Christians around the world will be celebrating Easter this
weekend, which made me start thinking about the traditions that characterise
our daily lives. We adopt traditions from a young age and these traditions are ultimately
dependant on influences such as where and to whom we’re born, how we’re raised
by our families, societal, cultural or religious beliefs, etc.
But what happens when we start travelling overseas and
observe how other cultures and nationalities live? Do we take lots of photos,
write notes in our journals and relay our observations to friends and family
via long-winded stories upon our return? Or do we start thinking on a seminal
level and actually start adopting traditions from afar into our lives?
While travelling through Syria in 2010, we came into contact
with unlimited amounts of hospitality wherever we went and we were introduced to
the concept of ‘welcome tea’. Just through a simple action such as checking
into a hotel or wandering into a shop, a visitor will almost always be asked: “Would
you like a welcome tea?” This happened to us when we checked into our hotel in
Palmyra. We accepted our host’s invitation for a welcome mint tea. About 20
minutes later, we were treated to freshly brewed tea with sprigs of mint.
During the time it took for the tea to be brewed from scratch, we were occupied
with friendly chatter amongst our hosts. Simply checking in wasn’t just a quick
transaction of cards and documents. It was a chance to take the time to bond
with strangers and make new friends over a welcome tea. It made us slow
down and appreciate the opportunity to get to know a stranger.
Back home in Australia, its customary to offer guests
beverages and something to eat. But since our travels through Syria, Jordan and
Egypt, I find myself stuffing my cups of tea with mint leaves in an attempt to
re-enact those memories of taking our time and forming new friendships. If I am
actually pressed for time, I add the mint leaves to a cup of steaming hot
water. The memories still flood back to me.
After returning home to Melbourne, I also realised that my
interactions with people in my community had been reduced to transactional ones
and I really wasn’t connecting with strangers in my community as much as I
should’ve. Have you ever noticed at the supermarket you’re always pushed
through the check-out as quickly as possible? The check-out person is already
servicing the next customer before you’ve had a chance to put your change in
your wallet! A concern for my own lack of community connections led me to start
tutoring English voluntarily to migrants in my community. I’ve been teaching
for one year now, and I’ve tutored two separate Chin ladies from Burma
(Myanmar). Through their traditions, I’ve learned to remove my shoes before
entering their households.
We are always exhibiting our own traditions, whether daily
or annually, and through travel we’re given the opportunity to see how things
can be done differently for a more positive effect. Have you brought home a
tradition from your travels? Or, have you interpreted a tradition and adopted it
into your life in your own special way?