Friday, September 21, 2012

You're My Blue Sky, You're My Sunny Day

“Lord you know you make me high when you turn your love my way.”

This song has been in my head for five weeks.  I read Greggory Allman's book (stellar read, I loved his writing style) and he talked about this song.  (It's actually called "Blue Sky" and was written by Dickey Betts - who also sang it.  The two don't speak now but whatever.)
I was reading his book when I was in Puno.  He was quite the dude.  Lots of drugs, music, sex, marriages, death, Cher...

I don't know why, but a lot of what he said resonated with me (I mean, most of it.  I've never done heroin or Cher).  Maybe it is the fact that he is from the South?  I love me some South.

OR, maybe it’s just because he is a human being.

While I was in Puno and since I’ve been in this country, I’ve been really lucky to meet all kinds of people:  staff in other NGOs, farmers, moms, dads, kids, taxi drivers, maids, other ex-pats.  And you wanna know what the NUMBER ONE thing that I am learning about living here is?  One clue: it isn’t about toilets flushing the opposite direction or how to say “How much does this cost?” in Spanish or how to get a taxi or what fruits are the best or how to fix my hair with this humidity.  

It’s this (and bear with me because I’m not articulate enough to say it like Goethe):  

Humans are the same everywhere.
Sound the alarms.  Jessica has had an epiphany.

Yeah yeah yeah.  We’ve all heard it before and YOU have said it before. We post quotes on Facebook about it and we spout it from our presidential stumps and our parents tell us all about it at the dinner table and you learn about it Sunday School (some).  You hear it all the time a thousand ways.  I know I have. Mother Theresa and Oprah and Mister Rogers and Lady Gaga.  And it isn’t that I’ve never believed it.  I’m sure I did.  And do.

HOWEVER, being here has shown it to me in a different way than I expected.  You might think that meeting a woman or farmer in the countryside who is very poor and struggling and now has new-found empowerment because of Heifer would show me the power of humanity.  And it definitely has shown me a lot.  But I think it is something else, at least right now, that is teaching me. 

You see, I cannot understand what most people are saying to me when they talk.  I can’t understand the bus driver or my supervisor or the woman trying to tell me about her struggles before Heifer gave her help.  Because of the language barrier, I have to rely on a whole new set of nonverbal clues.  Intonation, tone of voice, body language, context, eyes rolling, eyebrows, what other people in the room are doing with their bodies and hands.  And it helps me understand what is really going on even when I don’t understand the words.  I am seeing so much more than I ever have.

If you haven’t stopped reading out of boredom at my "epiphany", here is why this is important:  You may have already guessed or know, but I am one generation away from the equivalent of Mayberry. (I'm including the link for the non-Americans reading this blog.  Could the Russians please reveal themselves?)  I'm from a tiny town best known for it's greasy spoon restaurant called the Mammoth Orange.  It has one 4-way stop, no red light and a population of just over one thousand.  "Humanity" was our next door neighbor, the preacher, the truck stop, the hair salon, the full service gas station where men drank coffee/told lies in the mornings, the ballpark, Tar Camp Park and Jr. High "Redfield Lion" basketball games.  This was my world and my normal and the lens through which I saw the world.  And even though I've been to college in a far away state, gotten married a couple of times, have a kid, lived in a few places and work for an international organization - this is still where my understanding of life took root.  And, not that there is anything wrong with a small town perspective, but for me it has taken moving to another hemisphere and to a developing country to realize just how alike all humans are.  That Harper Lee was on to something when she said through Atticus that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Well holy hell.  I might not be walking around in Peruvian skin, but I am paying attention to the world around me now.  And it's different y'all.  It's bigger than me and it doesn't revolve around me.  Imagine that.  Mom was right.
You name it.  Women, just like me, go to lunch every day and talk about men and their kids.  Groups of women huddle together in corners at parties and talk shit about other women.  Kids on the playground are embarrassed when there is something different about them.  Couples fight before the server comes to their table and they quickly straighten up to order as if nothing is wrong.  The janitor is frustrated because no one seems to think it is important to pick up the paper towel off the floor when they missed the trash can.  Moms pull their daughters back by the hand when they are about to walk into traffic.  Men hold their chests high in the taxi when they tell you about how they are sending their kids to college in the United States when he has no formal education. This kind of stuff is everywhere.   So much, man.  I am seeing so much for the first time.  I am regretful too and kind of ashamed that it has taken me so long.

Well now I'm paying attention.  It's amazing what you can learn and see when you keep your mouth shut.
So what does this have to do with Gregg Allman and "Blue Sky"?  Nothing really.  Except that when I was on my way out of Puno and passing Lake Titicaca, I was listening to this song on my iPod.  I was sitting next to a Peruvian woman who looked very tired.  A female tourist sitting in front of us was trying to take pictures out the window of the van and the cold wind was blowing in our faces and I was kinda pissed at her for being so inconsiderate.  It was like 25 degrees outside.  So I lightly elbowed the Peruvian woman next to me and nodded towards the tourist and made a look like "she sucks."  The Peruvian woman just rolled her eyes, nodded her head, and sighed.  We smiled at each other.  I gave her one end of my iPod ear buds and we jammed to the Allman Brothers for 45 minutes on our way from Puno to Juliaca.  

And we were like best friends in the corner talking shit about another woman.  

Humans are the same everywhere. 

This is on the edge of Lake Titicaca.   Not a great shot, sorry.  But I urge you friends, plug in your computer headphones and click here to hear this great song. Imagine yourself in this picture with a cold wind in your face and you're there. 


  1. It's true, we are all more alike than we are different! Is there a way to contact you directly? I am an editor from and we are always on the lookout for contributors for our Global Voices segment.