From Farai

Ohayo Gozaimasu! Traveling While Black to Tokyo and Beyond

Yesterday on News & Notes, economist Julianne Malveaux talked about strength or weakness of the U.S. dollar abroad, and the number of trips African-Americans make for personal vacations or family business. The TOTAL number of trips is 75 million (obviously many people take several), most of them in the U.S.


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But there is a hearty band of us fortunate African-American travelers who get a chance or find a way to go overseas. I know a lot of friends who have saved and saved so they can visit Bahia, the Afro-Brazilian cultural hub; or Ghana; or South Africa; or Europe. Everyone I know who's traveled abroad has been enlightened, empowered...and embarrassed.

I'm not talking mega-embarrassed, although sometimes you get that too. But every time you go overseas, you have a new chance to show you have no idea what you are doing.

I have been called out or gently instructed in customs and manners by:
—an Afro-French train conductor
—Tokyo restaurateurs (oh, the humiliation of trying to wear shoes onto a tatami mat!)
—a Rwandan in South Africa
—Austrian guys in Amsterdam

Let's see... you know about the tatami mat.... no shoes.

The train conductor got on me and my pal (rightfully so) for spreading out across seats on a popular route. Of course, we had been up for practically two days straight, so we were pretty unthinking. (This was more than a decade ago, when I COULD stay up for days straight.)

The Rwandan cautioned me about making assumptions about similarities between Bantu peoples... and for messin' up his name.

The Austrians rightfully pointed out that I had no real idea what happened during World War II (again, I plead the ignorance of the

But ya know what? A little embarrassment, even some mild humiliation, is a small price to pay for seeing the beauty of the world. And in my experience, if you can survive racial issues here in the U.S., you can deal with them abroad too. It isn't as if they don't exist, but I don't know anywhere there aren't issues.

So... I leave you with some lovely pix of my trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima in 2002. I was on a fellowship studying manga, or graphic novels and comics. It was amazing, top to bottom. The museum documenting the bombing and aftermath of Hiroshima is humbling... similar in tone and feeling to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

So... here are my questions to you:
Where have you been?
Why did you love it or hate it?
Were you embarrassed at any point? (Fess up.)
And will you travel abroad again?



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I was born in Taiwan, and came to the United States when I was 3. I have very little memory of Taiwan. Two years ago, under the guidance of a wonderful and strong Taiwanese teacher, I was sent to study Madrin in Taiwan. It was one of the best most empowering 9 months of my life. To add to the adventure was a two week trip to Thailand. I now work for a company that sends young college students abroad, and I can say, not enough of your educated black youth travel abroad. Most don't even realize that they could use their financial aid to study abroad. Yes finances are tight, and for some, just making it to college is a miracle, but one day I will make it a career to be that person to help and mentor black college students to study abroad!

Sent by Gyamfua Gyamerah | 3:45 PM | 7-11-2007

Been to Paris about eight times, London 3 times only for business, there,

T'was my dream to get the gig to include an international component. Went to the interim homeland, Jamaica, as a kid.

Nope never been embarrassed. Felt absolutely feted in Paris, wildly, wonderfully different from the corporate racist hell that characterized life for me
at the time... hey they dug that I am a black female
American who could manage more than some words in French.

I'm from the Empire City, New York and on reflection, have to take back the never embarrased.... was embarrassed in 1973? waiting at a hotel to attens a historic black woman poet's conference in Jackson Mississippi --- I was geled
and in garb and some white men verbally accosted me and my companion asking how much I cost. Yeah my only bad travel experiences have been in the US.

Sent by Regain Edwina Howe | 6:37 PM | 7-11-2007