A few nights ago, I lay in bed dripping with sweat in the sweltering heat of my enclosed bedroom – my thermostat said it was 31 degrees. I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and could not sleep. This is very rare for me. I’m usually an excellent sleeper – my body knows to sleep through what it needs to, but I can also be perky as soon as it’s time for me to wake up. I had to wake up at 2am last night and air my room out for an hour. Ironically, that afternoon, there was torrential rain.Thomas (affectionately known as “Dr. Peace”) led an insightful half-day workshop on racism the other morning. It’s funny because I was constantly telling others about Vancouver’s multiculturalism when I was in Japan, but the simple fact that Canada is a country of immigrants doesn’t mean that we’re any less segregated or any more tolerant than the next person. Brittany (one of the other interns) commented that she was surprised at some of the blatant discriminatory comments she would hear from some of her friends in Vancouver when she was on the West Coast for an internship. Her friend made a face at her for buying something from the Richmond night market and it’s true that sometimes Caucasians are viewed differently if they spend too much time participating in Vancouver’s Asian culture or with Asians. Our typical language is filled with labels – “chugs,” “FOBs,” “brown,” and it’s common for us to chill with people from our own ethnic circles (my sister vouched for that, especially based on the cultural environment in high school).
It’s also important, though, that I point out what I learned about the difference between racism and discrimination. As Dr. Peace put it, racism is discrimination + power. It’s discriminating against another ethnic group for the purpose of exerting one’s power or superiority over that group. I think both are present in Vancouver.
Maria and I had the chance to meet with Julie, one of Tara’s past interns, a couple days ago who left us with several pointers.
- Expect vicious dogs roaming the streets of Huancayo. If I’m alone, the best way to deal with them is to make like I’m going to pick up a large rock and hope that I don’t actually have to throw it.
- I’ll have to deal with the machismo culture – still not sure what to expect in terms of this.
- Some of the Peruvians in the more rural communities think that foreigners steal children and use their fat to grease railroad tracks. (!!!) Establishing that trust-based relationship will be really important.
The other day, Sophia from Tanzania nonchalantly commented that I seemed to be gaining weight (I have been eating a lot of pastries lately – I’ve gotta take advantage of this buffet!) What’s so great is that fat really is beautiful where she comes from. If only I was going to Africa. =)
I’m going to church today for the first time in years. The ladies from various countries in Africa promised that we would be clapping, singing, and dancing like they did during the Welcome Social night and I’m always up for that!