Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Citizen of the World

Theresa received this and passed it on to me. She shared a good bit about what makes her a citizen of the world and I must say her credentials far outweigh mine. Even so, I am rather tickled that she passed it on to me. It's a little indication that I am meeting one of my goals for my blog. In addition to having the blog as a creative outlet I've always wanted to have a chance to mingle with people from divergent backgrounds so I could learn about their world and share about mine. It's really nice to know I am doing that to a noticeable extent.

From the time I was very young I have been interested in cultures other than my own. I think part of it was an awareness that I was different from all the fair skinned blondes who surrounded me. Part of it was my grandfather sharing his interest in Native American culture. Part of it was hearing about when my parents were stationed overseas in the military. Part of it was loving to hear folklore from other countries.

I always gravitated toward folks who were different. In college I spent most of my free time with the exchange students. I really considered that an important part of my education. I learned things from those friends that I never would have learned from a book or a formal class. I was frequently mistaken for being an exchange student myself. Admittedly, I took a certain twisted pleasure in messing with gullible minds when an especially dense or patronizing person complimented me on how well I spoke English. Apparently I still have a certain foreign look or demeanor or something because just this weekend a lady in a store approached me and asked, "Excuse me, do you speak English?" Oh the temptation...

When I went to Trinidad the first time it was part of a work team. We stayed at a camp in the mountains and were unfortunately somewhat isolated from the local culture. There was a Jamaican team there at the same time. During free time I'd head over to their rooms instead of hanging out with my American teammates. When they asked me why, I said I had all the time in the world to spend with Americans but not so much time to spent with Trinis or Jamaicans so I was looking to make the most of the opportunity. I wanted to learn.

When I lived in Trinidad I became a student of the culture and the history. I loved learning everything I could. I am by no means an expert on Trinidad but I think the year and a half of Trini Tuesday posts indicates I was paying attention during my time there. I truly did not understand the mindset of the other Americans I met who had lived there so much longer than I had and yet seemed to know so little. I found even a little bit of interest in learning goes such a long way in building bridges. It didn't matter if it was being aware of local current events, or asking someone to teach me how to cook local food, or learning about customs, or using the slang, it all worked together to communicate respect. And who doesn't respond to being respected?

When I came back to the USA I had a very rough re-entry. I did NOT want to be here. At that time I met a couple from Kenya. The wife didn't want to be here anymore than I did. Her husband had more or less dragged her here for school with the promise that they'd return to Kenya upon graduation. She came knowing he had no intention of ever going back and was mourning the loss of family connections back home. I walked her through a lot of initial culture shock because she knew she was safe to complain to me, that I wasn't going to take it as a slam on my homeland for her to express sadness over being away from her own. As odd as it may sound to a lot of you, her 'foreignness' provided a comforting familiarity to me that soothed my own re-entry. Because she didn't have American notions about how affection between friends could and could not be expressed and because I was very comfortable with the more demonstrative expressions in Trinidad we were both free to discard some of the more buttoned up restrictions that American culture can impose. It was a nurturing and healing thing for both of us. Of course, the friendship stoked my natural curiosity in Kenyan culture specifically and I learned a good bit from her (recipes included). I considered it the greatest compliment when she told me I was really more Kenyan at heart than American and I was the one American she would be proud to take back to her home village because she knew I would not judge anything there as weird or beneath me. I was quite humbled by that.

Actually, I've heard a variation on that sort of statement from Trinis, Jamaicans, Ghanaians, Indians, Bolivians, Argentinians, and Chinese. I don't say that to boast but I hope it at least indicates I can adapt and make people feel respected and welcome. I've seen so many stereotypical 'Ugly Americans' even in my limited experience abroad and it makes me cringe. I just want to avoid giving any justification for that label, satiate my natural curiosity, and hopefully do my part to build respect for my own culture in the way I conduct myself.

So now I am to pass this on. Here are the folks I think are world citizens who build bridges across cultures. I know so many of you live in different cultures or have wide cross cultural experience, but for the sake of brevity I will focus on those folks who specifically cover cultural topics regularly in their blogs.

Renny BA: He calls himself a network evangelist and his blog focuses on the seasons and culture of Norway. I have learned so much from him and have loved every minute spent at his blog discovering Scandinavia. He's a dear friend.

Susie: She's an American who is in love with India. I remember her first trip several years ago and she is headed there again the end of this week. Wish her safe travels! She is sure to have some amazing posts in the next few weeks if the reports during her trip last year were any indication.

Cosima: She is a German woman living in Hong Kong. She has shared quite a bit on both German and Chinese culture, customs, and arts. She has offered original translations of German poetry. She is incredibly intelligent and her insights are always deep and thought provoking.

