Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Experiencing Different Cultures

       Among the ways that we can increase our experience of oneness is to reach out to people from cultures and countries other than our own. There are lots of ways to do this, even for those of us who can't afford to travel.

     As a child, I collected pen pals and stamps from all over the world. I learned about the customs of Japan, England, Australia, and New Zealand, by writing to young people in these countries. We sent each other stamps, shells, and small gifts. I still have the bookmarks featuring Japanese architecture that Tatsuo sent me 45 years ago. Today, of course, I have Facebook friends all over the world, and it's even easier to share pictures and news now, although I do miss the thrill of finding envelopes with exotic stamps on them in my mailbox.

     Later, as an adult, I became a member of Amnesty International, and wrote letters to the heads of state in countries where citizens were tortured and imprisoned for their beliefs. Many years I have sent holiday cards to prisoners of conscience through Amnesty International. This is just one of the many opportunities we have to connect with people who are suffering around the world. 

     When my children were young, we introduced them to people from other lands by inviting exchange students into our home. Our kids enjoyed playing with college students from Germany and Japan when they came to our house for dinner. 

Dinner with our German friends
     When Vera was in 8th grade, we hosted a Japanese exchange student for three months. Yuu, who was four years older, shared a room with Vera and taught us a lot about Japanese culture. Yuu taught the kids how to make origami creations, and she showed me how to make sushi. She told us about the custom of inviting teachers to your home and offering them cake - which the teachers always refuse. After the teacher leaves, the family eats the cake by themselves! 

     Yuu learned some things from us, too, like showing affection with hugs. In Japan, family members show their love for each other with bows. Sometimes they just bow with their eyes. I think Yuu enjoyed the warmth of our hugs, though - especially when we found her after she got lost on a walk in my sister's North Carolina neighborhood!

     Yuu brought us many gifts from Japan to remember her by. We also like to decorate our home with crafts from other countries - some of which we have purchased from fair trade organizations such as SERRV and Ten Thousand Villages

Haitian artisans made this Tree of Life from 55-gallon drums.
     We purchased this metal Tree of Life from Ten Thousand Villages to hang over our kitchen sink - because it's water-proof - and also beautiful! It is just one of the pieces of multi-cultural art that adorn our home, helping us to feel just a bit more of a connection with some of the different people we share this earth home with. 

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