For being the most populated city in the world, I strangely haven’t gotten the “chaotic” vibe from Tokyo that I expected. It is definitely busy, but somehow everything seems to just flow here.
How often do you ask "How are you?" and expect to receive a genuine response? Think about it.
Some European friends pointed out this American cultural norm to me awhile back, and I became aware of its absurdity. I use “How are you?” or a similar variation as a greeting, but without any expectation for initiating a real conversation. In fact, I often ask the question in passing, and am long gone before the person would even have had the opportunity to respond. I realize that every country and culture has its little quirks and uses language differently. But it’s made me reflect about how this idea translates to my relationship with God and other people.
A few years ago, I was still living and working at Orphanage Emmanuel in Honduras. My heart for learning about different ways of life and foreign cultures continued to grow as the Honduran children, teenagers, and adults there generously taught me about their beautiful country. Every day God was using those people to show me more of who He is. And my desire to travel and explore the rest of the world was born.
Latin America has a special place in my heart, since my love for travel began there. I have enjoyed exploring several countries in both Central and South America, including Ecuador. A friend and I spent a week in the country's capital, Quito, during a backpacking trip in 2015. There are many popular tourist attractions in and around the city, including the famous "Mitad del Mundo" (equator line) and the Basilica del Voto Nacional, but one of my favorite travel experiences was at the edge of the city - the summit of Cruz Loma.
Apple pie, football, country music, Thanksgiving, pickup trucks, PB&J sandwiches, Cadillacs, baseball.... Some things are just SO American. However, not everything we do is as obviously "American" to us as it is to the rest of the world. Are you guilty of these 5 dead-giveaways?
I have to admit that prior to traveling, I had never really possessed a strong interest in art. That gradually began to change, first while experiencing the political nature of Bogota's street art scene. I grew more passionate when some Italian friends began explaining to me the symbolism behind the religious paintings in Tuscany. I'm not by any means an art expert, but I do enjoy learning about it, and I've been fortunate to have visited some of the world's most beautiful and creative cities.
One of the many benefits of traveling is eating the local cuisine. Before I first moved to Honduras, I was an extremely picky eater - I wouldn’t eat sushi, any kind of seafood, and definitely not something like horse or squid ink risotto. Thankfully that has changed, and I have gotten to taste my way through multiple continents. Here are a few of my favorites:
Oh, how I love foreign languages! In living abroad for the last 4 years, I have found that language and culture are inextricably bound together. Throughout the journeys of learning first Spanish, and now Italian, the languages have been windows into the locals’ ways of life. It has provided me with a deeper understanding of common conversations and interactions that I have both participated in and observed. Even in Australia and New Zealand, where English is the official language, I find myself learning new words and expressions, which in turn teach me more about the cultures in this part of the world.
I’m down to my final days in Australia now - I leave in less than a week for New Zealand. It’s a bittersweet feeling - another chapter of life closes as I depart from the country that has been home for two months and pack up my things once again for a new adventure.
I’ve been contemplative lately regarding all that I’ve learned while traveling over the last year. I’ve backpacked through seven different Central- and South- American countries, lived with a local family and worked for 3 months in Italy, made a brief visit to see old friends in Denmark, and am just finishing up two months living with/working for a family here in Australia. The Lord has been intentional through all of my travels, using each unique culture to teach me a variety of lessons - some more difficult than others, but all in His perfect timing.
I have been surprised though, at what I’ve learned. Before embarking abroad for the first time apart from Honduras, I had some ideas in my head about the things I would “see” or “learn” abroad. But of course, these were things that I had only conjured up in my mind, and not yet experienced. I had expected to be confronted with the challenges of dealing with uncomfortable climates or trying exotic foods that I might dislike (yet this has been the least of my troubles, I’ve somehow become the least picky eater ever! The only thing I still refuse to eat is Vegemite - that truly is disgusting!). I figured that I would make some culturally inappropriate mistakes or butcher the local lingo.
I did not expect to be slapped in the face with just how different my own culture is from the rest of the world. Maybe that sounds silly, like of course we are different, every person and country and culture is unique - yes. But it’s easy to say that; it’s more difficult to fully grasp.
I love Jesus and what He has to teach me while I wander around the planet. My other favorite things include: foreign languages, yoga, hiking,
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