, as much as it is bringing me some fear and intimidation.

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