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Asian Travel, Natural Hair and Sarees: Diversity Bliss For a Naturalista!

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Patti R. Rose

I traveled extensively during the summer of 2015, namely to Vietnam, Japan, China, and India. The weather was hot in all of these lovely places and my hair took a beating but stayed strong. For some reason, within the context of so much heat, humidity, and variations in environment, some of my locks completely unraveled. So, the remedy was henna that I secured in India for healthy conditioning. Just wonderful! I also acquired pure coconut oil in Vietnam, at a spot along the Mekong Delta, to lavish my locks, so moisture was achieved. They make candy and other treats from the coconut there too, which was delicious!

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So, with locks in tow, I traveled and traveled, along with my husband (and my adult children for portions of this 7-week journey) loving every moment of the experience. There was very little concern about my locks in any of these places. There were no odd stares or feelings of being "other" in the largely homogeneous nations that I visited. I find, when I travel internationally, especially in Africa and Asia, whatever that feeling is that I have at home--that feeling of being other, as a Black woman, doesn't exist. Sometimes, people stare but do not glare like I often experience at home. There is curiousness but not consternation. I walk comfortably in my difference, knowing that I am adding diversity, vibrantly, to the place where I am visiting.
The Saree
In India, the defining attire of Hindu women is the Saree. It can be made of all types of fabric including satin, chiffon, silk and beyond. It may be heavily embossed and intricately detailed but it's most important characteristic is that it is unique. You will not see two women wearing the same saree (unless it is intentional). The colors, the beauty and grace of sarees represent diversity in terms of attire, geographic location, socioeconomic status and Indian, Hindu culture. Yet, in the differences, sarees represent an undeniable commonality in that no matter the color, design or ornamentation, they are all sarees--representing, as is said in some Asian cultures, "Same Same--But Different." In this case, this indicates the fact that sarees are more the same than different in that they are all made of fabric and are about 6 meters long.

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Through my travels, I have learned that Human beings are similar. At our core, like the saree, we are "same, same, but different." At the molecular level, we are the same. We are all comprised of cells, with variations in genetic makeup that leads to varying genotypes and phenotypes, but no one arrangement that leads to our physical appearance is better than another. Having white skin with straight hair vs. brown skin with curly hair, as examples, is not better, just different. We are not all the same without diversity, however. For example, for Black women, with natural, curly kinky hair, we are different from women of other races who may have straight hair. One is not better than the other, just different. Hence, my belief is that for Black women, and all people, Natural IS Cool Enough in any scenario, from social to professional.
So, as I travel the world, I embrace this difference in others and expect the same towards me. I recently wrote a Post where I discussed how some folks think it only appropriate to tolerate difference, but that is not enough. My post is entitled "In Terms of Diversity Initiatives, Tolerance is Not Enough." Furthermore, there are still organizations in the U.S. that don't recognize the value and beauty of difference and how it enhances environments. For example, I recently learned while attending a conference where I was the Keynote Speaker, that the field of Veterinary Medicine is the whitest profession in the United States. Hence, I wrote another piece entitled "Why Veterinary Medicine, The Whitest Profession in American, Needs Black Students."

My travels inform me and inspire me to write and share my perspectives learned as a Naturalista. Soon, I will share, in my ongoing 50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures series, more detail about my experiences in Asia and other parts of the world. In the meantime, I hope you will revel in the joys and beauty of diversity all around you, no matter where you are.

INDIA VILLAGE WOMAN PHONE © Human Activity On Mother Earth. via Getty Images INDIA VILLAGE WOMAN PHONE

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