Why Exposure To Culture Is Important
Hey all! Aimee here with VoyEdge RX to talk about my first experience immersing myself into another culture. As I've mentioned before, I had a sheltered childhood. I grew up in Massachusetts (Go Pats!!), and because my sister and I were involved in so many sports, our family rarely traveled anywhere beyond our grandparents' home on Cape Cod (which I LOVED to do!).
I was first exposed to another culture when Marc and I started dating in high school. His mother was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia in South America, so their family traveled there every Christmas. They told me stories about Colombian traditions, and I met family members over the years when they came to the USA to visit. They speak English, and always wanted to do American things when they were here, so I didn't put too much thought into what their country is like (I know...I was a typical American teenager!). Fast forward to about 7 years into our relationship, and I found myself getting ready for my first trip to Colombia for his cousin's wedding!
It wouldn't be that different than traveling to a city in the United States, right? WRONG! We were going to Cartagena, which is more of a touristy coastal city. Colombia is a country that is developed and wealthy in some places, but can look like a third world country about 200 yards down the street.
We stayed in a beautiful condo complex right on the water, and I immediately stepped out on the balcony to soak up the sun and take in the view. I noticed there were people getting massages on the beach, and Marc explained to me that the "masseuses" didn't work for the complex. They went out to the beaches every day to find work in whatever way they could, and that was how they made their money. That was the beginning of my reality check! I learned these things in school, but seeing it myself was a different ball game.
A woman then arrived at our condo with bags of groceries and began unpacking them (we were in a suite with 8 other of Marc's family members). I was slightly confused, so I asked Marc's uncle for clarification on who she was. He told me that she works for the condo owner and that she was our personal housekeeper for our stay. She would be there every day to make our beds, grocery shop for us, cook for us, clean for us, etc.
Right now you might be thinking, "What's wrong with that?! That sounds AWESOME!" However, I was very uncomfortable! How could I sit down and watch this woman do all these things for us and not lift a finger to help? I never experienced anything like it before, and I didn't know how to react to the situation. I told Marc how I was feeling, and he explained that it's part of the culture. Most families that can afford it in Colombia have full-time housekeepers, and that's how those people make their living. If I made my own bed in the morning, it would be offensive to her (like a customer at a restaurant going into the kitchen to cook their own meal). Again, I knew this from reading books and watching movies, but it was different to live it.
One of the days on our trip we went on a guided tour of a church up a steep mountain. The tour guide told us that the locals climb up daily to pray to God. At the bottom of the mountain, there were small apartments. As we drove up the mountain, the "homes" quickly turned to tiny shacks with tin siding and roofs. There were children running around with old torn shorts, most had no shirts, no shoes. The adults were dressed the same. They looked so sad. My heart sunk, and I wanted to cry. That could have been me. That could have been you. That could have been any one of us. How did I get so lucky?
Contrary to how this blog has sounded, I had a TON of fun on this trip! I got to learn about Colombia's history, see cool historic sights, try new foods, dance to Colombian music, experience a beautiful wedding very different from one in America, and MORE! I am so fortunate to have the opportunities I have, and I often take that for granted. It was on this trip 2 years ago where I just KNEW I needed to travel more. I have to take advantage of the life I was given and see the world's differences. My immersion into their culture will help shape the way I see the world and make me a better person along the way. My next stop is Northern Italy and Switzerland in August. Hope to see you there!!!
Want to hear more about my Colombian adventure? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you on a future tour! Check our trip calendar down below and see you soon!