As a pre-teen and teenager, I had a pen pal in New Zealand, by the name of Lillian. We wrote to each other from the time we were twelve years old until we were about sixteen, at which point the letters stopped. But I had learned a lot about New Zealand and her about the USA during that time. When I last heard from her, she had decided to take a job working on the New Zealand railroad. I still treasure the small gifts I received from her—volcanic sand and a hei-tiki necklace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hei-tiki). I was reminded of her this past week because I had the pleasure of talking to a new conference attendee from New Zealand by the name of Kylie—it was a pleasure to meet her. Meeting her reminded me of what these conferences are really all about—encountering new people and forming new networks and connections. But it was our conversation about New Zealand films and also about how the New Zealand government has worked hard to integrate the Māori people, that I remember most. I want to find some of the films she mentioned, and to read a bit more about New Zealand society generally.
It is true what the Dalai Lama says— ‘Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before’. Because you never know who you’re going to meet, or what kind of experiences you’ll walk away with. This by itself—the excitement of unwrapping the unknown—is worth the time it takes to travel to new places. It doesn’t matter if the purpose of the trip is business or vacation. It is about staying open to the world around us. I’ll be writing more about Germany in coming posts. I’m happy we finally decided to spend some time here. From what I’ve seen so far, it is a fascinating country of contrasts.