As I walk through the streets of Gbarnga I am often greeted mostly by the children with a smile and the salutation “Ya toa, white man,” or “Hello, white man.” In response I say in Pali “Ka-tao” to a group and “Ya toa” to an individual.
In the early seventies I lived in a Black neighborhood and my experience was of being alone and somewhat isolated in the neighborhood. However, as I walked beyond the boundries of my Black neighborhood I was once again in the midst of white America. No more and no less isolated than most Americans. Here there is no such transition only rarely do I see another white face and usually of Gwen, an American CVT clinician from Wisconsin and David a UN worker from Boston.
I find myself both amused and troubled by being a curiosity. I now understand how some of my friends in the states from other countries feel treated as if they are exotic. I saw this particularly in the Tibetan community with everyone being treated as the Dali Lama rather than the person they were. Whenever human beings are romanticized they soon disappoint. I too will disappoint those who think I am a rich and powerful or have special knowledge. All I can hope is that I do not disappoint them as a human being.
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