The knitting world

As I sit here on my lawn chair, listening to the crickets and some unidentified summer-time noises outside, I have a rare moment to ponder things that usually escape my notice in the whirlwind of family life.

I think about the brood of Muscovy ducklings we saw on our walk yesterday. There is a pair of Muscovy ducks that live along the shores of our pond, so I took the boys through our “secret passageway” to the spot where the ducks usually hang out. They weren’t along the shore or in the grasses nearby. Instead, they were across the street, with their six ducklings, hanging out underneath a parked car in our neighbors’ driveway. What a funny sight–six fuzzy yellow quackers huddled together underneath the back bumper of the car, while their pudgy mom and dad (with their distinctive red masks) waddled around keeping guard.

I’ve also been thinking about the knitting world, though I’m miles away from it at the moment. My knitting stuff is in boxes one state over, and I won’t be getting back to it for some time, I’m sure. But I keep up with the blogs I read from around the world, and I’m pleased to see that people around the world are beginning to read mine. Hello, Australia! Hello, Peru and Brazil! Hello, UK and Ireland and Japan and Thailand and Canada! Hi there, Israel and Turkey and Finland and Belgium and Austria! What a fantastic thing that through blogs, I can be in touch with people all over the world, through my own words and through theirs. Wow.

This fascination all comes back to being an exchange student at heart, I suppose. Way back when, in the year between high school and college–back when Reagan was president and massive shoulder pads were in fashion and the Cold War was still going strong, I spent a year as an exchange student in Austria. That was the single most transformative experience of my young adulthood. It was so much more than learning to speak German and living with another family for a year. It completely changed my outlook on the world and on my own life. I’m still discovering things about myself that have their origins in that year. I could write dozens of blog entries about the gifts of that year, but for now, I’ll just focus on how that year made me realize how much I am a part of the world community.

That may seem like a no-brainer to those who grew up in more cosmopolitan surroundings, but for me, that was a tremendous revelation. My world, growing up in suburban north Texas, was remarkably insular. Most people I knew didn’t look too far afield. Few kept up with world events. Most had never traveled out of the country. No one in my family had gone overseas specifically to learn about another country–as far as I knew, their only international experiences had been in wartime (and 1917 wasn’t the best time to visit France, nor was the early 1940s the best time to visit the islands of the south Pacific). People like us weren’t cosmopolitan and worldly.

But I had a fabulous French teacher in high school who recognized my budding interest in language and culture, and she encouraged me to consider becoming an exchange student. Looking back, I’m shocked I actually went through with the idea, because I was such a shy, quiet kid. But the experience was the making of me.

By the time my year in Austria was over, I realized that the only thing you need to be “one of those people who travel” is simply money, a passport, and an open mind. You don’t have to be born into a certain class or to a certain family. And what a vast level of enlightenment to see myself in a world context! To learn about America through the eyes of others–to see for myself how we are perceived by the outside world. It was so humbling at first–I had been taught a strictly positive view of American history and American foreign policy, in which what we did was for the good of everyone. It was eye-opening to see it all from another perspective. It was also difficult for me, as so many people I met in Austria expected me to explain and defend Reagan’s policies (which I couldn’t and wouldn’t do!).

To cut a long story short–and to bring it back to the topic of knitting–some of my most treasured memories of that year are about making connections with people. We speak different languages, eat different foods, live in different kinds of houses. We may have different politics and different views on the world. But somewhere, there is something we all have in common. So I love to see that people in so many nations have stopped by here–just as I stop by the blogs of many people in nations I’ve never visited yet. We may connect over knitting, then find we have other things in common too.

And if more people would realize how much we have in comon, the world would be a much safer place.

How long is it until January 20, 2009?

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2 Responses to “The knitting world”

  1. It seems as though 01.20.2009 is an eternity away in these days of mindless world powers. If only certain people would walk through countries working with spindle or needles as they talked with ordinary citizens! Or maybe a knitter should run for president. Just think of all the humane knitting projects floating around the world. Instead of…
    Thanks for sharing a bit of your past in this thought provoking post.

    Have fun camping in the empty house!

  2. Knitting Linguist Says:

    You are SO right about how transformative it is to live abroad at some point in young adulthood. My time in France (between high school and college, and again my junior year in college) played a huge part in making me who I am now. I tell all of my college students to take themselves abroad if at all possible; it makes such a difference in how they see themselves, and, I think, in changing what might otherwise be a black-and-white, right-and-wrong view of the world. It’s hard to think there’s only one correct way to do something when you’ve seen other people succeed by trying a completely different way. Anyway, thanks for reminding me how great that time was!

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