Friday, June 09, 2006

Slice of Raisin Pie

It is interesting that after a post of how I fit in, how I am just one in a crowd of many that I had an interesting discussion with a friend over dinner yesterday night. He prefaced that he did not mean to belittle my experience as a minority in the United States but for the first time in his life he saw and felt what it is to be a minority. My friend and the others I was with were blonde with blue eyes and very fair skin. Though Brazilians do come in all shapes colors and sizes, my friends are unavoidably American. He discussed how it felt when people look at you in a peculiar way. Make assumptions about you. He speaks Portugeese but people automatically assume he cant and break out into English. In restaurants he sometimes gets rude service by staff who are nice to natives but short with him assuming he is another brash American. I have respect for him that he chose to take this opportunity to see things from another perspective because not everyone is doing so.

In "The Late George Apley" George describes visiting Europe with his family as traveling like raisins in a pie. You can cut a slice and put it in a different place but the raisin stays where it is. Some people on the trip are like raisins. Today a child at an NGO we were visiting had a temper tantrum and based on a quick observation an untreated but severe behavior disorder. The screams and moans were haunting but what do some of the law students do at this moment? Eagerly rush out to snap what was unfolding. Two minutes later another child began climbing an unstable ladder and instead of trying to get him off they reached into their bags for cameras laughing: "Look at that one" If you would use the same language and engage in behavior appropriate only if visiting the zoo exhibits, check yourself. Sometimes we act like we are in little bubbles and other people are "them" and we are oh so different from "them" I cant imagine someone coming into my classroom and snapping pictures of American children misbehaving or suffering from behavior disorders. It also saddened me today at the NGO where you are confronted with orphans rescued from the street, you see their livign conditions which are sadly better than what they had before and there are people who still complain. Who sigh complaining that they are missing optimal beach time. What is registering before your eyes that leaves you only focused on how this eating away at beach time despite the destitution around you

I walk through these streets and see beauty but I also see stark poverty. I see people who lack access to water and sanitation. And these same people are hauling 50 pounds of wares on their backs struggling through the beach hoping to feed their families that night. I sit under my umbrella on the beach and watch them walk by and i think about their life. How many mouths is he feeding? Is he happy? Going to Parachi (see below) and seeing the island of the Caraceros how can I complain that my shower is lukewarm, or the bellman doesnt always understand me. When I do complain it should be tempered with perspective. I like to think I'm tolerant. That I am not judgmental on people. That I have an open mind. But seeing the behavior of my peers today I felt judgmental. I could not see the other perspective. My friend Nicole said that there are all types of people and they happen to be different from me. Instead of judging I should accept that not everyone has similar views on life. I'm sad at their behavior and I'm sad at my own judgments towards them.

17 comments:

Maleeha said...

i think you shouldnt worry about being judgmental of your peers in this instance. i honestly think we get too PC with trying so hard not to be judgmental. if they are doing something against your value system, you should be able to recognize it as such without feeling guilty about it.

its good that you are gaining so much perspective. i think that the same perspectives can be gained right here at home. i work in downtown San Fran, CA now and walking to and from the bus station i see SO many homeless people, lying there on the sidewalk, and i just walk right past. perspective can be had right outside your doorstep, but traveling definetly makes it more obvious.

anyway, i havent been commenting a lot since i've been busy, but i've been reading your updates and enjoying them. keep it up :) and come back safe and sound :)

Aisha said...

Maleeha! Glad you are doing well. Ofcourse you can get these experiences in your own country you are definitely right. But here we are taking a pointed interest and studying the situations in Brazil. Its not just a homeless guy we meet. We are meeting with NGO~s dealing with the problem. We are full out confronted with it and still people dont pause to reflect though its held up in plain unavoidable light where they cannot look away. Do you see what Im saying? Exactly what you say of the same issues are in the US, yes and thats why its shocking they snapped pictures of misbehaving children. Woud you do that in the US:]? We and they are not so different as we put them out to be. Its frustrating! Im glad you are enjoying the writing. It means a lot since I squeeze time wherever I can find it to update :)

Bee Amma said...

Taking those pictures of children is really rather bizarre. I don't think you should be sad at what you think is your own judgements toward them. At least you realise these things, think about them, and do something about it. Thats a great quality that only few people have. Your trip sounds fantastic and like maleeha said above, i am reading but sorry i havent commented in a while, lifes a bit hectic :)

mayya said...

I've just caught up on your trip posts and I'm glad you're having a really nice time and learning experience :) this post saddens me :/
Sometimes I feel that this "othering" process is built in human nature because no matter what on some level of consciousness we always make a distinction between ourselves and others... I hope its not true though and I'm sure there are lots of people in the world who treat every human on the same level

mystic-soul said...

Yes Aisha they are more happy.

Surveys constantly showed that people in poorest nation lead happiest life. You know why?. Because they have less expectations from life and they help each other more. They have more close family ties. As they say in punjabi. "Sanjhe sukh te Sanjhe dukh".

