Hello everyone! I am exciting to be joining you for the remainder of the semester! My name is Nathan Dee and I am a junior at Gallatin. I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri and I have spent the last two years studying at the NYU New York campus developing a concentration in large carnivore conservation biology. This year has been the first time I’ve traveled solo internationally and it’s been a crazy ride so far. My year of travel began this summer when I was working on a wolf, bear, and lynx study team in Croatia. In august I flew to Tel Aviv where I am now in the middle of my first of two semesters with NYU Tel Aviv. Right now I am taking a break from conservation biology activity and instead focusing on another big interest–my training with the Ido Portal Method. The Ido Portal Method takes a very general approach towards developing a physical movement practice.
Pico Iyer’s essay reminded me in particular of my time in Croatia. First and foremost, I got a chuckle out of his observation on Parisian’s taste for Mickey Rourke and Jerry Lewis. In Croatia they love Amy MacDonald and Jack Nicholson. I’m curious about how these foreign selections of american musicians and actors come about–I’m really baffled by all of these picks.
I think the rescuing of places from abstraction which Pico describes is a really interesting situation which I’ve run into several times this year. One night in Croatia I was hanging out with a visiting student from Italy who had become my close friend. I don’t quite remember how we got on the subject, but I was describing the racial climate in St. Louis. At the beginning of the conversation I was assuming that he had a base understanding of the racial issues in the United States but as I noticed his reactions I realized that he genuinely had no idea that the United States has a race problem. In previous conversations he had expressed how much love and admiration he has for America, a sentiment that I’ve heard echoed other times in Croatia and Israel as well as other countries I’ve visited along the way. This abstraction of America as an ideal democracy and capable world leader is something I was educated to be cynical of my whole life. But as I travel I am continually reminded that the message which America broadcasts of itself internationally is still perceived at face value in other countries.
This abstraction phenomenon is a two way street–my own abstractions of the countries I’ve been visiting are constantly being checked and questioned. If I never travel internationally again, at least my knowledge of Croatia and Israel is more honest than whatever I had projected on them before.