Boquillas del Carmen-The Road to Mexico

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Boquillas del Carmen is either at the end of the road or the first place you come to headed towards Central Mexico. I suppose it all depends on perspective. It lies across the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo from Big Bend National Park. It is next to the magic river that divides and conquers so many things between our countries and cultures. On one side lies a huge National Park, suitable for recreation by gringos who like hiking, the high desert, beautiful mountains, and deep canyons. On the other side, literally and figuratively a stone’s throw, without any kind of fence or the need of one, lies Boquilla del Carmen, Coahuila. What kind of place is it exactly? It is hard to tell, hard to explain, hard to imagine and hard to live with after you have been there.

When Stacy and I began planning our trip to Big Bend, she read that they might have the crossing open after being closed for over 11 years. Frankly we were both anxious to see what the trip across the river would be like. What I know about Boquillas comes from our visit, the stories of our guide Esteban, and a few things I have read on the web, particularly about the re-opening of the crossing.

There are a few things you need to know about trying to cross into Boquillas. You must have a passport. You cannot cross over at all without one. You also have to show your passport on the Mexican side and again when you return to the US. You need to bring cash with you, a good bit actually. The boat ride over is $5 a person, the ride to the village is $5 a person and meals, if you decide to eat meals run at least $7 a person for a simple, but good meal. If you choose to buy any of the handcrafted items like walking sticks, bracelets, wire scorpions or embroidered bags, you will need more cash. The tourist paper allowing you to enter the country, is free on the Mexican side.

Boquillas del Carmen used to be a mining town. Evidently during the 40’s and 50’s the mines that operated in the area used a low water crossing to send the ore they were mining to be processed in the states. There were according to our guide about 300 familes in the village. Once Big Bend became a thriving national park, they closed the roads to the mining trucks. Because Boquillas is the end of the road, the mining stopped. It was too far to travel to Piedras Negras or Ojinaga. When the mining died, tourism evidently became the chief source of income. There was even a hotel for a long time. It is said Robert Earl Keene wrote the song Gringo Honeymoon about Boquillas. There are still hot springs in the area. It was also a place a lot of college students would use to cross over and drink at the Park Bar. Personally, it seems like a long way from everywhere just to go and drink.

Then in 2001-2002 everything changed. The US closed all non-essential border crossings. Boquillas del Carmen died. It became largely a ghost town, with only about thirty families holding on. There were other places to get into Mexico and Boquillas stopped being one. Right across the river, the Big Bend Park, Terlingua, Marathon, Alpine, and Marfa became the tourist spots. Esteban moved his family to Muzquiz about 125 km away so his children could attend school. He was very proud of the fact that his daughter finished University and was teaching school. He says he returned to Boquillas to be a guide to earn some extra money and see if village really could be revived.

About the trip: You park your car in a very secure lot in front of the US Park Service Building. It is the only way over. There are no Immigration or Customs officials in the building. You walk through the building then down to the river. From across the way, you can see men and boys waiting for you. The boat is rowed across the river, and picks you up. As you cross, Victor who appears to be the “jefe” of the group, sings Mexican songs like Cielito Lindo. I joined in. It takes about one minute to cross. Suddenly you are in another place.

To actually get to the village there are several options: You can walk the ¾ of a mile on the road, you can take a truck ride or even rent a horse. There had to be at least ten horses at the crossing, 3 or 4 pickup truck taxis, and boys and men wanting you to choose them. Ride up in a truck, it is better than the horses. You do not actually need a guide, but we wanted one. We were assigned Esteban. He was a gentleman who spoke excellent English although I preferred to speak Spanish to him. You ride to the only air conditioned spot in the whole village, the Mexican Immigration office. You have to get a Tourist Visa from them. The men who were there the day we crossed were wonderful conversationalists and very efficient. They will remind you to get back across the river by 6 PM.

Esteban showed us the village, made up mostly of small adobe or cinder block houses that was once his home, now his livelihood again, and still a part of his heart. We walked down the main street, stopped by a cooperative craft market, then walked over to his nephew’s house. Hanging out on the line were dried fish his nephew had caught in the river. His nephew’s wife had made some very nice embroidered pieces. He showed us the hot springs close to their house that serves as the village bathing spot.

