My idea of the perfect vacation is booking a nice hotel room (for one week)-on a peaceful island, then lugging with me my gaming equipment, laptop, drawing tablet and headphones. Playing video-games might be the only way to truly distract my brain from thinking about the realities of the world.
I was due for a vacation but even more so was itching to take a break from America. About three weeks ago a friend and I booked a trip to spend two weeks in Krakow, Poland and one week in Berlin, Germany. People asked, “What's in Poland and why are you going there?” These are fair questions, no one saves money for four to five years to buy a plane ticket to the lowest costing trip to Europe...
A good portion of this trip was fueled by my curiosity in a people's history. I wanted to go to a place that had a recognizable history, old, and observe what's become of the people and how they live off the land. My goals were to experience myself outside America, experience another person's home land, and more importantly, not think too heavily about what was awaiting me in America upon my return.
My friend and I had a very nice ride to the airport. My parents drove us and also fed us our last Hmong meal. We ate rice and chicken from a plastic bag, nothing gets more Hmong than being resourceful. I've had so many memories of eating rice from a plastic sandwich bag.
My parent's don't readily share their thoughts but I took their gesture/food as their excitement for us to learn about people and enjoy ourselves.
From the moment my friend and I left the airplane in Krakow, Poland, we peaked the interest of the locals. Everyone stared at us everywhere we went. I'm sure that the attention we were receiving were not due to our unequivocal physical beauty. Who knows maybe I had a booger on my face. Maybe there was something that I was not understanding about Polish people and Polish culture. My friend and I smiled at all the people who starred at us and most of them did not smile nor said hello. When I least expected, my eyes darted to the images and gestures of violence and oppression against people of color (POC) and indigenous people. Racism is not an American problem, it's a world problem.
I kept telling myself that it should be no surprise that “the othering” of people has become subtle and still just as violent. Yet I'm shocked at how offensive these images are and I don't ever want this to become normal because it's not normal.
Feliksa Jasienski's Private collection: "Long Live Art! From Japan to Europe. Beautiful and Useful Objects"
On view at the Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie. Click on the images below for more information
It seems that one cannot take a break from being who they are when you're the minority. In my case, Hmong, American, a hyper-exotified-sexualized female of color. My identity is not baggage that I take with me, in fact throughout the trip I forgotten for a moment that I was a female of color, there were many stark reminders of who I am and where I came from. My friend and I do not have the privileges to comfortably be ourselves. We don't get to choose to wear our identities on Monday and then put it away on Tuesday, it's something we live with every day, forever.
A selfie never seemed so important to me as I posted a status onto my personal Facebook account.