so, minority was a word i understood theoretically throughout high school and university. i was definitely in the majority for the first 24 year of my life. white; middle-ish class; working parents; awkwardness during adolescence; puppy love type situation etc…
when i moved to new zealand for teacher’s college in 2006 it was the first time i was in the minority: i was a foreigner. though things weren’t so difficult, i was still in the majority race-wise and consider new zealand, scotland and canada to all have an understanding about a neighbouring country which has significant influence. it had its difficult moments but over all it was a great experience. even before i touched down in christchurch i was told by a kiwi presenter/recruit person for my school that i wouldn’t be ‘special’ in nz because there are loads of canadians there. i guess i was prepared not to be special, my parents had already taught me about those better and worse off than me.
i moved back to canada in 2007 and went back to being the majority in many ways but i suppose it was my first taste of not fitting into the cookie cutter shaped like jayne. i had picked up some lingo from the wee country and brought it back with me, i can’t even remember specific words at this point. i felt it was really semantics and that people knew what i meant but in my home town there wasn’t much tolerance for words outside of the norm. one friend was surprised that i hadn’t really changed and would say the same when i returned from scotland later.
in 2009 i hit scotland. my hopes were high. i landed a job within 48 hours of being there. it was a waitressing gig that paid approximately £150/week. not enough. i ended up doing that for a few months before picking up something more solid. but that’s not why i mention scotland.
while i was there i was definitely an outsider in some respects. i had great difficulty getting jobs after a school i worked in closed down. i was once asked in an interview for a geography post why i had travelled so much. go figure. even better than all that was when i asked someone i met from england why they chose scotland; this was asked with bushy tailed and bright eyed enthusiasm because i loved the place so damn much. i was met with coldness and possibly a sort of scoff sound indicating how dare i ask someone from the uk why they would choose another bit of the uk to live. i couldn’t believe that a happy question would turn into such animosity. ah well. lesson learned.
by the time 2011 came around i figured i had the living abroad thing down. the truth is i had not one clue.
i arrived in nigeria without much in the way of serious research beforehand. i was in the minority in a number of ways. i was white, single at age 29, a foreigner, non-religious and an outspoken woman. the funny thing is i was offered work in sudan and turned it down because i was worried about my safety. i read an article about a foreign teacher naming a teddy bear ‘muhammad’ and getting in serious trouble. i figured i was too mouthy for the place.
i’ve mentioned before that there is a steep learning curve here and that is true. oddly though, being a racial minority here doesn’t phase me most of the time. i notice it more when i am in the uk or canada visiting friends and relatives. i notice that i am again in the majority. i notice that i go unnoticed.