I studied my masters in China. While there, I was a black girl. Most Chinese I met have never seen a black person so, when they do, they stare at you first, then they touch your braided hair; if you are a girl In the villages, the courageous ones will touch your skin and see if it is black because of dirt or just naturally darkened skin due to sun burn. But then, they will also call you FEIZHOU REN – African, never considering you being from the islands, or the states, but just African. Besides, they have a perception that Africans do not take a shower, are dirty, very poor, and have no knowledge about most things. Basically, in China, I was like a chimpanzee, an animal coming directly from the zoo that could be waved at, taken pictures wondrously, looked at with amazement and sometimes with disgust.
Don’t you get me wrong, I have a soul of a traveler and I definitely had had an amazing time regardless of the racism I was subjected to. At some point, I was adopted by a Chinese old couple after I did my first volunteer activity in an elderly home, where I performed a Chinese song called PENGYOU – Friend. I had and still have a Chinese little sister, who was at first a friend but now calls me her sister; besides, I made a couple of some memorable Chinese friends.
For my friends – quoting one of them who had sent me a note on my last birthday anniversary saying, “You are the kind of person who knows exactly what she wants from life and that is the quality that amazes me about you.” I imagine that they saw me as a mesmerizing person, an eye opener, blah blah, blah.
I am the last born of 17 children. I was once spoiled as a child; I am still loved and respected for being successful in my studies and being an independent person. Today, I am mostly a grown up girl, who should probably start thinking about commitment, marriage, children, and work of course.
I have been to Europe for a short time; however, I have not been to America yet. One thing is guaranteed though, that wherever I go I will be a different person and people, depending on their education, race, and culture, will have some sort of different perceptions / opinions about me. This is who I am for the world in which I was born, raised up, and currently striving to make my own way. This begs the question; who am I and what is my purpose in life?
I know I am a human being and not a chimpanzee, I am also a girl as gender would define, I was born and raised in a family, brought up in a particular culture and religion, I was educated in different schools from the world. I am mostly a sister, a friend, a daughter, and maybe something else for other people. I could compare myself to a small bird, among many other animals, but all being just birds in the sky, and my seldom purpose in this life is to fly as far as I can (travel as much as I can), stand on any other tree or soil in the world (any country existing), feel the air (feel free), meet other birds (meet other people), and definitely see myself as beautiful as a multicolored peacock; be a parrot to imitate every language I can hear, and finally just be a FREE BIRD.
By Tany Kigany Kombate Nene, a regional intern at World Youth Alliance Africa in Nairobi, from Togo.