Saturday, June 13, 2009

many different people, many different kinds

The philosopher's sister recently boarded a plane on her way to Jamaica with a group of service-learners. At dinner before she left a group of us got to talking about cultural differences and volunteer opportunities abroad. After taking a class on indigenous rights and doing research for a paper on the problematic tourism industry in Indonesia, I am very conflicted about the 'right' for people to travel to developing or colonized countries, even if they have good intentions. After all, even in places many don't tend to think of as colonized, like Hawaii, there are many locals who are unwelcoming to visitors (Haunani-Kay Trask has a lot to say about this).

In the course of conversation one person expressed the opinion that traveling to a "Western" European country - especially to do service work - was not a very rewarding experience. It doesn't expose the visitor to cultural differences or diversity; it doesn't help people who need help. While I'm still unsure what I really think about all of this, I have come to one conclusion: there are ('cultural') differences to be found everywhere - in Europe, in Asia, even in the United States.

A swanky, extravagant bathroom in our very own Los Angeles. Now let me ask you, would you feel comfortable using that toilet? I've gotta be honest, if I were visiting my oh-so-glamorous friend in Laurel Canyon, excused myself to visit the ladies room, and came across this opulent scene, I wouldn't know what to do. Should I lift the lid? Do I press a button? Am I in the right place? I mean, I see the toilet paper roll but.... uh.... I feel like I'm missing something. Now, if you're as un-'cultured' as I apparently am, you may be thinking to yourself, "that isn't a toilet". But, I did some research and I can say with confidence, that is a toilet. A $3000 hatbox toilet. {Is it just me or is it really gross to bring hats and toilets together in porcelain association?}

When I came across this picture and started musing about cultural differences I remembered a cultural learning experience that I actually had. A few summers ago when I was roaming around Europe I remember coming across a number of these and being very, very uncomfortable. It was a hark back to my days on the ranch or my ONE experience camping. Oye. And, just in case you're going to be visiting France anytime soon and are not accustomed to such differences, I recommend this article.

1 comment:

jasmine said...

oh wow. that's quite an extravagant bathroom. what a fancy place to pee in!