By Puja Daya, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Not only did I fall in love with the city, I fell in love with the people I met, the places I saw and the things I learned. I guess this is the experience Erasmus gives to any student of any ethnicity. Although, being my roommates first ever Indian friend or person she knew was astonishing to me.
With my home country of England being so multicultural, for the first time, I found myself to be the only person of colour in a classroom or in most rooms in fact (though the streets were filled with people from all over the world). Did this effect the way I felt or the way I was treated? No. As my difference was appreciated and embraced by the people I met. In fact, I learnt more about myself through the questions asked about my background and culture and began to love it more than ever before.
Prague itself maybe a loved newly upcoming destination for holiday goers and expats, however the many ethnicities of Asians and Africans are not officially recognised within the demographics (being very few of us who set up home there) … nevertheless it flourishes with Vietnamese culture, people and food. Expanding itself with a number of traditional restaurants of Thai and Indian origin, allowing it to be seen as the most multicultural city in the Czech Republic.
So I’ll end with the note that travelling doesn’t just show you different cultures, it allows you to embrace your own.
by Caroline Meryl Achieng, CROATIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
As a dark-skinned girl, walking through streets in Rijeka, Croatia was horrifying as men in traffic from the opposite direction to where we were walking, kept on hooting, shouting lewd comments, and making gestures as we made our way up the hill. I chose to ignore them completely though I could hear the taunts. Going from Mostar to Sarajevo was a little unnerving for me as a drunk guy grabbed my hand and planted slobbery kisses the length of it including the back of my palm, as he cooed, “My sweet chocolate”. Then there have been guys that I have met around Europe that have said they loved my lips like that was meant to be a compliment. In parts of the continent where blacks are rarely seen in the flesh, and mostly viewed half-naked in music videos, the approach has been whack, outrageous and frightening to say the least.
Having said that, my travels in Southeast Europe haven’t all been plagued by negative experiences. From the moment we got off the bus at the Mostar station, there were women milling around, welcoming us into their country. Maybe it was because they were touting hostel rooms, but they were very friendly. During our time at Hostel Nina, everyone was polite and I didn’t feel like a foreigner. On the train from Mostar to Sarajevo, as we were entering, a small boy who had spotted the man holding my hand and kissing it beckoned me to follow him. He led me and my daughter to sit with his family in the train, and we were soon engaged in conversation with other passengers in our cabin- a young university guy and his mum, and a couple with a small baby. As the train journey came to an end, I thought to myself how friendly Bosnians were; they created such a communal space and were sort of looking out for each other.
To read more stories of Caroline’s travelling experiences in various countries around the world, visit her blog ‘Travelogues of an African Girl’: https://africanahgirl.com/