Monday, January 7, 2008

In Love With Change

“We don’t appreciate what we have in our country.”
Those were the words of a smart young girl I befriended in Honduras. A group of us took a walk in Santa Rosa de Copán which is an old Spanish colonial city famous for its historic downtown, coffee and hand rolled cigars. We walked down the cobbled streets and up some old steps to the charming “Parque el Cerrito” with a lovely view of the whole city and the surrounding mountains. There were lanterns and benches all the way around the park, people running up and down the stairs for exercise, some lovers kissing at one end and all of us talking and laughing together. In the center of the park was a monument with a carved stone which looked something like a piece of a Mayan ruin.

Before we left the park I walked up to the monument and read the inscription. It was dedicated to an unknown “Cacique” (a Mayan Chieftain) and yet it had the name of some Chieftain bellow it and the two inscriptions seemed to contradict themselves so I asked the girls I was with “Why?” All of the girls, three who were natives of Santa Rosa, did not know. In fact, they all told me that they had never noticed the monument in the park even though they’d been there hundreds of times. As we walked back downtown from the park I had a conversation with one of the girls who told me about her desire to become a counselor so that she could work with some of the profound family abuse issues in Honduras.

During our conversation I realized that one of the most important things I’ve learned in the past couple years has been how to appreciate and even love the places that I get to live in. “It is important to keep your eyes open,” I told my new friend, “because even here in Honduras there are so many interesting places, curious people, and fascinating stories”. I’ve learned to notice curious lamps on old buildings, cobblestone streets, and charming old people. Almost anywhere you go you’ll be able to find interesting smells, views, people, and places just as long as you’re looking.

“In that case, you just might be able to live anywhere.”
Those were the words of my charming Israeli friend at the Miami airport after I told him that I had learned to like certain particularities about living in southern Idaho. He had just come from Alaska and was headed to Argentina (I was more than a little bit envious). As we talked he told me that before he went back to Israel to go to University there he wanted to go to the World Soccer Cup in South Africa and travel around Africa a bit (again, I didn’t even try to hide my envy). He told me that I would do well in Israel, that I should go. He thought I would appreciate its history and would be brave enough to deal with the “danger”. We talked about the fact that we would like to travel everywhere in the world if we had the opportunity.

I really would travel everywhere if I could. I love the thrill of being in new places and learning things from the most unexpected people. Sometimes, staying somewhere and continuing to love it is harder than going new places and finding curious new things and interesting people. I was reading something random written by a guy called Richard Ford that caught my attention talking about the idea of familiarity and home,

“truthfully, once in a while that homey-enfolding feeling has actually welled up in me, its rich ethers filling my nose, my heart surging, my brain spangling with all the lavish yet humble possibilities of belonging... they were, these ethers and heart-swellings, as fleeting as a dream. But a good dream. Generally they last only long enough for me to grow skittish about all the less appealing attributes of home— permanence setting in like an acrid fog, the flavorless absence of the new, the raw bestilled boredom of imprisoning familiarity”

Unfortunately, I identify with both the homey-feeling dream and the boredom that comes with lack of change. It takes practice to be able to see in the ordinary the extraordinary and not get bored of the familiar. I truly hope that I could live anywhere and keep myself open to the uniqueness and mystery of every person and place I visit or live in for whatever length of time.

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke