Please, Take Me With You

“He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted…”

“Get me a visa for your country.” “Take my daughter with you.” “Find my son a job in your town.” I can no longer count the number of times I have been asked to magically procure a visa for the USA or Canada for Indians and Nepalis who believe that life in the west must be better. I could never understand it. Sure, we may have more money and toys, but they still have family, community, and time, priceless gifts our money can’t buy. Why would anyone leave behind a peaceful life surrounded by friends for endless hours of stressful work, a life lived purely for money.

It clicked for me one day as I was talking to a girl my age with whom I had been staying with in a small Nepali village. The village had never had a western stop by, and they all excitedly visited me and invited me to their homes. At one point after making the rounds (drinking tea with the neighbors) the girl I was staying with told me (with her brother’s translation): “When I come visit you in the USA the people in your village will be just as curious about me!” How could I explain to her that no one would care, that absolutely no one would take notice of her no matter how new she was. That she would be isolated and alone, because the intricate and vital sense of community she has grown up with does not exist where I come from. She told me she would sell fruit at the side of the road like she does here in Nepal. I gently explained that, unfortunately, we don’t normally buy our food that way, because we visit big super markets. She told me happily that she would work in one of those instead. What she didn’t know is that working in a super market is nothing like the laid-back life of selling a bit of fruit at the side of the road.

It clicked for me, that the reason so many Indians and Nepalis have asked me to take them to my country is because they believe that the west is exactly like Nepal… just with more money. They don’t realize that the west is far from perfect, that having more material goods has made a money-centric society that no longer holds the charm of countries such as India and Nepal. There is no way to explain this, especially with the language barrier, so I tend to settle with a “your country is beautiful, you would not be happy where I live.”

11 thoughts on “Please, Take Me With You

  1. Human nature, always thinking there are greener pastures… You must have an old soul ;0)

  2. Reblogged this on Races With Elephants and commented:
    I read this today from Shirine Taylor’s brilliant blog (awanderingphoto.wordpress.com), and it resonated so well with me that I wanted to share it here.

    Where I live we have every opportunity to be rich, well-known and successful, but our society is stone hard cold. Cold as the cash we live for.
    While so many of my friends in India suffer without the safety net our money provides, so many of my friends here in Australia suffer without the humanity that money removes. While we live in a world of stress and endless competition, they live in a world of stress and endless struggle for survival. Neither extreme has the answer!!! If only we COULD, as Shirine suggests, fuse the two. But with power in the West and the West in love with money, can we ever hope to find an equilibrium?

    Food for thought…chewing, re-chewing and stewing over.

  3. I think it’s also because people always think somewhere else will be better than where they are. Seeing a place through the eyes of someone that has grown and lived there for a long time is very different from the eyes of a traveller. They don’t have a real point of comparison to judge if where they are is actually good or not. Plus the West sells a dream of a better life and it’s easy to bite into it when all you see are chances to improve your life and the ones of your family.

    It personally took me a long while to realise that elsewhere does not always mean better. It’s very easy to imagine life would be better in a different place when life is difficult.

  4. I appreciate your thoughts on this, and I’m going to add mine. Through travel, I’ve also come to realize how incredibly fortunate I am– having been born in the USA, where public education is mandated, and having access to countless opportunities are available to me simply because I happened to be born into a middle class family in Eugene, OR, USA.

    Traveling in Latin America (mostly in El Salvador), I’ve received similar requests. The requests come from children that I love dearly, having known them for years, and their parents. Though I love the island community (Tasajera) that I’ve come to know as my second home, I have the privilege to remove myself from it. I have the opportunity to go there, and learn from the people, and remove myself from their community, flying back to the United States to live my life. In many ways, I prefer to live the life that my Salvadoran friends lead. But no one ever asked them if they wanted to live that way. On the Island of Tasajera, luxury is having concrete floor instead of dirt. In that community, wealth is education, and having the means to send your child to school instead of having them work at home, because there simply isn’t enough money to spare an extra set of hands.

    One of my friends from Tasajera came to the United States illegally to work, because there isn’t a job that someone without education can get in El Salvador that will pay enough to put a roof on his house. He doesn’t want to live in the United States, but there are opportunities here that do not exist in El Salvador. I know that other countries hold other, perhaps better, opinions of the United States, but I think most people would rather stay in their homes than go to an unknown country.

    Without the complications of modern technology, human connections certainly become more important. I will forever hold community and the ideals I’ve learned from my Salvadoran friends over any material possession I have or money I make. But I think it’s also important to remember my privilege. I did not ask to be born into my beautiful loving family, in a country where I can have a reasonable expectation to live comfortably if I work hard enough. That privilege sometimes disgusts me, but I am also wildly grateful for it.

    And because I have privilege, I have an obligation to ensure that I do not waste it. Using those fundamental ideals that I learned through my travels as a compass, I’ll try to help give the opportunities I have to those who do not have them. Because everyone deserves to be able to choose the path of the life they lead. Everyone deserves to have the same access to the opportunities that I have been blessed to receive.

    Anyways, those were just some thoughts I had on reading this post. I hope your travels continue to make you think and learn and love life more, and that you are safe and well.

  5. It’s a tricky message to convey, none the less, possibly the most important one of our times. Your blog is spot on Shirine and if you can manage to educate others with theses words you will surely have helped to change the world to a better place even if just a bit. Good luck.

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