Toraa: He is a wonderfully crazy viking! You never know what he might come up with but it will always be done with a real zest for life and great humor. He has shared about visits to his daughter in Miami, trips in Europe. He has a real affection for South America as well.

Mona: She is an Indian woman who has frequently written about issues specific to her culture in a way which educates the rest of us. I don't know what experience she may or may not have with cultures other than her own but her efforts to share about both the good and the bad of life in India are a benefit to those who read her and who want an insider's view.


KFarmer said...

Wonderfully written :)

& congrats on the 19! Not too many folks can lay claim to a long and loving marriage these days :) Wishing you many, many more~

barman said...

What a wonderful post. One of the things I like most about the Internet is the ability to meet others from various backgrounds. Now don't get me wrong, I think I have lots to learn from the many cultures that inhabit the United States. I welcome those experiences but sadly, not to the extent that you have. The very approach you have and the way you show respect to others is one of the many things I love about you. If I were to some day go exploring the many riches of other cultures in the world I can not think of anyone I would rather have by my side as a guide.

Anyway this post is wonderful and I suspect all the people you mentioned here are very deserving and will love receiving this wonderful award.

Beach Bum said...

This post clearly expresses the same sentiment I have with my country that while I love the principles on which it was founded I increaseingly find myself at odds with the many "ugly Americans" I work around.

Gledwood said...

That was a wicked post!¬

I know what you mean... that was a big reason I studied languages... even one as everyday as French actually opens up huge tracts of the Africa. If I hadn't had French there were people I met in Morocco I wouldn't have been able to talk to at all, bc English is only used to speak to tourists out there; French is the language of administration and government... etc etc...

I've started up a Japanese blog but it's all very new.. yes Japanese is my new thing. I've had a thing about Japanese for the last 20 years only "life" distracted me too much away from it!!

furiousBall said...

although i have a lot of buddies from around the world on the web, i've only traveled to Canada for hockey tourneys when i was little.

S said...

Happily accepts award and curtsies proudly.

Dont we just love the international world?

We can blame it ALL on Trivia Madness, cant we?

I am so curious what country that woman thought you were from, or what language you were going to speak. Were you wearing a dashiki again? LOL

Last year I got so tanned in the summer, and I had gone to this party, where I chatted with a woman, and told her that I was born in Africa...and she said, well I thought you might be part black!
Just my soul, lady, just my soul.

Anyway, I am going to attempt to put that award thing on my side bar right NOW! Thank you thank you!

PS The fact that I was born in Africa sorta started me out as a Citizen of the World!


ural cow

Mona said...


Thank you for including me in the list ( blush blush)!!

jillie said...

Cracking up over susie's comment there. Lime, VERY well done on today's post. I have followed Mona and Susie's blog here and there and yes, I love to listen to stories about other people's lives and what not. I only wish I could have gotten more information out of my grandmother's. Unfortunately, I was too busy being a rebellious teenager. What I wouldn't give to have some more sit downs with my grandmother's.

Congrats to you! BTW...I will be sending you some more lemons in about a month. I have close to 200 right now that will ripen pretty much all at once...UGH!


lime said...

kfarmer, thank you thank you

barman, this is an amazing and wonderful aspect to the net. probably my favorite part!

beach bum, exactly. i love my country and her people, i just wish more of them would conduct themselves better with regard to other cultures.

gledwood, best wishes as you study japanese and make that dream come true.

furiousball, friendships can be wonderfully enriching

susie, i'm not sure what the lady was expecting we have a lot of latinos and east indians in our area. in my life i have been asked if i am african-american, latina, indian, native american, very few people actually guess greek.

mona, you're welcome, dearie

jillie, glad you enjoy us all. did you say lemons? oooooooohhhhhhh yumm!

Bunny said...

Congrats on the world citizenship!!! I love learning about different cultures and I hope to travel and experience more first-hand one day.

I helped establish a program in my area that serves the immigrant population (we provide free legal immigration services) and one of the great bonuses of that is the interaction with people from so many different countries and cultures. I love learning about them and sharing American culture (an oxymoron if there ever was one!) and our local idiosyncrasies born of our area being settled by a particular European group of a particular religious bent.

Diversity rocks!

Theresa said...

Happy Anniversary, a bit late, but I've been kind of out of it lately. Loved how you did this post, I can totally relate. When I first went to Spain as an exchange student I didn't want to go back to the U.S. either. I had a pretty bad case of reverse culture shock, and it took me a long time to get over it. Many times I don't like telling people where I am from because of the negative stereotypes that are out there about Americans, but most people can easily tell I'm not like that. You definitely deserve this award - people like you make the world a better place. :)

Keyser Soze said...

