Advance technology and globalisation has allowed us the opportunity to travel and experience other places, countries and cultures. However, no matter how much globalization has affected our daily lives, we always like to hang on every little detail and difference of our background to differentiate ourselves from others.
There is no doubt that as people we have our unique attributes that we get from our environment, parents, education, culture or ethnicity. And as someone who had the chance to experience completely different environments of my own, I can totally understand the feeling of being different.
Yesterday, I had a bit of a break down. A few weeks ago I moved to what I thought a better place thanks to a job opportunity but things haven’t been as good as I thought.
In general, I quickly adapt to new cultures. My family lived as immigrants before, so they understand the concept of diversity and are much more open-minded. So I learned from a young age to always accept and appreciate others no matter where they are from. Furthermore, my country is cross-roads of three different continents thus we have a mix of different cultures that passed through from our tiny island throughout thousands of years. And for this reason I find it easy to understand other cultures.
However, for the first time I felt how others might not appreciate different cultures and people who are non-native speakers of their language.
So, last night I tried to relax a bit and think how to cheer myself. And the best way is to remind yourself of the goodness of other people you met and how you got where you are today thanks to them.
When I traveled to East Asia, no matter how easily I could adapt to the new environment, the enormous difference between west and east could be seen in simple things of daily life such as my gestures, speech, and eating manners. But until today, my experience in East Asia is my most amazing travel experience filled with precious memories.
Throughout my journey, I met incredible people, made new friends, and had the experience of a lifetime. The reason being that I had the chance to live with local people and see life through their eyes. Truly an unforgettable experience.
My last three weeks in East Asia were in South Korea, where I stayed in a small town in the southern part of the country. I participated in a volunteering project at an environmental center with a team of both Korean and international members.
Although, I had the chance to participate in several projects over the last few years, I can say with confidence that my experience in South Korea was the best. All the members of the team were equally kind and fun to be with, and altogether we created beautiful bonds as friends.
We spend two weeks together at the center working, sharing stories, having fun, and laughing. And then, on the last day, we embraced each other and cried. Years later, I reminisced these beautiful memories, and I can only smile brightly.
Nowadays, there are many projects all over the world where people can have cross-cultural experiences that help the younger generations learn and appreciate diversity as well as understand people better.
But although my experience during those two weeks gave me a more understanding of cultures and people, it was in Seoul that I realized what understanding and sharing mean.
It was my last night in Seoul before going back home. As it was my last night, I went on a night out with my new Korean and international friends in one of the most famous areas of the capital. Unfortunately, my hostel was a bit far. Therefore, after a long night of dancing and singing, I had to take a taxi back for a few hours of sleep before departure.
Usually, I don’t get emotional when it’s time to leave after all living abroad made me an expert in people coming and going from my life. But for the first time seeing my friends’ faces fading away from the taxi’s window made me realize the gravity of the word goodbye. It felt suffocating, thinking that I might not ever see them again. Silently I shed tears of both happiness and sadness. Happiness because I was privileged to meet these fantastic people and sadness because I had to say goodbye.
While the city was running in front of my eyes, the taxi driver realized my sorrow. Politely he asked me if I am alright. Clumsily I said yes and tried to wipe my bittersweet tears. Realizing that I was not going to elaborate on my grief, the taxi driver started small talk. Firstly, I have to say how thankful I felt that for once, one person knew my country. For people like me who come from a small nation, it’s truly a wonderful feeling. It feels like finally, I am acknowledged. Then somehow, our small talk shifted into an in-depth conversation on topics such as politics and economy. Indeed an unusual end of a day and a trip.
While talking with the taxi driver on politics, corruption, unemployment, and education for the very first time, I felt that in the end, no matter what background humans come from, they are just that. Humans. Undoubtedly, we have our differences concerning culture, language, ethnicity, race, or religion. Still, we all have the same worries, and we all struggle to make a living. Parents always worry about their children and strive to provide everything they can. Teachers are doing their hardest to bring up the best out of their students. Politicians all over the world try to do their best (or not) for their country. And in general, everyone on this planet is merely living with whatever this world can give them.
And at that moment, I realized the vulnerability of people and how people change into humans when you see the reality of life. Although often the word vulnerability gives off a negative vibe, I use the vulnerability of people as the humanity of people. And sometimes, being a vulnerable human-being with all your flaws is truly beautiful.