Friday, August 28, 2009

Embracing the Culture...

Since I am currently running on max 4 hours of sleep per night and have been invited to a LOT more social functions here in country since Ramadan started, I gotta tell you. I think there might be something wrong with me. I can't seem to stop fighting my surroundings and refuse to embrace the culture.

This is not new for me. I never have been able to do so. I refuse to wear the local garb, I can't seem to get the hang out of eating with my hands and using a Kleenex for a napkin. I'm starting to believe that this is frankly never gonna happen. And you know what? I kinda don't want it to happen!

The other night we were at a dinner and I was chatting with a German lady who is living here in Khartoum. She was wearing a scarf for her head and her hands and feet were covered in Henna. She lectured me for about 3 hours on the history of Henna, its meaning culturally here in Sudan and how long it takes to have it applied (we're talking DAYS if you do it the old way - which she obviously did). It was interesting for about 30 seconds. Then I just wanted out.

The whole time I'm talking to her, all I could think about was that she totally reminded me of those college girls who go to the Caribbean for spring break and come back with the braids. Newsflash: that hairstyle is not meant for white girls' hair. And guess what German Lady: You look like you just went to the Caribbean. Henna, that scarf and your shoes do not look right on you -- you can't pull it off. I don't care how much history you spout about your attire. You look ridiculous!

Now granted, I have seen women who have a natural style who can pull off different looks because they seem at home in them. However, for the most part, you're going to look like you're dressed up for Halloween if you do that. Write that down. Don't make me mock you in person.

I'm not sure what it is about the local garb that does not translate to westerners. The Sudanese look very elegant in their clothes. Their scarves stay on their head. When I was in Pakistan, I totally tried to be culturally sensitive (for about 40 minutes), but I could not, for the life of me, keep that scarf up on my head. It just kept slipping off my head!! I tried bobby pins, wrapping it really tight (Saudi Style) == NOTHING.

Obviously, there is some sort of secret ingredient that the locals won't divulge to westerners. However, I'm just not interested enough to try to find it out.

20 comments:

Beth said...

I totally understand. It is how I feel about the northerners in south Georgia who wear Daisy Dukes or large belt buckles with their name emblazoned on top. They just can't pull it off.

I think they had to have grown up on a dirt road to make that look work.

A Mom on Spin said...

Yeah, but don't we all wish we could be one of those people who could pull off any look we want and actually get away with it???

I do.

dizzblnd said...

LOL @ Beth!

Michel, I wouldn't be able to do it either. I think they use camel dung to help that stuff stay on. Try that!

Gaston Studio said...

Double LOL at Beth!! I never even tried it because I didn't want to add more clothes to what I already had on and be hotter. Also, I saw too many of those people, especially the women, changing into western clothes the minute they got on a plane to leave their own country and you know what? Most of the time, they looked better in the western clothes. At least then you could see their face.

Pastor Sharon said...

Beth is on her game today! And boy did that make me chuckle!

Michel, I kinda get the feeling if you had a scarf on your head you might resemble Yenta the match maker from Fiddler on the Roof! I did that scarf thing once and that is TOTALLY who I saw in the mirror! LOL

darsden said...

LOL Michel... and I don't blame you.. Eat with your fingers..what if it's spaghetti you can't get the whole effect of rolling the noodles up GAW!!!...

Beth-hilarious and is on her game ... and soooo true!

Fragrant Liar said...

I keep fighting my surroundings too. When you're in Texas, it's a law that you must say "Hey, y'all and yeehaw" and "I'm FIXIN' to do yada yada" and "UMbrella" and "VIenna sausage." These foreign accents are killing me!

I think the worst thing you mentioned is the Kleenex for napkins. WTF? That's like using wrapping tissue to wipe your butt.

Mango Girl said...

Hahaha German lady: I hope the henna stains and you are stuck with it for life.

I bet you wanted to stick a fork in her eye after 5 minutes of her henna dissertation.

The head scarves? I'm with you. I have no desire to cover my body with more clothes than necessary. Such an odd culture.

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Hey!! Good to be back and see you again!
I'm totally with you on the western people trying to look like something you're definitely not.
Those braidy things always remind me of Bo Derek and her bouncy bouncies.

darsden said...

Michel-please embrace your blogfrog again he is missing being here and my frog missing your frog.

darsden said...

uhmmm Fragrant Liar...dammit thanks to you.. I just now found out I am living in the wrong state ya'll! Fixin to have to move Yehaw!

blognut said...

I am against any unnecessary garments. Period. I cover what must legally, and in the interest of good taste, be covered. I could never put up with a scarf on my head because I can't even stand to wear a hat.

Also? I'm not eating with my hands. We make our kids leave the table for that kind of thing!

rxBambi said...

all this and still no alcohol??? How do you cope?

Captain Dumbass said...

I'd like to go to SouthEast Asia where I could wear one of those man-skirt things. They look comfy.

Michelle Wells Grant said...

Oh my, this could be fun! Hilarious! So glad I found you, or you found me first. Let's stay connected!

rubbish said...

I could live with having to eat with my hands. Unless it was custard, that would just be wrong.

Poppy Buxom said...

OMG you're giving me flashbacks to a friend of mine who lived for a year in southern India and then insisted on wearing saris, sandals, and jingling ankle bracelets--topped with a big fat down coat because she was freezing her ass off in the middle of a Boston winter!

otin said...

I would just put a white sheet over me and run around like that! Oh wait, Beth, they do that in Georgia also! hahaha!

Optimistic Pessimist said...

I would never be able to pull that shit off. I would look more ridiculous than Otin in a dress and heels!

Hit 40 said...

She could have just got a little henna on her hands. How to escape a bore when your seated at the table dining??? Tough one. You need Josh there to be a buffer for you.