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Third Time’s the Charm: Experiences with Foreign Men
Within days of stepping foot onto African soil, a beautiful Senegalese man is pursuing me. His skin glows, his chest muscles ripple, his white smile sparkles, and his dreadlocks fly into the air as he dances the mbalax. I remain distant at first, insisting on friendship only, but as his kindness and intelligence are revealed, so my resolve weakens.
Glorious months pass, months that are full of exoticism and cultural discovery. I share dinners around a common bowl with his family, scooping my right hand into the same rice as his mom and aunt and brother, and feeling like a part of their family. I dance around fires to the rhythm of drums with his baayfall friends and watch, mesmerized, as they spin themselves into religious stupors. And, I learn the local language, visit villages deep in the countryside, and dress in bright boubous. I feel about as Senegalese as I can possibly feel.
Third Time’s the Charm: Experiences with Foreign Men.
Fast-forward a couple of years. I’m abroad again, this time in Nepal. Relationships with foreign men don’t work, I know, but my mantra lacks conviction. I throw my heart out, yet again, to a Nepali-born Tibetan man who’s funny and easygoing and has the cutest high cheekbones and poutiest of lips.
Several months pass, months that are again beautifully foreign. I ride on the back of his motorbike to hidden corners of Kathmandu. We duck through ancient doorways into miniature restaurants to sip cups of spicy milk tea and munch on savory snacks.
His family takes me to religious ceremonies, dresses me in chupas, and brings me on their morning circumambulating prayer sessions on Swayambunath stupa, overlooking the Kathmandu valley and the Himalayan Mountains. I feel as though I were born on this soil, always existed in this valley, and could die happily under these mountains.
Relationships with foreign men don’t work, I know, but my mantra lacks conviction. I throw my heart out, yet again.
The arch of both narratives dips in the same way, however. As my time in my adopted countries comes to an end, I find myself each time at the airport repeating the same dialogue. The one which starts with I don’t want this to end and finishes with I promise to get you a visa to my country. They said I love you and I’ll miss you and I’ll see you soon. And a goodbye that should have been final is stretched into a goodbye for now.
Our relationships subsist through emails and phone calls and Skype conversations. But slowly, my alternate life in their countries take on a dreamlike quality that feels less and less real with each conversation. They become less real in between each conversation. And the time in between becomes longer and longer.
As I take down their photos from my bedroom walls and change my Facebook status to single, I convince myself those relationships would never have worked. We are from different worlds. I would have had to live in Tibet-guy’s family home, because that’s what a proper Tibetan wife does.
I would have had to financially support Senegal-guy’s entire extended family, because that’s how you take care of family in Africa. It would never have worked; I repeat my mantra with newfound conviction. We are from different worlds.
Years pass, and I learn to protect my heart.
Years pass, and I learn to protect my heart. I move to Thailand, but don’t let myself be swayed by the gentle faces and slender bodies of the Thai men I meet. I live in Zimbabwe, but refuse to let myself fall under the spell of another shiny-skinned, manly-smelling African man. It will never work, I repeat to myself. We are from different worlds.
And then my brother calls me. He’s fallen in love with an Ecuadorian girl while living in France. He’s moving to Ecuador, he tells me. And, he’s going there to be with her, and who cares about a career or school or money. In fact, he’s going to marry that girl, he declares.
I don’t say anything. Instead, I let his words dance in my head, oozing through the cells of my brain and down into my heart. It could work, I decide. They’re from different worlds, but it could work. I go on a trip to Mozambique contemplating this potential new mantra.
And that’s when I meet him. Bruno, the Frenchman with the Petit-Prince-painted camper van. The one who’s been traveling around the world for fourteen years, and who tells me there’s an extra seat available.
It could work, I say to myself.
It could work, I say to myself. We’re from different worlds, but it could work.
Cautiously, I step into the vacant seat next to his. I repeat the new mantra my brother has gifted me. I unwrap my enclosed heart and dangle it on the rear-view mirror between us. It could work, I repeat. We’re from different worlds, but it could work.
This time it does. It works.
Third Time’s the Charm: Experiences with Foreign Men
Third Time’s the Charm: Experiences with Foreign Men top photo credit: unsplash.com and Brittany Caumette.
Have you dated foreign men during your travels? What were your impressions? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.