Laying a Foundation

In the workshop what really hit me most was not necessarily the different phases I will be going through but mostly on being a traveler or a foreigner in another country. Essentially, what Slimbach talks about in the intro to his book. He comes in expecting Vietnam to be a certain way and at times that expectation is appeased and at other times he realizes that his idea of rural Vietnam is completely off when he sees, “a color TV propped up on an old table,” (Slimbach 21). The group is huddled around it watching CNN and MTV and listening to Snoop Dogg and Madonna.

When Slimbach talked about the “blowback” from excess of US and western culture it made me think of the old and liminal status. The way he spoke about “peoples and places that exhibit new and unexpected combinations of ideas, identities, and lifestyles,” (28), made me seemed to be the world’s rite of separation in a way. There is a huge shift and change in the way the cultures of the world are and interact with each other. The internet and global television has essentially compressed the globe almost forcing cross-cultural interaction. This can be seen so much in the way music is consumed. Even outside of the ultra-mainstream that was portrayed over MTV in Slimbach’s story. With hip-hop there was always a spreading of the culture as it grew out of the Bronx in the early 80s. By the 90s it was national and slightly international, however, as the internet grew so did the music. Quickly in many countries hip-hop’s popularity grew. Although the language barrier was a hard struggle to get over at first many people saw it as something that was so drastically different they just loved the way it sounded. Then especially in Japan people made efforts to learn what the artists were saying and then the popularity grew even larger there. Artists like Wu-Tang Clan started touring in Japan and frequently would say that their best fans are Japanese and they then would release songs specifically in Japan as they cared even more than their original American fans about their music. This huge spread of music and culture is a global awakening or rite of separation from the old, pre internet, status.

“[Intellectual Learning] seems to require direct… contact that allows us to… find ways to create local friendships and to work, side by side, to provide local, modest, but intensely human [connections],” (42). This work seems to be during the liminal phase. The person creating these friendships and connections is finding their own place within the community. I think that it will take a little while for me to move through the liminal phase as I don’t know as much Spanish as I would like to. I don’t want to be another touristy study abroad American who is just in a country to party and take pictures. I want to learn the language and become more immersed in a place that I am not used to and is not my own. I don’t want to take advantage of a place but I want to see all that it offers and incorporate it into myself instead of cataloging it and pushing it into the back of my memory. I don’t need to come home with stories but I should have experiences that better me as a human living in such a global world.

I chose Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart. I chose this book because it was interesting to me how quickly the authors decision to live in a foreign country was made. By doing this they threw themselves into a world totally unknown but was ready to experience it. Throughout their experience, as the title makes it seem, they remain optimistic. I think this is very important for anyone who is traveling. Most issue are not a huge deal and it’s always easier to see it in an optimistic lens.


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