"To see the world for a moment as something rich and strange is the private reward of many a discovery." -Edward M. Purcell
She looks like something that would eat it’s young.
Heard this on NPR today. It got me thinking about several things, also wondering what the Occupy movement could have accomplished (especially in some smaller cities) if they had a more focused message like this one. I think they would have turned more heads, at least.
You know those infamous pictures of the Chinese countryside—delicate pearls of sun glittering off the terraced rice paddies? Have you spent hours looking at them alongside pictures of India’s markets, South America’s ruins, Africa’s villages, and Australia’s outback? I have. You may be one of the lucky ones who have seen all these landmarks in person, but most of you, like me, probably have to quell your wanderlust with Google image searches and National Geographic. For those of us who still have bucket-lists imploding with travel wishes, there are always the inspiring stories of others to keep us held over as we fantasize about the grandeur of these destinations via our handy-dandy laptops.
A travel nuance that never ceases to inspire me, however, is how an image draws out our emotions and expectations—and how that image is ALWAYS transformed in our perspective when we see the actual thing. The terraced rice paddies in China are one image, for example, that have been called stunning, majestic, and even otherworldly. Really, any grandiose adjective could appropriately describe these landscapes. But when we stand in front of these images—our perspectives not limited by the edges of a photograph—we see the people that live among them. And it is in these moments of realization that one of the greatest gifts of travel begins to unwrap; we see people as components of the once pristine images that we romanticized, and these people forever change our perceptions.
The Chinese rice paddies, for instance, can be the glittering fields of heaven or they can be the hard work and the spirit of farmers. Working in rice fields is not for the faint of heart—imagine yourself knee deep in leech-infested muck, bent at a 90° angle from sunrise to sunset, and with little distraction from the repetition of planting each, individual rice stalk by hand. Many elderly Chinese women have difficulty walking because of years spent bent over the fields. One plot of land earns about USD$15 in rural parts of China. Rice is a high maintenance way of subsisting, if you ask me.
We stare at the stunning panoramic images of rice paddies that seem to contradict the harsh realities of the people living among them, and we search for reasoning or justification for this discrepancy. How can something of such beauty be so taxing on the lives of countless people? Sometimes I think the only way to grasp such an illusive concept is to just ask. Just ask the people that live in that landscape about their lives. Their answers may surprise you. They are most likely not oblivious to the fact that their homes and their land are romanticized by wealthy travelers. Does this anger them? Are they upset that their hard work is rarely recognized as a component of this landscape’s beauty? One Chinese farmer said something I will never forget. His comment partially answers these questions:
“We are peasants. Life is very hard for peasants. But this is our life, so we must be happy with it.”
This exemplifies the true definition of the SPIRIT of people. I learned that spirit involves incredible resilience. It is choosing to be happy despite hardships, and choosing to give thanks for a few possessions in a world overrun by material goods. It is this spirit that has forever changed the way that I fantasize about travel. Images of famous landmarks are no longer unearthly and unreal destinations. In fact, these places are very connected to the earth, and intertwined with the people that live off that piece of earth. Such perception is a gift that can only be granted by travel; it is a gift that enables us to see a whole new level of majesty that we never knew existed.
I have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), and this excites me:
To my knowledge, this is the first documentary ever produced about POTS. POTS is a condition that will really benefit from awareness, especially in the medical community, since it is so misunderstood…even by doctors. I’m one of the lucky ones who was diagnosed, but so many people go undiagnosed or, worse, are told they have a psychiatric disorder. I know from experience what it is like to live with these symptoms, not know what is happening to your body, not be treated, and on top of that have doctors and friends accuse you of being crazy. PLEASE watch & share this video so that POTS becomes an understood disorder among doctors and the general public. With proper awareness, so many people (especially young women) don’t have to live their lives with an unknown condition, without treatment and constantly questioning their sanity. Thanks & mad love to all the people in my life that have been cool and supportive :)