My life is all about connecting. Before I began this life, I thought a smile was enough. I quickly learned that it isn’t. In the Zapotec village in Mexico people were afraid of me until I started to wear their clothes and greet them in their language. In Bali, where I lived on and off for nearly eight years, I always wore their traditional clothes when I went to a ceremony. And I was careful to buy the kinds of sarongs and blouses that they wore, which were usually more expensive and very different from the ones the tourist stores were selling. And I bought earrings that were similar to the ones they were wearing rather than the silver ones that they sell all over the island to tourists. I wore lipstick to their ceremonies and fussed a bit with my hair, because they did. And because I knew they saw it as my showing respect.
If I were a tourist content to look on from the outside, I might not have done those things. But I wanted to participate in their ceremonies, to experience their lives as best I could.
From time to time I am in a place where I don’t speak the language, where I am so different that connection seems impossible. One of those times was in Irian Jaya where a little boy deep in the swampy jungle in the south screamed hysterically and hid behind his mother’s legs when he saw me. I pulled out a bottle of bubble stuff and pretty soon we were laughing together. I won’t tell how that ended because I’m hoping you’ll read the book and I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Songs and laughter (usually at me as I try to make a tortilla or weave an offering) and learning a language are other ways I connect. It’s never the same way twice. My life and my book are all about connecting and what happens when I do.