At the Cerveciaria in Lima, the older woman serving Tony Bourdain the fish cooked in citrus juices doesn't speak English, but she watches him with the same attentive concern as the Chinese woman who served him pig stomach in China or the Vietnamese woman who served him porcupine.
They are all of a piece, and if they ever got a chance to look at each other, I suspect they would see their shared habits instantly. They are women who take care of people, feeding them, and that care & concern, that love & life isn't much different at all between a Guyanese woman and a Tibetan woman, between a Peruvian woman and a woman from Indiana.
That's what's so amazing about travel. Là plus qui change, la plus c'est la même chose, the more things change the more they stay the same. We travel to be awed by differences, to learn more, but what we learn the most about is how other animals that share our own human nature have transformed their world in astounding ways. We learn about us and our connections.
And me? I notice those women, those mothers of the communities, the ones who have now become grandmothers and are taking care of parents, young mothers who take care of children. Kids aren't stupid — they know that as kids, they share more than what divides them. Throw a bunch of kids together and it doesn't matter what their heritage, ethnography, language or much of anything else, pretty soon they will be playing together. That connection is easy to see for them, but as we get more sophisticated, it can get lost.
And the granmothers sitting on benches watching those children play? They know their connection, very clear. They know their connection to thousands of years dead women in caves who watched children and to women half a planet away who watch children.
I have been watching people around here who call themselves spiritual who want to be clear about separations, want to be separatists. I see no divinity in separations: separations are a part of this earthly world we live in, not part of the divine. People who speak for separations speak for the mundane and limited, not the eternal and infinite.
But when I see those women, who whatever they speak and wherever they are, just want to make sure there is something nourishing & tasty on the table, to sustain life and sustain community, I see part of myself there.
And then I feel a bit lost.