Attitudes and Experiences
on Sustainable Dignity (India), 10/Aug/2011 11:39, 34 days ago
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Gina writes:The idea that I want to write about today is difficult to put down in words but I'll try my best, since it's something I've been thinking about a lot over the past few days. The basic thought is that our experience here has been enriched because we'vechosento have such open minds and are on a constant look-out for new and different experiences. Continuing to embrace these attitudes could result in fuller lives after we return to the U.S. as well. Let me explain with examples:Suspending JudgementDay in and day out, we interact with coworkers, neighbors and shopkeepers. Countless times, they've done something or said something that initially seems weird or wrong or inappropriate. Whether it's describing a Hindu tradition, treating women as inferior, or cautioning against eating yogurt at night, we have a negative reaction for only one tiny second before telling ourselves, "Well, it's a different culture" or "That's how this person was raised, how can I blame them?" Because the people that we're talking to are from a culture/religion/background that is so different from our own, they get a free pass from our judgement. In so many cases, it's impossible to really compare aspects of the U.S. and India, so we've learned to not do that and just say to ourselves, "It's not wrong, it's different."What I've been thinking is...why can't we take that same open-minded attitude and apply it to our outlook in the U.S.? When someone is acting uncouth or is espousing contrary viewpoints or maybe their actions point to their lack of education/upbringing, we should remind ourselves that we are each a product of our parents and our culture. Our actions and personalities are our own only to a limited extent. Sure, there are actions that really are inexcusable (both in India and in the U.S.), but I'd like to import my ability to suspend judgement of others to the U.S.Beauty Beauty EverywhereI have my camera with me almost all the time and am trying to learn to have more of a photographer's eye. Combined with the fact that I do live in a beautiful city, it means that I find the smallest and most innocuous things that strike my eye. My twice-daily walk through the paddy fields never fails to make me smile. Women in saris gracefully carrying jars of water on their heads and children on their hips is a simple, yet stunning visage. Puppies...enough said.Who's cuter?A cool-looking moth that we found on the office wall.Beyondvisualstimuli, I use the excuse "Who knows when I'll be back in India?" to appreciate the little things, like saying hi to the sweet old man who owns a little shop near the SPREAD office, a houseful of open windows to fill the rooms with bright sunshine, weaving between cows in the streets on my way to work or the market.The view from our house.Enjoying the breeze, the peace, and the view from SOVA's roof.At times when I have that feeling wash over me of, "Wow, I'm really fortunate to be here in this place," it's not actually in response to something uniquely Indian. But the fact that I'm constantly on the lookout for things to cherish and remember means that I find joy in some things that I could find in the U.S. as well. For instance, as I've walked to work in the past few days, I've thought about how beautiful and peaceful some stretches of Pittsburgh are and how I should take greater advantage of them; specifically, I think about cutting through Schenley Park or Frick Park in Pittsburgh to walk to the grocery store on a fall day or to a coffee shop to spend time with an old friend. After I return to the U.S., I want to be more cognizant of the beauty that's all around me.New and DifferentPart of our time here as been the inevitable experience of many new and different things -- foods, festivals, friendships, and more. We've also put quite a bit of effort into specifically seeking out these experiences. Attempting to cook with a new vegetable, following the crowds to the location of a Hindu celebration, spending time at friends' homes even if it's kind of awkward, joining in the tribal dances or marriage processions even though the cameras come out and we know we look stupid. Taking part in these activities has provided some fantastic memories (and even better photos)!Pittsburgh is fortunate to have a large multi-cultural feel to it. Throughout the year, there are fairs and events sponsored by different cultural groups--Polish, Indian, Chinese, German, and many more. And there are A LOT of restaurants serving dozens of ethnic cuisines. We've always had an interest in finding authentic ethnic restaurants and have attended our share of cultural events, but I'd like to be more grateful for those opportunities in the future. With a small shift in attitude, it really can feel like an adventure in another culture by just talking to an immigrant at an event or digging a little deeper to understand the culture presented at some festival or restaurant.My point is that our experience of the world around us has a lot more to do with our outlook and attitude than with the stimuli themselves. Take some time in the next few days and try to see your world a little differently -- I'm sure you can find something beautiful and new!