Tag Archives: Pico Iyer

How Do You Say “Cinco de Mayo” in Japanese?

An IPA with a Dia de Muertos theme (brewed in Mexico)

There’s something so odd about going to Asia and attending an event that is thoroughly American in history and flavor. Cinco de Mayo was started in the United States by Mexican-Americans to celebrate the victory of Mexico over France at the battle of Puebla in 1862 (on May 5th of couse). It’s not a major holiday in Mexico, but it’s certainly an excuse to drink beer and party in the U.S.

What, then, does it mean to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Japan?

After the poorly equipped and hugely outnumbered Mexican army routed the French at Puebla, no other European army ever tried to invade in the Americas again. The holiday is, then, a celebration of the independence of all the Americas. That’s exactly how the Japanese version was presented — a celebration of the Americas.

Spanish dance in Japan

There was food and drink from different countries in the Western Hemisphere. There was music and dance from lands on the other side of the world from Japan. We were impressed with the representation, and also that we could even talk to some of the Japanese in Spanish and Portuguese.

I love that the world’s cultures are getting more and more intertwined and mixed up. The truth is that we are not so interconnected as has been touted. For the most part, your friends live relatively close with maybe a few exceptions. If you track the physical distance of all your phone calls, you’d find the average is unlikely to reach very far.

In spite of these facts, the world is becoming more mobile and more connected. The people who live in a country different from where they were born is now the fifth largest nation in the world.

Do you think many Japanese even know what "hooters" are?
Do you think many Japanese even know what “hooters” are?

I believe the more we exchange ideas, the more we interact in the world on a personal level, the greater there is the possibility of peace. The more we understand other cultures, the greater is the chance of working together to save this Earth. I find the possibilities exciting.

Deena and I enjoy being nomadic. Maybe, in some small way, our purposeful interactions contribute to this greater understanding. Perhaps, in the fashion of Gandhi, our terribly insignificant actions are terribly important. At least, that’s my version of the “trickle-down” theory. It’s what I want to believe.

I agree with the conclusion of Pico Iyer who said

“…the typical person I meet today will be, let’s say, a half-Korean, half-German young woman living in Paris. And as soon as she meets a half-Thai, half-Canadian young guy from Edinburgh, she recognizes him as kin. They fall in love. They move to New York City… And the little girl who arises out of their union will of course be not Korean or German or French or Thai or Scotch or Canadian or even American, but a wonderful and constantly evolving mix of all those places. And potentially, everything about the way that young woman dreams about the world, writes about the world, thinks about the world, could be something different, because it comes out of this almost unprecedented blend of cultures.”



From Where I Hail Is Not as Interesting as Where I Am Headed

Today I realized that home really is a state of mind.  We have no physical house any longer. And yet wherever we are, we reset the GPS location to announce ‘home’, because it is wherever Ivan and I are together.

We have not joined the 220 million people (which would be the fifth largest nation in the world), who live in countries other than their birthplace. We are not a part of even that nation as we don’t live anywhere now; we are homeless wanderers.

Our nomadic status yields a mixed response; awe and jealousy, bewilderment and disbelief, wonderment and aspiration.

We often meet denial at first; “No way, you don’t have a home?!” Conversations close with acceptance. “Well good for you”.  And then a parting comment; “I hope I’ll be able to do that one day” or the opposite “I could never dream of doing what you’re doing!” An unofficial poll seems to draw a split vote.

Yesterday, strolling in the Asheville Arts district, artists asked us where we were from, a common conversation starter. Invariably, the answering of that question would cause us to plant ourselves for lengthly periods describing our new life and how it came about.

We were stopping to chat for longer than we were walking. Since exercise was the purpose of the stroll, at the next studio, I declined answering that show-stopping question. When I hesitated, this artist surprisingly mentioned how he had just met a couple who said they were from ‘nowhere’. He related this couple’s incredulous story of having sold all that they owned and were now nomadically wandering. I was so surprised. I felt transparent. He had seen right through me and somehow knew I was also a wanderer.

Nomad Deena
Deena at Home in Assateague National Seashore

Some argue that travel is great if you have a home to go back to.  Ivan and I agree with Pico Iyer who said:

“Home, in the end, is not just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand. Home is the place where you become yourself.”