INTERVIEW: Citizens of the world

Uzbek4

Susan traveling in Uzbekistan 

(Photos courtesy Susan)

Uzbek1

Uzbekistan

i-RCTQjjd-L copy

On route to Cuba

i-HBbv7Mx-XL

Cuba

Ukraine1

Susan and Kurt in Ukraine

Ukraine3

Ukraine

Iran2

“How people think really interests me.” — Susan

Iran5

Iran

Syria2

Susan and Kurt in Syria

Syria1

Syria

Turkey2

Turkey


Do you love languages? Do you dream of traveling the world? Do you love learning about other cultures more than you fear the differences between you? Meet Susan. Susan also loves words and languages—and meeting people. Together with her husband Kurt, they have traveled to 95 countries and speak five living languages: English, German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Susan is an editor with one of the largest textbook companies in America. Her specialty is writing and editing social studies books for children, that is, books that teach history, culture, geography, government, and economics. But her real talent is her ability to love all the nations of our world. 


Question: Susan, please tell us a little about your great love of language.

Answer:  Language is a kind of music. It has its own sounds, its own tones and moods. It has its own beauty. I enjoy languages in the same way I enjoy music. I first learned to speak Spanish. I started when I was eleven or twelve. I grew up in southern California, near the border with Mexico. People traveled up from Mexico to work in my town. My first Mexican friend was a man who worked at a stable where I rode horses. He brought his wife and baby with him to live at the stable. I wanted to talk with his wife so she wouldn’t be lonely. We became good friends. Most of all, I love languages because I want to make friends.

     I learned Spanish in school, but also by listening to the radio. I loved learning songs and commercials. Commercials are really helpful because you hear the same words again and again. It’s a fun way to memorize dialog. It just becomes a part of you because you’ve heard the words so often. I remember my teacher telling me that learning a language is like having a boyfriend. You have to pay attention to him in order to keep him. 

     For me, language is a “window” into other countries and cultures. It opens up your view of how other people in the world live. Language is how people think. And how people think really interests me. For example, most cultures have wise sayings. In America we have the saying, “Many hands make light work”. It’s a small example, but from these sayings you see how people think about life. 


Question: Did you dream of traveling the world when you were young?

Answer: I’ve always loved getting to know people and learning about other cultures, but I never dreamed of traveling the world. In fact, as a child I never wanted to leave my parents! I was very tied to home and was afraid to go places. I didn’t even know if I could go to college because I was so upset when I was away from home. Then I found a religion called Christian Science and it set me free. To be able to go places and feel at home was a great healing. What made me able to travel was being able to feel at home wherever I am. There’s a saying we have in America, “Home is where you hang your hat .” Wherever I put down my bags, I’m home! No matter what country I’m in, while I’m there, that’s home. When I travel, I feel that I’m a member of the country I’m in. I really feel like I am a part of that country. If there is a celebration, we laugh and sing and dance with the people. If they play their national anthem I cry!  


Question: You said that feeling at home wherever you are was a healing for you. What do you mean by that?

Answer: I learned why I didn’t have to be afraid. What I discovered was, that  we are really surrounded by Love. I mean that in the highest sense of the word.  I learned that I was surrounded by the unchanging love of God and couldn’t get outside of that Love. Love took over. Over the years, my husband and I have been able to travel to 95 countries. It’s even hard for me to believe that. I’m very grateful. It has been such a blessing. I love being with the people. That’s what I love most of all. We still have friends from countries we visited long ago.


Question: What do you look for when you travel? 

Answer: There are three or four things I look for in the countries we visit. First, I look for people to talk to. Then I look for the things the country values: its art, museums, historical sites, and whatever they feel proud of. I also love to learn about their history. And, finally, I try to really feel what life is like there.

     One of the first things I learned when I started to travel is that there are many ways to do the same thing. We are used to doing things our way. But one way isn’t right and another way wrong. They’re just different. When you learn to do something a new way, it makes you grow. It makes you think in new and bigger ways—and often in better ways. Talking with people has taught me so much. It’s made me more tolerant and flexible. I hope I’m a better person and more loving because of being able to travel. 


Question: What makes you interested in a new country?

Answer: I learn about new countries through friends who have been somewhere. From that I’m interested in learning more. The more you know about a place, the more interesting it becomes to you. If I take the time to read about a place, or if I meet someone from a country, then that country rises to the top of places I want to go. Lately I’ve been thinking that I would like to visit Poland, and also Butan, in southeast Asia.

Question: Do you have a motto that helps you or inspires you?

Answer: I went to a country once that had experienced a lot of war. My motto for that trip was, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” It was the message the angels brought at the birth of Jesus. It’s been a wonderful motto for all my travels as well as for my life. I truly believe that we can be international citizens. We can be both proud of our country but also ready to be an international citizen. It is all mankind here. If you can love all mankind, then you are ready to be part of any country. That might seem hard to do, or even impossible, but it’s a recognition that there’s much, much good in every place. And because of that, I’m happy to feel a part of a country for whatever time I’m there. 




HOME Ω PAGE


 ©InterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com