The town itself is a mixture of old ruined buildings, some newer homes, one bar, and a couple of restaurants. We ate at one and enjoyed the meal; tamales, enchiladas potosinas and good cold Mexican Coca Cola. There is no electricity in the town although there are lines and poles. Quite a few homes have solar panels for electricity. The men at the Immigration office had to turn off their generators at 9 PM. They said it made for long nights.

There is this deep contrast that I felt walking the streets. I have been in many small Mexican villages all over the country. I have seen the poverty that can be so endemic. It was almost like the town itself was trying so very hard to exist. The ruins and the solar panels just added to the contrast.

For the Mexican curious there are of course los curios. Everyone tried to sell something. Little children would come out as they saw the gringos with bracelets or the metal scorpions. Even if you did want to buy something or everything, it was hard to resist a four-year-old asking you to buy something, anything. The one “nice tienda” in the town had all the same stock clothes, trinkets, pottery, huaraches, and “junk” that any other store in a border town would have. It was all neatly arranged and on display. That part of Mexico doesn’t really attract me much.

What we saw too were people, all sorts of people trying to sell you something of their pueblo, their tierra, to take back to the US. It is like Boquillas and the people that live there now, want to sell you Mexico. They want you to buy something, take it back to the United States across the river, something so you can “remember” Mexico or at least Boquillas.

Boquillas is either the end of the road, a door to Mexico or just there. There is a melancholy about our visit that still haunts me. I think of Esteban often, hoping he has some good days as a guide. I think of those people trying to hold on in the high desert, and semi-deserted town. The Park Bar will not rock on until 3 or 4 in the morning. I am sure or at least was told, that the town basically stops at dark. If it is the end of the road, like so many other places in Mexico, the Federal and state governments will promise a lot and deliver not so much. If it is the door to Mexico, it is basically impossible for a gringo to go anywhere else.

It takes two minutes to cross the river but it will take years and a lot of hope for Boquillas to become an extension of Big Bend tourism. Selling Mexico to gringos is a full time business in every tourist town from Cozumel to Baja California, or up to Boquillas. We want with some primal desire to visit the places, get what we can in enjoyment and leave the people there with more wire scorpions and bracelets than they will ever sell. The guy hawking the condo on the beach at Playa del Carmen is no different really. It isn’t that selling Mexico is so hard, it is just hard for us to buy it sometimes.

We visited the small Catholic chapel. La Señora del Carmen is there with Jesus at her side. She did not want to sell us anything. The rosary laid out on the table was very beautiful. She is watching over the village that bears her name. What I hope is that as she watches the gringos come and go, and the people who come there to pray for their families, health, and a little bit of luck she looks down the road and across the river and brings a bit of blessing to everyone who comes.

Boquillas A Caballo

Boquillas Chapel Jesus

Dried Fish From the Rio Bravo

El Rosario

Boquillas House

Boquillas Little Boy

Boquillas ruin

Boquillas Window

Stacy And Esteban

Stacy at Lunch in Boquillas

The Third Gringo

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Anyone interested in real cross-cultural travel or living in another culture has to face culture shock: that “Iloveithateitloveit” experience of dealing with real everyday life.  I lived in México for 20 years.  These reflections are based primarily in Latin culture, but really apply to any cross-cultural experience.  I have seen a lot of North Americans in many different contexts in other cultures.  There are three gringos out there I think.  Yes, I know gringo itself is a term with mixed meanings and certainly mixed messages; but you know, I am one.  That isn’t the issue for me.  I accept the term, I am a gringo.  The three gringos I speak of come from personal reflection I did after reading Carlos Fuentes book El Gringo Viejo.

