My recent trip to the Philippines was my first trip overseas – but far from my last. So many things were seen – everything from every day village life, the craziness of driving there, and the wonders of places like the Banaue Rice Terraces. I knew that a new perspective was inevitable when traveling to another country, and a developing one at that. But what I didn’t expect was the new respect I have for my own country.
I’ve always had a logical understanding of the privileges that come from being born in this country. I’ve always tried to be the person who reminds herself that “there are starving children in Africa” when I get bogged down in my own troubles. But it’s quite different from understanding that reality in your heart– I’m not sure how to describe it any other way.
I was surprised at the lack of pity I felt over the abject poverty there. Certain situations were very sad, don’t get me wrong – the emaciated animals, the mansions next to the family living in a shack, the mountains of garbage – but I didn’t feel pity. The more I learned about the people there, the more I realized they are strong orchestrators of their own fate. They are at the mercy of low pay and little national infrastructure, but this does not make them helpless. They are just as capable as you or I.
It seems to me there is a pervading national culture of acceptance of one’s position, with no interest in changing. (This cannot to be said for everyone there, of course, and goodness knows three weeks does not make me an expert.) But it seemed so very stark compared to what I see in my home country. Sure, I know quite a few lazy American peers who use little effort to get through life. But not like it was there.
There was also incredible generosity that I saw there – usually within a family, but generosity all the same. And there’s something important to be said about being happy about your lot in life and making the best of your situation. There are a few materialistic Americans I can think of who could partake in some acceptance.
All of this makes me wonder about evolution of culture. I understand it’s human nature to find comfortability, and that we don’t like to change from the status quo. It’s exhausting to be constantly energized and challenging everything, and it’s also a truth that as we grow older we grow more conservative and less likely to change. With the general trend of American citizens becoming increasingly uncaring and not engaging with government or reality, I wonder if we’re headed in the direction of the overt acceptance I saw overseas. And with the development currently happening in the Philippines, I wonder if there will be a surge of energy from the coming generations that will look a lot like the energy of the U.S.
Either which way, I didn’t expect to come to these conclusions. I expected to learn about another culture, but ended up seeing my own culture in more clarity. But I suppose that’s the funny thing about perspective – you can have an idea of what you may learn, but you’ll find lessons you don’t expect.
This was a bit of a mish-mash of some of my observations there, more of which I’m sure will follow. What do you all think? Have you had experiences that resulted in surprising conclusions? Tell me about your over-seas adventures!