Previously in Barcelona . . . Jabari came to Spain with only socks and sandals. We walked a few miles throughout the city in search of authentic sneakers. #nofakes
Let’s go to sleep in Paris
Wake up in Tokyo
Have a dream in New Orleans
Fall in love in Chicago
~”Paris, Tokyo,” Lupe Fiasco
I have a very hazy memory of traveling with my family, including my crew of cousins, to Jackson, New Jersey, probably a three hour drive from our home in Northern Virginia. Our ultimate destination was Great Adventure theme park. I barely remember the park, but I do remember the drive, the humidity and the low budget motel. It was probably the highlight of my youth.
As a typical working-class kid, my vacations were limited to theme parks (Great Adventures! King’s Dominion!) and family reunions in the South. The idea of traveling out of the country was never an option, at least not in any concrete way. When I was in college, I never ever considered Study Abroad, and I did not obtain an official passport until 2015.
My husband and I were fully aware of the import of taking our children out of the country. This would be one of those times when we felt like we had finally Made It. A straight up Huxtable move. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about something similar when he describes why he took his son to Paris:
“What I wanted was to put as much distance between you and that blinding fear as possible. I wanted you to see different people living by different rules” (pp. 126-127).
Before we left for Barcelona, my husband and I had The Talk with our kids.
“You might get stared at.”
“Don’t get mad if people try to touch your hair.”
“People might mistake you for Kobe.”
We felt it necessary to have this candid conversation for two primary reasons: 1) both kids have social anxiety, and we wanted to prepare them for possible uncomfortable social situations; and 2) I had heard stories from several black students about their racialized experiences abroad, including being called “negro” or being mistaken for prostitutes.
As fate would have it, our kids were disappointed. Despite their eager anticipation, they experienced no outward racial discrimination or even double takes. “Que guapo!” one of the waitresess beamed when she saw Jabari’s hair up close. Her eyes got even wider when she saw Zoe’s tangled curls in all of their glory.
In fact, the kids adapted quite easily to this foreign place. Once when we stepped into the foyer of our apartment building, Jabari took a deep breath and then exhaled, “It just smells like Europe here!” After maybe two days, he told us that he had started to do some serious reflection and wondered aloud about the amount of food waste in the U.S. and our overall capitalistic system. (Let’s see how long that business major lasts, I thought to myself).
Indeed, it was completely worth every penny to provide this opportunity for our children. On our last day, I put my arm around Zoe and said, “You’re going to move to the UK when you get older, huh?” She grinned and nodded.
“Well, thanks for telling me now,” I laughed. “This gives me time to prepare. I’ll be sure to visit you often.”
“It’s very expensive, you know,” she shot back.
I think this trip may have been too successful.