When the days flow into one
Time is one of those things; it flows, it twists, its turn, and despite being a measure itself, it has no beginning and no end. If you want to get really into this, time really does not exist at all; its a subjective perception. I begin my talk from this day with this because I wanted to draw attention to the time of a specific location. I joked when I flew to Houston roughly two weeks ago saying “man time travel feels strange”, but its a different feeling entirely when you place yourself into a different culture. Here in Merida, the culture is most definitely far from where I came from in upstate new york, especially in time. Within Latin America especially, the sense of time is much different from what you would expect, and often people joke here; “el tiempo americana o mexicana?” when you plan something with people. The structure of the day itself takes a break at midday due to the heat, and this adds another time where a nap is accessible and possible within most people’s lives. I can’t say enough how wondrous it is to travel especially here, and I feel that the Yucatan (especially Merida) exists within its own small world.
Unfortunately when I came here, I thought of none of this beforehand (yeah Im sure that those who know me are laughing about this), as I was too caught up in the stress and the life that we all live within our own little world’s everywhere. Here is something to think about; think of the most urgent thing that you have to do right now. Do you feel that need pulling at you? How it seems as though that action may be the single most important thing to do right at that moment? Put that into perspective with those around you… each and every person at this moment and the next and the next and the next has their own most important thing. As we drift from each other in a social context as well as within a physical and environmental sense, this concept that we are not the most important thing right then is lost. I mean I don’t know, maybe its just me thinking strangely.
My next really simple but powerful thought is that of language. You may speak English, Spanish, Hindi, Urdu, Swahili, or a multitude of others as your first language, but you never really think about how you think in that language. Ok, so this may be way out there. Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who is speaking a different language to you and thought “how similar we are, but how subtly different in the context of even how we communicate” It boggles my mind, first of all to think about thinking, but second to think in a way that is different. Yet, for those who are living in a place different from their homeland, we begin to acclimate to this almost automatically (oh the adaptivity of humanity). I recently came into contact with someone who put these differences, subtle and obvious, into the context of how they connect our people and how they separate us in the same stride. I see this everyday… within my adventures learning and cooking with Dona Lupita in the kitchen here to moving to eating breakfast with my (sometimes VERY) american group. In some ways this can be frustrating when opinions clash and play into how the group situates itself, and it is easy how very childish we can all be. Though, most of all I find this transition incredibly rewarding. In the short time I have been here, I find comfort in walking the streets and being with the people that call Merida, the Yucatan, and Mexico home. There will always be moments when language is difficult, but the ultimate understanding that ensues even from some man who stops you on the street to say “Hola amigo, buenos dias” is a testament to the fact that we are all human.
I have spoken about all of these things in the context of el mercado in the center of Merida, and within the pictures that I have taken of culture past and present, but coming to understand a people (at least in part) is the reward of recognizing that the gap between you and others is really no large challenge at all. Its easy to settle into an environment, to call it in name “home”, but much more difficult to feel at home there. I have to speak honestly… I made my first year of college pretty difficult for myself with my homesickness, but here its been such a simpler step. Whether its the proximity of my original home (very very very far away) or the fact that I have thrown myself into this culture entirely I am not sure. If anything it feels great.
A departing thought, this inspiration came from a new found friend and their own travels abroad. Although they spent a significantly longer time at their destination, all of their thoughts, lessons, and questions apply to my life as well. Most of all, reading about their experiences really changed my perspective of culture no matter what the physical location may be. I have found that likeminded people, whether they are family or friends, are just plainly the best people to have around you. As a recap on traveling, tomorrow the group and I go to Uxmal, Ruta Puuc, and stay in a small mayan village before returning home on saturday night. There will definitely be documentation of this nice trip for you in the future.
“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch”
-Garrison Keillor: The Writer’s Almanac
Tristan Davis Fralick