BY Lisa Lindblad
September 4, 2013
When I travel I spend a good deal of time making sense of change – the before and the after, the old and the new, the process of aging. Knee jerk reaction often decries what has happened to that which I have seen and loved. It takes a widening of the perspective and a generosity to pierce the surface and see the innovative in what has replace the original – or what each of us feels is the original because, of course, what we think of as the original was, to someone else, spoilage.
All this to say that it is unusual for me to be impressed with the cultural change that I find in a place. Yet here in Lamu – an island with centuries of culture and deep tradition – the change I have seen in Shela is inspiring. For example, the locals – both European and Lamu residents – have joined together to protect this community. The alley ways are remarkably clean; once a month the school children tidy their village until it sparkles. And posted here and there on the lovely coral house walls is a beautifully written cautionary on how to live in Shela – what not to wear and how not to behave, not because there is anything wrong with swimsuits and loud noise but rather because we are in someone else’s home and certain foreign ways are contrary to the belief system of these residents. It asks us to protect not only the beauty of this remarkable environment but also the fragility of this culture.
And so it is inspiring to find change that is so positive. It reminds that one must look first before judging, that people do learn from the mistakes of others, and that creativity is all around us.