Holidays and Travel
Right this moment I am writing from a hotel in Warsaw Poland. I am here to facilitate further cooperation between my university National-Louis University and a Polish school in southeastern Poland, WSB-NLU that offers our undergraduate business program and MBA. I had a free morning before meeting with some faculty and alumni this afternoon so I thought I would walk around the town square, Rynek, and the fancy commercial street, Nowy Swiat. There are many differences between people and countries, as I watch the snow falling I am reminded that each snow flake is different; yet the overall effect is one of similarity and cohesion. I think the same is true of people if you take the time to look.
The city of Warsaw, as was the city of Nowy Sacz, is ablaze with lights and decorations for the holidays, and they look very similar to the decorations in Chicago. I lived in Sarajevo Bosnia Herzegovina for one holiday season and the decorations and lights were everywhere but decidedly different from Chicago. But in both places the good cheer and graciousness of the people was the same. People bustling to work and shopping and school with a directness that can be a bit intimidating at first glance, but if I look puzzled or confused about a direction someone stops to ask what I am looking for – first in Polish and then English if needed. Or, they ask someone around us if they speak English and I am again on the right track.
Traveling provides an excellent education. It forces you out of your comfort zone and asks you to take a chance on doing familiar things in a different way. The first time I took a bus in the Czech Republic, with my husband and two, then young, children, I bought the tickets for the bus but didn’t realize you had to “punch” them on the bus. So, when the transit police came to check the tickets, they found our four tickets unpunched and they were going to give us a big fine for “free loading”. That is until the grandmothers on the bus shamed them, very loudly and with much emotion, into showing us how to validate the ticket rather than fining us. And although I don’t speak Czech I was pretty sure I understood most of the dressing down the officer received.
Although I would love to travel all the time, or at least more often that I do now, there are other ways to experience the joy and challenge of other cultures without leaving Chicago. We are a city of neighborhoods that are rich with the customs and cuisines of other countries. Take some time to experience this wonderful opportunity. Do it at the holidays, the holidays you celebrate and the holidays celebrated by that neighborhood culture. Take your children, or grandchildren, nieces or nephews and learn something about a different culture and their holiday rituals. And as always you will learn a lot about yourself.