Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Livin' La Vida Global

We're in the third (and last) week of the blogging challenge Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio has set us.

Today's topic: "How are you living a global life?"

Since this is the eve of Thanksgiving in the US, I'm coming at this question from the gratitude angle.  I may not be hopping on a plane to a different, exciting destination every week, but there are global elements I can enjoy as a part of each day.  Here are some of the "daily global" activities that enrich my life.

I work in the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  That means my work, my colleagues, and my location are all focused on global connections. Not an exaggeration to say that something global is always afoot!

As Outreach Director of the Middle East center, I work to deepen understanding of a critical world region. A great challenge, and one I enjoy immensely. My mission is strengthened and buoyed by partnership with faculty from the region who share their expertise and insights with the larger community.

When I'm at work, I frequently listen to my favorite station, WCPE, online.  Which means, of course, I'm listening with people all around the world.  (And folks tweet in from all over, which is always a thrill!)

And speaking of Twitter. Could be (and too often is) a silly waste of time.  Still, I can keep current with world-traveling friends. Love the immediacy despite the distance. (Recently I tweeted emergency restaurant suggestions to hungry explorers of Seville and saw the meal they ordered within minutes. Love that Instagram--not to mention the paella!)

Also on Twitter--I follow Le Monde, and gobble up headlines in French. I keep up with what I think of as the global A-B-C news sources (Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN [or CBS, if you prefer]).

And I keep up with other globally-minded folks through Cate and her great Small Planet Studio site. Terrific to hear tales of travel to places I've visited or not visited, always from interested and interesting people.  The blog challenge is the latest exciting idea to emerge from that project.

So on the eve of Thanksgiving in the US, I'm thankful--very thankful--for all the small and big global connection that enrich my life every day.

And I'm looking for more!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My First Global Experience: Swiss (Near) Miss

We're in the second week of the blogging challenge Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio has set us.

Today's topic: "Tell us about your first 'global' experience."

First, I've got to say I love the quotations around the word "global."  Those quotations give me and my fellow bloggers many more possibilities.  (Because what's "global"?  Hmmm.  Define.)

For the purposes of this response, I'm defining "global" as connections to the world that can happen in your family, your neighborhood, and inside your head. That's so I can talk about something that happened when I was five--something I hadn't thought about for decades.  (And, Cate, let me thank you for your excellent skill in drawing out early, unresolved memories for reflection. We're two for two here, Sigmund.)

How should I begin?

When you're five, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up. (Much later, I realized this is because they're all out of ideas for themselves.) Most little girls of my generation said they wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. Here's what I told them I wanted to be:

Yep, that's a Swiss Guard, one of the crew the Pope has around for security and ceremony. This was around 1960, during the time of Pope John XXIII.  And John XXIII pulled considerable weight in my neighborhood, even among non-Catholics.  To be on this pope's team?  Wearing the absolutely best uniform in the history of the world? Who could resist?
I guess I told one too many people about my career choice. Or maybe someone tipped off my parents that their youngest daughter desperately needed a reality check. Whatever happened, one evening my father told me he'd like to speak with me alone after dinner.

It was a short conversation. 

"I'm sorry, but you can't be a Swiss Guard."

"Why not?"

"Because we're not Swiss."


That had never occurred to me as a disqualifier.  Swiss-ness was all around me.  I loved Heidi. Not the Hollywood version, but the real live honest-to-God full length English translation of the original work (two volumes!) by Johanna Spyri, that my mother had read to me several times.  I had a real Swiss watch that my sister had brought home for me. I can't say I was wild about Swiss cheese (I still attribute this to an early traumatic "Farmer in the Dell" experience that put me off all cheese for quite a while), but I was all on board for the chocolate. And (perhaps most relevant) I had a Swiss Guard figure that stood at attention on the top of my dresser.  It looked something like this:

The simple fact that I was barred from something Swiss by virtue of nationality absolutely floored me.

But that surprise is an important part of any transformative "global" experience--especially, I think, for children growing up in the US. There's that false sense of entitlement we all know about, and it manifests itself early, even (perhaps especially) through gifts we're given and art we experience.  In enjoying Heidi and my watch (which still works, by the way) and my beloved little figure, I'd embraced "Swiss" as a kind of brand name, and missed the significance of nationality.

Well, I was five, and all in all it was a worthwhile "global" experience, especially as it was my first. And the fact that only the Swiss can be Swiss Guards? That I coudn't be a Swiss Guard because I wasn't Swiss? That was okay. After a while.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What--no tiara? The dumbest thing I've taken abroad

Happy to join in the challenge my friend and colleague Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio has set us globally-oriented bloggers--three blogs this month on the same topics.
Today's topic:

"What's the weirdest or dumbest thing you've taken abroad?"

Didn't have to think about this one at all.  Immediately I had visions (flashbacks!) of the very dressy dress I packed for my junior year abroad in England.  (I'd been told that the last group in the program I was joining had been presented to Princess Margaret, and so I think I was packing with that royal fantasy/possibility in mind. That's my only excuse.)

Now when I say dressy, I don't just mean formal.  I mean straight out poufy-poufy.  Something like this:

Well, maybe not so extreme as that.   But it was pink. And poufy. 

Maybe I needed that extra fancy dress to feel ready for my first experience abroad on my own. Maybe it was an expression of the persona I wanted to project in a country that's the setting for so many of my favorite stories. Maybe it was my superheroine costume.  All I know is, it took up quite a lot of room in my luggage.  And I wore it only once the whole year, to a dinner at an Oxford college, where I got very strange looks indeed. 

Now I know better, I hope.  By all means, pack a "dress to impress" outfit.  But think about a simple black sheath that can be dressed up or down.  Like this:

See?  That wouldn't take up much room at all. And you'd be ready for anything. Even fantasies of meeting royalty. Really.