I watched the little girl with fascination and amusement.
It was clear by her look of wonder and terror that she had never been on, or near, an escalator. She stepped toward it hesitantly.
What was this moving staircase? And how on earth was she to ride it.
“Come on! It’s ok! We’ll ride it together” the little girl beside her was gently persistent.
They couldn’t have been more different. The one, dark skin with deep brown eyes and tight curls falling over her round face; the other fair with skin easily burned by the sun, blue eyes as deep as the other’s were brown. Hair past her shoulders, wispy, straight and blonde.
I wanted to covertly snap a picture, so taken was I with this interaction and the contrast. But I would have to be content with the picture in my mind and the words already forming in my head.
She continued to hesitate as the blonde girl coached her along.
“It will be fun, you’ll see”
I have no idea what their story was. More family members seemingly belonging to the blonde girl were at the bottom of the escalator, laughing and looking up, calling out encouragement.
It was a perfect picture of a cultural broker. The darker-skinned girl had never seen, much less ridden, on an escalator. She had no idea if she could trust it. She was in strange territory, away from what she knew, away from comfort and knowing the rules. The girl with her spoke encouragement until they both got on, holding hands.
I left as I heard their laughter echoing upwards.
When we’re crossing into foreign territory it’s comforting to have a hand to hold, someone who can, and will, tell us it will be okay. Someone who won’t mock, but gently coaxes, knowing that we’ll get on when we feel ready.
Sometimes the foreign land is an escalator, other times it’s a crowded bazaar, no matter – the feelings are the same.
We are part enamored and part terrified.
We are a good bit overwhelmed.
The last thing I saw as I turned were two heads close together, one dark and one light, laughing and moving forward.
I wish all cross-cultural encounters were this successful. Would that more would result in two heads together in mutual laughter and hope, negotiating the escalators of cross-cultural living and communicating.
- For other article addressing cross cultural issues on this blog go to this link https://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/category/cross-cultural/
- Cultural Detective Online is LIVE!!!!!!!! (culturaldetective.com)
- Cross-cultural Adjustment (joannpittman.com)