Friday, March 16, 2007

The value of culture shock

I just returned from a five-day vacation to the Dominican Republic. Though my time there was largely focused around sitting on a beach, I tried to experience as much of the culture as I could from my walled compound under the constraints of a woman traveling alone.

Now, back in New York, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have been "abroad," even if that foreign country was somewhere as near as a tropical island a four-hour flight from my hometown. For the last week, I was a stranger in a strange land, which in me, elicits an openness, a trust of people, and a desire to understand (probably in order to be understood). It's a disposition very different from that of the typical New Yorker; we're taught here to move quickly and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist.

As I re-entered the fray today, I felt myself a little more willing to trust my fellow riders on the subway—to imagine the stories of their lives and families, rather wonder, suspiciously, if they might harm me. It's a good feeling, one I fear will fade quickly as I work my way back into the city, but something I hope sticks around.

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