“This is the place we should say we’re from Canada”, we discussed as we took our short flight from Bali to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. As the country is home to the largest muslim population in the world, we figured this was a safe bet.
But it could get worse elsewhere. What about Cambodia where the shadows of the infamous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge still terrorize the country after they killed 1/3rd of the population? There’s no way these people would be happy to see “rich Westerners” there to see Angkor Wat and then head out. Or Vietnam which must still have a disdain towards Americans for obvious reasons. Worst yet, Myanmar, a country highly controlled by a corrupt regime that until recently had the country closed off to all outsiders.
We had obvious reason for concern as we entered into these foreign lands. However, after our initial fears faded and our experience with the locals increased, each place proved safe. Not only that, some of the places we feared the most proved to house the most friendly locals. The scariest part of the countries was the fear we had in anticipation.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is a pretty common occurrence. We fear each other in the US. Not always the fear that comes from entering a dangerous area where you might get hurt, but the fear that pushes you to pull your iPhone in front of your face in the elevator instead of talking to the stranger who just walked in. The fear that prevents us from meeting new people or networking with current connections, which could drastically change or improve some parts of our lives.
A very wise man in Belize planted this thought in our mind when he talked about how afraid people are of each other. He said people walk by and they’re afraid to talk to him. They’ll look at his table filled with souvenirs and knick-knacks, but their eyes don’t go beyond the edge of the table in fear of meeting his and requiring some sort of verbal or non-verbal communication. He thinks it all starts with the parents who teach their kids to be afraid of everyone.
What do you think? Do we fear each other too much or do you think it’s required?