Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Beginning (Introducing the Blog)

It all started on a wintry day in 2006 when my life-long friend Bethany and I unfolded a world map on the floor of my flat in Prague. We’d been raised in northern California, but now I was in my third year in the Czech Republic, Bethany was spending a year in Lithuania, and filled with the youthful sensation of unlimited possibility, we fell to listing all the countries we wanted to live in someday. My foray into Central Europe had sparked my interest culture, and so I mocked up a list of countries that I now call “The Course of Understanding Tour,” consisting of 4-5 countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. It was several months before I actually thought about it seriously... I remember over a decade ago when my grandmother came back from a trip to Kenya, and told me that “the culture is so different, but I’ve found that wherever you go, people are people.” Years later my cultural anthropology professor told us stories about throwing up over the mere sight of dinner in an African jungle: “Culture is not a ‘mind over matter’ kind of thing; it can provoke an innate and uncontrollable physical reaction.” Where’s the common ground between these statements? When you strip away all the differences between us that cause discomfort, fear, or vomit, what “people are people” elements are you left with?... I’m now halfway through a year in a Japanese village. Next I’ll be spending six months in India, and then six months in a Kenyan orphanage. The culture shock I most fear is one day returning to America. This blog is to bring you along with me as I experience many of those vomit-inducing differences, and slowly try to piece together an understanding of what makes us all members of the human race anyway.

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