Yesterday was a normal day here in San Miguel de Allende, although more obviously normal than usual, in a good way. I am used to aspects of this culture related to patience and kindness and honesty. Cars stop for you to cross no matter how safely they could go first. People on the street make a point of quietly greeting you or smiling. It is more likely that a vendor will chase you down the street to give you the six pesos you left behind than to overcharge you.
But yesterday was an unusual bunch of goodness.
My first flight from Athens to Lesvos. The beginning of something life-changing.
I get a thrill every time I feel the three-second gravitational pull of a plane taking off. In 2019, I felt it 17 times on flights between the US, Mexico and Asia, and I plan to feel it another dozen times in 2020.
Some people, like Greta Thunberg, might wonder how I can justify traveling all over the world in an airplane. My upcoming flight from San Francisco to Barcelona will cost the environment 1.6 metric tonnes of carbon emissions. That’s just my share. To put that in perspective, hyper-consuming Americans use about 16 metric tonnes a year for everything.
Children dressed for street party in Juchitan, Mexico.
Shortly after I began my nomadic life, I wrote about the difference between tourists and travelers. https://kimmie53.com/2014/09/06/lady-who-lunches-or-lunch-lady/ Four years later, my travels have taught me a little more about how to have a deeper experience, to feel a part of a place, and make connections with people. My strategies don’t all work in all situations or for all people, but you get the idea….
I am still in Singapore and I still have a little jet lag so last night at 3am, I started reading the news. And I noticed something by accident — the photos on top of the headlines seemed to be all white men. This surprised me partly because the news feed on my phone, Flipboard, only sends me articles from what are generally considered to be left-leaning news organizations, like the NYT, The Nation, CNN, MSNBC, and The Atlantic.
So I did a little survey. I flipped through the first 50 articles and counted how many photos showed only white men. And guess what?
Mural painted by school students in New Iberia, Louisiana.
Last Friday, in a small town in rural Louisiana, the state’s 16th Judicial District Court rescheduled a preliminary hearing to address procedural matters in a lawsuit described in nine double-spaced pages.
Ho hum, not usually the beginning of a great story, right?
When I was in Athens working in the refugee community in 2016, I had lunch one day with a wise young man. We talked about the work we were doing and I disclosed that I cried a lot, even though being around vulnerable people had never made me cry before. He replied “Well then, maybe you have crossed over from charity to solidarity.”
Since then, I have thought a lot about the difference between charity and solidarity.
Mural in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
With all of the problems in the world and all of my opinions, if I am going to complain about something, it should be about Something Big, right? No. Other people are doing that exceptionally well and I am trying to avoid giving myself ulcers. So here’s a kvetch about something small and a little bit important.
I recently read an article by American journalist, Chris Hedges, which proposed that “societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.” https://riseuptimes.org/2018/12/30/american-anomie-by-chris-hedges/
This simple idea reminded me of the many times friends and family have asked me to describe my “volunteer work” with the refugees in Greece or the Caravan in Mexico. I never have a good answer. I say the people I met were kind and grateful in spite of their physical and emotional challenges. I say they were running from persecution created by the neo-liberal world order and forever wars, that some of them played cards on a blanket under a tree.