Anyways whilst I was here I had a boat driver come up to me and ask me where I was from. I told him London, UK of course. That's where I was born, that's where I grew up, and that's where my plane set off from at the beginning of this year. But clearly there's no hiding that I am Black and so that response is often received with a pinch of disbelief over here. That's fine. I rep all my cultures to the fullest.
So this boat driver made us all laugh when he proceeded to tell us that he's been to London twice and that it's really lovely. I had to respond to that claim with an equally doubtful "really?" and I could have believed him just a bit if he didn't then tell me I was the first Black person he'd met. I had two options: 1) do what Charlene would normally do and expose his previous lie or 2) roll with it and be polite.
I chose the second option. At the end of the day, I'm the first (and darkest) Black person this guy has met! With my friends of many other races all around and a couple from Italy looking on, we had a bit of banter with this guy. I made sure I plastered a smile on my face for the entirety of the conversation and extended my hand to shake when he was drifting away. "Thank you for making me your first Black sighting!" I exclaimed, "On behalf of my race, have a nice day!" And with that and a firm shake... he was gone.
The point of sharing this experience? Well first of all because I've seen some Black people react quite badly to the weird celebrity status that we inherit by coming over to this part of the world. It's not a bad thing.
YES, it can get annoying
YES, it's frustrating because none of your White or Asian friends will be stopped as much and none of them will be stroked or asked to take a picture with.
NO, study abroad programmes never prepare you for it
but at the end of the day if you're someone's first encounter with someone of your race only you will really know how that feels, no one else can really prepare for that. You've just got to remember that your reaction with formulate an opinion within the mind of that one person about a couple billion other people. The way people are treated in that area after you is down to you.
Even if you're not someone's first encounter with your race, next time you meet someone for the first time think about.. if you WERE the first impression being made, what sort of impression would you make?