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And you, do you take the subway?

15 June, 2015

And you, do you take the subway?

Stuck in a traffic jam at the entrance of a city, in which I progress very slowly, under an almost torrential rain, I have an ear to ear smile. When I am in these situations, remember an answer given in an interview for a multimedia project on the wealthy classes in Buenos Aires that was made by some friends of mine. They asked: “Do you take the subway?” to which someone replied: “Surely, in New York”.

Having in mind that the wealthy classes normally do not take the underground trains, the significance of this answer, sadly enough, solidifies negative perceptions about social classes. Likewise, I believe that many other people would answer in the same way to similar questions; that when they travel they do things that they wouldn’t do in their day to day, or they might but with a foul mood, or they would outright reject to do even if they are offered money to do it:

· Wake up at 4am to have a walk.
· Queue for a restaurant
· To sometimes pay a lot of money to go to the top of the tallest building/tower/church of the city
· To be in a traffic jam, without getting annoyed or honk.
· Make friends with someone you met trekking and tell tales while you never greet your neighbour.
· Buy traditional costumes from a place to appear local and then to never wear them again.
· To applaud at sunrise or sunset.
· Be kind to beggars on the street, or just to be kind in general.

I believe that travelling helps change the way we interact with others and to reduce prejudice. My point of view is that these negatives are consequence of the ignorance of other nation’s cultures. We allow to be guided too much by stereotypes and we are used to reduce nations to stereotypes. Nonetheless, many won’t change their perceptions regardless of how well travelled they may be. Some return to their day to day without absorbing their travel experience.

Thus, they treat others contrary to how they would like others to treat them. At home, they want to be recognised for the work they do and get paid dignifiedly, but then they haggle for prices until they pay little money for something that took hard work and dedication to make. They will boast about it. They believe that because they paid for a tourist package the staff looking after them become their servants. They do not think of the probable working conditions locals live with, sometimes living far away from their families to be able to work.

All of these thoughts go through my head as helmet-less riders, cars and trucks attempt to pass me through my right or my left, sometimes making a one carriageway road into a two or three carriageway one. Then a cart pulled by a horse crosses the road and forces me out of my self-absorption and focus on the road again.

I am still in Europe, but the change in road manners has been gradual since I left Barcelona: from organised to chaotic. At some point on the road I may have found signs for cattle or deer crossings. What I have definitely found, though, was a turtle crossing a secondary route. While I keep my smile under the helmet, I look to the side and I see a shop selling t-shirts. There is a white t-shirt printed with red letters that gets my attention and it reads: “They call it chaos. We call it home”.

I couldn’t agree more.

. .