Thursday, July 16, 2009

International Negro : Episode 4 - Miscellaneous Observations.

[Editor's Note: I grappled with how to best blog about my recent 10 day trip to Europe, and the various eye-opening experiences encountered. So, I present to you the final installment a limited edition, infrequently running, and likely pointless special series called International Negro. As a bonus, here's a handful of the 3,500 (!) photos I snapped along the way.]

Okay, here's all the stuff I didn't really get to say in the prior posts, cause there was no logical point of inclusion.

Wit' Yo' Stankin' A$$ - That little rumor about Euros being stingy with the Lever 2000? Totally and completely true. In every country a visited, anytime a group of locals congregated, you'd inevitably get a whiff of something totally foul in the air. I mean, seriously, we are talking hot dumpster on a midsummer West Philly night levels of dank. I suppose this is some cultural thing, an aversion to either soap or deodorant, but the sh*t makes no sense. I would sometimes pass otherwise beautiful women on the street and hold my breath in the name of self-preservation as I walked by. Could someone please explain this inexplicable funk for me?

Negroes Are Everywhere... Sorta - Contrary to expectations, I saw plenty of Negroes in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Yeah, the countries are pretty homogeneous from a population standpoint (ie: the blond haired, blue eyed Norwegian stereotype, which is only partly true), but make no mistake black folks are everywhere. And while many of them migrate there from the UK and Africa, they more or less look like American blacks from a stylistic standpoint. Dudes rock close cut Ceasers, Kenneth Cole, and skinny jeans. I saw chicks wearing the same scrawberry colored yaki I spot on the Metro here in DC everyday. Only in Russia can I say I didn't encounter one single, solitary black person.

Why You Treat Me So Baaad?!? - I've got "racial antennae", so I'm always subconsciously on the lookout for a slight. I've always hear varying opinions on the racial climate in Europe. Some say various countries are race-free oases. Some say certain parts of the continent are worse than the Deep South. I can't personally say I formed an opinion on either extreme. I was greeted warmly (American Dollars!) in some places, and roundly ignored in other stores when shopping for souvenirs. I had perfect strangers break their necks offering to take a photo of me (I was sometimes solo in tourist mode). I had others who wouldn't stop to offer directions to the train if I'b been brandishing a gun. In short, it's so uneven, I can't form a conclusion either way, so I'll just say I was treated no worse (good or bad) than at home. Whether your experience improves if you're not American, Black, or a male, I can't say. Again, just my observation.

You Money's No Good Here - Not every country in Europe deals with Euros as their unit of currency, but that doesn't mean the exchange rate is favorable by any means. The worse such example would be in Norway, where $10 USD buys a cup of Joe, and a Burger King extra value meal fetches for $25 USD. Only in Poland did our dollar stretch.

I Get Around - In case you couldn't tell, we took a cruise for this trip. Moving from country to country in any other fashion would have been nearly impossible. In most places, the dock was close enough to the city to walk into town, but in others, you needed to cop transpo. And let me say, there's no better mode of getting around than an open-top bus tour.

Next Stop?!? - I want to go to Africa in a couple of years. I've had opportunities to go to the continent in the past for church-related missions, but honestly, I want my initial impression of The Motherland to be for pleasure, not service.

Question: Got any questions for AB about his various travels in Europe? What country in Africa would you recommend for a first-time visitor?

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