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Survivor Challenge: America

I recently won the Survivor Challenge: America. My name is not plastered on the newspapers or on any headline. The radio news is not blasting my name out loud and neither does Times Square display my name prominently on its colorful facade. Still I feel that I am a winner. The prize money is nothing. The real achievement comes from knowing that I came from another place yet was able to overcome the challenges of living in America. I am not a special person and possess no extraordinary powers. I do not claim to be a superhero nor a genius. I am as average as the next guy and perhaps even below average as compared to the other.

Yet I have won the Survivor Challenge of living in America. I narrate this tale not to glorify my triumphant victory but to let the world know that we all possess the skills necessary to survive, not only in America but in other countries as well. This is my guidebook, if you will, on how one is to survive in other countries. When travelling or going to other destinations, my father always told me to travel light. I was always under the impression that he meant that I only pack a few necessary items and buy the rest of the things I need at my destination.

While this is definitely a good idea for travel, it does not count much in surviving. It was only when I became older that I realized that what my father meant was that I should leave all my troubles and worries behind. The problem with a lot of travelers and immigrants for that matter is that they often bring along heavy suitcases filled with stories of despair and lug along huge pieces of luggage filled with hope. Such a travelling arrangement only serves to burden the traveler and may even cause the person from the Bureau of Immigration to send one back from to his or her point of origin.

No country wants to bear the burdens that travelers or immigrants bring. The key therefore is in leaving all of those unnecessary emotions behind and if possible enter with an open mind and a light heart. Survivors, the same as those on that television show, are motivated not by sadness and other heavy feelings but are motivated instead by the thrill and the experience that they are about to face. In the case of the television survivors the motivation was a million dollars and probably other acting gigs, for other non-television folk the motivation is learning more about a new culture and perhaps embracing an alternative way of life.

Going to a foreign country is an experience to look forward to. It is about leaving everything behind and immersing one’s self into the unknown and perhaps the enjoyable. The second problem that people encounter when they enter any foreign country is the language barrier. This indeed seems to be quite a problem given the fact that not everyone speaks English or Korean for that matter. Yet there is a universal language spoken by everyone, it is not the language of money (though I profess that many are quite fluent in that) but it is the language of kindness and humility.

When visiting a foreign country, one must always remember that he or she is the foreigner there and not the other way around. A common problem, especially among Americans, is the fact that they enter a foreign country thinking that it is another country that Uncle Sam has conquered. With that mentality, one can never gain the respect of the locals and even more problematic, never truly see the beauty of the culture of that foreign country. Kindness and humility on the other hand are currencies that need not be exchanged at the traveler’s kiosk.

These are accepted everywhere and even repaid ten-fold in certain cases. The locals in a foreign country are proud of their culture and country and will jump at every opportunity to show that to the world. By being kind and humble, one can easily adapt to the different culture. Kindness and humility can buy the one thing that is necessary for survival but something that money cannot buy in foreign countries, friendship. An open mind and kindness go a long way in allowing one to survive in a foreign country but there are other things that are needed if one is to survive in a foreign country.

One of these things is patience. A guest is always at the mercy of his host. A good guest gets along with his host. As cliche as this may sound, the key to survival is being patient and understanding. People live together in different countries and in different continents for a reason. That reason is that they have different cultures and beliefs. The beliefs of one country may not hold true for others. In Korea, for example, people are generally kind and not overbearing. Any sign of aggression is deemed as hostility and is greatly frowned upon.

When entering a foreign country, one must always remember to be patient first and try to understand the nuances of that particular culture. It also greatly adds to the fun factor of the experience to surprise the locals just how much you know of their culture. Finally and perhaps most important of all the lessons, fall in love with the foreign country and in the foreign country, if possible. There is nothing which can motivate people to survive more than love. No other emotion makes people more patient, more open and more willing to give in than love.

Loving a foreign country is like loving a flawed person; it makes it easier to accept the mistakes of another. No country is perfect but it is the imperfections that one falls in love with. These are my keys for survival, travelling light, being kind and humble, being patient, and most important of all, falling in love. Anyone can be a survivor. If I can be a survivor, surely you can be one as well. Be in the deepest jungles of South America or in the Safari in Africa, as long as one remembers these four things to live by, surviving comes easy.

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