The sticky afternoon heat drips down my back as I walk pass the dozens of merchants lining the Floating Market in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“Only 500 rupees, Miss!”, a street vendor yells at me, pointing to his elephant-print sundress. The dress is something only a tourist can pull off. It is too gaudy to be worn by the locals. These cheap dresses are things foreigners take home to their families after a vacation in my country. Five hundred rupees, a little less than five dollars, is too much for the cheap dress and no street vendor would ever charge a local such a price.
“I’m from Sri Lanka”, I say in accented Sinhalese.
The vendor looks at me amusedly, laughs and then points at the sundress again.
“Only 500 rupees, Miss!” he says again.
After five years of living in America, I went back to Sri Lanka for the first time this Summer. The sun beat down and tanned my skin and I travelled across the incredible island I knew like the back of my hand. Still, my friends marveled at my American accent and people I met on the street spoke to me like I was a foreigner, born and bred in the States.
Back in New York, I’m as brown as it gets. New Yorkers ask me about my trip back home; ask me about my culture, ignoring the fact that I’ve quietly joined theirs.
So that’s where I am today: not belonging here, not belonging there.
But still here.