We are all in the same room

My Anglo-Celtic (Scottish and Irish), Asian and Mediterannean ancestors have combined to give me an appearance which could potentially be Greek, Maltese, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Middle Eastern, even Sri Lankan – or almost any nationality with olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes. 

Being of mixed heritage in a multicultural country gives me an unexpected advantage: each cultural group sees me as one of their own, and in addition, I am often mistaken for a friend by complete strangers. It is not unusual for a person to come up to me, beaming, only to realise that close up, I am not actually the person they thought I was. I am often asked if I know that I have a twin. 

Yesterday, I was at a Turkish kebab shop ordering some lunch for my family and I. I ordered two kebabs for my daughter and the Bear, who were sitting down, and a gozleme for me (a delicious spinach and feta flatbread toastie). At the sound of someone ordering a gozleme, the Turkish owner, a cocky, handsome man in his forties, turned around.

“Are you Turkish?” He asked.

I grinned, happy that yet another nationality was claiming me. “No, but maybe I was last life because I love Turkish food so much,” I said.

He nodded as if I what I had said made perfect sense.

“Can I have four pieces of baklava as well, please,” I asked, remembering how much my family love the sweet and flaky treat.

As he packaged up my pastries, he cut a sliver of another type of pastry, similar to baklava but with shredded wheat instead of filo, and offered it to me to try.

I smiled in delight and thanked him.

“Do you like Turkish coffee?” He asked.

“Of course!” I replied.

He barked an order to the kitchen and shortly after I was presented with a tiny, delicate espresso cup filled with thick, sweet, black coffee, strong enough to stand a spoon in it. I sipped it appreciatively, and the women behind the counter grinned at me; “You won’t sleep for a week after that!”

“You like olives?” Asked my new Turkish friend.

“Sure,” I said, sipping my coffee, “what kind?”

“The best kind! The best olives in the world, Turkish olives!” 

Soon my lunch was presented to me, slices of gozleme, yogurt garlic sauce, a wedge of lemon and scattered with the best olives in the world.

Fricken delicious.

What was just as nice was the feeling I had of being welcomed, albeitly briefly, into a different culture. In my 20s I had the brief privilege of working in a deli in the very multicultural Sydney suburb of Ashfield. Every day, I was asked by Greek, Italian and Asian grandmothers where I was from. At first I was confused.

“Australia,” I would say.

“No,” they would insist, “what nationality?”

After a while I realised that they all thought I was one of them.

Boyd Varty, a South African park guide, said in his TEDx talk, that his definition of harmony is “everything being uniquely itself, and by being uniquely itself, is also a part of a greater unfolding.”

That’s the true joy of the world for me – that our very uniqueness contributes to the overall harmony of the world. As borders blur, and the lines between once rigid cultures, religions and race collapse, we are realising that the things we have in common are more significant than the things that make us different. 

I am eating gozleme and baklava because my government realised that the White Australia policy was slowly crippling our country, and decided to open our island border to other nationalities. 

Like the flow of fresh water into a drought starved river bed, our country has thrived and flourished because we have opened our doors and our hearts. How can it be otherwise?

Don’t believe the fear stories fed to us by politicians and sections of the media who thrive on dog whistling and moral panic. Don’t let people with fearful hearts drag you in, in their attempt to degrade and ‘other’ our fellow human beings. 

People who arrive wanted or unwanted on our borders, wherever those borders may be, are not ‘aliens’.  

They are flesh and blood, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings. We cannot shortcut our humanity in the defence of the indefensible without serious consequences. If we have to dehumanise a person in order to justify brutal actions, then our own humanity becomes compromised. 

We have plenty of examples to look back on of what happens when a group of people become dehumanised in their attempt to ‘other’ another group of people. 

History never looks kindly on these people by the way. 

If we view the world through the lens of the nightly news, it may look like it’s all going to shit.  Unsurprisingly, an events show curated to sell alarm and outrage will create that effect.

However, if we choose to operate with the idea that we’re all in this together, and that there is more that connects us than divides us, we will get a whole different vision of the world.

11 comments

  1. It’s so nice to hear your lovely voice again. I can but agree to all you have said…not surprisingly, because we have more in common than not…I used to be mistaken for someone else all the time. My roommate at Uni even crossed the street one day to talk to the girl she thought was me, only to realise at the last minute it was not me. And the reverse has happened many times. Meanwhile…Turkish food is so good…as is living in a country that may not be perfect but is inching toward ‘better’ all the time. Wonderful. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello dear Ardys, it’s lovely to be back here telling stories 😊 we do seem to have a lot in common don’t we? Getting mistaken for someone else happens so regularly I’m not even surprised anymore.
      I agree, I love my imperfect country too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful experience your Turkish lunch was. I believe food is slowly but surely the gateway to culture integration. Interesting that you, Ardys, I share the experience of being mistaken for someone else. I often joke how generic my appearence must be. And, unthreatening, familiar… strangers often ask for directions or strike up a conversation. My heritage is predominantly UK and Celtic with a single ancestor from Prussia leaving a northern european mark. Many times I have met people for the first time I’m sure I know from another time and place. Seems in our uniqueness we are wonderfully same same but different. Rather than relying on the influence of vested interests we flourish when open our minds and hearts and lives to allow others to connect with us and our own experiences the opportunity to guide what we offer our communities and they us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dale, isn’t that funny! I describe myself as the everywoman, because my features appear to be so adaptable! People will even ask me where things are in shops!
      I agree with you about food – it has played such an important role in breaking down the barriers between cultures, especially in our country.

      Like

  3. I have no experience with Turkish food, but it sounds delicious! The closest to what you describe, around here would be found at a Greek food place. I completely agree with what you say about the news being curated to sell alarm and outrage. I learned a lot about it when I took a course in college about the psychology of mass media and communication.

    Speaking of immigrants, there’s a huge uproar in my country at the moment about a recent immigration policy that’s resulted in many families being separated, with babies and children taken from their parents. Having a textbook narcissist for a president is absolutely stirring up all sorts of chaos- and will continue to do so for as long as he’s in office. Fortunately, as a country we’re waking up because of it, and taking what action we can. Because we’re all in it together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Susan,
      Greek food is very similar to Turkish food – also delicious!
      As usual, we all get to watch what the US does, so I’m well aware of what is going on with the children at the border, your narcissistic President, and the fact that he changed the law today…
      You might not know that Australia has an appalling refugee policy, where we imprison people who try to arrive by boats, sometimes for years, in offshore camps.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sara, lovely to be reading you again! What a great lived experience you have, being recognized and welcomed across cultures and diverse peoples. Our kids are mystified by the fear and division on those rare moments they encounter it. It serves us parents as we reflect time and again how manufactured our hate is, and how innate love and care is to our humanity. Thanks for bringing the global local – indeed we are all in the same room. Our rural area is often light on the diversity and multi-cultures, so warm reminders that bring hope keep me active in the conversations that invariably occur from time to time. Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Kate 🙂 Yes, our rural area is a bit light on in diversity as well. Fortunately, our nearest large town is a place which has become a welcoming space for refugees, mainly African, as well as an established Sikh population who farm bananas and blueberries. And apparently Turkish people as well 🙂 Thank goodness!

      Like

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