I was stationed in rural northern Japan for two years
in the late 1950’s. I remember small people all having
the same hair color and eye shape. Some friendly, some
not. Walls made of seaweed. Muddy streets. Wooden
shoes. No indoor toilets because they smelled bad.
Pachinko parlors where we could gamble on vertical
machines with little silver balls bouncing on pegs. Poor
roads between cities. It would be interesting to visit
now and see fifty some odd years of progress. It has
changed and I have changed. We wouldn’t recognize
I traveled to France and spent two weeks in Paris in the
early 1980’s. I remember women selling little squares
of toilet paper in rest rooms. Store proprietors who
don’t tolerate handling the merchandise. Late leisurely
wonderful dinners. Carrying my wallet in a breast
pocket on the subway to avoid pickpockets. Many
tourist attractions. Hard to get a decent room with no
On the same trip I spent ten days in Germany on
business. There was no speed limit on the Autobahn.
Pubs making their own beer. Good and filling food. Lots
of history, castles and factories. Serious business being
done. Boisterous people. After almost a month in
Europe I was tired out. We crammed too much into
each day because time was limited.
Jamaica was driving from the wrong side of the car on
the wrong side of the road. Few road signs out of town.
Big white crabs crossing the streets. Resorts and hotels
are the biggest employers. Tourists are a constant
parade. It’s a continuous party. We probably all look
alike to the Jamaicans.
Canada is speed in kilometers, many small towns, lots
of lakes, long cold winters, skaters on frozen rivers,
French language in Quebec, friendly people. Living in
the northern US for the majority of my life I have been
to Canada many more times than Mexico. I know it better.
Mexico was Spanish language, desert near the Texas
border, sage brush, hot climate, slow moving people,
vultures circling. It didn’t inspire me much but I didn’t
fit in well. I felt like someone they just put up with to
gain a few bucks. I am sure there is much more to
Mexico than that.
I have the same kind of mental snap shots from all
over the United States. Different feelings about
different places based on what I experienced there.
An interesting thing is in addition to travels I lived
for long periods in Michigan, Indiana, Texas, Japan,
Kansas, Ohio and New York. I have met and spoken
with people from every part of the world. In the ways
that count they turned out to be just like me.
No matter what color they are, which language or
accent, what habits each individual person has
formed we all have the same basic bodies and minds.
We react to the same things in the same ways. When
we get to know each other we are surprised at how
much we have in common.
It took a while for this truth to penetrate but it is
worth knowing. People all over the world are the
same. Think about it.
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