I’ve been out of town for the last six days. Saturday morning, Elena and I got into the car for the long drive from St. Paul to Knoxville, Tennessee, arriving around noon on Sunday. We spent the next couple of days buying furniture and other essential items (the Asian grocery store was a high priority), putting together furniture and otherwise getting Elena’s part of the apartment she is sharing with two other young women organized before the three began their orientation for University of Tennessee School of Music graduate program yesterday. (Elena and both of her apartment-mates are pursuing a Masters in Music in vocal studies.)
There is nothing like a long drive to another part of the country to remind oneself that this is a big country with a tremendous amount of diversity. I don’t mean geographically – although that is surely also the case. (Having lived in relatively flat Minnesota and Wisconsin for the last nine years, Elena was joyous as we started driving into the area of the Smokies. “There is topography here,” was her humorous outcry.) But there is an enormous difference in culture (which I experience every day having moved to Minnesota from New York), behavior, and even values.
It is an important thing to remember. We have a tendency to think that there is only one way – our way. And, if we are honest, we will admit that we think other ways of being/thinking are (depending on the circumstances) quaint or cute on the one hand, or ignorant, unsophisticated, or just plain wrong on the other. Spending time off our “home court” now and then is a good thing.