A love story: a man’s perspective
Every country has its own complex history, culinary tradition, spiritual expression (or three); its psycho-social reaction to trauma, methods to educate, and medical treatments; dances, songs, artistic oeuvre; political organ, scientific tradition, brick-a-brack house, street food, topiary, dog breed, orchid… This is all just people, us, trying to make sense of what we’ve got.
From my respective box, I offer a solution to my aunt Ellie’s question about ethically depicting another culture to an American audience: characterize the “odd” habits of the “others” as the commonplace. Because that’s precisely what they are – a commonplace you just don’t understand, yet.
Comparing two cultures is a privilege – if not an essential practice – that can catalyze greater understanding of the self, a native society and how societies relate to one another. My time in Moldova has helped me see beyond what I had been socialized to accept as “normal.”
People have to make sense of what they observe, and the way the human mind accomplishes this most efficiently is to draw upon previous experience. We compare and contrast, often intuitively. It’s a box – we can become trapped in it – but it’s on wheels.
I recently wrote a research proposal for a competition that would allow me to extend my stay in Comrat. The work would involve both a culminating paper and an ongoing storytelling project. Both would explore the nuances of belief, religion, magic and superstition in Gagauzia. I knew my tales would be meant mainly for an American audience, and proposed that Americans could learn a thing or two about truth and fact when reading my expositions.
I sent the thing off for feedback, and my step-aunt Ellie provided a galaxy of criticism! She recommended that I expand on the topic of how I would ethically approach cultural reporting. More importantly, though, she pushed me to consider how to treat people seriously – in writing and in person.