My experience so far in the U.S.

Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Coming back to my writing, I am finding myself in the middle of democracy, United Sates of America. Part of an exchange program funded through US government, the fellowship aims to unite 5 Eastern European countries, showing their fellows how democracy, participation and civil society actually works, especially through community organizing projects. Added to this, is the experience of living in an American household, as we are all staying in homes of Americans who greeted us and allowed us to get a snapshot of their daily life.
I was particularly interested in this program, as it’s designed to give you independence in experiencing living and get in touch with the cultural feeling of the places we stay in. As part of my profession, I had traveled and worked in different other places and the best way to do it is getting in touch with the real life, which comes from your daily human experiences.
United States of America is a big country and is for sure different from state to state and from region to region. Now, I can see that it’s unrealistic to refer to Americans as ”typical Americans”? There are so many different cultures and people that are Americans and I found this mixture of cultures and people to be exciting.
Questions like ”What is that thing that unites these people?, How can they live together and have same interests, How do you make all part of the society”?, just popped up in my head, being exposed to a completely different setup, a mixture of civilizations, of cultures, of colors.
We call this in Europe ”multicultural”, a word that should embrace all the differences and create a unity, people aligned with the same values and ethics.
Here, it’s called a’ ‘racial justice”, which it’s slightly different, I found, but probably more related with the reality. This is what I like when coming up with words that rise from the people’s experience. Let’s not forget the power of the word and the miracles one can do when using the right words.
I believe words should have the same impact on people’s understanding when comes to social facts and impact. Racial justice is a powerful term that describes the complex history of Americans, whites and blacks coming together and having the same rights. It’s a demand, of a right to equality, dignity and respect.
Multicultural is an invitation to tolerance, inclusion and acknowledgements. So, I think the two social terminologies are somehow describing the social realities from these two regions. And each of them implies different reactions and call to action, I guess.
There are some things I had learned or better said gained in understanding through experience, during my stay. So,
What I did learn by now from my recent experience:
1. Be open – try not to judge, not to put labels and be a critic, just because you can’t understand. There are lots of layers behind somebody’s behavior and you can only be present and acknowledge the difference.
2. Stay present even when it gets hard – Things are not always what they should be or you would like them to be. Try to live the experience of being uncomfortable and observe what emotions bring out. It could be really helpful in different situations.
3. Talk with many people, of many colors, of many believes. You will always find out interesting stories, activate something emotional within you or the other person and bring it to an equal level. It’s difficult to step out your role, but it’s part of being authentic and true to yourself.
4. Inequalities exist and they are part of any society. For some reason, I thought better developed countries do not experience this fact so much, but I could see it on the streets, hear it from the people, read about it.
5. Reflection are always important, cause you get to reconnect with your needs and state of mind. Whenever you feel you finished or maybe in the middle of something that’s overwhelming, reflection on yourself it’s always useful. Start with you and you’ll find the right answers.

I guess I had invested a lot in preparing myself for this trip and this process ensures me a certain state of comfort, but still being away from home and family is increasing at least your anxiety level. This made me think from different perspectives to the adaptation process and what exactly happens when you encounter a different world, rules and behaviors. I’m still reflecting on this.
I could never describe my experience as being good or bad, fortunate or not, but definitely inspiring and formative if words could describe it!
I am appreciative for the people I meet, the places I visit, the food I’m experimenting and all the little and big things which make my days worth living away from my comfort zone?
Bless be all with the most exciting experiences!
Go out in the woods!
Acknowledgments to Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Chicago, Illinois and GREAT LAKES CONSORTIUM for International Training and Development, Toledo, Ohio