Friday, February 25, 2011

what are you looking at?

Khmer people stare. They just do. They stare more than any other people I have encountered.
By nature I am a people watcher. I am an observer. I love watching people and analyzing situations. I like making up stories for people I pass in the market, for the man who changes my flat tire, for the woman I see at the gym every morning. But, I try not to stare. Why? Because I have been told since I was small that it is rude to stare. So, I continue to do the natural American thing of quickly glancing away when someone catches me watching them, or maybe I try the awkward smile approach.
Those rules do not apply in Cambodia. People stare. They sit on the side of the road and turn their head as they watch you walk by. No shame. They stand 3 feet away from the table at which you are eating and watch you chew every bite. No shame. They follow you around the store with their eyes glued to you as if you might magically disappear if they turned away. No shame. They turn their heads at stoplights (if they choose to stop) and look at you until the light turns green. No shame.
It used to bother me that people constantly followed me around stores like a tail, or that every person along the street watched me. But, in many ways I have become immune. I often don't think about the fact that I am being stared at until someone else mentions it.
The truth, though, is that I wonder what kind of stories are being created about me. I wonder what these people think of me when they see me. I wonder if they try to determine my nationality, or if they are admiring my white skin or pointed nose. I wonder if they see the joy of Jesus in me. I hope so...

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words." ~ St. Francis of Assisi

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