Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The World Next Door


Hi everyone, this is Laura Cribb, currently back in Tallahassee, FL getting ready for school to start. Culture fascinates me. I think it is incredible how on this earth we are all a part of the human species; yet, our cultures are all so different. Thoroughly learning about another person’s culture and who they are as a result of that culture can take a lifetime. One of my favorite things in life is meeting someone from a culture that is different from my own. I want to hear their story. I want to learn about their way of life. I want to understand the music of their culture. As a music therapy student and lover of cultures, the study abroad trip to Thailand combined two of my passions and I could not refuse to go.
            I loved every aspect of the trip to Thailand. I loved seeing the natural beauty throughout the country.
Thai sunrise.
I loved learning about using music therapy with a culture other than my own. Above all, I loved meeting the Thai people. One of my favorite parts of the trip was meeting a lady who sells jewelry at a market and hearing about how her family makes the jewelry in the north of Thailand while she sells it in Bangkok.
Thai jewelry vendor, Rebecca, Amanda, and I.
I also enjoyed meeting the Thai music therapy graduate students at Mahidol University and learning about their lives as students.
Graduate students from Mahidol University and I.
In Thailand I was able to experience both the seen and unseen aspects of culture, which is an opportunity unique to traveling abroad. However, you don’t have to travel to learn about the unseen aspects of other cultures.
Living in the United States gives us an opportunity to meet people from other cultures and learn about their lives. My desire to learn about international customs has fueled me to interact with people around the world while in the States. Soon after arriving home from Thailand I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to volunteer at the International Folk Art Market (IFAM). This year, the IFAM featured 190 folk artisans from over 60 countries. I volunteered with training before the market as well as an Artist Assistant for musicians from Madagascar.
Madagascar musicians at the IFAM.
Throughout the market I met so many people from around the world, such as Pakistani embroiderers and musicians from the Republic of Tuva. The IFAM was an experience like no other where I could meet artists from many countries, learn about their culture and the story behind their art, and then purchase their art to support their own community.
Pakistani embroiderer.

Volunteering at the IFAM is just one way that I have been able to experience other cultures while in my home country.
            Nashville, Tennessee is just one of a multitude of cities that international refugees resettle in with the help of the United Nations. Last summer I spent two months in Nashville working with Burmese and Nepali refugees through World Relief, a resettlement agency. I learned a lot about the Burmese and Nepali cultures by providing transportation and English lessons to families that had recently arrived in the United States; however, hearing their individual stories is what challenged me the most.
Fingernail painting with refugee children in Nashville.
Many displaced people have witnessed relatives being murdered in front of their eyes or have had to flee from their homes due to political situations. These stories have impacted the way I view my own life and have instilled a passion within me to help displaced people as a future music therapist. The refugee community brings nations from around the world into our own neighborhoods. I see this as an opportunity to show them love and broaden my own worldview by learning about their cultures without even leaving my home.
            Traveling to another country is an amazing experience. Seeing the landmarks, eating the food, and experiencing life as a foreigner are all events that form who we are as a person. When you visit another country, that culture not only pervades everything around you but it is also present in each person you meet. The way a person thinks, interprets, processes, learns, and tells his or her story is inherent as a result of culture. So, through my personal experience, I have discovered that I enjoy building relationships with people from cultures different than my own. Understanding who someone is as a person provides more insight into culture than just the outward appearance. While leaving Thailand and transferring back to life in the United States seemed mundane compared to the adventures I experienced in Thailand, I knew that I could find rich culture through the people I met at the IFAM and in Nashville.
Akeem, a 9th generation musician from Nigeria at the IFAM.
If you have a desire to travel or experience other customs, I encourage you to reach out to people from other countries in your community. Learn about their ways of life and how their culture has shaped them. Sometimes it just takes stepping out of your comfort zone and going off the beaten path to find the world in your own backyard!

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