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where is laura? Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. Rainer Maria Rilke

North of the equator

USA | Tuesday, 6 June 2006 | Views [1535] | Comments [1]

I'm back. Still marvelling at the ease of conducting business in english, and sad by the already obvious decline in my spanish.... but so it goes. and sadly the last spanish I heard was the airplane captain onthe way to Miami fumbling through his normal salutations and reports.. you'd think with the necessity of this job, someone would have offered him some advice on pronunciation by now...

beefed up security at the airport... a new machine that blows air onto you from all directions to sense traces of explosive material.. and what happens if you're carrying it, do you blow up? My stomach tightens as I see the incoming "visitors" questioned closely by immigration.. even if all their ducks are in order, there is always a fear of being rejected at the border... and we, as US citizens just have our badge to flash, and doors open all over the world. It makes me really sad and depressed to think about it.. and most Americans are still afraid to leave the country, and dont even take advantage of these privileges...

First thing I notice in Miami... I'll just say it, Black people. wow, hadn't really hit me just how white and homogenous, particularly Chile is... Peru and Bolivia are very different.. much more mixed in terms of indigenous cultures and Spanish influenced folks... and certainly cusco has travelers from all over the world... and there are lots of black folks on the coast in Ecuador in particular...but I dont think I saw  more than a handful of African Americans since I left JFK in Dec.. and it didn't hit me until I had time to kill in the airport after touchdown.

Life here is as it was when I left. You realize how little changes in 6 months, unless you are actively in a moment of change, or travelling of course, where time is completely different. Same top 10 hip hop songs on the radio and at the dance parties, can't comment yet on new trends, bc I was living in winter, and summer is in full force on the east coast. but generally, life goes on, and change takes time. Everyone has cars, really big cars. And the first day when my battery was dead, I was homebound, for it's to dangerous to even walk 1/2 mile to the market, because there is barely a foot between the guardrail and that sharp white line on the road. It's great that I live so close to a market in the suburbs.. that's rare.. but you still need to get in your car to go there...

 It felt good to have brunch at the Broad street diner in Phila over the weekend... diners being my favorite american insitution, and this one in particular is a classic.... the normal expenses once again are endured, there is just no sense in comparing, and you cant even be resentful for paying $6 for a coffee and brownie, because that's just what we've come to accept.

it's amazing how uninteresting your own culture can be. sure, it can be really interesting as well.. but the interest is a lot more shallow and limited, or maybe that's just because it's familiar. but I prefer to be the odd one out, and that's just not possible here.

What it comes down to, I imagine for any experience, especially when talking about different cultures and lifestyles in other countries, you just can't even put pictures and words together sometimes to create an accurate sense... if you haven't lived it, there is no point of reference.... Bottom line, there are many ways to live your life, but you have to get out there and do some research in order to believe it.

I can't speak to a plethora of goodness in this country, what we do have is opportunity, and choices. While too many choices can be a burden.. it's a priveldged burden... and while I don't subscribe to the American Dream, I do think we need to take better advantage of the resources we have, and use them responsibly.. use what we need and no more. period.

500 people died last year trying to cross the border coming from Mexico, just so they can work, and better support their families. When people talk about wanting to come to the States, it's more often than not, so they can and improve their lives back home, it's not to indulge in the wonderous comforts of American culture. People realize that money is a means and not a goal in itself.

You realize the definition of need is constructed by what we come to know and therefore expect, or desire... and this is what we always need to keep in check.

could go on and on.. but going to sign off here.... with one piece of advice. the next time someone tells you not to talk to strangers, don't listen to them. talk to strangers whenever you can, for as long as it takes, for these conversations are valuable no matter where you are.. they are the only real lens we have to understand our own culture, as well as the those that swirl around us.

Tags: culture, culture shock, miami



reverse culture shock is sometimes worse than just simple culture shock - at least you expect that when you travel. But never fear: just as easily have you adapted to new places and people across the globe, so too will you adapt to the strangely new place of 'home'. The bigger question that often lingers for me is, 'do i want to'?

  crustyadventures Jun 6, 2006 11:18 AM

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