The last episode of The Amazing Race brought us back to life as we used to know it and how much of the world still knows it. The contestants walked, rode elephants, took the bus, hitch-hiked, and rode in taxi cabs. They took notes on simple notepads to remember the placement of figures on temple replicas and they asked pedestrians and office workers for directions just by stopping them on the streets. The twins, Liz and Marie, even convinced two separate cab drivers to give them a ride for free when they ran out of money. In essence, they hitch-hiked in Bangkok, Thailand.
All of this 'back to basics' reminded me of a trip I took to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh with a U.S. delegation tasked by the White House to find ways to reduce the trafficking of women and children in that region. As an envoy for the U.S. government, we traveled in Land Rovers driven by well-trained drivers. Each time we stopped at a police controlled traffic signal, we would see the line of traffic that appears nothing like what we see in the U.S.. Instead of a line of cars waiting for the green, we saw a line of 'vehicles' consisting of horse-drawn carriages, air-conditioned Mercedes, ox-drawn carts, passenger buses, bicycles, and rickshaws, all waiting for the policeman to blow the whistle.
It was a stark reminder of how in America we shed the old when we adopt the new. We do it in all sorts of ways from new cars to new iPhones. In fact, Steve Jobs' creative genius put this 'out with old, in with the new' consumer buying habit on steroids. With every new iPhone release, lines form around Apple stores with folks willing to spend hundreds of dollars just to get the latest gadget the minute it hits the market.
And yet, for some reason this phenomenon hasn't traversed to the other side of the world. In many other countries, we see the adoption of the new being intertwined with the retention of the old -- the old of hundreds of years ago. Placed in this setting, our Amazing Race contestants did just fine even though they were forced into using tools of a world they no longer live in -- a world full of GPS devices, Google maps, cell phones, iPads, and iPhones. And most importantly, they did it with a sense of patience.
Is it possible that our quick to consume society is starting to replace a time of thoughtful relaxation?
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