I have a really good sistah-friend named Chris, whom I met on St. Maarten and who lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Chris has visited Florence, AL numerous times and loves revisiting. She is in awe of the terrain, the warmth of the people, and the cornbread. For the sake of this magazine, Chris and I discussed diversity and realized we have something in common.
We do not restrict our life experiences to our race or culture. According to Chris, in order to expand and grow in awareness, it is important for all people to explore “outside of their comfort zone.” The zone for Chris is rooted in Arubian, Surinamese, and European cultures. For me, they didn’t call me “Slick Vic, the Chicago Chick” in college for nothing.
Admittedly, Chris has traveled and lived worldwide, and I have also done some traveling and have lived outside of the USA. This is good reason for jumping in — exploring. However, please know it is by choice that this garden gate opens. A quick story:
My family and I had lived on the island of St. Maarten for almost a year, overlapping the time around Carnival. Carnival is a celebration held two weeks near Easter. On St. Maarten, the daily celebration takes place in Carnival Village, where food vendors set up, and entertainment comes from all over the Caribbean and the world. Fun, huh? Not for the kids and me. We didn’t get Carnival Village. Why were all the kids running around, and why were there so many people aimlessly walking the grounds? We decided Carnival was not for us, and we closed the gate to experiencing this cultural event.
Then a realization came. The next year, we began to water our garden with the flow of the people – the food, the music, and the way they moved and socialized. Carnival was a big part of that process. The Village, a big vacant field, was a meeting place for the island. Once a year, for two weeks, and every day, folks gathered their families around their favorite table in the Village. St. Maarten is a busy island, which thrives as a service industry. This Village was a way for locals to connect with and celebrate each other. Of course, visitors were welcomed too. Yes, kids ran rampant. They could, there, without worry.
By the following year, our daughter, Camille, laughed when Bob and I were jumping in the parade of Jouvert Morning. Our son, Miles, jumped in the children’s parade. By choice, we were in a garden with flowers totally different from those we were familiar with – outside of our comfort zone, and we loved it.
Do you have to travel the world to have new experiences? No. This is an invitation. Choose to open a new garden gate. Attend one of many local or international festivals that take you outside of your comfort zone, www.fest300.com. Go to an art gallery, a Yoga or African dance class. Attend the cultural events your area has to offer. Open a dialogue about race relations or a faith you don’t understand. Talk to a farmer, or a man grilling barbecue. Eat some sushi, pom, or cornbread! Jump in! This is how to expand and grow and receive a harvest beyond belief.
Featured image: Jennifer Richardson Calcao
Vicki Goldston, Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Vicki comes to us as a traveler who sees value in all creation, and she is always eager to see life through the eyes of other fabulous folks.