These past few weeks have been really interesting for me.
Background: It is the first time I am visiting my motherland for a purpose other than family. It also happens to be my first time in a public health research setting (aside from an academic setting and a small community based organization I interned at about four years ago). I am learning that there is a very thin line between professional and casual. And “professionalism” here can be very different (i.e. it can be acceptable to be politically incorrect, to make comments about weight, color, marital status, parity… everything. You name it.)
In my home in Dhaka, I am treated exceptionally by my family because I am a visitor (despite visiting frequently). I don’t leave the house alone or without informing someone. I am dropped off to and picked up from work every day (whereas my cousins are able to find their own way). I am dependent. (Really, I can’t even cross the street alone.) I am different.
The other day, as I walked into side entrance of my office building, the security guard immediately stood up and greeted me. I was wearing dress pants and a portofino shirt. The following day, I wore a salwaar kameez (traditional clothing) and the same security guard looked once and didn’t look again…
My intersectionality hits me hard when I’m here.
Technically, I am an “international student intern” but the color of my skin, my attire on most days, my mother tongue, gives it away…I am no different.
At the same time: I am not an expat. I am not a native. I am a foreigner in my own land.