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On Being the Other

When I was in Thailand, I was met with a lot interesting stares from children. They hid behind their mother’s skirts and looked at me like I was the first black person they’d ever seen. I’m sure it was true.

They probably didn’t run into very many women who looked like me. I was tall, verging on hulking. I was dark skinned compared to them and I wore interesting western clothing. I dug that. I even thought it was amusing.

But here in the states, specifically Normal, IL, when I see children who act like the Thai. . . I am a little disturbed.

Today in the Coffeehouse, I drank tea with my friend Evan when a family of three small white girls sat down near to us. Evan gestured at one of the little girls saying, “I think she likes your head wrap.”

I looked over to see one of the little blonde girls staring at me, unabashedly. She finally waved and gave me a smile. I waved and smiled back, but felt odd about it. Her parents ignored us completely and that’s how their lunch continued. The little girl staring at me, unable to eat or go about her business and her parents pretending that wasn’t happening.

I felt like “the other.” And I suppose that’s what you have to deal with when you’re in a small Illinois town looking the way I do.What with my “flamboyant” and clearly “ethnic” head wrap. What felt normal to me, was completely out of the norm to others and it reminded me of what it felt like not to assimilate into popular culture.


What do you do?

You just deal with it, I guess. You pretend to go back to what you were doing, forcing the stares out of your consciousness. Or you snap on little kids and go: “WHAT?”

I see how difficult it is for women to go natural. It’s a lot work to carry your head upward and proudly, ignoring all response to your look. It’s much easier to assimilate, to go along to get along. I must admit, there are days that I leave the house wondering: “Is this too much?” And by too much, I mean too ethnic.

For those who straighten their hair or take out their piercings or wear longs sleeves over their tattoos, I understand why you do it. I don’t malign you at all. Just know that you are more than welcome to take a break from being “the other” and tomorrow you can go back to doing your thing. It’s our prerogative to be ourselves, isn’t it?

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Strawberry Face

Tonight is going to be a natural spa night! I’ve got a couple items in the kitchen that I’m not going to eat soon and I figured I’d put them to good use. I have some ripe strawberries from a fruit salad. I ate all of the watermelon and cantaloup chunks first, leaving about seven or eight strawberries. They’re generally not my favorite fruit to eat. But I’m going to put them to good use!

Strawberry Face Mask:

Ingredients:
7 or 8 strawberries
3 tsp honey                                                                          

  • Mash strawberries in bowl until pulpy
  • Mix in honey 
  • Slather on face and rinse off in 10 mins


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We’re HERE!!

Noah and I drove 15 hours from Georgia to Ohio, yesterday and we’re both dead tired. We still have work to do and many more miles to get settled. Turning off utilities, setting them up. Moving our stuff from the truck to a storage space (because our apartment won’t actually be ready til the first week of August!).

I have a job interview with Noah’s college for a Admin Assistant position. Yes, that’s right, your girl hasn’t had a “job” since April and it was working at a pub. But I’m very ready to use my skill and intellect in a better environment.

I’m also going to scope the location and hopefully meet up with the people of the Natural Hair and Beauty Expo. Hey! If you’re in the area and you don’t mind spending $10, come visit with us. Evelyn and I will, of course, be there. Okay guys, I gotta go move my furniture to storage. . .

-xxx charish


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Brown Like Me

*This is an old blog post from my days in Thailand. If you want to read more about a black chick’s adventures in Bangkok, go here*
 

White Dave and Black Charish.

On my last Sunday Session with Dave, we were accosted by a Thai man who wanted to know why Dave was “so white.”

While minding our own business at a riverside park, a not so subtle but very witty Thai man came strolling up to us. He stopped, with his hands held behind his back, he stared at Dave in amusement. “You are you so white,” he said. “Why?”

Dave was more than a little perplexed. I watched in amazement. Could one just state the obvious like that? The Thai can. Things like race, sexuality, and often at times, weight are not at all taboo to discuss directly. I suppose we shouldn’t have been too surprised that a stranger would just point that out.

Dave shrugged. “I’m English.”

The man pointed at my leg. “She is brown.” He pointed to his arm. “I am brown.” Then he finished the circle. “You are white.” Before Dave could reply, the man directed his attention towards me. “Are you Thai?”

“No.”

“Why are you brown?”

“I’m. . .” I was confused, that’s what I was. “African American. I’m black.”

And now he was confused or suspicious. I have had many Thais question my ethnicity, just like some Americans do. They know that I’m not Thai, but I’m not just black either and it must be verified.

A group of my Thai students. So cute!

Another color related issue took place in my classroom. The girls of my level two class are usually a rowdy bunch, but mostly cute and precocious. It was after one lesson that I was packing up my things and about to exit the room, when one of my students pointed out how brown I was. Mai compared me to another one of my students, a cute brown Thai girl named Bell.

