When I went hiking in the Pyrenees last month, it allowed me to spend time getting to know the Japanese lad I was living and working alongside, when staying with the Catalan family. We’d got on well, but seen as both of us were going our separate ways very soon, we took the chance to have a really good conversation.
We talked a lot about life and history in Japan and the UK, sharing stories and culture from our different perspectives. I came to realise it must have been difficult for him to come and integrate himself into the family who already know me well and not be able to speak any Castilian Spanish. The conversation was fruitful and at times profound. He was 29, having spent years travelling the world, and I enjoyed listening to him sharing his experiences. He had been a teacher for 10 years and explained that it was his best classes were when he asked a question, and let the students then do the talking.
Being able to have a good conversation is an important thing. We were coming at cultural differences and questions from different upbringings and world views. At times we disagreed, but we listened and heard the other’s perspective. It was eye opening to learn about someone else and their culture from their own experiences, not the projections I’ll discover as a white, middle class male. Often we need to open our ears before our mouths. To listen and to learn, because once we learn to see the other first, then we can then be seen ourselves.
Who will you listen today?