Going native

1 07 2008

Well, I guess that used to be a pejorative term, meaning taking up the ways, habits and lifestyle of the local indigenous populace – inferior to the modern ways of the white man. But now, at least with some travelers, it means touching with the local people, learning from them, making a connection if not building a relationship, and is a great way to learn about other cultures.

I knew a woman or two – both since passed on – who went to India back in the 40’s and 50’s. Unlike most Western missionaries, they connected with the locals: sleeping in their homes, eating their food, sharing their knowledge of nutrition and cooking with the locals, and spending time with them. They eventually returned to the US, and many of their acquaintances wound up in and around the health and educational institutions the two ladies now worked or taught at, and were constantly praised and attended to for the rest of their lives – literally. No, not like slaves or servants, but as fellow health and education workers, and religious workers as well, interested in these two ladies who had started out by sharing their hut or meal or just sitting around and talking, and now reaped the rewards of that early friendship. At the end of the surviving sister, one of “their” boys, now a respected and well-to-do and well known individual in the area, took of his time and visited her in the nursing home for the last 3 or 4 months of her life.

So what does that have to do with this article? After all, these ladies spent a number of years living and working in India, while you may have several weeks if you are lucky – certainly not enough time to build a life-long relationship. But, in that brief time you will have a chance to touch several lives, and might be able to make a difference in their futures, either through the inspiration you give them, or maybe simply because they can say, “I knew someone from there, and this is how they were – good people, just like us.” And you, too, will be touched, understanding more of the world and its peoples, and will be able to say, “I knew someone from there, and this is how they were – good people, just like us.”

So, how do you break the ice? How do you make that first contact, and broaden that contact while you are off somewhere in foreign parts? This article has 6 suggestions. Read, think about them, and then include them in the list of things you take on your next vacation.

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