I was sad to hear that Fuentes died last year.  He was a wonderful author.  Gringo Viejo (The Old Gringo) was very popular here in the United States.  It tells the story of “the old gringo,” who is always unamed in the book, Harriet Winslow, a school teacher, and Tomás Arroyo, a General in Pancho Villa’s División del Norte.  Now this blog is not so much about the book as it is about the two North American characters, Winslow and El Viejo.  It is amazing how Fuentes really could capture not just two stereotypical gringos as much as two distinct ways of confronting Latin culture in the two characters.  What I think is important is that there is a third gringo, which is another way to encounter culture.  Culture shock is a natural reaction shared by everyone, and how it is handled is of great significance.  One person might go on to love the culture and feel at home in it, while another will always be a stranger.

Let me add by the way, that it isn’t just North Americans that act like this.  It happens everywhere and with many people, Euros and Asians too.  That is really what is important to consider.  When you do try to experience another culture, other people, places and events, conflict and attraction with one’s own culture is bound to happen.

One reaction to culture shock and a way of encountering culture is how the Gringo Viejo reacts.  He says clearly in the book:  “He has come to México to die.”  If it was only death he was after, I suppose he could have found it in the US.  He comes to use the Mexican Revolution as a way of going out in a blaze of glory and wants to just use and take from what is happening.  In so doing he exploits, he destroys, and he wastes.  He is the antithesis of Winslow.  The Gringo Viejo has come to die – and he does.    He is shot by Arroyo, then propped up and shot again by a firing squad demanded by Villa himself.

The First Gringo is just that.  Whether it is the college student going down to the border or the people at the all-inclusive that are drunk by 11 AM, some people come to Mexico or other foreign destinations to just use it up.  It is almost like they think that is what travel is for, take and disregard the consequences.  The First Gringo looks at another culture and asks: “What can I get out of it?”  This type of gringo ends up just like the gringo Viejo, put up against a wall and shot, literally or figuratively even after they are already dead, dead in a very real sense.  The reaction of the culture and the results of their own actions leave them like that.  They visit another place, but not another culture.  The First Gringo always gets shot.  These are the people who after being out all night drinking wonder why they get mugged at 2 AM and then blame “the violent culture of Latin America.”  The First Gringo doesn’t get it that the system is not there for his personal gratification.

The character of Harriet Winslow typifies the gringo who comes to “save the little brown children.”  She thinks she can change everything with a bit of “right” education and washing.  She pictures herself as the great salvation of the culture.  If she does turn at the end of the novel, it is only after some harsh circumstances.  The Second Gringo is always looking to fix something:  Give me three weeks they say and I’ll fix the traffic here, or the banks, or the government or something.  This type of gringo (and forgive the expression) “se lleva a la chingada”.  That is what happens to Harriet Winslow.  Rather than being put up against the wall and shot she gets screwed over literally and figuratively.  The Second Gringo doesn’t get it that the system doesn’t need fixing.

There is however, a Third Gringo.  This one seeks to live, love and learn from the other culture while participating in it, not just being present in it.  While Fuentes never speaks directly of this kind of person in Gringo Viejo I still want the character to be there somehow.  I want there to be a gringo that says Ya basta (enough), the Revolution is a revuelta (an overturing and return), the land should go back, the children do need education, but not your pity.  I want a gringo who says: don’t come down here to get drunk and pay your mordidas; quit trying to make everything look like Oklahoma or Ohio or Texas.

The Third Gringo learns to live in the culture not use it or fix it.  They learn how to understand issues like time, space, and worldview.  They honestly try to not fit in or actually be a native, but not to stick out either.  They learn not to wear shorts in Mexico City and they learn how to ride the public transportation.  They don’t live in fear, but with a healthy caution that avoids dangerous situations.  This learning and living is exciting.  It deepens perspective, creates a new sense of being and most of all, wakes up the wonder of the other.

But mostly the Third Gringo learns to love the other culture.  Now I don’t mean they learn to accept or like everything, but they do learn that the other culture, those millions of people who are the other culture, need a response of at least listening love.  Loving the culture and the people means I think reacting to culture shock by saying “Ok, I don’t like this necessarily, but I do want to learn about it.”  It may be a way of thinking or a cultural practice that one never learns to enjoy.  Being able to react to your own reactions, positive or negative, with a healthy openness and a sense of understanding is what I think cross-cultural experiences are about.

