Thursday, January 15, 2009

Your Door to the World

I’m here in Houston on travel day enjoying some last favorite food and drink before my afternoon flight to Lima. That’s not to say there aren’t delicious things to eat in Peru…but it’s a major meat-eating country and many of you know I just don’t dig meat in general. In fact, there is often a misnomer that the food in Peru is like that of Mexico or some of the other Central American countries. On the contrary, people in Peru have no menu items like refried beans, black beans, cheddar cheese, and salsa used atop a fresh corn tortilla (my absolute favorite food in the world). In fact, I used to have my mentor Dan pack the biggest block of cheddar cheese possible and a pack of 50 corn tortillas when he visited Cajamarca for business during my years there. We’d have “Mexican” parties and invite our Peruvian friends to try it out.

A typical Peruvian fare is a piece of beef (if the family can afford it) and rice or potatoes, heavy starch. Otherwise, you’ll find a fried egg atop some rice and some white beans or lentils. When I first arrived in Peru in 2004, I was so psyched when I saw “tortilla” on the menu and ordered it… what I soon found out was that tortilla meant egg base mixed with whatever veggie or meat you desire fried into a hash brown/pancake kind of thing. Around that same time, I asked for the menú (thinking I would be ordering some food off of it), but that word in Peru means the “special of the day.” I got some piece of beef and quickly learned that our version of menu is called “la carta” if you want to see what’s for eating.

This brings me to the central thought of this blog. As I go through this crossover of travel from the US to Peru, it always brings up strong emotions for me. Most of these feelings are about leaving familiarity on so many levels. As I boarded the plane for my first stop in Houston on the airwalk, the words on the outside of the plane as I stepped inside said “Here is your open door to the world.” I thought, absolutely appropriate!

There is something wonderfully intense that happens inside for us when we leave the borders of the USA. Many people will never leave the country, and that is absolutely fine. However, I would advocate for anyone reading this that feels dead-end and beat up by how their life is currently going, or a feeling about lack of meaning or completion of a phase in life, or a need to get away—take a trip to see yourself with Other Eyes.
I cannot speak from the perspective of travel to other developed countries (i.e. Europe), since I’ve only traveled to “Developing Countries.” (I am not fond of the term “Third World” at all; I just personally don’t know where we got the feeling that what we/others like us should be termed “First?” Anyway, that’s just food for thought and you won’t see me using that term for reference).

What I do know is that there is something really vulnerable about leaving everything you know and what comforts you. Even as I sit here en route to Lima, I recall that every time I’ve touched down in another country I’ve thought, my rules don’t apply here now…and get used to it ASAP! Of course, that can be worrisome in some ways, but in many other ways it is the exact opportunity to see what deep and amazing people we are. Foraging your way into discomfort requires you to access an entirely different layer of your depth. You are not the norm. Your customs and ways are not the norm. You become the different. There is something terrifying and refreshing about becoming accustomed to those feelings. We’ve all seen the level of commitment people dig from within themselves in times of crisis in our lives in some way or another…and it is the very same profundity of the Self that comes out in exploring this new space when you travel abroad. Only from my perspective can I say that travel to developing world adds another layer of humility and gratitude, for everything.

My desire for these experiences was part of the reason I left San Diego for Peru in 2004 and eventually created the HopeBank project with my hubby and others that was the precursor to DHF. People asked me what I was doing leaving a job, people, and place I loved. My answer was simple: I knew for me that I needed to “see with other eyes” to maximize the person I could become. I look back and feel so thankful that I moved through the fear of letting it all go (and still have to do that every day!). Now I know not everyone can do that or wants to do that…so I just advocate the experience in some sort of way. This year, I’d love for DiscoverHope Fund to host our first “Other Eyes” journey where people travel to Cajamarca to engage in social adventure.

My familiar meal has come to an end and I am getting ready to board the plane soon. It doesn’t matter how many times I do this, I am terrified and excited every time. Until tomorrow, from Lima, Peru.

To your own explorations. MM

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