Thankful for Honest Discussion

I have come to realize that I am surrounded by amazing people.  My friends are honest and genuine.  We voice our fears, discuss challenges, and accept mistakes. We talk about our hopes and dreams, and know that regardless of the outcome, we’re always here to support each other.

Recently a group of female colleagues and I had a conversation about our experiences with racism.  All Canadian, our group included an Indian woman, a Chinese woman and myself, a Filipino woman.  We shared examples of racism and feelings of fear when travelling. 

My most uncomfortable moment was in Istanbul.  I was travelling with good friends, and was never without male companions.  One afternoon we were waiting to be picked up by car when suddenly I felt like all eyes were on me.  This was daytime, and I instantly became aware that I was the only Asian person in the area.  Based on the way men looked at me, I felt the immediate need to leave, and we did.  I would return to Istanbul in a heartbeat - I adore the colours, architecture and historical significance – but I’ll never forget how emotionally charged that moment was.

One woman discussed a situation in New Mexico.  She was travelling with friends into a small town close to the US/Mexican border for lunch.  She was shocked to see a makeshift US/Mexican border along the highway, where travelers needed to show their passports whether they had intention to cross the border, located miles away.  Travelling in the car with her Caucasian husband and friends, she was questioned about her relationship with these passengers despite her Canadian nationality. She never forgot the experience.

Another woman discussed a situation in Los Angeles.  She took public transportation with her husband, and before leaving their hotel, they sought general directions from the concierge.  Visibly concerned, the concierge asked why they needed to travel into that neighbourhood.  As a self-proclaimed foodie, my friend explained that she wanted to try authentic Cuban food from a few local restaurants, and that the neighbourhood wasn’t far.  He suggested they limit their visit to lunch and return before dark.  It wasn’t until she felt the eyes of the locals on her that my friend voiced this discomfort to her husband, and they left without sampling the food she craved.

Of course, I cannot say that Canadians do not experience racism within our borders.  The Canadian focus on Reconciliation is a strong example of recognizing the racist feelings that exist. Today we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada, and I am grateful to live and work in a community that supports diversity, education and communication.

I strongly believe that every choice has an impact on our lives.  You may move in one direction, and generally keep travelling along that path.  You may also walk in one direction (so sure of yourself) and one day choose to move in a completely different direction, shaking your head in dismay.  In my career and personal life, I choose to stay curious, continue making conscious decisions, and travel with intention.  As always, I invite you to do the same, thankful for your presence and wishing you the best.