I wasn’t particularly nervous for my move to the UK. After all, I’d lived in South Korea for half a year and spent a summer interning in Kenya and Uganda (such white girl, much wow), speak English pretty fluently, and I wasn’t afraid of being culture-shocked in what’s pretty much a neighbouring country to the Netherlands. I was determined to act professional, starting my MA, to blend in with the Brits and stay far away from ‘situations’ I’d encountered in my previous episodes of expat living.
Once upon a time, Americans were widely accepted and wanted everywhere they went. The idea of talking about the worst places to travel basically relied on showing which had the least pleasurable accommodations or the fewest English speaking people in the world. Back then, the world was a more peaceful place, filled with exotic sights and fun locals to meet.
There’s good news in the world but it seems weighted towards the Southern Hemisphere although it starts somewhat north of the Equator. A continent, artificially severed by a canal, curled around a three pronged spine. Long suppressed, exploited and despoiled, it has seemingly shaken its lethargy and from various umbrae is experimenting with innovative solutions to intractable problems. An aroma emerges, the scent of potential tranquility blended with equity and possibly, even joy. But it’s just a possibility, plausible only because of dark distractions almost everywhere else; very, very dark distractions; drawing in entropy, negativity and despair as though from the gravity well of a dead and decaying universe.
As so many people and/or nations gear up for battle, denounce “others” as the enemy, and contract with fear, we need to take a deep breath and reflect on our situations from a very different, and much more helpful, point of view. We cannot hear too many times that defensiveness does not make us safe; quite the contrary. Many disciplines remind us that only when we are open and accepting, rather than closed and suspicious, are we truly safe. Long ago my husband and I had an opportunity to put this philosophy to the test, one I will never forget. We were touring several South American countries, including Ecuador. As we had planned our trip (pre-internet), I remembered reading in National Geographic about a tribe of indians that lived only in a small area of Ecuador and nowhere else in the world. Dubbed the Colorado Indians, they were so named because they painted themselves up with red berry juice (Colorado in common usage means “colored red” in Spanish), and since we were from Colorado, it seemed like a great idea to find these name-sake Colorado indians and have a look for ourselves.