Taking things for granted
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted something thoughtful here… but I’m sitting here this morning in a Starbucks, which is my habit every other Tuesday morning, and it’s making me ruminate. Living in San Francisco, I frequently find myself stepping back and reminding myself that I live somewhere very beautiful, and I shouldn’t take it for granted. I think I don’t, but, there are always moments when things really pop out. Like, here I am sitting by a window, and all sorts of interesting people are walking by and stopping to take a picture of this:
But I see it at least every week! It reminds me of the interesting places I have visited, and the people who live there. I’m continually fascinated by the idea of connecting people together, and encouraging people from different communities to talk with each other. I live in a city that is a tourist destination, yet I take it for granted – and when I visit Kyoto, or Sydney, or Buenos Aires, I am that tourist. But here are all these interesting people visiting, from cities around the world, and for the most part I can’t talk with them. I hear them speaking Russian, and Hungarian, and French, and Mandarin, and they may be here but they may as well be on the other side of the globe for as much access to each other as it provides us. They are here, as observers, but not participants. And I am the same way when I travel anywhere outside of my language zone. In Sydney or London it is easier to get integrated and experience the place, but in Kyoto, Paris, etc how can I talk to the locals and find out what their life is really like? How can I help the people visiting my own city to get connected with it as a participant? Hmm. Makes me ponder.
When MB and I were in Kyoto recently, we talked with three groups of kids while visiting temples – they all had come to the temple to talk with English speakers, to practice their English and to ask us questions about our thoughts on Japan. I guess it was obvious that we weren’t natives hahahah 🙂 One group in particular asked us about world peace and gave us a little bracelet of origami cranes; I thought that was fantastic. Maybe I should hang out by the gate to Chinatown here and start introducing myself to people and learning their languages – okay, maybe not, they’d probably think I was a stalker. Oh wait, I live in San Francisco, we’ve got people doing crazy stuff like that all the time. Hahahhahahahaha 🙂
Outside of my window in a slightly different direction is a place I always visited when I used to come to San Francisco for business:
It’s a French-style cafe but is filled with newspapers and magazines from throughout Europe. I always find it fascinating. And I wonder how life is different for people who grow up in Europe surrounded by languages. Do they hate it? Do they love it? I suspect they just assume it is life as normal, but for us in the U.S. there hasn’t been a lot of need to learn other languages – but the need is increasing as the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. grows. Where I am sitting now I am surrounded mostly by Spanish-speaking and Mandarian-speaking folks, and it is hard to peer into their lives without being able to communicate. How to bridge the gap?
Life has been interesting lately, with many interesting possibilities popping up – things to work on, people to talk with, directions to take or not. I keep thinking about my strong desire to foster connectedness among people. It is the one thing that just keeps popping up for me. I talked a bit about it in Japan at CoFesta, and I have some plans in that direction but it is going to take some time/investment for me to grow it. I guess the question is, how do I balance that with paying work? I guess that’s always the question, and I shouldn’t take for granted that I have the option to choose at this moment.
Anyway… thoughts for an overcast Tuesday morning.