Great post. Being of the same type as you I can really relate to hating ugly American-isms.
Because I don't fit those stereotypes I've frequently been met with disbelief that I was an American when abroad. I'll never forget the art curator in Spain who FLATLY refused to accept it. I was shocked by the disdain with which she said "You CAN'T be an American. You speak Spanish AND French! You know something about Art! NO American knows these things!" Sheesh! It was with some pride I showed her my passport and said "I swear, we're not ALL like that! Really!" It was her turn to be shocked.

San said...

Hi Lime,

How fun to learn a bit more about you. Some of your story I relate to. I've been told I have a "very European face" and have been stopped by Spanish speakers who assumed I spoke their language. Once, on a bus in San Francisco, an elderly gentleman began speaking Yiddish to me. I too have traveled some but not as much as I'd like. At times, I've felt great to be back in the US. At other times, I've felt disappointed on my return. Not a good feeling.

Thanks for the links to the other travelers. And thanks for your writing.

Queenie said...

Lime, great post, I have learnt so much from Mona and other friends I have met whilst blogging. I include you in this list, I savour every word you so descriptively share. Your memory's, recipes, pictures, etc have highlighted my blogging experience. Thank you.

Jeni said...

Gotta agree wholeheartedly with every word in that post you wrote as well as with all the commenters before me. I suppose at some time or place all of us may exhibit a tiny bit of the "Ugly American" syndrome but I would hope it is an accidental happening and not, as I know it is with some, a deliberate event. I believe in the principles our government was founded on but so often, I do feel we today are abusing those things more often and for what reasons, some are beyond belief ya know. A little cross-cultural training and exchange sure might go a long way if it begins early on -in the school and hopefully, at home too. But I'm not holding my breath just yet on the latter. Maybe someday though, one can hope can't we?

G-Man said...

Michelle Aussi Trini Limey...
Very fitting Award indeed!
You've educated us all in many Cultures..
You are like the Pennsylvanian U.N.

Jocelyn said...

You know, Theresa's post was great, but yours is its equal. I love the angle this award is revealing about people's lives.


Oh and I love your new avatar; those tie-dyed eyes are soooo cool, honey. You took that idea and have made it one of my favorite images.

Dan said...

I considered it the greatest compliment when she told me I was really more Kenyan at heart than American

By golly, that's exactly what I thought about you since the first day I read your blog. OK, OK, just teasing. :)

Joeprah said...

My hats off to you for the life you have and continue to lead. I am glad you are raising children with ideals that are sure to help them as they inevitably intersect with other cultures in their lives. I love reading blogs from other cultures as well. Props!

lime said...

bunny, that program must be wonderfully enriching for everyone

theresa, from one such as you i am honored.

keyser, i'd have to say narrow-mindedness can obviously be found all over the world. that person was an 'ugly spanianrd.'

san, ah i see yo uand i could swap some fun stories about our culturally ambiguous looks and how they get us in trouble. lol

queenie, so glad i've been able to create a space you enjoy. thanks

jeni, yes we can all behave offensively no matter where we are from, but if we can at least be open to learnign from each other that goes a long way.

gman, Pa UN, hehehe, I like it!

jocelyn, thank yo uthank you. i just loved theresa's post. glad i struck a simlar chord with you.

dan, you were hoping i'd make you some ugali weren't you?

lime said...

joeprah, thanks for the kind words. let's hope the lessons take with the kids...it's a long running experiment that takes a whiel to see results.

Anonymous said...

What an honour Lime and I'm proud - not only for the Award, but because I can count myself into your world wide friends.
Thanks for your kinds words and you know I love to share as I get so much back - especially from trustful reader and commenter like you when you take your time to really read my post and share your reflections and reaction.
Like I say: 'Make Blogs, not Wars!' You truly are a great contributor to build down cultural, religious and other barriers.
Looking forward to meet you and your family one day - in the kitchen, to share our passion for food and traditions :-)

As you can see, I've found a way to collect this on my Awards page (at least it gives you some link love!)

TorAa said...

Oh Dear U,
your story has so many similarities to what I will tell about my own background - even the Fact we are born on each side of the "Pond". I could do it straight away in my own natural language (a book or 3) - but in English: Please give me the weekend to prepare a short version.

But let me give you this: Me too was also more interested in
learning from other Cultures, whenever the chance was there, than flock together with friends that "covered" their orginate, and look down at "they who are not like us".
I do believe that's why Anna and I allways have been treated so well when visiting foreign countries and cultures.

Thank you for your own openess, and I'm really humble over your nomination and description of my simple blog. It's only me.

PS. My last post is an itinary from Argentina, inspired from my good friend Renny

Anonymous said...

The first time I have visited your blog, and it's such a great post to land on! I found the link on either RennyBA's blog or perhaps TorAa.

I will now go and explore further....

Cosima said...

Thank you so much Lime! Coming from you, it is a very special award indeed.