A Birthday and a Halfway | #4

So I turned 20 years old yesterday in Albania. Who in the world would have ever thought that would happen before this year? And actually it just so happens that my birthday marks about the halfway point of my time interning, so I suppose it’s all downhill from here.

A few things to reflect on:

I cannot wait to eat the following foods: pasta salad, New York style bagels, Taco Bell, and anything made by my mom.

Yesterday I successfully ordered food without either party speaking any English.

I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t 70 and rainy or 90 and sunny.

I am a person that likes to have clear instructions, but then the freedom to work at my own pace.

I love talking to people far more than I realized.

No cheese is better than Albanian cheese.

and I now entirely understand the appeal of ethnic neighborhoods like china town for foreigners.

And now on a more serious note. The way I look has never been something that I gave much thought to aside from of course that awkward phase we all go through when anyone looking at you feels like death. But really, I’ve always been able to blend in if I need to, I’ve never been a person people would stare at for some reason, and I have absolutely never been the “only” in the room. And while I can by no means compare the feelings I’ve had over the past few weeks to what any person of color must feel on a daily basis, it has definitely given me a new perspective. I can feel eyes on me as I walk down the street even though I stare at the ground, I can hear horns and shouts from guys out car windows and I can’t understand so I pretend it must have been about the traffic. And even if no one is looking and even if no one is saying anything, I know that I am noticeably different, and suddenly I wish that I could blend in again. I wish that I wasn’t quite so tall, or quite so pale, or that my hair was just a little more brown. In reality I am entirely comfortable with my appearance, it’s never really been something I’ve had to be concerned with and being here I am realizing what a privilege it has been to be able to feel that way in the United States. It makes me angry that I stare at the ground when I walk down the street, it makes me angry that I feel like I don’t belong even if no one said I didn’t, and it makes me angry that I know people back home feel this way too, except they’re not in a foreign country, they’re in their own homes. Home is not a place you should ever feel the need to stare at the ground and home should never be a place where someone tells you you don’t belong, but it happens, and it makes me angry that I don’t know how to fix it. And lastly it makes me angry that what I have experienced here is entirely incomparable, and yet I still can’t bring myself to look up.

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