Everywhere I look reminds me that I am in a unfamiliar place. The language is different. School uniforms uniquely reflect traditions and culture from the surrounding community. Transportation, food, and night markets all tell tales of a community that invites one to explore and experience. While there are reference points linking back to old memories, and images, there is much to be heard, seen, and absorbed.
As I look around me there are three distinct reactions among fellow visitors. There is a minority that continues to live within their normal bubble; almost as if they want to touch the unfamiliar yet remain untouched. Common techniques this group shares among themselves is sticking with familiar food and even restaurant chains. McDonalds and KFC are welcome havens, to be embraced and frequented, never ignored or avoided.
There is another minority that appears to have forgotten their roots. Dress is a foreign variation of local, blissfully ignoring time, setting, and statement to others present. As hard as this group tries, the fact that they are strangers in a foreign land cannot be ignored or erased. One wonders if the anything from the local experience and details has gone beyond the superficial.
As critical as I am of the first two extremes, I find myself admiring a third. They are defined by something beyond the externals. It is as if the words respect, open and curious, and experiential have become guiding principles. Each local nuance is an invitation and sign of something greater. It is a living variation on the role instruments often play with those that hear; the sound of “Trumpets and trombones and horns: [tell me] it’s festival day, a feast to God!” (Psalm 81.3)
There are signs all around me. Each leads in several different directions. My actions will tell the tale, revealing far more about myself than I am naturally willing to share. I like the idea of using the guiding principles that respect the history and culture than I find. The gift others are willing to share is an wonderful invitation that deserves my respect.