I was reading through some of my journal entries from last week and thought I’d share this one with you… [Written after going to my little sister’s hip hop -just to watch- for the second time]
September 22, 2018
So I went with Panna to hip hop on Wednesday. I went with her last week, but we didn’t talk aloud much and there were a lot of people there for the first lesson of the season (so no one really questioned my nationality).
This week was different. I felt like a monkey in an exhibit.
First off, we talked in English a little bit in the locker room, so two of the girls in the class were amazed that I was from America and Panna could speak English so well. I saw some other girls I recognized from a religious education kick-off at church, and they just waved and walked away.
When we went into class, Panna and I were followed by six kids (the two from the locker room and four they accumulated on the way) to put our stuff down in the dance room. I sat on a folded mat next to the wall, and an arc of curious 11-12 year olds formed about two feet away. Panna was diagonally to my left, two to her left, the two girls from the locker room on her right, a few to their right, and the only boy in the class on the far right end.
They all just looked at me (besides Panna), leaned toward each other, and whispered. *insert the thought in the head, “Wow. Now I know what a monkey must feel like in the zoo.*
According to one of the girls from the locker room, Panna was the “pro translator”. They all started asking her questions about me continuously and (for the most part) all at the same time. Panna, being the wonderful human that she is, tried answering all their questions. After awhile, she encouraged them to ask me themselves. “It’s important you practice your English, too”, she said. For one of the girls’, Panna said, “How. Old. Are. You” and she repeated (after every word) it to me. One of them asked me (through Panna, of course) if I would come back, I said sure, and they all got excited.
Finally after what seemed like 30 minutes (most likely only 4), the dance instructor came in and started class.
In hindsight, I do realize I may have been the first or second foreigner they’ve ever seen, let alone in their hometown. (I’d probably be curious, too!)
Thankfully, not all of them treated me like a precious, untouchable species. There was one girl (who seemed to be about 15 years old or so and was apparently new because Panna didn’t recognize her) who was dancing in front of me during class who was making playful faces at me throughout the class because it was hard for her. At a few points, I questioned if it was the middle/high school “I want to look cool and relatable, so I’m going to act like I don’t know what I’m doing” (because I did that when I was her age). Honestly though, I thought she was being genuine. Especially after hearing her exasperated whisper in my ear during a transition period, “He says this is easy… How?!”
Thanks blonde-girl-in-the-black-sweatpants-and-blue-shirt-from-Wednesday-4pm-hip-hop-class for not continuously looking at me like an exhibit, but as a relatable person.
*Maybe I’ll be a dancing monkey soon, who knows??
Questions I’ve pondered since this instance:
Was this is a negative, positive, or indifferent experience?
How has not experiencing something like this before now been a privilege?
How can I continue to show my humanity and my love for all of humanity to those in this dance class?