“Mother and daughter,” Mai said to us and pointed to our arms. The other students giggled about it and I cringed inwardly. They may not have realized it, but I felt like we had walked into something that was potentially awkward. I looked at Bell who gave me an unusually strained smile.

What I already know about Bell made me think twice about my response. She’s the darkest in a group of light-skinned Thai girlfriends and I think she’s quite aware of it. It might be the reason, she seems to identify with me. She marvels at my fashion sense (truthfully, I hate wearing my teacher’s uniform. I’m glad someone appreciates it) and is always telling me how beautiful I am. I return the favor, not because I feel sorry for her, but because she really is. She’s got lovely burnt sienna skin, dark expressive eyes, and such an inviting smile.

One day, I asked her if she was looking forward to our field trip to the beach (to see those sea turtles), she was not happy. “Too much sun.”

“Yeah? So?”

She pointed to her arm and frowned. I didn’t like hearing that.

I also didn’t like it when her and her friends came to my class, with so much powder, they looked like a gaggle of geishas. It was more obvious on Bell with her being so much darker than the other girls. I don’t understand how she could think she looked better with a pound of powder hiding the skin she was born with.

So as I faced the girls and Bell, I chose my words carefully. “Not mother and daughter, I’m too young for kids,” I told them. “We’re more like sisters.”

They nodded in recognition and Bell flashed me that beautiful smile of hers. Crisis averted.

Race isn’t an issue here in Thailand, but color is. There are no dark skinned models or actresses representing in the media. This isn’t unusual though, many countries and cultures share this idea of beauty. I find it interesting that my experiences here have been eerily similar to the one’s I’ve had as a kid in America. When I was younger, my mother told my sister and I not to play in the sun. She wasn’t as concerned about our safety as she was our appearance.

“Do you want to get black?”
Before I could reply, “Duh, mom, I already am,” I just put on a hat to her appease her.


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Black Soap Follow-up

After being asked by devoted reader, Naturaleza, about more information on RA Cosmetics Black Soap, I thought I would try for it for a few weeks before I convince you all of it’s powers. This is the same product that I compared weeks before in another product review:

Here are the Ingredients:
                                        
Pure Honey                                  
Shea butter                                      
Osun (camwood)                            
Cocoa pod powder
Plantain peel powder
Palm kernal oil
Coconut oil
Water
Aloe Vera

Price: ~ $2.00 for a 5 oz bar

Smell: Nutty


Consistency: Particle bits, slightly gritty, but this can be worked into a good lather (because of the palm kernel oil.) Just be cautious about rubbing this directly on your face and other sensitive parts of the body like the decolletage. It’s a super exfoliate!


Results: I feel really good about this soap. There are no irritants, no obvious over drying effects. . . so I’ve been able to use this twice a day. In the morning and before I go to bed. In the morning, I use a light Aveeno moisturizer and before I go to bed, I use that same moisturizer with a small bit of shea butter for some nighttime skin repair. For several weeks, this regiment has been working out for me. I’ve noticed a sharp decline in break outs and an increase in fading old marks. 


Would I use it again? Yes, I’m running out at the moment and I’m going to buy some more. I did however, make the mistake of leaving the bar in the shower. Since this is a really porous soap, constant wetness causes it wear away quickly. So keep it in a dry place!
 


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Black Soap vs. Black Soap

The farmers market in downtown Columbus, GA is underway and I’m excited! The first week I went, I bought some of this black soap from the shea butter lady.


Ingredients:                      
Pure Honey                       
Shea butter                        
Osun (camwood)              
Palmkernal oil                   
Cocoa pod ash                 
Palm bunch ash     
Aloe Vera
Lime Juice
Water and Fragrance
        
This brand of black soap is not bad I definitely felt cleaner and smoother skin, although slightly dried out. My acne spots and scars seemed like they smoothed out and lightened after a couple weeks use. However, it was the fragrance in this product that made it hard to use. It was an overpowering smell that if I got it up my nose while lathering, I would have a bad sneezing fit. It was a major irritation and I believe there is a link between the fragrance and my dry skin.

But last night I found this stuff from an Atlanta company called RA Cosmetics! It’s all the goodness without the overpowering smell!

Ingredients:                                         
Pure Honey                                  
Shea butter                                      
Osun (camwood)                            
Cocoa pod powder
Plantain peel powder
Palm kernal oil
Coconut oil
Water
Aloe Vera

As far as I can tell, I received the same benefits as the Tropical Naturals Brand but without over drying effect on my face. My skin still felt smooth and pores appeared minimal. And there was definitely less sneezing! Plus the coconut oil has to be great hydration for the skin.

Here’s what they both look like next to one another in their bar form:

Overall? I think I’m sticking with the RA Cosmetics 100% Black Soap (fragrance-free). I think it works rather similarly to Dudu-Osun, but with what seem like completely natural ingredients. You can find this soap at your local black beauty supply or online at: www.racosmetics.com