Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worlds Apart

I've had a bit of an international 'run' with blog readers in the last few hours and the sequence has been as follows.....India, USA, USA, Malaysia, UK, USA, Spain, Italy, USA, Ireland, Denmark, Canada, UK, USA, Greece, Spain and Lesotho.

Lesotho ? Yes Lesotho became my 112th 'unique' country and welcome to you over there in Maseru, the capital city. Now if like me, you've heard of Lesotho and know it's in Africa but don't know exactly where it is, well look it up ! I did.

I try and learn something from those who find my blog - well not the individuals of course unless they leave a comment and friendships blossom - and like to check where they come from. I mean why else would I checkout Lesotho this morning ??

For one thing, I love that its name means "the land of the people who speak Sesotho" Brilliant. Much better than "the states that are united" or "the kingdom that is united" or even "we are the Mongolia that isn't inner."

Reading about its history, words like Dutch settlers, British rule, independence, military junta, civil war and poverty all appear with some predictability and with AIDS affecting a third of its population and 40% living below the poverty line ($1.25/day), it's no tourist location.

I now feel a strange connection with my reader in Lesotho even though it was probably a one off visit. What does he or she do there ? Any family ? What is day-to-day life like in such a place ? I know more about the surface of Mars than I do about Lesotho !

It reminds me that, via the internet, I have the world at my fingertips and yet, like in the real world, I rarely travel beyond my comfort zones of the USA and UK. I once tried to befriend people from other nationalities as I wanted to learn about their lives but those attempts didn't last long. I should try again. Maybe everyone should try. Think what it would do for international harmony if we had daily chats with people from countries we know little about and therefore fear or distrust. Chat with the citizens and not simply hear and believe what their often unelected leaders have to say. How about a contact in China or N. Korea, Afghanistan or Iraq ?

Sadly I found that, after a while, the fact that we had so little in common led to the demise of the daily chats as opposed to encouraging them. When you analyse chats, how much of them revolve around shared experiences ? TV or sport, recreation or hobbies ? When they are not shared or understood, then what's left ? The weather ?

We then use the language barrier to make our escape and justify not wanting to chat anymore. It's much easier to just pick up again with Charles or Hank and talk about The Gunners or those Bears, Coronation Street or American Idol. They speak our language (Hank, not so much) and so when deciding if we should have another try with Hiro Yashimoto in Tokyo or even Ntsu Mokhehle in Maseru, we take the easy way out and give up. It's a shame.

America is known as being insular and although as a nation it generously gives aid and support to many countries around the world, I think it's fair to say that its citizens know very little about those countries or even where they are. I never cease to be amazed that when people here find out I'm from England, no one ever asks me anything about life there. I usually get something about when THEY were once there during the war and that's it. We British are known for not bothering to learn a foreign language and assume everyone should speak English anyway. Is it any wonder WE are disliked and distrusted ?

I donno what the answer is. I'm in no position to preach as like I said, I can't even be bothered to type a few words regularly with anyone for whom English isn't their native tongue. (Sorry, Cletus in Louisiana but you DO try, mate).

Even with all the modern means of free and easy communication at our disposal, talking with Johnny Foreigner is always going to be an effort most of us aren't willing to make.

So although my visitor from Lesotho may never see this, thank you for at least making me think about these things today. I'll probably not rush off to find someone to talk with before lunch but maybe later....maybe later.

1 comment:

rhymeswithplague said...

At last! Something in which I exceed you (I mean besides body weight and years on this planet)! And that something is "unique countries" on my blogroll. I just counted my list of flags saved and it's 121...

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