Friday, February 23

'Paese Che Vai, Gente Che Trovi'

"Paese che vai, gente che trovi" is a traditional Italian saying which literally means "Places you go, people you find" - (bear with me, it does have a meaning after all!), and it refers to the now popular postmodern concept of 'global village' which undermines a common umanity in cosmopolitanism. The good old ancient Greeks, who, amongst many things, coniated the term "cosmopolitan" (literally, citizen of the world) had foreseen in the Hellenistic empire the ideal that a man could be at home anywhere in the known world. Imagine the scene. The Greek civilization had started off pretty small; first, it was Athens, then its prefecta in the boardering regions, then to Macedonia, the Balcans, northern Africa, the Middle East, Asia. There are conspiracies and archeological exhibits which prove that Alexander the Great reached out as far as India in his conquests..what a man!!!. Nonetheless, as soon as the so called Hellenistic era started (4th century BC),like under any period of prosperity and progress (es. the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution), there was a brewing of optimism, inventiveness and progress. They invented things, created philosophies and academic disciplines and were led to believe that the world was their oyster, that, as long as you spoke Greek, you could be anywhere and do whatever you liked. Too bad that this concept was only true if you could afford it. Greeks benefitted from inequitable priviledges at the expenses, like always, of the non-Greeks, the slaves and the thousands of local communities that had been nullified for the advantage of their own. Remarkably enough, studious of the time would tell you that, unlike many other colonizations, the Hellenistic empire favoured and integrated local identities. For instance, the raise of Christiandom in the first century AD is a direct offspring of the Greeks fashination and acceptance for foreign beliefs and customs. However, their acceptance was only on an intellectual level and only for what could,somehow, improve their lives. Kind or less refined, colonialism is always a venture for potential abuse. What was the point of the whole academic regurgitation,anyway?! Oh, yes. I am currently reading a book by 2004 Peace Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai. "Unbowed" is a wispy yet direct autobiography, "a compelling tale about the challenges and triumphs of modern Africa, a universal story about courage, perseverance and success for a noble cause"(Bill Clinton). I am loving every word of it and being absolutely absorbed in the life of this extraordinary woman. I am especially appreciating the old African fables and the tales of a forgotten tradition. Also, I found of interest the way she perceives the British ruling in Kenya. Due to her mixed Western/African education, she is the best qualified person to speak about the issue and does it with immense grace, wisdom and balance. "Take the good, leave the bad, 'cause we are all bound by a common humanity" would be my take on cosmopolitanism. Being the aspirational globe trotter that I like to describe myself as, I have utterly enjoyed the discovery of alien cultures. In my quest for cultural full-immersion and integration, I have often debated the dangers of imposing my national identity over others. This does not merely restrict to watching the Olympic games or the football worldcup where I am suddenly and scarely transformed into a hooligan-Hulk-like yelling,beer drinking monster (my apologies to those who have had to watch these events with me). Many of you know that my ultimate ambition would be to work as a missionary doctor in developing countries and that I have been priviledged enough to do some umanitarian aid work in various parts of the world - and loved every minute of it. An example of this is this picture on the left: me and Rosie teaching songs in a primary school in Nanchuwa, Kisii, Kenya, where, allegedly, the pupils had never seen a white skinned person before and there, behold, the crazy Italian chick and the chatty Northern Irish girl dancing and singing like mad women..I indeed enjoyed myself, but I remember being very weary that night about potentially having imposed "my way" onto a foreign culture. But how do you do that? How do you pursuit healthy cross-cultural communication and exchange and stay away from the dangers of imperialism and imposition? "Places you go, people you find" - of course, but what makes a man is not merely his genes, but it's his beliefs, his history. As Maathai writes: "The way we were brought up and translate the life we see, perceive, smell and touch (the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat) is what we are".

19 comments:

Estelle said...

so, my fellow traveller in time and space. Good to read all that you are thinking and processing and I left some more stuff on the comments of the other blog stuff. but for now, keep asking and keep challenging.

Jay said...

You raise so many questions and points and ideas, it's probably going to take me a few days to process it all...

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Estelle,too bad you don't have your own blog - I would be happy to be one of your "blog-stalkers" - lol.

Jay,Take as much time as you like,mate!I know my mind is a brewery of complicated spiderweb-like-thoughts! Have a nice week-end!!

Miao said...

I love reading your blog - I learn something new everytime I read your entries!

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Thanks,I'm flattered!I love your blog too!

Estelle said...

I do, just click on my picture or name and you will get there. I think it's estellethinkingoutloud.blogger.com

Estelle said...

got it wrong -it's
http://estellethinkinoutloud.blogspot.com/

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Hurray!I can now stalk you back! (",)

Gorilla Bananas said...

Miss Chick, you strongly resemble your Mama. I'm sure no African would think you were an imperialist. The best form of cross-cultural communication is dancing. That's a common language for all the primates.

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Thanks,GB. I agree about the dancing thing: I have witnessed to many barriers being lifted through dancing..it's so liberating! On the subject,I shall post a video of us dancing with the local Kenyans..hilarious!

Baron Hashbrown said...

I'd really like to spend some time in Africa. One day...

I think the important thing is that you can give as much of your culture as you want as long as you are not replacing thier own. When you came home you hadn't lost your own culture but had added to it with another. I'm sure that's just what you did for your African friends too. I look forward to the video ;-)

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Thanks,Baron, what you said was very insightful and hopefully as true for the people I encountered as it was for me.

Re: the video,I am gonna have to discover a way to load it up, can u assist?!

Also,when I move to Africa,you can come and stay any time! (",)

Baron Hashbrown said...

Cool, I'll bring my super-suit! Are you getting itchy feet then?

Youtube is the easiest way. Just join up for free and you can upload a video up to 10 minutes long. It will accept .WMV, .AVI, .MOV, and .MPG file formats. If you have anything else you will have to convert it. It must be pretty easy as I managed to do it...

The Wee Italian Chick said...

too modest,Baron,you are the one who knows HTML codes by heart!!! thank you for the hint though,I'll try to do it tonight - for some reason my computer at work wouldn't let me...ahahah!

Itchy-feet?! Always! What kinda question is that!?!(",)

Super-suit?! I am intrigued.

BTW:I am trying to get down to a body-boarders music festival in July in N.Wales. Maybe it could be of interest to you too. What's your e-mail?

The Wee Italian Chick said...

As predicted,Baron,it wasn't as easy as expected to upload the video on youtube. I shall try again, if unsuccessful,I'll send it to you! (hope it's ok)

Brian Heasley said...

Loved your post and I love Kenya I have been there 4 times, I'm going to get that book

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Thanks,Brian,and welcome to the site!I shall come and pay your blog a visit sometime!!!

Baron Hashbrown said...

Ivonne, it's been a whole week since you blogged. Are you ill? ;-)

If you're still having problems with the movie, pop it on an email to me and I'll upload it, no probs.

The Wee Italian Chick said...

Has it really been that long?! -No, I am not ill,Baron,but I have been real busy (can you believe it?!) Thanks - I'll send you an e-mail with the video then, 'cause I can't upload it!!!Thank youuuuu!