It was my third week in Madagascar when I got invited for a trip to Malagasy countryside by a Brit who lived in Mahajanga and ran an eco oil production company.
We departed quite early in the morning to avoid high temperatures during the drive.
I was a bit tired so I fell asleep in the car. I woke up suddenly when we arrived in the middle of Malagasy fields where a group of locals stood staring at the car. They were mostly African women and children. Totally astonished by my look.
I felt a bit annoyed but had no choice, had to get out of the car and at least, say hello.
I was literally x-rayed by these black people who looked at me like I was an Alien.
“They’ve never seen a White, blond woman” – the Brit said.
I was like “Ok, so what now?”.
To say I felt uncomfortable was an understatement. It was like standing naked in front of a group of people you don’t know.
I pulled out my SLR and asked them by using hand gestures if I can take a picture of them… They nodded.
I took a couple of photos and showed them on the camera’s screen. The little crowd was delighted. “Aaaaaaa”…. – I heard.
I saw smiles appearing on their faces.
Uffff. Not too bad for the first time to be totally exposed to the blacks, as a white person.
I’ll never forget that experience. It was deep. It made me realise that when you’re put in an alien situation, no possessions, no look and no intelligence matters. You are harmless and very fragile.
It was during my first trip in Cambodia when I decided to go off the beaten track and join my friend in visiting his parents in a small Cambodian village.
They lived in a wooden, simple house on pillars which consisted of one big room and a kitchen corner. The shower, the same as the bathroom, was outside.
I slept outside too. On a wooden bed under the sky full of stars. In the morning, I woke up early and was invited to take a shower at the neighbour’s place because my friend’s house and the yard was filled with local men who came to see a white European girl.
After having the shower I was taken around the neighbourhood. I visited about three different families and each of them greeted me with a big smile and delight.
“Let’s visit another neighbour because they never saw a foreigner…” my friend was explaining to me why he wanted to take me to another house.
I felt like a monkey in a portable zoo. However, the smile of the local’s faces made up for the funny feeling of diversity.
After that morning I felt as I am equally weird to some people in this world as they are to me. After that morning it became clear that even if we, people look different and hold different values we all belong to one type of species. Human.