Life is not fair and never will be. The most important thing is, what kind of life you have spend in the 'given' conditions.

Abdusalaam said...

Very heartfelt. I enjoyed reading it.

momyblogR said...

All of my life, friends and family have descibed me as being tolerant, accepting and just plain easy going. However, none of those people ever mistaken that for me not having a voice or taking a stand.

I would never call your observation judgemental or closed minded. I would most certainly see you as being completely in touch, aware and totally within your right to feel unhappy with the behavior.

Your peers lack of compassion for the people and especially children would have caused me to be consided a bit more than just a little judgemental. I'm afraid they may of had a smidge of my mind. My goodness, a camera instead of a helping hand for a child in possible harms way. Yup, a piece of the ole' gray matter.....that's for sure!

It's amazing the things you see when your out or your regular element, huh? Gosh, there is so much of that everywhere.

I agree with your friend, people are different and don't always share the same view. I suppose that is what make the world balance so nicely on it's axis.

But in this case, what it comes down to, is some people care and some don't.

Wow, now I guess I'm the judgemental one. I am not at all by nature but to here that these poor people were treated with such disregard by ones that are much better off and are from my part of the world, sorta ruffles my feathers. Whew, gosh....didn't mean to vent, lol!

So happy to hear from you and hope all is going well.

Be safe.

Ciao!

Siva said...

Hi! You seem to be a sensitive person. Sensitive to your surroundings. It's a rare quality. Most people just walk by and mind their own business. To be judgemental is to be human. What makes it right is one's own sense of right and wrong. There are some universal values that almost everyone will agree to and that includes helping a child who doesn't know better. So, don't feel guilty about your feelings.

mystic-soul said...

I learned something tonight reading from above posts like from momyblogr, siva and others.. Thanks all

Mia said...

You are human that is all. None of us are perfect even if we strive for it we will never achieve it. You found what you feel is a defect in yourself. Now that you know it means you learned something right? That's how we grow homegirl we live, we learn, we change what we can.

ASH said...

You are right about people's bubbles, and I think the more extreme the poverty or negative scenes the more they insulate themselves. I saw this among other Americans when I was in Africa. I cannot understand it at all, but I have never been wired that way....I want to experience it all bad and good.

Aisha said...

Bee Amna, aw thanks for your warm words. I love how your screen name changes so I have to always figure out, Yay Kohn Hain??? :)

Mayya maybe ppl dont want to feel it beacuse they won~t know how to handle it. I dont know. It was very frustrating to experience though.

Mystic I ruminated over your words today. Those with less expect less. That really could explain a lot in countries like Brazil where rags to riches stories are practically unheard of. Thanks for the insight. It was a lightbulb moment.

Abdusalaam thank you!

Mommyblogr, yes! Its so frustrating when they have been blesed with so much simply for being born in the USA they cant take five minutes of their privelged life to help someone who desperately nbeeds it. The bad thing is some of those people are friends. Its very hard for me to deal with them the same. I feel awakward. How does one handle that. Any advice?

Siva thanks! In the PC world we live in its hard to just accept we have certain views and may think certain things are wrong and that is okay. Thanks for the reminde.r

Mia true :) We are an evolving work of art.

Ash maybe they cant handle it if they face it.. the horror the horror what have you. I dont know.

momyblogR said...

I don't at all envy your position. Just this week I've struggled with something very much the same that I'd love to share but perhaps this isn't the place.

Maybe the best thing to do it lead by example. Some of the best lessons I've learned and most important things I've heard with great clarity where both without words. Mostly by my parents but there were also others who were just as influential.

With your passion for so much and compassion for so many, people, I believe your friends included will eventually understand and perhaps one day follow your lead. I myself have taken many things away from your posts and sometimes just your pictures, and I have never met you.

I'm also a big believer in timing. Most anything can be voiced and even received is a welcoming manner if the timing is right. I have no doubt you will know when that is, should you decided to bring your feelings regarding their behavior to their attention.

That is something that I've learned with getting older and going through some tough times as part of the fall out of just speaking my mind in a reactive way. Although my reasons were justified and my heart was in the right place, my lack of maturity and ability to hold my tongue often reeked havoc for me. :(

I'm not sure I've been any help whatsoever.....but my goodness, I've certainly had lots to say, lol!

Take good care!

Ciao!

Tee said...

Aisha, there is a difference between being judgemental and seeing what is true.

Your peers uses the children. They made a concious decision to get a good photo op, rather than show compassion.

You are not judgemental - you are speaking truth and seeking justice. Exactly what a future lawyer should do.

momyblogR said...

Ok, where are you? Should we be concerned?

:):)

Champ - Love Hound said...

I think you 're lost somewhere in the Beauty of Brazil. Hope you 're doin' good. *Smiles*

God bless you.....

Baji said...

Aisha,
I am so glad to see that you are getting so much out of this experience. Thank you for taking the time to share you honest introspections.

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