Tag Archives: culture
Last night, I was sitting in a restaurant in Argentina, surrounded by adolescent boys asking me questions in Spanish about pop culture and music in the U.S. Do you know the band Kiss? What style of music is popular there? And most importantly – what was the reaction like when Michael Jackson died? Most of the music that they listed as their favorites had its heyday in the ‘80s, and they listened with wide eyes as I tried to explain that rock and roll actually came from blues music.
Sitting there at the table, I had a major flashback to when I was studying abroad in Santiago, Chile and volunteering at a public school for boys in the city. I helped teach English to 180 freshmen boys, and often I would take small groups outside of the classroom so that they could ask me questions about whatever they wanted, practice their English and hear a native English speaker talk. Most times, these conversations would center around what I just mentioned – music (they always loved ‘80s music for some reason), as well as movies, TV shows and what life is like in general in the U.S. In my blog at that time, I wrote “this also made conversation extremely exciting and entertaining for me, especially when I found kids that liked the same shows, movies and music as me.” The point was cultural sharing, and that’s exactly what I was doing with the boys at la Fundación Camino Abierto.
Cultural sharing is one of the many things that Susana Esmoris and her husband Hugo Centineo encourage the boys to experience at Camino Abierto, and one of the reasons that they began to explore rural tourism on their farm. She explained how important it was for the boys to be exposed to many different things – whether it’s through the foreign visitors that come to the farm, the field trips to other parts of Argentina that the boys take every year, the many cultural programs that they offer (including an orchestra, painting and theater workshops, and dance lessons), or the cooking lessons they have with some of the most famous chefs in Argentina. The point is to provide them with opportunities and the freedom to choose their own path in life – hence the name of the place, “Camino Abierto,” which means “open path” or “open way.” It was obvious how powerful and influential these opportunities have been for many of the boys – you could see the pride in their eyes when they declared what instruments they played or when they helped in the restaurant kitchen. It was clear that some transformation had occurred and that they were happy and were doing what they loved.
The whole atmosphere of the place was remarkable and infectious. The boys walk through the fields with their arms around each other, everything is fresh and wholesome, there is a sense of tranquil connection to nature, and the food is to die for. Perhaps that is because it is infused with love and happiness, which Susana describes as the continual state of the kitchen (even when there are 25 people working in it). Overall, there is an ambiance of peace, hope, and people doing what they love. Or at least that’s what I felt.
I am so happy that we got to wrap up the project with this story. I am grateful that I got to spend some time with Susana, Hugo, and the boys. And I loved experiencing those priceless moments of cultural sharing. After all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?
And if you must know – in the video clip that my mom posted, I’m describing to them how powerful the reaction was to Michal Jackson’s death, with people dancing in the streets and providing countless tributes to that infamous king of pop.
It’s now been a month since we left the U.S. I can’t decide if it’s felt long or short. On the one hand, it feels like forever since we were on a safari in Uganda. But on the other hand, I couldn’t say that it’s felt like a month has gone by. So many things have happened, and yet so much is yet to come.
It’s interesting to compare all the places we’ve been so far. We’ve really gone from one extreme to the next, and you can feel the change almost instantly. From the chaos of Africa to the hybrid culture of Istanbul to the hearty kindness of Poland to the brusqueness of Moscow to the pandemonium of Delhi’s streets to the serene nature of Nepal – there’s always something different around the corner. And everything changes – the culture, the climate, the food, the clothing, the language, the degree of personal space that’s acceptable, etc. The length of days has gone from 12 hours even in Uganda (from 7am-7pm, like clockwork everyday) to almost 17 hours in Moscow (sunrise at 4:30am, sunset after 11pm). The temperatures have ranged from 50 degrees on a rainy day in Poland to 107 degrees when we arrived in Delhi at 1am. The time difference has varied from 7 hours ahead to 11 hours and 45 minutes ahead (yes, 45 minutes). The cost of things have ranged from $2.00 for a very large Nile Special (beer) in Uganda to $45 for breakfast in Moscow to an $8 cab ride for a 30-minute ride in Kathmandu. And the comparisons could go on and on.
Only through doing a round the world trip like we’re doing can one really experience these drastic changes. When someone takes a vacation to one country for a few weeks and then returns home, it’s not the same. They are only experiencing one foreign environment for a short time before returning to the comfort zone of their own culture. Sure they can make comparisons between their home and where they traveled, but it doesn’t provide a comprehensive view of the diversity of life. This trip has really made me wonder at the ability of the planet to support all these different lifestyles and cultures, and for so many people. Experiencing all of these different environments has provided me with a new appreciation for the vastness of humankind and the diversity that exists on this earth.
Now, post my philosophical musings, a current update: We arrived in India, and after that Nepal, yesterday, and I’m excited to say that this is my first time in Asia! A new continent, a new milestone. We are on our way to visit Maggie Doyne in Surkhet, who over the past five years has built an orphanage and, most recently, a school for the abandoned children of Nepal. We’ll be staying with her and the kids for a week, and we’re really looking forward to it. Stay tuned for accounts of our visit!