Thursday, July 2, 2015


In the bookstore in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, I discovered instruction books on the Cornish language. When I asked the proprietor about them, she rose to attention and slammed her hand on the counter. “We’re not English,” she said. “We’re Celtic - just like the Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, and the people in Brittany, France.”

Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Thanks for telling me. That’s something that I hadn’t heard before. I bet you didn’t know that the Cornish inhabited two counties in the south of England and had a distinct culture. Of late, many wealthy people from other parts of England have been buying holiday homes there and generally raising their housing prices. After we came home, I did some research and found this out. I love traveling to places near and far and hearing previously unknown stories such as that. I love hearing the unexpected. It’s great having one’s assumptions overturned. Sometimes, it happens on a trip to a foreign land and sometimes it happens right in our own backyards.

Eva Peron's grave in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  one room schoolhouse in Amish Acres


At the Skokie, Illinois Festival of Cultures


My husband and I have been extremely fortunate in the past few years to have traveled to many countries that I had never even dreamed of seeing. What we’ve seen has often surprised us, but what we’ve heard has often been even more astonishing. Sometimes what people are doing makes no sense to us until we listen to them and hear why. As the Dalai Lama said, "When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new."

For example, once I took a taxi back to the airport and got into a very intelligent, philosophical conversation with the cab driver. Sensing a story behind his occupation, I asked him if he’d always been a cab driver. “No,” he said. “I used to be a social worker with the State of Massachusetts until my nerves gave out.”

Yes, of course. That explains everything. I was a social worker for over 25 years in the Chicago area and understood immediately. Listening was a major part of my job description so I learned to be attuned to what people said and not to my own erroneous expectations of what I thought they would say. I understand that a lot of people are not but it’s important for all of us to try. We live in a big country with myriad regional, cultural, ethnic, and all kinds of other differences. Somehow we have to figure out how to get along with each other. I hope that in the weeks ahead, the blog posts here and the discussions that they generate will help to bridge these differences. I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you.

Happy Traveling!

No comments:

Post a Comment