My primary reasons for travel manifest themselves on a daily basis. The time to make connections with people and places - time I would normally lack in everyday life, with an everyday routine. The patience to handle - and even enjoy! - a roundabout transportation route to a different destination than the one that I initially requested. The ability to focus on learning new words in new languages, thereby shining a brighter light on the locals in a new country. But I derive the most pleasure from the exquisite overlap of cultures that occurs in almost every country that I've devoured thus far. From the dichotomies and quirks of the Philippines to a 20-minute conversation with a 4-year-old in Beijing about why I was not wearing socks, endless pleasure - and great stories - are always born of these chance encounters.
The most recent manifestation of such an entertaining cultural rarity occurred in Mataram, Lombok. I had just summitted Rinjani and was limping through town in search of a pharmacy to appease my aching (and bleeding) feet. I finally found one directly across the street from the Mataram mall, and spent 1/2 an hour bandaging and cleaning my feet in the pharmacy itself, much to the consternation of the pharmacists. In the process, a random older white guy came in, glanced dismissively at my feet and informed me that if I peed in my hiking boots before I started hiking, I'd never get blisters. I nodded at him slowly and he left without purchasing anything. The pharmacist looked at me like I was insane, and I assured him I would be peeing only in toilets, not in my boots. He was appeased.
But that's not the culture clash part (though it was objectively mind-boggling). That came a few minutes later when, my feet safely wrapped in layers of gauze, I hobbled across the street to Mataram Mall to get a bite to eat. In the main concourse, a fashion runway had been set up for what appeared to be a bridal fashion show. The show hadn't started yet but on the runway were about half a dozen women, all dancing their hearts out. To the Black Eyed Peas song My Humps. That's right: 6 fully covered, veiled Muslim women in the extremely conservative town of Mataram were getting down to a song with the following chorus:
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Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…
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