Back in the West, culture shock again
Trip Start Sep 05, 2006
90Trip End Ongoing
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Its all starting to hit me that I'm no longer traveling any more. This marks 6 months since I left you all, and yes, the time has gone by in a hurry. People keep writing me and asking me if I've changed or had experiences which have truly molded a different future for myself. Its hard to tell, as I cant really be subjective on the issue as myself. I suppose most of you will have to be the experts on that when I next see you all.
I have had many observations and thoughts since returning to the west. First of all, I just realized the other day that SHIT I am now a resident of New Zealand, somehow i never considered that before. I have a bank account, a tax ID number, I'm registered with the government, I fill out W2 type forms, I go to work, I get coffee, I rent a house, I eat pizza, I watch football. Ill soon be running, biking and swimming again, it will be strangely like i never left the US and Ill have a life almost identical to what I had before I left. Its all so strangely boring. Something I've come to notice is that life is the same in the west no matter where you are. It doesn't matter if you live in France, the UK, Norway, USA, Australia, New Zealand, but life is all the same. In developed nations like these, families worry about the same things, the lifestyles of people compared to people of the same socioeconomic status are relatively the same, infrastructures are developed, people even look and sound the same. You may be sitting there rattling off all the differences in your head between the USA and France, of which yes there are many. Compared to the difference between any western any western nation and India or Vietnam, they would appear to be exactly the same. In fact many people of eastern nations cant tell the difference between an American, a German and a Frenchmen, they don't hear the difference in western languages, just like we may not hear the differences between Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Khmer. Its like looking at an evolutionary scale of the world. When we were shown these in middle school, all those billions of years drawn on an 8 by 11 piece of paper. You see how long dinosaurs roamed the earth, how long it took for the planet to cool, how long it took for the first plant life to develop and the bodies of water. Then you see the tiny little dot at the end of the line and that is the entire development of man, from ape to modern human. Of course there are differences between ape and modern man, just as there are differences between the US and France, but when you compare the that the tiny, insignificant development of man with the history of the formation of the earth, its just a drop in the bucket. The differences between ape and and planet of molten lava are much greater than the differences between ape and man. This has all caused me to see life in the western world as stagnant, slow, and pretty much the same as every other western country I've been to. The developed nations which Kristina and I had the pleasure of visiting are in a constant state of change, incredibly dynamic and sooo culturally different from one another. Families think differently than our families, people are treated differently, and so many peoples' daily concerns involve the things that are simply reflex for us. Somehow, it appears to me that we seem to get so easily detached from "life" and we don't take pleasure or gratitude in those things that are simply reflex.
At the same time, I've been able to very easily slip back into western life. Spending 4 dollars on a drink at a bar is normal again. That used to buy my food for two days. Walking around on the streets as a white person among a sea of white people is normal again. I no longer stick out, and I'm no longer a target for conversation. I'm just another guy in line to buy a coke. I don't really care either, I realize that I am a westerner. The truth is that these nations like New Zealand are already developed, there isn't really anything I can do or see here that is going to open my eyes in any way like they have been in the east. As modern technology replaces already modern technology here, things wont really appear to change. The average person in the west isn't going to notice when some cool new gadget is invented, phones get faster, or stem cell research produces a cure for cancer. Changes like this can so easily change an entire nation in the developing world, literally over night, but are only baby steps for us. Baby steps toward something, a better life perhaps. Do we want to live longer, do we want to live forever? Do we want faster planes, faster cars? Do we need higher resolution screens, and iPods that can hold all the music ever composed? Sadly, the developing world is dragged along, forced to try to keep up with these unnecessary changes. You've got to hold on a sec and prioritize when you are Bangalore India for example, the city could use some sidewalks before every home and shack can have broadband internet.
Kristina is in the Philippines now, doing some disaster relief work for a country which has been so unlucky this monsoon season. Its been really difficult for us to part a second time, and we are again struggling to figure out what this means for us and how to best continue living our lives at the moment. I think she may soon bless this blog with some pretty interesting stories from her volunteer work.
I just thought I'd let out whatever has been on my mind lately, and there you have it. If I've touched any sensitive spots with you, please please write me, I'd love to hear it.
All my love and best wishes!