“The illiterate of the 21st century,” Alvin Toffler said, “will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  For me, Toffler says it in this phrase.  In order to deal with culture shock, one needs to learn, unlearn, then learn about the other person and who they are.  Overcoming culture-shock happens by being literate in Toffler’s sense about the other culture, its ways of being, doing and seeing things.  To live in cross-cultural literacy is to put aside self, stop trying to remake the other culture in your own value system, and learning and unlearning in order to learn again.

There are three gringos.  The first two react to culture shock by centering on self or by trying to fix the other.  The Third Gringo, the one I really want to be, learns to live, love, learn and laugh even when there is a crash of cultural understanding.  It is not always easy to do that, but it does bring great rewards. 

Dr. Michael McAleer

If you are interested in cross-cultural training of any kind drop me a note at therebedragons@austin.rr.com

© 2013 Michael McAleer & Third Gringo Productions

 

Do You Believe in Magic?

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Do you believe in magic? I am not talking about sleight of hand, but magic. If you are travelling around the world, you will have a chance to visit a number of sacred spaces of some sort. In many of those, a magical worldview rules. Outside of our rationally based worldview, there is a world of magic, where a spiritual dimension to life affects everyday living. There are spirits, powers, demons, angels, assorted gods and goddesses, saints and sinners, who control and protect everyday life. Living in that world means doing everyday rituals to keep things in balance.
There are two important cross-cultural concepts you need to understand located in this. One is the concept of time-space and the other is this real spiritual dimension to life. Both of them are often very difficult to deal with cross-culturally. The concept of time-space is very tricky. It is more than just “things starting on time.” It has to do with entering the space and I believe therefore the concept of time of people in another culture. Sacred places are very much a part of that. Whether it is a church building in rural México, a gothic cathedral in France, or a Buddhist monastery, it is important to recall that these are their spaces not ours. We may want to say something like “this is so primitive”, but it is important to recall that their “primitive” is really everyday life explored perhaps by older rituals, but very much alive in today’s world.
These everyday issues are often dealt with by magical means. Entering into one of these sacred places is entering a world controlled and kept in balance by magical practices. Some would label them as primitive ideas or superstition. I detest the word superstition. These are not some unsophisticated, irrational ideas. They make up the warp and woof of life for 90% of the world’s population. Real people inhabit these spaces and hold on to these ideas.
San Juan Chamula is one of my favorite places in Mexico. It is similar to other areas of Central and South America where indigenous ideas have so mixed with Roman Catholicism that the nature of Catholicism itself has changed. It is located just north of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, in the Tzotzil speaking area of México. The religious practices there are mixed with Catholicism, though it really is not that. Some would call them indigenous practices, but of course they have been incredibly modified over time. On top of that, there are new innovations introduced over the years.
When you enter the church in San Juan you are immediately wrapped up in another world where the curanderos are helping local individuals deal with an important life event. The ritual usually involves some sort of sacrifice or offering, including sacrificed chickens, a “limpia” or cleansing, and the lighting of incense and candles. As you sit and watch you can see families kneeling on the pine needle covered floor laying out their candles and incense, sometimes with offerings of flowers and something very interesting: a bottle of Coca Cola.
I just sat and stared for a long time the first time I entered the chapel. Candles were lit, bowls of incense were giving off thick smoke, both from the individuals on the floor and from the altar. Prayers were whispered, and often a curandero would come and assist the family. Obviously the coke was playing an integral part in the practices. Why a bottle of coke? Later I discovered why. As I was speaking with a local anthropologist, he explained that in the past, the indigenous people had used a strong medicinal herb to produce a burp or series of burps. This herb often had strong and serious side-effects. After the road to San Juan was opened, of course the first two trucks were the ones carrying papitas and Coca-Cola. They quickly learned that the coke had the same effect as the herb. When a person burps as a part of the ritual according to the Tzotzil practice, “bad powers” pass from the body. The cleansing takes place through the burp and the counter effect of the candles and incense. Do you believe in the magical powers of Coca Cola?
Entering into that chapel, it isn’t that one has to suspend belief. I don’t think that is the correct term. You have to enter into a closed space, their world, for a couple of moments. All of the saints in the church are dressed, but not sitting on pedestals. They are all down on the floor. The saints, the powers, the ritual, are all very close and very necessary for life. This spiritual dimension to life is real. Whatever you choose to think either about the efficacy of the ritual or the practices, you have to see that there is a dimensionality to life that somehow the West has managed to either relegate to some personal choice or dismiss altogether. At San Juan Chamula, that dimension becomes three dimensional in time and space. It is a different time and a different space than the one we usually live in.
San Juan Chamula is no place to go for some sort of tourist participation to achieve a higher plane of existence. You cannot enter that world like a ride at an amusement park. Outsiders are not permitted to participate. It is however a wonderful place to see first-hand the multi-dimensionality of other cultures. Visiting in another culture: South American, Central American, Chinese, African, Indian, or Southeast Asian, is not about viewing quaint local practices. Somehow, it has to change or at least bring into question our own worldview. It ought to make us consider something about who we are as people in this world.
San Juan Chamula is a fascinating, and in its own way a beautiful place. The religious practices there will be, more than likely, incredibly different from anything you have ever experienced. Do you believe in magic? The spiritual space of the chapel at San Juan takes you, wraps you up in that world, even if for a short time. Outside of our own ideas, there are other ideas about how the world works. Becoming a world traveler, means not just visiting, but entering into another world. This world of magic is inside those buildings and sacred places, but more importantly inside of the lives of the people you are travelling to meet.

