Being half Latino, half African American has its perks: The citizens of South Africa assumed I was South African without even saying a word. It’s not until I spoke with a full on an American accent, that I gave myself away. A similar experience happened in Guatemala. I’d wander the streets of Antigua with locals speaking to me in Spanish, expecting me to speak in immaculate Spanish as well. “I thought you were from here!” one would say. My parents unknowingly gave me the gift of being a traveling chameleon–able to blend into the communities of a variety of countries with little to no hassle.
In Nepal, I didn’t realize how much I could pass for a Nepalese until I arrived there, especially when I sported that signature red powder marked on my forehead and wore typical Nepali wear. I couldn’t understand their language, but the locals were impressed that I could blend into them so well.
Dress Like Locals
You could say I have a knack for wanting to dress like the locals. Once, I donned the proper Moroccan garb from head to toe, and no one in the bustling city of Marrakesh batted an eye. None of the locals bothered me as they did the “blonde-haired, blue-eyed” tourists. The merchants there would begin to ramble to me in Arabic or French. With a smirk, I’d apologize telling them I don’t understand. “You could be a Moroccan prince!” declared one merchant.
Even in regions of the world where I don’t resemble the people, I wouldn’t say I stuck out like a sore thumb, but instead as a welcomed celebrity guest. In Vietnam and Laos, where I’m much taller and a heck of a few shades darker, the friendly strangers there would stop me for a group photo, mistaking me for an NBA basketball player. Which one? Just some generic one I suppose. It’s an excess of attention, but the sort I’ve come to welcome. The curious locals in Arusha, Tanzania claimed that I resembled President Obama and would stop to ask me questions about America and if they could come back home with me. In Costa Rica, one local announced to his comrades that I could pass for a famous footballer named Patrick Pemberton. Fortunately for me, he’s one of the best players in Costa Rica and is adored by many.
Even when I did appear to be a native, I found when traveling throughout Western Europe, that my ethnicity didn’t matter much. People there assumed I was European until I began to speak in my American English. Being able to blend into the world is a gift I wasn’t aware I had until the moment I looked back and realized how seamless and smooth my travels have been all these years. I’ll always cherish the idea of being the Prince of Morocco!