Voyeur

Hard bargaining is the order of the day as I try to find my way out of the labyrinth that is the market. I am surrounded by loud animated conversations, shouting and gesturing. Raised voices firing bullets of tonal syllables hit me from all directions. A strange unfamiliar sound that challenges me and forces me out of my comfort zone.

I’m grateful that people also speak English. A version of English anyway.

A part of me feels self-conscious. I am a voyeur. I am an intruder trying not to behave like the tourists I’m so scathing of. I hate the sight of affluent Westerners getting their third world experience from the air-conditioned comfort of the five-star. Terrified of the runny stomach and excited by the close touch and smell of the exotic local.  Wandering through the markets in their sensible shoes, stupid hats and water bottles slung around their shoulders in Kente cloth bags. Ridiculous, ill-fitting loose ‘pyjama’ pants seems to be their preferred look. ‘Traditional’ African gear. “When did ridiculous designs printed on wax cloth made in Holland become traditional African gear?” I snigger as another group of flushed, sweaty, red-faced tourists hustle past me.

I don’t see myself like them. I am different. I am the culturally aware traveller, exchanging ideas and experiences with the locals. After all I am from the third world. Though I have lived for many years now in the affluent West where I am still treated as a foreigner in my new home in Australia. A migrant. Not an immigrant. I have lived overseas for twenty-five years now. Longer than I have lived in my country of birth, but I’m still an intruder.  I wonder how long it would take me to claim my new nationality. To say I belong.

A different skin colour may have helped. May have stopped people asking me where I come from. Definitions of nationality, identity and self bombard my mind as I walk. Here too I am a stranger. But I feel comfortable. I feel like I know these people. I don’t feel like a tourist. Don’t feel like I am exploiting the locals. But I don’t think they feel the same way. I am aware that they see me as a tourist.  I am aware I look different, dress different. Just another foreigner. A handy new best friend to rely on in the future.

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