Dr. Michael McAleer
I am availalbe for cross-cultural training or coaching at therebedragons@austin.rr.com
© September 2012 Michael McAleer and Third Gringo Productions

Remember the Alamo!

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Every year March and April bring to Texas bluebonnets, gorgeous nights and memories of Texas Independence.  Stories help you sort through memories and help you understand who you are in the world.  One story that does that for me is the Battle of the Alamo.  This week will celebrate the 176th Anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, where that Battle Cry of “Remember the Alamo!” was immortalized.

On March 6, 1836, the assault led by the Mexican commander Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana killed probably 250 Texians inside the gates of a Roman Catholic Mission called El Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.  I remember.  I remember Fess Parker being killed.  I remember crying as a 12 year old at the movie “The Alamo” as John Wayne swung his rifle around.  I remember.

I also know there are no monuments in Mexico City to Santa Ana.  The on again off again dictator and caudillo is not remembered, at least not by the people who won the battle.  There is no celebration in Mexico on March 6th of the victory in San Antonio de Bexar.

I cannot visit the The Alamo and not think of all of this.  It is a shrine, a memory, a place now of ambivalent feelings.  As one of my friends once said after visiting there again:  “How can it be that the two peoples I love so much fought and killed each other in this spot?”  In order to live cross culturally you have to learn to understand your view of how the world works and someone else’s.  Somehow they both have to help you make sense out of living

Worldview is how we see and construct the world around us.  It is a complex interweaving of stories, symbols, practices and some key questions about how the world works.  These stories we tell, and history is story, help us relate to our own past and to the present.  We tell the stories so that we can know.  Every year in elementary school we colored a picture of the Alamo, just like we colored cherry trees on Washington’s Birthday.  Those symbols: that place, that axe and cherry tree, meant something.  Except now for me, the battle for the Alamo carries different meanings.

There was a 1987 made for TV movie, “The Alamo, 13 Days to Glory.”  Our family was in the United States for a year sabbatical from Mexico.  My children were 7 and 4 at the time.  I was watching the movie on one TV while they were watching some children’s show.  I was so enthused by the movie I made them come in to the room I was in to watch it.  This was Texas, this was our story, and they needed to learn it!  As the final assault was taking place and the Mexican Army was storming the walls and killing Texians, my daughter, who had been raised in Mexico from the time she was two, yelled out in Spanish, Adelante los Mexicanos!  I died on the spot.  No I wanted to say, Anne those are the bad guys the guys inside the Alamo they are the good guys.  Except it wasn’t quite that way anymore.  For her, for them, who else would have been the heroes?  That is worldview.

