Although I am Canadian to the core, since 1998 I have spent many scattered weeks and months working elsewhere in the world and, to my surprise, have come to think of myself as a global citizen.
One of the great pleasures I have had is developing enduring friendships with people in many communities where I have visited or worked.
In Bosnia I enjoyed the hospitality of several families, and developed ongoing friendships with co-workers during the 11 years that I worked there. My closest associates were Bosniak Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Croat Catholics. We were all able to get along and work together despite the preceding years of war based on “ethnic” differences.In Italy, I have friends who have a bedroom in their house that they call “John’s room”. I have enjoyed making pasta with Aunt Bruna, babysat young Enrico when he was a baby and enjoyed special pizza made for me by their friend, Antonio.
In East Africa I have been blessed with cultural nicknames. In Maasai, I am John Ole Moiko Geddes and am a part of the Maasai Oseuri age set. In Uganda I also have been given traditional names of endearment. In western Uganda I have been given the empaako name Amooti. In another part of Uganda I am known as Otim. Emails that I get from there are addressed to Dr. Otim.I have my own goat in Kenya (her name is Veronica) and have actually developed a little herd of her offspring. When I visit there, my Moiko family can find my goat(s) in their herd and point them out to me. The goats, however, don’t remember me.
I also had a calf given to me a few years ago. The Maasai fellow who did this said he picked this particular animal because it was “weird”. It was a real non-conformist liking to ramble with the other animals, goats and sheep. I took this as a compliment. Culture, colour, race or religion make no difference to me as to who my friends and family are.In Kenya there is a fellow who calls me “Dad”. I hear from him every week (more often sometimes than my kids here in Canada!) and he is Facebook friends with my family, has chatted on Skype with my 93 year old father and has pictures of my grandchildren stuck on the door of his refrigerator.
Having the chance to actually live with families in different communities has definitely given me opportunities to develop close friendships not usually available to “tourists”. These relationships have enriched my life immeasurably.