Saturday, June 18, 2011
From Majority to Minority
Hello all! I am Amanda Wiggans from Macon, Missouri, and I just finished my first year as a graduate-equivalency Music Therapy student at the University of Kansas.
This is my first time abroad. The Midwest has always been my home and my comfort zone. I cried in the airport as I left my family and boyfriend for 33 days, but they reassured me that I would have a positive, life-changing experience. We’ve been here a little over 2 weeks, and I can see that is already coming true; mostly in ways I never would have expected.
Thailand has more to offer than I ever imagined. This country is full of exotic animals, trees and flowers; unique and intricately crafted temples, and you can even spend your day laying on beach, basking in the sun only to look across the ocean to see mountains. It is utterly amazing. With all of these rich sights and sounds, it is hard not to find yourself staring. But what do you get when you put 9 sweaty but happy college kids in the middle of this lush, gorgeous scene? The tables turn and for once it’s YOU who is being stared at.
Most of us on this trip have never been part a race-centered minority. Of course we may be different heights and have different color hair, but in America we aren’t necessarily visually unique. That concept completely changed for us as we stepped off the plane in Bangkok. For many of us this is the first time in our life, that we could be identified as the minority. I would never have guessed that a group of light-skinned, Westerners would draw as much attention as we have. No matter where we go, there is constantly someone taking candid photos of us, or recording cell phone videos. At the Emerald Pond in Krabi, one Thai person kindly asked a group of us to actually pose for a picture. At first this was very off-putting to me, and I was somewhat offended, but we all have begun to accept that, yes, this time we are the different ones. I believe we have bonded more closely and quickly as a group because of this powerful lesson.
With this newfound attention come some positive aspects as well. Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”, which cannot be argued. They are very patient with us when we completely butcher their language. They smile and are very grateful that we tried. The Thais are also polite and are forgiving of our loud, Western tendencies and our obtrusive feet placement when sitting down. We are offered any available chairs to sit in and are waited on hand and foot at restaurants. Yesterday, when I boarded a full trolley on campus, almost all of the boys stood up to offer me a space to sit. I was extremely surprised; as this chivalry is something I’m definitely not used to in America.
In conclusion, I have started to realize how much of an impact attention, both negative and positive, can be to a person’s life. Have you ever felt like you stood out in a crowd, with no way to change that? How can you redirect your future thoughts and actions when you see someone who is different than you? How can you be proactive in creating a positive experience?