From Average White Girl to Rohingya Princess

“Oh my, Teacher Sophie! We must make you look beautiful again! Come, come, I will help you!”

While this wasn’t the initial greeting I was expecting, I decided to go along with it.  One thing I’ve learned about my Rohingya friends is that they are brutally honest. It’s kind of refreshing, actually. Sometimes it’s less refreshing when you’re told that you need to become beautiful again…but I guess beauty is fleeting, right? So it’s only fitting that they help me find my beauty.

In doing so, I was put into the most glamorous, hot pink, bedazzled Rohingya outfit she could find. She brought out all of her best makeup; lipstick, white powder (because my face clearly isn’t white enough), liquid eyeliner, all the essentials.

After we got dolled up, Mary (real name will not be mentioned) and I embarked on a girls’ Tuesday night out. We went straight to the food court Wendy’s in the nearly-deserted mall. In my bedazzled pink Asian outfit. I received plenty of judgmental stares from people who must’ve been thinking, “Clearly this white girl needs to face reality and accept the fact that she is not Asian.” Then we walked around Macy’s and she bought me high heels that I didn’t even want, much less need. But she justifiably said it will make Teacher Sophie beautiful again, so it’s all good. Then she proceeded to jump on those coin operated kiddie rides and snap a bunch of selfies. Never a dull moment with my Rohingya friend.

I went along with all of this because I was still in shock at the fact that I was suddenly reunited with one of the most significant people in my life. A girl who I thought I’d never see again. I finally got to see Mary again, the 19-year-old refugee I befriended at a temporary shelter in Thailand.

The last time I saw her, we made a promise that we would see each other again. The odds were definitely not in our favor. She was stateless in every country, confined to a temporary refugee shelter in southern Thailand. I was heading back to the other side of the world, ready to pursue my university degree. I shouldn’t have made that promise with her because I knew I would never see her again. But I had a nagging feeling that it might be true; we might just see each other again.

I never thought I’d be wearing a hot pink bedazzled Asian outfit while walking through the streets of Clarkston with one of my students from Thailand. So yeah, that was pretty cool.

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