Two years ago, I would not have thought that my life would take me where I am now. I am nursing, not as a career, but as a volunteer, writing professionally and creatively, living in Honduras, speaking in Spanish more than English, and all together, living a more fulfilling and enjoyable life. Want to learn how to quit your own job and travel the world for a year while pursuing your dreams? Check out the first of a series of my articles on traveling the world for a year without a job at Endless Trek Magazine.
I recently was discussing with a friend in Copan the word culture and how we both thought it was often misused to make excuses for unacceptable treatment of women and children. Until she had brought it up, I didn’t realize that I myself had used it as an excuse in my writing and conversation. The word “machismo” could very easily be exchanged for the American idiom “boys will be boys,” both placing the unacceptable acts of men in the category of “culture.” When these words are used, somehow rape, domestic violence, and cheating become more acceptable because they are part of the “culture.”
I am frequently asked by friends and family, how can you live in Honduras where men treat women like they do? This question makes me upset when people ask it, and for some time, I did not understand why. I now see that the root of my irritation is that not so long ago America’s “culture” was one of female oppression, and the phrase “children should be seen and not heard” was used frequently to ignore the voices of the innocent.
It was strong people, that’s right, PEOPLE, not just women, who helped make the freedoms of women and children possible in the U.S. Americans seem to forget that this change only really happened in the last 100 years, and we lived in a similar world as women and children do here. While the unacceptable behaviours of men in Honduras are ignored on a regular basis, and that is termed machismo, I believe that way of thinking is changing, not just here, but in the world.
I see strong children and females all around me. I am reminded, that while many battles have been won, it is an on-going war to change the mindset of a world that has been primarily patriarchal, with women and children seen as possessions, not human beings of equal standing, for most of its history.
I look at the male children around me, and I ask myself where and how can they learn to be different than their fathers? How will they learn to be champions of women and children and call themselves feminists too? So often, I see men pushed to the side in the feminist movement, but they can be just as much a part of it and are necessary to it’s progress. They can show what true culture is.
By definition, culture is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” True culture is when people come together with all their knowledge, wisdom, experience, and history to create a statement of who they are as a people and what they have achieved together. As a cultural statement of the world, I hope someday at the base of all our achievements will be equality and respect.
More confused than ever about what I should be doing and where I should be…everyone keeps asking what are my plans…maybe I just don’t have any, and I don’t want to…at least the more people ask me, the less I know…wander forever…is that an option? I feel like in life we all get so caught up in what we should be doing. But I realize that everything we do is based out of fear of death, our one inevitable truth. Every day is based in this fear. We are running out of time to love, to work, to travel, to have children, to get that item we always wanted. We need them now because tomorrow we might not be here. We need to have everything perfect and in its place, as it should be, don’t want to miss out. Death is looming in our future, and we want to live life to its fullest before death captures us. I think if I could embrace death though, I could then embrace life…living would not be avoidance of death but acceptance of its part in living. By inviting death in, perhaps we would all begin to live.
The ocean is where I feel most in touch with my true being, and it is here on the fringe of New York I begin to say good-bye to the USA and hello to Ireland across the sea. New York was more amazing than I could have imagined. From the top of the Empire state building, I felt like Thomas and I were saying, “Okay world, we’re ready for you.” I am interested to see where we both end up next year. Life is a big question mark, and embracing that is a lovely thing. By being open to anything, we will both end up on adventures more life-changing than anything we could have planned for. Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” is on the radio as we drive back through Brooklyn and I feel nothing could be more appropriate. I contemplate the week…Comedy Cellar surprise guest Louis CK, Belmont Raceway horse betting, Don’t Tell Mama piano bar spontaneous birthday, transport to China in Flushings, reflections at Far Rockway Beach, best pisco drink at Pegu Club, memorable blues dance with stranger in a speak easy behind a tile shop, thai lunch with old friend, running not away or towards…just running, NY hipster comparison to Portland (I think Portland has NY beat as far as this scene goes), graffiti art inspiration, sleepy car ride dreams of NY lights, karaoke dancing with cop while trying to be gangster…life is good.
A man running, a gun shot, life stops for a moment, then starts again. A new shirt, the blood stained one discarded in another life, he keeps running, only to be shot again. Will he ever get where he is trying to go? Is he running away from something or towards something? It seems that his efforts are futile. History continues to repeat itself. Is this not the sad story of all humans? Our past is always chasing us and our future is always leaving us behind. It is only when he stops and emotion takes over that the now becomes the key to this madness. Anger, sadness, joy, passion. The animal within lets loose, a cacaphony of colorful sound vibrates through the floor. A desire to reach out to honest beauty raises timid fingers to feel connection. She touches my hand through a water barrier, but her eyes tell me we are closer than I have ever been with another human being. Her heart speaks to mine and I am free to dance, to embrace life and explore without inhibition.
Thomas is meant to be a New Yorker. This was confirmed by a zipcar ride to Flushings that involved riding peoples’ asses at top speed, spontaneous honking, and swirving quickly in and out of traffic. Cars here have bumper protectors for obvious reasons. I spent much of the time during the drive holding my breath, peaking between fingers, and making little peeps of terror each time I felt my life might come to an end. If I were a bicyclist in NY, I would wear body armour. No one else here seems to share this sentiment. In fact, bicyclists seem to have a f*** you kind of attitude and zip amongst the traffic helmetless ignoring traffic lights and cutting off cars. When I mentioned to Thomas he was more terrifying than any taxi driver I have been with in any country, he replied, “This is not as bad as Vietnam, there it is like playing chicken.” My mistake…I thought that was what we were doing.
Colored cast of characters
Nanny, mammy, mother?
Mothers bear children
But who loves them?
Boy kiss boy beauty
Blending of bow ties
Children see true beauty
Simple, wrinkled beauty
When does judgement and prejudice replace truth?
I wish I could have captured his face, the peace that comes with patience. His gentle, open awareness drew little ones to him. As he walked away, haunched, remembering his younger years so full of optomistic discovery, a knowing smile, acceptance in his being, I wish I knew him and the life he lived to arrive at this enlightened state.
Why aren’t there more words to describe the inbetween? Most words are so black and white, but isn’t life really about the gray?
Xenophobia-unreasonably fearful of or hating anyone or anything foreign or strange
Cacaphony-(music) frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand