I am in Hong Kong airport with a 7 hour layover as I head home. Give me 7 hours of free time and I can certainly provide you a blog post 🙂 Shoes are off, have a cup of tea and a bit of a quiet place.
As I was walking around the airport earlier, I was thinking back to the various trips I have done to Asia and South East Asia. In a short time, I have been to Bangkok 3 times, Phuket, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and years ago, India for the first time. Now, while not Asia, I have also done 4 tours of the Middle East which involved many countries. I greatly enjoy traveling and exploring sites, getting to know the culture and appreciating people in their element. I can certainly sit on a beach and watch the tide come in and out but my time is better spent discovering what life is like for the people who live in the countries I visit. When I am on my journey, I leave Canada behind because if I don’t, then I miss the richness of what is around me. I have been in situations where we could not speak each other’s language but through hand gestures and focusing on what we were trying to say, we seemed to resolve what we search out to accomplish and always with a smile at the end.
While these experiences motivate me, there is another reason. Since I started teaching international students, I have been showcasing and introducing Canadian culture to them. I have such an appreciation for my international students because they are bright, full of questions and want to experience. They have also left everything behind in pursuit of higher education in Canada. To show up in a foreign country and not fully understanding the culture can be a daunting task and one that is difficult to prepare for. They have my respect. I felt the least I can do is to venture to their homeland and create a connectedness that we can share. It is wonderful to see the expression on people’s faces in my class when I said I visited their country. We can then talk about street food, the subway system, the traffic, pollution and many more things…good and bad, but because I have experienced, their words are not foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I am still not an expert in their culture or lives. They have merely given me a peek (and a peek that I am grateful for). It has sparked my curiosity and opens me to ask more questions. It is not about me telling them anything, it is about us openly sitting and sharing. That is all we all want, to be able to share. One thing I will tell you…I have received nothing up respect and kindness from all when I travel.
I feel that while we try to have our international students walk in our shoes, it is also about me trying to walk in theirs. I will trade in my 10 1/2s for something that is fashionable and functional and try to see how it feels. Put me in your element and let me experience your lives…you make me richer for it.
A special thank you to Vera, Macy, Canace, Vicki, Hilda, Angel, Jeff, Hope and G for showing me such a great time this last trip. My new friend – Nong…someone I will keep in touch with. I leave with a huge grin on my face as I head home.
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