Editor’s note: given the overflow of reader response to Ms. Scott’s first opinion piece last week, she asked for this opportunity to explain and defend herself.
Last week I wrote an article about a trip I took to Nicaragua in 2011. After reading some of the comments, I was confused, upset, and surprised. My original title for this article was “Lessons Learned Abroad,” however it was published under the headline, “Do handouts help anyone in Nicaragua?” I strongly believe that some readers did not understand the context of this article, and that some judged the article because of the changed headline, which probably affected their views on the message. The intended message of my article was to explain value of exploring and appreciating different cultures.
First, I did not state that all Nicaraguans are lazy and poor. Some readers did not understand that my experience in Nicaragua was beneficial in many ways. The purpose of writing the article was to enlighten others about the importance of interacting with and understanding other cultures. After reading some of the comments, I realized how quickly we judge one another. Therefore, before I begin to address some of the issues and the comments about my article, I would like to ask some of the negative readers a few questions.
1). Have you ever left your country? If so, at what age did you start traveling? Did you share your experience with others from different backgrounds?
2) Did you have a good or bad experience?
3) How did you prepare for this trip? Did you read about the country’s culture? Did you befriend or interact with some of the people?
4) What did you learn from this experience? Has it changed your views about life?
If you have never left your country or had a different cultural experience, why do you want to attack me? I am only inspiring individuals to learn, appreciate others, travel, and try to find similarities in different cultures. I left my country at a young age, and if I had never left my country I don’t think I would be interested in learning about other cultures or traveling the world. And I probably would not be the young lady I am today.
My experience in Nicaragua was not a walk in the park. I faced many difficulties in adapting to the culture. I did not visit only Granada; my classmates and I traveled to several cities in Nicaragua. But we were on a bus, and we did not stop to explore. I do remember the sights, sounds, and the buildings. I also remember becoming homesick. My naïve attitude while visiting Granada is similar to some of the negative comments that I received about my article. Like those comments, I judged before coming to understand, or appreciate the differences and similarities of our cultures.
Later, with only a few days left in country, I decided to learn more about Nicaragua by interacting with some of the locals. Before arriving in the country, my classmates and I read the history of Nicaragua in order to prepare for the trip. Even though I read books, and my professor had prepared me beforehand about living and accepting different culture, it was still difficult. I believe that reading about and being schooled on a nation is not the same as living and experiencing that culture in person.
Everyday people make statements about issues, but I believe that an individual has to experience and understand the matter independently in order to appreciate it more. The most important factor about my trip to Nicaragua is that I had a cultural experience, I helped individuals, and I shared my experience with several people, who want to leave their surroundings and travel the world.
I am thankful that I had the opportunity to meet the Nicaraguan lady on the stairs and the little boys at the restaurant. They changed my views about the world, and they have helped me to become mature, and independent. Some of the viewers stated that the Nicaraguan lady is mentally handicapped, therefore she could not tell me “thank you.” I never wanted a thank you from her; I just questioned in my mind why she did not seem grateful. It does not matter if she did not say thank you because I just wanted to help.
This lady taught me to be independent and thankful. Some of us are poor, homeless, or even alone in this world. I think that we all have to be strong, have faith, and believe in ourselves to create a better future. For the individuals with mental problems, I hope that there are more generous people like me, who are willing to aid others. The little boy taught me to be a risk-taker, and to “fight” and stand up for what I believe and want in life.
I stated in my article that some Americans are losing their initiative to achieve success and happiness independently because they are relying too much on government’s aid and handouts. I noticed this trend in other countries that I have traveled in. We should not take this observation as an attack on our cultures; however we should recognize that the problem does exist, and we should try to find ways to solve, or help this issue.
I have a question for individuals who face difficult obstacles every day. Do you allow these problems to affect your opportunities of reaching goals and pursuing happiness?
You shouldn’t let anyone or anything stop you from creating a better life for yourself. I have been poor, without a home, and without a father, but I have many achievements. My traveling experience has led to many of my accomplishments. It’s amazing how we better ourselves by helping others. Why do we stress differences among one another, yet avoid the fact that we are all the same, regardless of the culture?
Andrea Scott is a recent graduate from Lindenwood University, with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Spanish. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and works for the St. Louis Language Immersion School District. Her dream is to leave a legacy through her writing.