When we’re at home reading the headlines, watching the news, we can so easily reduce people of other cultures and countries to their problems.

I was reminded of this when listening to a recent broadcast of Tapestry on CBC Radio (their podcasts are free). I was also reminded of an objection I received to a post I wrote in which I suggested that Cuba has a unique sense of luxury. This is a bit of a response.

We are always more than the sum of our problems.
Tariq Ramadan was the guest being interviewed on Tapestry. He spoke about our
pluralistic society, identity, the ‘other’ and fear. He also spoke about
the fact that some countries face more problems than others but that we
should see past these problems to appreciate the culture. He then
related a story about a class he taught that changed his life.

He had brought a social worker from Colombia to the class to speak about the problems there – about the drugs, violence, gangs — because the class had a solidarity project on Colombia. But the social worker
spoke about the culture. He described the way the people danced. And
then he started to dance. And, after 20 minutes or so, he finally
stopped and explained that before speaking about the problems he wanted
to speak about Colombians as human beings. They laugh and they dance, he
explained. And they have problems. This shifted Ramadan’s view of

One of the great things about travel is that we get to see the people and their culture unfiltered by the media. We get to see the good and not-so-good whether we are traveling in North America, Europe or
anywhere else in the world. Traveling makes it difficult to reduce a
people to their problems. It allows us to see them ‘dance’.

That goes for Cuba as well. I have visited twice and yes, the country struggles to keep the shelves stocked and their cars are old, but the people smile big, genuine smiles and yes, they dance. They are much more
than the sum of their problems.

Looking for photos.
Do you have photos of happy people in places that the headlines portray as troubled? I would love to host a gallery of smiling faces from
around the world here. My intention is not to minimize the need to
address problems but to celebrate the human spirit. Please send
them to me
and I’ll add them to this post.

February, 2010 – Wild Coast of South Africa. It’s hard to see their faces but intense play
always results in smiles. Thanks SA-Venues.

East Timor, 2008. Thanks to Gary at Everything Everywhere

This Sikkimese woman is about 80 and carrying a huge basket of wood on her back while walking up a long steep mountain road … but she still looks very merry! Thanks Mariellen of BreatheDreamGo


India, 2007. Thanks to Maria at iwannagothere.

South Africa, Date: 2009. Thanks to Sandy Salle of Live The Magic of Africa.

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