Page 77 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
MAY 2013
77
Leah Evans is a Foreign Service spouse serving in Kyiv.
F
oreign Service families are
travelers and wanderers and
storytellers. When I frst began
traveling, it was to see how difer-
ent cultures can be. Today, after years of
traveling and living abroad, I mostly see
how similar cultures can be. After arriv-
ing in the strangeness of a new country,
I wait for that moment when the pockets
of familiarity jump out at me, and I
realize that while this isn’t home, it is so
much like home.
I grew up in rural Ohio, on a 100-acre
organic sheep and alfalfa farm in the
heart of Amish country. Like many peo-
ple, I found my childhood to be unique
and beautiful. I expected in my travels
as a Foreign Service family member to
experience a new life, but I found instead
echoes of my old one. Now, those forma-
tive years immersed in farm culture
provide a foundation for most of my new
experiences.
In Tbilisi, Georgia, the shepherds
bring focks of sheep to the outskirts of
town to sell and butcher on the spot.
A customer picks a sheep and, with an
incredibly swift fick of the knife and
twist of the torso, the sheep is killed,
hung and cut into dinner-ready pieces.
In my mind I see my Amish neighbor,
Fanny, dispatching a chicken, then
plucking and cutting to create a rich and
savory meal on the spot.
In Oaxaca, Mexico, women sing and
gossip as they cook great feasts over stone
stoves to serve to anyone who comes to
their table. People gather in groups of two
or three to talk, while bending heads low
to eat rolled tortillas stufed with beans,
sour cream and avocado.
In Wooster, Ohio, I stand in line dur-
ing the county fair to buy fair fries and
pulled-pork sandwiches, bonding with
my friends and family over the foods that
we identify as ours, just as such groups
do all over the world.
In Kars, Turkey, the call to prayer
fooded the small town as I ate olives,
yogurt and honey in a seedy hotel with
friends. Tat brought back childhood
memories of Amish neighbors singing
hymns in their old barn, fooding the
valley that is our farm with their haunt-
ing melodies. After the singing, everyone
would gather in clumps under shaded
trees to eat pie, cakes and cookies.
In Quito, Ecuador, we always took
visitors to Otovalo for the craft market.
Across the street, the bustling livestock
market burst with sheep, cows, chickens,
guinea pigs and hundreds of bartering,
gossiping, wandering farmers.
In Mount Hope, Ohio, the weekly
livestock sale brings the same people in
diferent clothes, comparing haunches
of cows and wool on sheep. Te sounds,
smells and sights mirror each other from
diferent hemispheres.
In Cairo, Egypt, the driver of a wagon
full of sweet green hay leans back on his
load while his donkey slowly lumbers
up the green strip of lush farmland. I
remember sitting on top of hay bales
while our neighbor Roy called to the
horses pulling the hay wagon from the
feld to the barn. Te hay, the animals
and the relaxation after hours of hard
physical labor all reach across miles and
oceans.
Of course, there are diferences in
social safety nets and human rights.
Tere are diferences in political corrup-
tion and a sense of hope. But at the basic
human level of work, play and survival,
there are so very many similarities.
Te more I travel, the more I know I
feel anew a part of the world, regardless
of time and place.
n
The Ties That Bind
BY L EAH EVANS
The sounds, smells and sights
of life mirror each other from
diferent hemispheres.
REFLECTIONS