INTERSECTIONS contains stories of people that choose to enter or were thrust into the heart of an intersection. Some crossed and continued on their chosen direction, some panicked and learned their true limitations, some found themselves journeying in a whole new direction. No one was exactly the same person they were before they approached these boundaries.
At one of the main intersections in Asakusa, Japan you see a physical representation of a cultural intersection. Some of the signage is in Japanese, some in English. The cars vary from a large American van to small Japanese cars. There are pedestrians, bicycles, and most dramatically, a rickshaw, one of the many in the area. The speed of individuals crossing the intersection, or turning on to a new direction, varies in a seemingly chaotic non-pattern. The intimidation factor is variable. Before entering a cultural intersection we have to know our own capabilities and weakness, to access the potential danger, and to make a decision whether to enter or turn back.
I think most of us usually want to have a plan before we stumble into an intersection. Do we cross the intersection and leave it behind, or turn a corner to change directions? —Or perhaps we want to walk away and find a tunnel or overhead bridge to avoid the intersection entirely—-.
Sometimes we become stranded in the middle of an intersection (see David’s story in Vladivostok) and can only hope that someone will stop to assist or that no one will run us down before we see the way to navigate safely. It’s this last possibility that stops many people from entering unfamiliar intersections. This possibility of failure, or having to admit that help is needed, can be threatening to our self image. Regardless of the reasons that we avoid intersections these intersections become boundaries to our thoughts, our beliefs, and actions.
Inside of these boundaries we are defined by three different sets of qualities
1) Our personal qualities, our look, our coordination, our talents, and most importantly our beliefs.
2) Our interpretation of the things that are external to us, things like our location, our culture, and our interactions. These become the foundation of our beliefs.
3) Our interpretation of who we are in society, how we fit, and what we can and cannot do or accomplish
When is it appropriate to smile, to make an overture to create a team? When is it not appropriate? Lera and Lena had to find out and it wasn’t always easy.
By the time Meng Xin was in middle school he had learned that if he wanted to have an impact on larger issues, things beyond his own needs, he needed to choose his methods wisely and not fight the battles which are not worth the sacrifice of his power.
Alexey Gavrilov’s instructor described traveling to America with his wife like going into a deep dark forest. “You feel that you have lost the path. You feel lost, but then you begin to understand that you are still the same person, still Russian and yet you can speak to Americans and they will understand you.”
Alexei Parnyakov worked with Gao Hongbo every day and observed Wang Yudan as she interacted with the group when they were all together. Although communication was a little difficult with Gao, and he’d had very little time with Wang, he realized that both Gao and Wang were very different from the Chinese he knew in Russia. They were intelligent, well educated, interesting, passionate, and doing their best to fit into the community.