What’s going on in the world lately is overwhelmingly negative & more often than not nowadays, absolutely heartbreaking.
From cyber bullying to war, the world has become filled with energy that fuels social confinement and government corruption. Violence has become overwhelming but silence has too. But it’s hard to be vocal in a world filled with such hate… Dishonest media. Distaste for the customs of other countries. Disrespect for other cultures… The list goes on. But in a world filled with darkness, how does one find the light that will lead them to conquer this animosity?
My light, is all the people I’ve encountered in a country so far from where I was born, with a culture so different from my own.
Not just one country but many. I’ve been so, unbelievably fortunate to have been able to travel to 7 countries in the last 7 months. In every one of those countries, I’ve learned something. I have gained knowledge of that country, their people and a brief part of their history. Much of this history consists of civil wars, poverty and natural disasters. Rather than focus on negative aspects of their own country, the people I’ve spoken to are knowledgable about the past and hopeful for their future. Even with an unmotivated and weak government, people choose to persevere and attempt to expand their tourism industry to increase the country’s economy.
The places I’ve been have mostly been tourist destinations in which case, the locals speak what I think is incredible English given the lack of education systems. Many of the youth drop out of school because they can’t afford to pay for it. Young adults that are my age or younger, are working in restaurants, transportation or in tourism in order to help their families or to pay for school. Regardless of where they work or how much they earn, they are the most hard working people I’ve ever seen.
I’d like to talk about one particular day, that I was truly, positively moved by an action of a woman I crossed paths with in Myanmar. It’s the story of this photo:
I was in the complex of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. It was around 45 degrees Celsius (don’t go to Burma in May unless you can take the heat). My mom & I were walking around the temple with our tour guide. We stopped in a shaded area where our guide told us it was a great photo op. He took several photos of my mother and I in front of this religious structure and cultural icon of Yangon. After taking a few pictures of my own, I turned to rejoin my mom and the guide only to be to be touched on my arm by a beautiful Burmese woman. She smiled at me with cheeks as plump as my own and pointed down at her little girl and then tipped her mobile phone to me, so to ask if she could take a photo of me with her little girl.
Living in the Philippines, I got used to people asking to takes photos with me. At first, I didn’t like it. It made me feel uncomfortable and I didn’t understand why they wanted a photo with a total stranger. So sometimes I would oblige and sometimes I would politely say, “Sorry, but no” and I’d continue walking. It’s easy to get irritated with something that you don’t understand. After the first few photos I took with strangers, I didn’t mind it so much anymore.
It doesn’t matter what country I was in when people asked to take photos with me. On all occasions, these people noticed me. They saw me and noticed that I was different than them. Wether they thought I was beautiful or strange looking I’ll never know, but it doesn’t matter. They noticed the differences between us and they embraced me anyways.
That’s why this picture is so important to me. This woman, dressed in her traditional Burmese silk skirt down to her ankles, with her matching silk shirt that kissed her collar bone and hid her shoulders, noticed me. I wasn’t much taller than her, I wasn’t dressed in silk (so maybe that’s why I was easy to spot) and I wasn’t doing anything to draw attention to myself, other than maybe taking some photos and looking like a total foreigner…
She touched my shoulder and without words, I knew what she was asking of me when I saw her little girl smiling up at me. When I crouched down, the girl stood right next to me and touched her shoulder to mine, put her arm across my back and held up her right hand to make a peace sign. I gave her a little hug and put up my own peace sign.
There was 3 people taking pictures of us. I then asked the man there (her father perhaps?) to take a photo with my own device. After our photo shoot was finished, she looked up at me and smiled, added a little giggle then skipped back to her mom who came up to me and said (what I’m assuming) was “thank you” in Burmese, as did the others that were taking photos. I smiled at them and nodded then waved goodbye to that precious little girl.
This was cultural embrace no matter how you slice it. They noticed me in a crowd. It was clear, just from our physical appearances that we were vastly different. Different clothes, different body language, different skin tone and hair colour. That’s all it takes for one to recognize you come from a totally different country and culture. I wasn’t offended by her mother’s photo request because how could you be when someone trusts you, a foreign stranger, to stand so close to their child, despite the clear differences between us? They recognized those differences between us and embraced me anyways. That little girl held up her tiny hand and formed a peace sign and of course, I followed suit. She and her family set the example that all of us should be following everyday.
We can be different in appearance, culture, religion and every thing in between but why can’t we accept that & embrace all that like this little girl did to me?
Peace between us will create peace among us.
If you agree with this message, share this photo along with the story of it. All I want is world peace. ❤