Saturday, January 30, 2016

Standing out in a Crowd

Early in this blog journey I wrote about how my features are different and said, "I can't imagine what it will be like to be a Westerner in UB, in Mongolia...." A few things happened this week that made me remember this initial question of mine and I feel somewhat informed to answer it now. 

First, I rode the public bus home three evenings this week and each time I was the only "whitey" on the bus. Once it was standing room only, the other two times I secured a seat for the ride. Most bus riders scan the crowd as they find a seat or hook their hand through a grip when it's standing room only. They either pause when seeing me, or return to me after scanning the crowd. Some choose to watch me for quite a good bit of time. If I'm wearing my face mask for the pollution--the stare factor usually increases.  I wonder what they are thinking or wondering about me. Their looks don't make me at all uncomfortable, just curious--as I suppose they are about me.  

Last night I went out with coworkers after work for food and drink. We were a table of Americans--five females, one male. Most other patrons in the establishment were Mongolian, though there were a few other Westerners present. Mongolian children seem most fascinated by us--either our looks or perhaps listening to us speak in English. At the next table there were two children--one was approximately nine years old, the other a toddler. Both watched our group--the toddler often standing and staring. Children lack the filter to think or believe that staring is not nice. We smile and say hello. The children here are so cute!

View from my library on a clear day, compare to last post
As these instances came and went, I reflected on what it's like to live in a place where I stand out because of my physical looks. In the U.S. I am about as average or ordinary looking as one can get--brown hair, brown eyes, an inch taller than average height for females, and also average in size. In the U.S. I did not stand out in a crowd. Here, it's the opposite--I most often do stand out in a crowd. This does not make me feel uncomfortable or strange--I rather like the experience of standing out. I chuckle as I remember all the things I did when I was in high school to try and be different. Wearing colorful or quirky clothes, wearing all black--including black lipstick (before the term Goth was coined), getting a tattoo at age 17, joining the Army when I was a junior, and so forth and so on. Yes, I've spent a great bit of my life trying to stand out and be different--perhaps because my features were so ordinary. 

I never could have imagined that in my future life I would move to a nation where my being white would be the first and primary reason to stand out and be different. But it's true--as they say on Sesame Street, "one of these is not like the others." As the tourists have left UB/Mongolia, there are less of us foreigners around and we do stand out. I especially like being out in public with Zorig and watching people notice us together. While it is becoming more common (I know a number of couples), it is yet UNCOMMON to see foreign women with Mongolian men. We shall enjoy being a rarity while it lasts. 

Finally, I've decided to make a game of how many U.S. states I can find in UB (as names of establishments/places). Here are snapshots of California and Nevada. I've seen a couple of others--but no pics yet. As of now, that's two states off the list, 48 to go. I do not expect to find them all, but it is interesting to consider where and when a Mongolian visited the U.S., then returned to Mongolia and decided to name their place of business after a U.S. state. California is restaurant/bar and there are a few of them around UB. Word is they are modeling their business after the Cheesecake Factory. They do have a stellar presentation of their entrees. Nevada Lounge I spotted on my walk to the U.S. Embassy. I did not visit so can't speak for what kind of establishment it is; however it was funny to see palm trees on one of their signs as I walked in -20 F weather. Made me giggle. 

1 comment:

  1. Another good, thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing!