I’ve been running small daily chores and finding reasons to explore the city- using Yelp to create lists of aquarist shops and health food and ethnic food shops to visit. When you’re brown, obviously foreign and don’t have fluency privilege, it becomes very important for people to see you regularly in your neighbourhood, to get used to you being part of it’s landscape. It’s important that they see you turned out nice, happy and friendly, and it’s important that they see your consuming things, so they know that you have means.
You can’t afford to go out in sweats and no makeup. That’s for when there’s enough people who look like you (or enough people who all look different) that you unquestioningly ‘belong’ to the place you live in. I’m the only representation of anyone who looks like me in this neighbourhood. I get plenty of double takes or open staring daily as people try and figure me out.
Here is why I do this: in my experience, it’s frequency of exposure that makes people accept you. Admittedly, this becomes a little bit of a problem socially if you can’t stay out late (and the Spanish stay out late; until 4 or 5 am, often only eating dinner at midnight) or join people for those casual restaurant gatherings and dinners at their place, and I have felt that tiny bit of apprehension amongst most of the Mr’s friends. It’s a subtle discomfort: like they way people understand that microwaves are safe but are still never 100% comfortable standing too near them while they’re on. In this scenario, I would be the humming microwave sat next to them asking how their kids are doing. But, for neighbourhood life, none of this a problem. They see me in the market regularly, and might notice I avoid the seafood and dairy stalls, but as long as I keep turning up, I’ll eventually be become part of the scenery.
It’s also to help me to get used to using the metro, get used to the wider roads and increased noise of the city, and to be able to find my way back home, although the latter’s been hit and miss so far. I’m the only person on earth who can get lost while using turn by turn navigation.
They say that if you become blind it’s important not to rely too much on other people to help you find your way around. That you need to learn how to manage on your own as quickly as possible. I’m armed with my Nexus 5, google translate and google maps. Somedays I sink, some days I swim.