There are a million things I could be doing right now, like working out, cooking dinner, doing laundry, seeing my friends, or learning another language. Instead, I’m sitting indoors, staring at my laptop screen, typing away. With all the other things I could be doing, why do I make blogging a priority?
Before I went to Kuwait to the first time, I was faced with so much resistance. I live in West Virginia, a state plagued by ignorance and an unwillingness to change and accept the different. On a regular basis I received hate mail and unsolicited advice for my choice to travel. (I still get nasty messages from time to time, but I’ve learned to ignore it.) Some of the harassment I received included, but wasn’t limited to:
- My step-dad telling me that God would strike my mother dead if I went to Kuwait. (Needless to say my mom divorced him last summer.)
- A man I hardly knew messaging me on facebook because he heard I was with a Kuwaiti man to tell me to give my future children Christian names, not Arabic names, and that I should probably leave my fiance because he was Arab.
- A former friend told me that she was removing herself from my life because she couldn’t deal with the pain of losing me because I was going to 100% get murdered when I went to Afghanistan. (For the record I Kuwait and Afghanistan are two separate countries. I still haven’t gone to Afghanistan, and have no intention of going.)
- Upon meeting them for the first time, I was told by my step-dad’s family that women in France are treated badly because the laws allow it, and because women in France have it soooooo bad I shouldn’t go to Kuwait. (I swear this really happened.)
- A middle school teacher told me that I was shouldn’t go to Kuwait because I would be sacrificed to a pig god because my skin is white and I am a woman. Why they allow this man to be an educator is beyond me.
- Multiple people begged me not to go, and repeatedly gave me advice about how to survive in the Middle East.
- A man who worked at my local flea market threatened me, telling me that I can “move north, south, east, or west but I’m no longer welcome here.” He proceeded to tell me that he and his mason friends own this town and make things happen to people. He proceeded to brag about murdering 3 people of color.
The thing I find most interesting is not a single person who advised me about the Middle East had never actually left the country, much less traveled to the part of the world I was headed to. Since I got with my Kuwaiti fiance, more than 150 people have deleted me from Facebook. At first it did irritate me, but then I realized that nothing was lost because I do not want to associate myself with such ignorant, intolerant people. Lucky for me I do have some great friends who, although somewhat nervous, supported my decision to travel.
There was so much negativity here before I went to Kuwait the first time, so naturally I was surprised that the Kuwaiti’s hospitality started before I ever even landed. I set up an account with Couchsurfing.org before I left USA, and posted in the Kuwait forums my arrival date. When I finally touched down after a 16 hour journey, a lady met me at the airport to give me the VIP treatment. She guided me through the airport, fast tracked my wait to get the visa, and filled out all the paperwork when my luggage was lost. Turns out one of the couch surfers works ground control and arranged for her to meet me upon my arrival. This was just the first of many acts of hospitality. When my fiance was at work, the locals would always invite me places. These people who didn’t even know me would invite me to lunch, take me to museums, and teach me about the culture, solely because I was a guest in their country.
I was never once judged based on my race, religion, nationality. I wondered to myself what would happen if the tables were turned, and they visited my hometown. Would the locals invite them out for coffee and stimulating discussion, or would they chastise them for their different beliefs and make them feel excluded?
Which brings me back to why I blog. I always feel enraged when people talk like ignorance is a disease without a cure, when they tell me that we should forget about the ignorant people in the community, because they will always just be ignorant. Yes, with that give up and don’t try attitude, they will always be ignorant; but, if we make a conscious effort to educate people maybe we can help to open their minds. We can educate people that their prejudices are often based on stereotypes. I have seen people change their views on the Middle East just from watching my travels on facebook, so I truly believe that we can educate the ignorant. With that being said, being ignorant isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being ignorant usually just means you haven’t learned about something yet. Choosing to be ignorant and uneducated, however, is a different story. I will continue to combat ignorance and stereotypes as long as I am able, and I really hope this blog can help to open minds.
Peace be upon you,