So the story of the Alamo illustrates this shifting of worldview that has to take place in cross cultural understanding.  It so directly affected my own life. The story I grew up with, from coon skin caps to John Wayne took on a different meaning.  Who were the bad guys?  What did the symbol of that day really mean to me and my understanding of how the world works?  Living cross culturally I came to understand that my story wasn’t in conflict with the Mexican story, but somehow different.   I learned to reinterpret them both and myself.

Worldview makes all the difference and understanding worldview is one of the most important ways to understand another culture.  You have to understand the worldview stories.  The stories use the symbols: a Spanish Roman Catholic Mission, a rebellious people, an enemy, and they help shape the world.  But seeing the story from another perspective helps you see that the other culture, even that of the enemy, has its own stories and you learn.  The practices of visiting “a sacred place” or even not recognizing an historical date, have to be reinterpreted cross culturally.  There are no “quaint or superstitious practices” in other cultures; there are stories about how the world really is, about reality.  Living cross culturally is not just about going to a beach resort, living more cheaply somewhere, or taking advantage of tax breaks.  It has to be about learning, though not necessarily agreeing with, their stories, symbols and practice.

So a story, a place a memory, a memorial, is not just something out there, it is part of who I am.  But now another story and  place also became a part of me.  If I allow them, they become intertwined with my own stories and life. Living cross culturally means you let those stories intertwine, even if it means reinterpreting your own world.  “Remember the Alamo!” or  “ ¡Adelante los Mexicanos!” which is it?  I get both of them and they help me see who I am, and what other people see as reality.

Twelve Cultural Issues You Need to Understand

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There are a lot of websites and a lot of resources for people who are young and want to travel.  Don’t get me wrong, I love LonelyPlanet.  However, I want to present on my blog some very specific categories, issues, that I have found either puzzle, worry or flat out scare some people.  I do not want to promote fear mongering, but help people learn how to sail around what seem to be the dangers.  I want this to be a guide for mature people who desire to learn to live in another culture.  The twelve categories aren’t magic.  Nor are they all negative categories.  They aren’t designed to be a psychological study of you as an individual, but better, some practical ideas about that category and how it affects people who choose to live in another culture.

Worldview

Worldview is how we see the world; it is how we make sense of the world around us.  Frankly, many of the problems people face living cross-culturally stem from a misunderstanding of worldview issues.  How is the world put together really?

Third Gringo 

One major concern about living in another culture is the problem of culture shock.  One of the things I have seen however is that while culture shock happens, the attitude of the person before and after is often the real measure of dealing with that shock.  There are in point of fact, three gringos I have met.  How do you react and what do you do with culture shock?

Time, Place, Space 

We all live in and with different concepts of time, place and space.  Learning how other people conceive of these issues is crucial.  It isn’t just: “Why can’t anything start on time here?”  It has to do with how we configure these three elements in our lives.  How do others describe the time and place they inhabit?

Mental Models-Values 

We all construct mental shortcuts that we use to describe our world.  At one extreme are true prejudices often times produced by believing that one’s culture is, after all, the best.  Learning to adopt, adapt or reject host culture models of how the world works is very crucial.  Sometimes we believe that our values and ways of seeing things are somehow universal.  How do you learn the give and take of living in a place with people who hold different values?

Language 

Forget the idea that “well I will just get by with my English.”  If you want to only live in an expatriate culture that is fine.  Learning the language of the culture is extremely important.  It helps you not only to understand people, but really understand the culture.  This is a category that scares most mature adults.  I believe it is possible to learn a language and learn to function well at any age.  How do you learn to communicate in meaningful, practical ways?

Security

You need to learn there are dragons out there, but maybe not as many as you think.  Learning to take basic precautions, learning how to not expose yourself to dangerous situations and learning what to do if it does happen are all important.  Besides, how safe are you right now in the city you live in?

