Dear family and friends,
As some of you know, I headed for Scotland last week with some reluctance. Having traveled more in the developing world, I have acquired a taste for the unusual, the more close-to-the-tidewater kind of travel that countries like Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon and Belize provide than the more comfortable developed Western World. It seems to me there is more to be learned when you cross these larger cultural and economic divides. Yes, there is the increased food poisoning, hole-in-the-ground toilets, and bullet-whizzing risks you accept that some have been quick to point out, but with every flowering cactus comes its thorn.
When I announced I was headed to Scotland, it was clear that it was far down my list of places I would like to go. Jenny, Boots, Denise and Erica all called attention to my cultural snobbery and were quite animated about the rewards for traveling in such a place. “It’s part of your own family roots, there are castles, and history, plus the famed golf courses of the world there!” they enthused. I was not convinced, but did decide to be a bit more open to the possibilities here. I have not been disappointed.
First I found that it is as easy to get sick in Scotland as in my favored poverty-stricken countries. Within my first two days in Scotland, I was attacked by a back-bending cough and chest cold as painful an experience, I am certain, as it was for those afflicted by Scurvy in the famed Irish Potato-Famine.
I finally dug out some old unused Cipro antibiotics saved from my last trip to Gaza and threw them at the Kilted Demon that set up shop in my lungs. Today is Day Six of my Scottish Adventure and while I continue to keep a “Phlegm-Cup” close at hand, I don’t have to empty it nearly as often.
Second, I was surprised to see how much there was to be gained in bridging the cross-cultural divide as well. On Day Two I met up with one of our local youth leaders, Thomas from Scotland. He is here with 16 other young leaders from Lebanon, Jordan and the US for our first International Youth Leadership Summit at Mercy Corps. We got into a very engaging discussion about electronics and he pointed out to me the great advances being made in IPod technology.
“Look at this tiny IPod player, its only as big as a thumb drive, and holds 16 Gigs of memory”.
I was impressed by its tiny size and power and how it could fit so easily into your shirt pocket. Thomas went on to say, “With the new headphones that fit around your head, the sound is crystal-clear brilliant... And get this, its only 60 pounds!”
“Well, I like the idea of brilliant, crystal clear sound, but headphones at 60 pounds seems like way too much to me”, I cautioned.
“No, it’s not too much, it’s the best you can get anywhere”, he argued.
“But isn’t that a lot of weight to put on your neck?” I inquired.
“NO, 60 pounds, that’s the cost, man!” Thomas exasperated.
I have learned much more in my time here, including a whole new vocabulary of English words that I did not know existed, from “bidden-lay” (a person of the opposite sex that you live with), to “a Quizzy”, a type of questionnaire. The sheep are so plentiful here even a Texan would be fully satisfied. And in the summer, I was told by one bloke, the mosquitoes are so big they can rape a chicken. Fortunately I return home in a few more days so will not be able to verify this.
As I lay awake at 3:30am this morning,(my body’s “Just Say No” policy for Radical Time Zone changes), I was reminded that if you keep your eyes open in life, you can learn something new every day, and traveling only accelerates that process. Even in Scotland.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.