JUXTAPOSITION PHOTO SERIES- Part 1 of 3: Hidden Diversity and Perception, Interview with Chumba Limo

Where’s home? Everywhere is home. Photo by Xiaoya Cheng

This is a street cat in Shanghai; her name is Mimi. I’ve been feeding her for more than seven years before I studied abroad.

When I was 13 years old, my family moved to a new house. I saw a little cat hiding under a big leaf. She was too afraid to come out and kept meowing. I thought she was hungry, so I took a sausage from our fridge and fed her. She moved her skinny legs and came out. Then, she rubbed my leg and ran away immediately when I started moving.

This is the story about how I met her.

I’m seriously allergic to cats. I tried to take her into our house, but it turned into a tragedy. Based on different circumstances, I came to know that she was still a street cat. I’m not an owner but a feeder.

After struggling for a long time because I couldn’t really own Mimi (I named her), I gradually found out it might be the best way for her. I might not give her the best food and the comfiest bed in the world. But she’s the luckiest because she’s free.

I don’t have disease…You don’t need to detest me. Don’t leave me alone. Photo by Xiaoya Cheng

In the place where I come from, most people don’t like street cats. Cats are like rats because they’re everywhere and may bring diseases. People stereotype street cats.

This made me wonder about human perceptions. I asked Chumba Limo her thoughts.

“They’re normal and inevitable,” she said. “The only way to curb the negative effects of stereotypes is through fostering a culture that celebrates and embraces everybody’s differences and in the process potentially slow down the rate at which we humans pass down judgement and write each other off.

Image of Chumba. Courtesy of Chumba Limo

Limo is a third-culture adult (TCA) who’s from Kenya and has lived in the states for 10 years. She appreciates living in the United States because she likes to immerse herself in new cultures.

The beauty of this country — and more so the higher education system — is the fact that these institutions invest heavily on attracting international talent and encouraging people to share their culture,she said.

She shared her experiences of participating in Diwali, Eid al-Fitr and Chinese New Year  celebrations. She’s truly a global citizen.

Being a global citizen has literally changed how I think and process information,” she said.

She has experienced what most people may have not. She’s willing to connect with the people. She embraces differences. She has seen and heard more. Her experiences determined her hidden diversity, and this hidden diversity built her.

I’m inspired, and I asked her the differences between the real her and other people’s perceptions. She said:

I am who I am. I’m pretty consistent with who I am. What people see is usually an accurate depiction of who I really am. I think a strength of mine is that I am able to bring out and appreciate other people’s hidden diversities.

I’m not you, and you’re not me. The same skin color, the same race and the same language doesn’t mean we are the same.

Hidden diversity is not deeply hidden. As long as we let go of judgments, stereotypes, perceptions and bias, we can know, understand and appreciate a human and humanity.

Similiar to Chumba, Mimi is consistent — and she’s herself. I was not a cat person before I met Mimi. She’s surely an interesting cat, a beautiful cat, a different cat, a cat that filters through my mind when I am away from home.

Hey, giant fellow. Can you please accept me and even love me? I won’t be too bothersome. Photo by Xiaoya Cheng



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