“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.” – Gene Roddenberry
I’ve been wanting to write this particular blog for a while now, it’s about something that struck me from the first day I was in Mendoza and still makes me stop and think today: we are all humans.
Let me explain: before going abroad I knew: there are other people living in other countries around the world, they have their own customs and traditions, speak their own languages, have their own lives, don’t think everything revolved around the US, and, in my opinion, are all entitled to be treated equally and have equal rights, solely by virtue of their humanity. I knew all of these things. I like to think of myself as a fairly educated person, but one thing that was definitely lacking was my exposure to international travel and the unique education that that give you.
After I had been here for a couple of days I was walking by the plaza near my apartment, on my way to class or orientation or something (I don’t even remember because it was so insignificant as compared to my revelation) and as I was walking I was processing everything that had been going on and everything that was going on in the plaza and on the streets at that moment. I’m an introvert, I process best when I’m alone. Then, all of the sudden, it hit me. The people here are just like the people in the US.
No. Stop. Listen. Don’t freak out. I don’t mean the same culturally, linguistically, gastronomically, or in any of a thousand other ways. I mean we are all human and that gives us a connection. We are all wonderfully, amazingly, blissfully different, but we are all human. We are humanity.
We all want to 1) survive and 2) be happy. There are different kinds of survival, of course, for example there is basic survival like food, water, shelter and there is emotional survival: love, support, contact with other beings. Also, as I hope we have all realized at this point in our lives, happy means something different to every person. For the 38 year old hostel worker I met last weekend happy meant leaving his high paying job, of 15 years, as an engineer to go work as a clown. His bliss is working as a clown in a theater, working at a hostel when he isn’t a clown, and wearing a terrifying t-shirt of a snake that had eaten an elephant from The Little Prince. For me it means something different. For you it is different too. For every person it is different. But we are all still the same. We are all humans.
I started this blog with a relevant quote by Gene Roddenberry. For those of you who don’t know, he created the TV show Star Trek. It was from Star Trek, as an awkward, middle school pre-teen, that I first learned about the concept of humanity on a conscious level. It is also where I came to believe strongly in humanity. I think Roddenberry and his legacy has taught years, generations even, of people the same lessons I learned. He did things that had never been done before. He put a black woman on television and then showed the world the first televised, inter-racial kiss, during the middle of race riots in the 60s. I think he would understand what I’m trying to say. We are all humans. Despite our differences we still have that. We will always have that. We cannot let go of that. In truth I don’t think we could ever let go of our humanity, as a planet. But we also have to never let go of it as individuals.
A few of my professors here in Argentina have a favorite phrase “No sé si me entienden”- I don’t know if you understand me. That’s how I feel right now, writing this. I don’t know if you understand this feeling. If you have had this revelation that I have had. If those who have gone abroad have had this moment or if those who have never left the country have had it, for that matter; I don’t know. Every day it amazes me how much studying abroad changes you. In little, tiny but very significant ways. I’m not sure that I’ll seem different when I get back or not, but I know I will be.