© 2006 Catherine. All rights reserved.

Only in Asia: "Teacher why are you so black?!"

For winter break in Thailand I spent most of my time belly up in the sun, lying in the Andaman sea, or belly down staring at the fish… when not chasing them. Snorkeling was actually really amazing. It was like swimming in an aquarium. I can’t believe how many fish I got to see and how close I could get to them. I even had a school of fish following me around for awhile. Apparently though waving at a fish is shark language for “I’m going to eat you”. 🙁

I’m getting off topic.

Because I was in Thailand, because it is HOT in Thailand, because I was half-naked in Thailand (in a bikini) the whole week I got a LOT of sun. I’ve never been the type to burn. I’m one of *those* people. I get more and more and more and more tanned but never burn.

Well I don’t know if my luck has run out or if it was bad Karma but baby did I burn! A very fun experience. Especially the part where my skin started falling off. Yuck.

Anyway… when the initial trauma was over I ended up with a really nice dark tan.

In Asia, white is beautiful. It is fashionable to have the whitest skin possible, especially on a slender Asian frame (they don’t admire our curvy bodies). Natural coloured hair is coming back in style thanks to the Asian movie boom and stars like Ziyi Zhang but brown hair is still preferable to black. Blonde has gone out. There are a plethora of skin whitening products. Creams, masks, etc. Even names we would recognize from back home like Garnier and Nivea.

In the summer on a bright sunny day the streets are filled with umbrellas, and people riding their motor scooters with leg-warmers on their arms.

My co-teacher once told me “we say here that no matter what you look like, if you are very white you beautiful, but no matter how beautiful you are… if you’re brown you’re ugly”.

Needless to say when I walked back into classes on Monday my students were traumatized. “Teacher what happened?!?!” and my favourite “Teacher why are you so black!?!”. Now I know my older students, and co-teachers know what “black” means but its their perception. I’m not brown now, I’m BLACK.

The students I tutor looked at me with concern in their eyes, “Teacher will your skin change back?! Will it be the same again?!”. It’s like I have a horrible deformity now…and I was pretty brown to begin with.

It’s humourous and disturbing but I guess we’re just as guilty. Cooking ourselves in tanning beds, dying our skin orange, etc.

South America was the same but at the time I didn’t notice the “skin whitening” industry.

Really interesting. I am happy to say I have the one Taiwanese guy who thinks dark skin is sexy. Oh and he likes my curves too 😀

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