“There are no foreign lands, for it is only the traveler who is foreign”

3 06 2011

-Title from Robert Louis Stevenson

By Joy Ogunmuyiwa

May 28, 2011
3:59 pm
Dimapur, Nagaland

A building in Dimapur

There comes a time in each of our lives where we must play the tourist. Whether our lack of experience dictates it or our outward appearance commands it, we will at one point find ourselves as an outsider looking in, trying to understand, all the while trying to be understood in return.

On my first day in Nagaland, my hosts came to pick me up at the airport. At the Dimapur airport, only one flight comes in every three days from Calcutta, so there were not a lot of people at the landing strip. They found me easily as the only non-Naga person there. After our initial hellos and howareyou’s, we hopped into a rickshaw and went on our way. In Dimapur, I had agreed to stay at their house as we waited for them to gather the caregivers waiting to give their interviews.

They lived by the Nagaland University, so a lot of people my age were going in and out of the compound and naturally stopped by to say hello to a newcomer. Of course there was the initial shock, for they were not expecting an American, and most definitely not an African American.

What I couldn’t understand myself, however, was their fascination. I’d like to think myself an interesting person, but I know I’m not THAT much of an interesting person. I assumed they had seen Americans before because Pele got satellite TV as did the other students. And they even listened to new music from Americans too. But I guess TV has never been one to prepare you for reality.

The thing they found most interesting was my hair. Towards the end of the night, a good amount of people had gathered in Pele’s living room. Some of the girls came and asked questions about my braids and I answered them. I figured that with the amount of questions they were asking, they probably wanted to touch them, so I let one of the girls take a closer look. No sooner than I had said that, one girl took out my ponytail, while the rest of the people took turns touching my hair. It took awhile to let them let me put it back up, but things started to settle down and more people started to come in to talk and ask questions.

Outside Pele's apartment building.

A popular channel here is MTV, Music Television, and unlike ours, there’s actually plays music videos. It happened to be on when we were gathered in the living room. They explained that the type of American they’ve been exposed to, or more specifically, the type of African American, they’ve been exposed to, is the pop star i.e. Ciara, Beyonce, Usher, etc . I knew I was in for an experience in Nagaland when they looked from the TV to me and told, not asked, me to dance for them. I’m still surprised I got out of that one.




One response

3 06 2011
lysa mackeen

Great Post! I can almost picture that living room scene. I’m looking forward to hearing more as you begin interviews in a new location.

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