Out into the Cold

We can live every day of our lives and, sadly, not know anything much different.

This thought was stimulated when I read recently that only 20% of Americans have a passport. If this is so, then four out of every five Americans do not consider travel to another country as part of their lives. In other countries such as China and India, that percentage must surely be lower.

I’m willing to let people live the way they want, and I understand that for many of them the outside world is a cold hostile place. However it saddens me when I consider how much such people miss. When asked, they may say they are afraid of meeting different people, that it might be dangerous, that they might get sick from the food, that they have all they need right where they are.  They will continue to stay at home where it is safe and dull.

I guess I am a born adventurer, but I think that the human race has gone as far as it has because some of us are curious. We want to know what is over the hill. We delight in meeting people who live differently than we do, but who may also give us some clues on how to live better. Over that hill, there are foods we haven’t tasted, dances we haven’t danced and sights we haven’t seen.

What is all this ranting on my part about?

I teach at a university in Lima, and I try my best to get my students to take opportunities to go somewhere else for a brief time and learn. You can imagine how delighted I was some years ago because three of my students participated in a Rotary Exchange Program that took them for one month to  Dallas- Ft.Worth, Texas.

When something like this happens, I am intrigued by the before and after effect. It is hard for those learning English in Lima to become really fluent in the language. There are few places for advanced students to practice. So even though these three had worked hard at learning the language here, they could advance only to a certain level.

The special treat for me was when the three students invited me to dinner to tell me about their adventures on their return. What I noticed immediately, of course, was the dramatic change in their fluency. One month of intense exposure to the English language worked wonders. So their English flowed smoothly as they told me about the wonderful time they had visiting Texas.

What I also noticed was that they were describing new experiences, new insights, and even some things that they had never thought of before. Their faces were alight with enthusiasm and the joy of recounting all that had happened to them in such a short time.

I thought to myself, this experience has changed them, and they will reflect on it the rest of their lives.

Now we are in a time when every one has to stay in to avoid the Covid-19 virus. I hope that when this all over, every one will come out of their caves, see that we are all connected and continue with the experiences that so inspired my students.

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