Monday, April 29, 2013

X is for Xenofobia

The neat thing about travelling is that you get to be the foreigner- you get to experience being a minority (if, like me, you are not a minority where you live).

My experience with being white down there is that a great majority of people assume that you are rich and highly educated. That's how I scored a teaching job at 18 with no higher education. It's a dangerous kind of ignorance- I mean I could have said almost anything and I would have been believed. So many people have a picture of "1st world" countries as perfection even as you tell them about all the problems there are. I didn't experience any real hostility until the strike.

The gold mine was in trouble with the locals for contaminating their water, practically stealing their land and outsourcing jobs. So, they shut down the city for 10 days. Seriously. No way to leave. No planes, no busses out and nothing coming in. The price of chicken quadrupled and we all stored up with as much food as possible (we didn't know how long it was going to last). There were demonstations and people yelling "out with the foreigners." So, I tried to stay inside. Even though I had nothing to do with the mine, I wasn't taking any chance with angry protesters. So nothing happened to me. However, it was a bit scary. I watched hordes of people pass by my apartment. There was a lot of mistreatment by the police- bombs and teargas was used even when the protests were quite peaceful. Such is the way of the world.

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