Thoughts imported from a post I wrote while traveling in Macedonia in Aug 2013. Similar feelings grip me every time I leave San Francisco.
Time is moving really slow for me here. Not slow in that it’s boring, not at all — slow because it feels like I have experienced as much newness in a day as I usually experience in a month. I am just soaking it all in. It’s such a gift to be able to look so deep inside another culture. Whenever I do this, I see all the things that I forget in my everyday life in San Francisco. We live in a somewhat post-racist, hyper-liberal bubble — and I am reminded to appreciate that whenever I travel.
Almost everyone I know in California has traveled extensively, has a global perspective, is either an immigrant or 1st generation immigrant, or is married to a 1st generation immigrant. People look different from one another, no one does a double-take when seeing a mixed-race couple and religion is never the primary topic of discussion. We have a tolerance for the other like nowhere else I have been, lived or traveled. When I travel I am reminded that in other places everyone looks the same. In India, everyone looks Indian. In Thailand, everyone is Thai. In Europe, except in the big cities like Paris or Amsterdam, everyone is white. In Macedonia, everyone is most definitely Macedonian. I probably stick out like a sore thumb, but I don’t realize it until I feel someone staring at me. They are not being rude, they are just curious — they probably have a ton of questions but don’t know how to start asking.
Traveling also reminds me of all we have lost. Here, there are strong ties with family, all 2 or 3 generations live and eat meals together, the cousins live right next door, there are fruit trees and gardens — there are home-made jams. Meals are cooked at home and families enjoy each others company. You depend on each other, you support each other, you need the support of your family. Neighbors know each other. We were talking about how there’s probably no more than 3 degrees of separation between the 2 million people in Macedonia. Traditions are maintained, life is calm, and priorities seem right. Each meal is a piece of art, planned with care, executed to perfection. Each dish has a story — from how it originated to where the tomatoes are sourced from. People are discerning — “This meat is not good”... “This fish is the best you have tasted”… “The beans from this village are the best beans”… “Try to taste just the tomato — it’s organic”. People value time with each other, not brands, not Michelin stars, but time. They are upset if you don’t stay for another beer — because they want to share their joys, spend another hour with you.
I feel just great here — but San Francisco, I miss you!