We live in a world with different cultures, just as we always have. Now more than ever we are combining our space for living by persuading those of other cultures in. This has become a phenomenon all over the world. Relationships are charismatic and necessary in today’s society. Existing in a digital world is no absence for people these days, a simple letter in the mailbox to a friend is no longer the same, photographs have evolved into a whole new era, cell phones are the largest form of our communication usage, and many other changes have come into place as time passes. With all these changes emerging daily, it is evident that building relationships from diverse cultures is a positive move on our parts as humans. The hardest animal to get along with is a human.
In my culture my ancestors such as my grandmother who is said to be Chippewa taught me,” The land does not belong to you. Instead it is you whom belongs to the land. We come into this world and we borrow the land. We do not own it. For in the end the land owns us and we are indeed turned back into the earth” (Marie Elizabeth Curtice). "One does not sell the land people walk on." (Crazy Horse). My favorite Ancient Indian Proverb, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." It is a shame to obtain food in my culture from the soils of the land and not to share with others even if they are of different colors and cultures. To let one starve is to let one die at your hands”, my grandmother would say as she would walk to the river and gift white fishermen with a surprise lunch as they fished her trails. I have carried on the culture of feeding the people. With recipes from one generation to the next and the ability to harvest from any given land no stomach goes hungry around me.
Envision leaving America and going to a foreign country for a 60 day visit on a tiny, alluring tropical resort. This would signify paradise to most. Unable to speak much of the language, minimal knowledge of their cultures including the foods, festivals, music, and other things that make a culture what it is. This was my lost soul a few years ago. Flying into paradise or so as I thought. I flew in as the sun was rising over the Indian Ocean to the country of Mauritius never to return home for 2 years.
This was an enormous cultural shock. To this day many wonder how I made it alive and how I was able to survive. Adaption and building relationships from different cultures was my key to survival while applying parts of my culture to my daily tasks. Although it was necessary for me to learn to cook their foods, I also made them taste mine. They enjoyed Native American foods. Food always brings people together just as my grandmother would announce each holiday with a smile on her face, a turkey in one hand, and a venison tenderloin in the other. Despite the fact I was willing to adapt. Even though, I tried the foods there eating bees was not on my menu. The people in the village I stayed in argued the fact that I could grow a garden in the volcanic soil. “What are you doing saving these seeds and why are you drying them out”, they inquired. “I told you I am going to grow a garden”, I stated. They snickered at me, “You are a dreamer, it will never happen”. I gave it lots of determination, sunshine, prayers, and water and I had a beautiful garden. I had produce over 10,000 Roma tomatoes from the seeds of 3 tomatoes they had bought at the store. I planted 54 tomato plants. Much like tomatoes I had an abundance of hot peppers a staple in Indian and Mauritian recipes. The herbs began from a root cutting. I then would let a few grow to seed themselves. Romaine lettuce was perfected by placing it into the grown that I had well fertilized. I would cut off the bottom part of the lettuce when they bought it and place it in the grown. Leeks and onions we plentiful. Food made them happy. So joyous they ceased the garden for themselves and began selling all the vegetables that were left over. This was a mistake on their part. The garden was no longer blessed. The harvest came to a halt. It produced no more and was cursed. They did not pay attention to my techniques and all was gone the sun dried everything. Then the land next to them they were given permission to use that the garden was on was sold and they were no longer authorized usage. The relationship between them and I grew when the garden grew. The relationship between the villagers and the land deceased when my relationship with the soil was robbed.
I recall a time when the grandmother of the village came to me with a bowl of food and ask if I will warm it for her in the microwave. I asked her if she knew how to use a microwave. She said no. She hastily informed me that if she used it that it will blow up. I laughed so hard. That day she realized what technology was and that it was of no danger to her. From that day, she heated her own food and smiled every time she did. I came from a culture to teach her culture. I kept that in my mind frame and it kept me well.
Languages were abundant on that island. By the time a child reached is 8 they will have been introduced and speak at the minimum 4 languages. In Mauritius, the political organization is divided into four linguistic communities among which are Hindus, Muslims, Sino-Mauritians, and the general population. Contrarily to the two other communities, Hindu and Muslim communities differ from the others because of their belonging to a religious group. This organization of languages enables the islanders to communicate with one another as needed in government, schooling, employment, festivities, retail, and building relationships. Among the two languages I came to the island knowing English and French, I later was able to learn more. This helped me when I ran out of money. It was vital after my funds were spent by the villagers for me to obtain employment. Money is what also abetted keeping me alive. I obtained a job as an English teacher for a company in Mauritius that was owned by France. I began teaching French business people through the phone. Calling France each day and teaching them. They taught me more of their culture while I educated them with my Native American English as well as my culture. I was given a promotion within 3 months of working there.
I was approached one day by one of the Mauritian-Pakistan directors of the corporation. He inquired if I would give him personal lessons and a few others in the country. Obtaining several extra accounts I had the joy of teaching a Franco- Mauritian whom managed the Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) in Port Louis, a Hindu Mauritian who was an executive of the bank, and two beautiful Muslim Indian children of another bank executive. I was wealthier than the money I made. Through learning their cultures and speaking languages with them I was able to build relationships that were priceless. Relationships that gave understanding and hope. I was also able to learn that one of the languages I had heard spoken at the house I was kept in was Arabic. With time and teaching English to the Mauritian-Pakistan, I was able to grasp more of the cultural ways of the e household I was living in.
I photographed my paintings and my time away from the house I was kept in. These photographs relayed a message back to the USA that I was still alive. Technology catechize at that time to be the great courier to my family back home. Though, there were times I was given authorization to use the internet to sell reprints of paintings and give the village my money from the sales, I utilized this time for myself as well. It is during this time I would use the internet to post paintings, pictures, and write a small blog. I was able to do as much as I could to make my family think I was alright. The last thing I wanted was for them to see or hear something horrific happening to me, as I was often threatened. If I were to inform them the truth of what was happening this would end my life and admit to my family I was wrong for visiting this place when they warned me of. Photographing paradise was no challenge but picturing hell was a war. A war of my own in which I would have to defend myself by building relationships with unknown cultures. I come from America. America is a very media oriented culture. We love to photograph and update things in our lives. This cultural trait of mine was a blessing sent back home. If the photos would have stopped then my family said they would have known I no longer existed.
To this day I speak to France. I talk to my boss. I teach him my language. He keeps me up to date on his. He has offered me a position with France again as an English teacher. I remain friends with a few I had worked with in Mauritius. I learned their culture, I taught them mine. They spoke their language, I shared mine. I brought them foods, they fed me theirs.
Communication usage was the key to living, for all those whom wish to inquire of my strongest technique for survival. Part of my culture also stems from my training in the military and being raised a military brat. Without psychologically altering the thoughts of another culture and the use of proper communication would I have survived? You tell me. Grow a garden and see. Build a relationship with another culture it can last a lifetime.
Lewis and Clark. Native American Quotes about Land Ownership. The Unheard Voices. Anti-Defamation League. 2005. http://archive.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/na_quotes.html