Tracy Blakley: UCA in the Bahamas: Physical Therapy Learn and Serve

This was my first time to travel to a different country, to fly on a plane, or to go overseas, so before this trip, I had no clue what it would be like to experience different people and cultures. My entire life I have been stuck in this primarily ethnocentric American society, and I really had no clue how to break that mold. However, when I went to the Bahamas, I learned so much about the people and the culture there that there was no way I could return home with the same mindset that I had before.

One of my favorite experiences while in the Bahamas was visiting the Straw Market. It was so cool to watch people take advantage of their country’s biggest industry, tourism. But it was even cooler to actually understand why it was that they did what they did. They didn’t sell souvenirs in the straw market because they wanted to, nor because it was fun. They did it because that was the way that they best knew how  to make it in their society. And that was eye-opening for me. I had never seen people benefit from something the way that Bahamian people benefit from tourism. This caused me to develop a certain empathy and respect for their people because of their intelligent, opportunistic use of their country’s strongest industry.

On a larger scale, this experience taught me that people do not always have resources readily available like we do in the United States, but they do everything that they can with what they do have. Since the Bahamas is a collection of islands, most of the goods that they need and use have to be imported from somewhere else. However, at the same time, they have an abundance of natural resources that they take full advantage of. They grow, catch, eat, and sell plants and wildlife that live there, and they use the natural beauty around them to appeal to consumers. This taught me that they aren’t all that different from we Americans. We grow, catch, eat and sell our own natural resources just like they do. We sell the beauty of our land just like they do. We milk our resources for all that they are worth just like they do. Our societal beliefs, ideas, and culture may be different, but we all have that natural human intuition to use what’s around us to survive and thrive.

What taught me most about the Bahamas was the daily, informal interaction with the people of the island. Each and every person that I met was nice to me, and I could tell that they valued me as a human being. That made me wonder to myself, “Why is it that we dehumanize foreign people when they treat us with so much kindness?” We are no more human than they are. We are no more important than they are. We are no more loved than they are. And the fact that they could treat us with so much respect as we waltz in and enjoy their homeland tells me that we are absolutely failing as global citizens when we cannot do the same. They accept our differences and even use them as an opportunity for growth, and we should do the same.

Because of this trip, I now have a special respect, love, and passion for the people of the Bahamas, as they helped me become less culturally ignorant and more open-minded. Bahamian culture has instilled in me a desire to learn more about the world and the billions of people who inhabit it. Not only do I want to travel more, but now I want to learn more. Because of this trip, I will never be the same.