As we went through a region in Eastern Europe, we quickly realized that people who looked like us were few and far in between. It ranked as not so important in the scheme of things seeing that we were there in search of fresh experiences instead of twiddling our fingers and hiding out in our comfort zones where familiarity was a sneeze away. On the other hand, it was important when we were mostly recipients of stares from porcelain-coloured folk, or hands stretched out to ask for something when it came from the cappuccino-colored gypsies, and mostly because we didn’t understand the language and kept on getting lost. Meeting a fellow black most times meant a sigh of relief..one that said in all it’s subtlety, “Mighty glad to see you long-lost relative!
It meant a frantic wave if distance separated us; a toothy smile, a hello, an affirming nod or a conversation even.
Bumping into Chiku in Kiev was different. We spotted him at the end of our very busy day. Darkness was falling quick and fast, we were exhausted and craved the comfort of our beds. He was the only black in the huge metro station, and we approached him needing sound instructions on getting back to the location of our hostel.
I must digress a wee bit here.
I must admit, I ain’t a millennial..in age or street-wisdom..and it shows!
I’m not techno-savvy, I have limited knowledge on getting information from apps on my phone, I’ve never figured out how snap-chat works and sometimes get lost, and end up spending hours wandering about in foreign lands, only to be bailed out when I bump into
millennials young-uns who whip out their phones, and explain to me like I’m a two-year old, where I am at, and how to reach where I want to go.
In Kiev, my old-school ways caught up with me. I just couldn’t just ask anyone for directions…people really wanted to help, I saw it in their eyes; but most times they didn’t speak english so they would just point and utter a few ukrainian words, and I had to understand that’s where I needed to go.
Chiku was different..he spoke English..Eureka!..and explained how to work the metro with the patience of a primary school teacher, so I would find where I needed to go. We exchanged numbers incase we got lost again, I would hit his number up and he would explain directions again. The rest of our days went on well..without confusion about which line to take.
When I whatsapped him after our safe return to the Netherlands, he confessed that he had never quite met people like us.
“You are African on the outside, yes, the world can see that, but inside, you are European..you behave like whites!”
“I can assure you we are African, inside and outside!”I retorted back, typing furiously on my ipad.
“No, you are black outside, but white inside,” he stubbornly insisted.
“How do you mean?”I asked in what seemed to be a calmer tone.
“I have never known any blacks to travel like you do..you know no one, but you just came..and not only so, but you went through all those countries..and with your daughter…I’m surprised, I never knew Africans who vacation like Europeans.”
News flash Mister!
Everyone travels all the time; sometimes with their families.
Yet Chiku is not the only one who is shocked about our mum daughter travels. Depending on race, there is curiosity and sage advise from westerners, and harsh rebuke from fellow Africans. One mama told me my daughter is still young, that she needs stability as she will one day have her own life. My response: how better to show her the world now as she grows so that later she can make informed decisions.
I guess, I travel with my child because;
I sometimes have no choice.
With family a continent away, and no free baby sitting services, she has to come along. We all would love a nanny, in my lofty dreams yeah..a few light years away we’ll have one, but for now, we are joined at the hip, we have to go on our gambols together.
She doesn’t want to remain behind.
Catch-22 situation here. She may not be into travel as much as I am, but staying back with folks is a worse option. The whining I’ve received each time I have left her back, “They don’t bake meat pie like you do..” “I don’t like their bathroom..” “We stayed in a house with their dogs!” and so forth..
I prefer to hand her experiences and a build up of memories instead of handing her gifts she’ll trash and forget about two
days years from now.
Taking her places is invaluable, she learns so much about the world and not in a text-booky sort of fashion..nay..in a hands-on fashion. I enjoyed watching her listen keenly to the tours in Warsaw, and how Krakow is so much prettier than Warsaw, and how Warsaw is sometimes jealous of Krakow..and I loved it when she reminds me about the breakfast buffet or spa we had in Latvia, or going to Disneyland in Paris, or a drive through Masai Mara in Kenya.
She’s nifty with the camera and has a great work-ethic.
What better way to propel her into a world of work and the vast array of choices the world offers from a wealth of information.
As a child, I wanted to tag along when my folks flew about the world. I remember the dizzying amount of conferences my late doctor father went to, the longing pangs I had to join him, my deferred dreams as each time he said, “The world is waiting for you, just work hard and you’ll go someday.” That day has come, and I’m glad to go with my little person.
Do you have children? Do you travel with them? Why do you travel with your child if so?