It’s become a bit of a running joke between my friend Alba and I that even if she’s ahead of me in the customs line I will, without a doubt, beat her out of it. Time and time again – regardless of the country – the customs official will glance at my US passport, maybe ask me one question and stamp me through. While at the same time I’ll glance back and see her answering question after question about what hotel she’s staying at, what university does she attend in the UK, how long is she staying in this country, etc., etc. as they examine her passport from Mexico.
And while she’s a great sport about it honestly it breaks my heart a bit. Because of one piece of paper I’m regarded in way one and she in another.
Fast forward to our trip to Spain and I’m sitting idly by as my bilingual friend chats rapidly away with our taxi driver on the way up to Park Güell – learning about the divide between the people of Catalan and Madrid in ways that my Americanized Spanish education will never be able to keep up with. The driver would occasionally shoot me sympathetic looks in the rear view mirror when I’d laugh or nod at the appropriate points as if he saw me for the fraud that I was. The frustrating part is that I could understand most of what was being said but by the time my brain attempted to connect to my tongue to form a response they were already on to the next topic. I wanted to scream, “I know! I understand!” and yet you’re not quite there since you can’t keep up.
That’s the way of our world these days isn’t it? We feel and we experience but before we can formulate a response the world spins on to the next item of business. My friend can interact and enjoy a different culture in a way that I never can as a product of where she was born and grew up – and yet that is the exact thing regarded by some as a point against her or a reason for scrutiny and mistrust.
This isn’t a political statement. It’s just an American woman living in a foreign land trying to make sense of her world.
Have my views on certain aspects of foreign or domestic policy changed since I’ve moved? No. But I can say that my views are changed when I meet the people affected by my biases and words.
My banker from Mauritius who teared up asking me about my opinions on the travel ban.
My female professor from Iran who has defied all stereotypes of an Iranian woman, leaving her family and working her way through her PhD.
The Armenian man at church who has started 3 successful startups.
The Spanish taxi driver who in spite of living in a region that wants to break off from Spain and the EU considers himself ‘un hombre del mundo’ (a man of the world).
My Scottish friend who always makes room for newcomers at church.
And the list goes on.
I do a daily study called SheReadsTruth and the following quote has stuck with me from a recent one:
“I love that we serve a God who shows no favoritism. In a society where women were ostracized, Jesus frequently addressed women directly, talking to them about their most intimate fears and sin. He had no concern for His own reputation. He saw no difference between rich and poor, able-bodied and lame. Jesus made room for everyone.”
I know that I’m a long way from that but I hope that my eyes continue to be opened.