On Monday I met a fellow CWW volunteer who is coming to the end of the placement. When I aasked him what he had learnt he mentioned, among other things, that he was more aware of his race. He says that for the first time in his life he as experienced what it is like to be in the minority.
While his is not an experience I would wish on any one else part of me smiled because not only have I been welcomed here by everyone (many think I am Belizean…until I speak ) but I am glad for once that the tables have been turned.
Like so many non-white people living in England, the instances of racism that this white volunteer has experienced are not the in-your-face-who you-looking-at-Nigger but the more subtle “oh…you speak such good English” variety. Most of it has been, in my view, a mixture of anti-colonial feeling, pro-Belize sentiment and in a few cases ignorance.
As a Kenyan I know how I would feel if I came to work and found a young white person had been planted in my office as a ‘consultant’ and we gained our independence in 1963. Belize has just celebrated 23 years of being a free nation, colonisation and all its horrors is not just history to these people.
I am not sure how the expat community live in this country but in Kenya they tend to isolate themselves from the people and from what I have seen of the volunteers they spend more time together than they do with the locals. I am not sure if it has been hard for them to intergrate but I would imagine that it certainly wouldn’t make things easier if they live a seperate life.
Tonight I am off to the British High Commission for drinks. I spoke to another volunteer who has been there before who says it is open to everyone but so far he hasn’t seen a black face or even a Belizean. I am sure it shall be an interesting experience for me…that is if they let me in