Ahhh...a bit better. Only in the city can you receive a smile and a "God bless you" from a thin, old, black man pushing a shopping cart mounded twice as high as he is tall with all his belongings. Only in the city can you smile at a woman belting out Gospel songs on a busy street corner for no other reason than to make people happy. Colorful, never boring, not nearly the conformity of the suburbs and yet...just as in the suburbs, all around you people scurry to and from work in the endless quest for enough money to pay for the house that's too big and the car that's too fancy and the clothes from Plaza Frontenac and the food from Straubs. Still a culture of conformity, just dressed up a bit. And we were sucked in. Still no TV, still riding motorcycles, still shopping at Goodwill (now just down the street), but working way too hard just to pay for the house in the city, half of the rooms which we didn't even use.
As I read the blogs of 20 other cruisers the one recurring theme is the satisfacton they all get from being enmeshed in another culture. While they all tell of the initial culture shock of living without a McDonalds and Walmart on every corner, they begin to understand through another's eyes that life can be lived quite happily without being chained to consumerism. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to admit that we have benefited from our culture of consumerism. We wouldn't own the boat at all if we hadn't had the equity in the house to pay for it. I'm grateful for that, for sure, but at 56 I'm feeling a pretty strong desire to try something else. I don't think I'm alone in this. As I chat with people in a normal week, a good many of them seem to be longing for something with a little more meaning. Maybe a little culture shock is just what the doctor ordered.