Monday, February 23, 2009

Hong Kong and Post Offices

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at an international conference on special education in Hong Kong. It was amazing, enlightening, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Although the picture with me under the umbrella does not do justice to the crowds of people, yes, it was hugely crowded. There were people everywhere, in every nook and cranny, every street and side street and scrunched into every mode of transportation. Even without my red umbrella I stood out as a tall, blonde woman from the USA. Small children turned to stare at me with wonder.
It is absolutely astonishing to me how our world has grown smaller and smaller. Just as small children turned at me and stared, I did the same thing at the age of three. I spent my first twelve years in small towns in eastern Washington. I had not seen a person with dark skin before that tender age. I ran around the corner at a post-office and stopped and stared, completely astonished. The woman kindly allowed me to inspect her as she laughed at (with?) my horribly embarrassed mother. From that very small life I led at three I became, in Hong Kong, subject to the same scrutiny from children (and some adults) that had never seen a white, blonde woman towering over them at 5'9 1/2"! Living in Seattle and most other places in the US provides the wonderfully rich opportunity to meet, talk to, work with and do business with many different people and cultures. Recently I stood in the line at the post office and while whistling away ten minutes of wait time I saw and heard people from all around the world. China, Japan, Russia, India, Indonesia, Africa and all the smaller and discrete cultures in between. This was not the post office that I experienced at age 3. I am so lucky to not only have different ethnicities, cultures and worlds come to me but I can go to them. I did not travel out of the country until I was an adult ...and with children. I listen to my own children discuss their possible travels to far away lands and I wonder if we all realize how fortunate we are to have such opportunities. I am so curious about the world. I don't know that I have enough time to go everywhere I want but I need to spend more time listening and learning from the people that are in my own post office. Don't you just want to sit down with the man on the ferry below and have tea? Ask him about his travels? His first post office encounter? Who does he see in his post office now? Any tall, blond women from the US?

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