I think that I’ve only mentioned it once before: the fact of being black…here. Trinbagonian…here. Most times I don’t think about it, but every once in a while, maybe whilst walking down the road, maybe whilst sitting in a classroom and gazing from left to right, maybe when someone stares at me for too long of a period, maybe when I can’t maco a conversation that’s in a different language or maybe when seeing someone’s brown hair blowing wispily in the wind; I remember that I look, and am, ‘different’. I remember that in almost every situation I can easily be described as ‘the black girl’. That description is way too vague to work in Trinidad, or anywhere in the Caribbean for the matter…but here ‘the black girl’ is as detailed a description as is necessary on most occasions.
Does it mean anything to be ‘black’… here? Do I experience things differently than non-black/non-Trinis…here? I’d say ‘Yes’. We can pretend that we all experience this world in the same way, but we don’t. Our culture, our family, our accent, our skin colour, our personality, (etc many times over) all affect the way we experience the world and the way the world ‘experiences’ us.
My hair is different…I was asked whether it comes out of my head like that and whether it was real. I smiled. I guess that even amongst black people natural hair is the exception rather than the norm. I said ‘yes’.
My way of interpreting words is different… An English man asked me a question/statement and I began to answer and then stopped midway through with a very confused look on my face. The person was apparently telling a joke, and the other English person in the room seemed to understand it. I was completely clueless, but I pretended like I had an idea of what was going on. The other person then laughed and said that ‘You’ll have to get accustomed to the (joker’s) humor’. I chuckled…I think. They seemed oblivious to the fact that I didn’t understand a word of what was going on. (I’ll probably just get accustomed to being confused).
My skin pigmentation is different… Someone noted that there is so much variation in my skin colour since my palms are fair and my skin is dark.
My accent is different… Sometimes I have to repeat things. I think that maybe it’s less my accent at times and more the way I speak. I speak slower and sound stupider here because my mind is constantly set to ‘DON’T SPEAK DIALECT!!!!’ mode. So, I speak with more of stutter, I fumble more often, I speak softer…and I’m pretty sure that I sound a lot less confident (not that I was particularly so before) than I do in Trinidad.
My way of eating food is different…I’ve sat in halls and just watched people eating. It was fascinating. I’ve never seen so many people not use a spoon or spork all at the same time before! I’ve also never eaten with a knife and fork so often or casually before (breakfast..ah mean!?!) Knives and forks are usually used in fancy restaurants in Trinidad and even there I tend to feel rebellious and a strong desire to refuse to use them. I would defiantly think “What treachery is this?? I shall use a spoon or fork in my right hand!! If I must eat meat, I will hold it, bite it and then lick my fingers!! That thing that can’t fit/be broken apart in/by a spoon shall be held, and bitten into smaller chunks, not sliced with a knife!!” I’m not so defiant here. I’ve submitted… and I think that I stare at my plate and concentrate way too much on eating because of it.
It’s instances like these that make you aware that to some people, many people, maybe even to most you’re a window. They’re a window to you too, and I certainly have done quite a bit a peeping since coming here…and have made a couple people smile because of my seemingly stupid or ‘duh’ provoking questions or reactions. When you’re a window, and often the only accessible window into a ‘different’ world, you feel pressure to remain clean and clear. You don’t want to present a dirty or distorted view because in some cases that’s the only view that will be seen.