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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Walking Zen

I decided from the start that I would walk daily. In a community such as this it is the ideal way to meet local people, as opposed to gringos. The expatriates seem to prefer electronic encounters, in chat groups online or by telephone, though they occasionally get together for “community meetings”, musical events, or hikes, at which English is the common language, though some of them are primarily French- or German-speaking.

Still, I have lived with Americans and Europeans all my life and, while many of them are very good people, this land is not part of that worldwide “America” – not yet anyway, not from lack of their trying to subsume and destroy this land too; that “America” is close, in those congested cities on the two seacoasts. This still is the local people’s land, and so I want to know them more, not necessarily the Americans. There are bars and restaurants up on the highway (one of only two paved roads), but none in the village proper, and not all that many local people have telephones, and fewer have internet access. (You can pay I think it’s twenty-five cents an hour for computer time at the little local grocery.) If you want to meet the local people, it must be on their terms and on their land – get out and walk.

By walking daily I am becoming acquainted with the people who have lived here for many generations, who know with their very being the spirit, the language, the music, of this land, and can help me to begin to learn it. Moreover, they will get to know me and, I hope, decide that I am a decent, respectful person as gringos go. If they see I am making every effort to speak in their language and to live in a way harmonious with their ways, and not insisting on keeping my North American customs, perhaps they will look out for me, putting the mantle of protection about me, even helping me if I am in trouble, or at minimum leave me alone. If hypothetically any of them is motivated to rob me, thinking I am another rich gringo needing as the Bible says to be “sent empty away”, such an individual will soon hear that I am polite and respectful and liked by many of his friends and neighbors, and I hope choose instead to leave me alone. Indeed, I have walked everywhere and not once felt the slightest fear; I believe I am far safer here than I ever was in the United States or France.

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