Culture Shock 

I love it here/hate it here/love it here.  That basically describes the life cycle of culture shock.  Make no mistake, living somewhere is different from vacationing in a place.  You will experience both incredible love and “fear and loathing,” sometimes in the same day.  On the other side you can also learn how to be the Third Gringo.  How do you go about learning to love or at least living with the things that most irritate you?

Religious and Spiritual Notions 

People live multi-dimensional lives.  While we may have relegated religious and spiritual experiences to a corner in the West, everywhere else in the world it makes up the warp and woof of daily life.  “Quaint customs” or what some call superstitions, become all too real when it affects how you deal with real people.  How do other belief systems affect your  life?

Dealing With the Government 

There is nothing like getting a suit and tie on and going down to a government office and….well that is the problem isn’t it?  Everyone has heard horrible tales of bribes, inefficiency, bureaucracy and frank ineptitude in some other countries’ governments.  There are also very kind people who understand your situation and want to help.  This is a huge category!  How do you deal with government offices and bureaucracy?

Relationships 

Building relationships with people is very important.  How do you do that though?  How can you get to know people who are not as anxious to be known?  You are a stranger.  How do you do it in culturally appropriate ways?  We all want to be liked and make friends.  How do you build relationships that are meaningful?

Health Concerns 

What if I get sick?  Well, you will get sick.  You need to learn that good doctors don’t have to study in the United States and that health care systems, while apparently primitive, may be able to help you more than you think.  Health is a pressing issue.  How do you handle your own body and keep yourself well?

Daily Living 

Learning how to get around, go to the market, ask the maid to change the sheets and tell the carpenter to build the cabinets can fill up your day.  What is important to remember is that most people are just like you: normal.  They are living and loving and taking care of family just like you are.  Daily living tasks, rather than a burden can become part of the adventure.  How do you make the daily routines of life part of your adventure and not another chore?

It is an adventure after all.  I don’t mean extreme risk, I mean adventure.  You can bungee jump if you want.  I prefer not.  But living in another culture, learning, loving, contributing to that culture, now that is adventure.  There are new things to see and do.  There are new people to meet and new vistas that frankly you have not seen yet.  Out on the edge of the map, that other place, where the dragons live, is full of adventure.  Are there critical issues you need to face?  Of course there are.  Are there things you don’t know yet?  Ah yes, there are.  There are plenty I don’t yet.  Out there on the edge of the map, where the dragons live, there is also life.

Living on the Edge of the Map

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There are dragons out there you know.  This isn’t a travel blog like other travel blogs. It is designed to help you live cross-culturally.  It isn’t designed for twenty-something backpackers who stay in hostels.  It is designed for mature adults, (whoever you are out there) who have that funny feeling that adventure could be just around the corner, but you have never looked to see.  But you know you want to.

You know that feeling.  It isn’t just wanderlust, although that may be there.   It is more like this:  I remember as a boy my parents subscribed to some special monthly book thing for me.  Each month a small book on some country came in the mail.  I was able to read about the country and paste pictures at the proper place.  No computer, no online photos, just me and those books.  I knew then, like I know now, “out there” is where I want to be.  You know that feeling.

I have had the chance to travel all over Mexico and most of Central America.  I have walked in cornfields and ridden subways.  I have eaten the best tortillas in the world cooked over a comal heated by charcoal.  I have visited Brazil and Benin in West Africa.  I know how dark it is on the edge of the bush with no electricity at night.  I love cross cultural experiences and learning about people.  I love living cross-culturally.  That is what this blog is about.

You may have had the chance to travel and even ventured out on your own some.  You may have visited beach resorts or seen Europe.  But this blog isn’t about that.  It is about that feeling you have for the adventure of living and loving and doing something out there.

They say they used to put on maps, in the uncharted areas, “There Be Dragons.”  They are out there make no mistake about it.  Are you ready to go to the edge of the map and see?

Write me  at therebedragons@austin.rr.com

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