Total Immersion Learning – An Example
Being physically active at 11,333 ft. was beginning to show. Foster, Logan, and I had been at the Jungfraujoch for upwards of four hours. It was time to return to a lower elevation.
We headed back through the ice tunnel to the station. There we stood in line waiting for the arrival of the next train. The line swelled with tourists from India. We felt crushed by them and took a stance to preserve protective space around ourselves.
In time, the train arrived. Waiting people pressed forward to fill the available cars. It was not clear if all could be accommodated. We inched along engulfed in a sea of Indians like a wave rolling toward a distant shore.
There we were. Three Westerners in a car utterly stuffed with Indians.
We sat together, three on a seat intended for two. Across from us sat six Indians on a seat intended for two. All seats overflowed with people on top of people holding still more people. Others crowded the aisle. We were asked to share our already full seat. We declined.
The car felt like a box shoehorned to capacity. The only available space was the headroom above those who stood crammed in the aisle. Claustrophobia set in. We couldn’t see out the windows. It was going to be a long 45-minute return trip.
Besides the overcrowded conditions, the cacophony of sound assaulted our senses. There was no escape. We were hostages, physically and emotionally.
We did not speak. We looked, listened, felt, and internalized a situation never before experienced. Foster and Logan were especially distressed.
Relief greeted us as we stepped off the train at the Kleine Scheidegg station where we could re-establish a familiar personal space around ourselves with reduced chaos and noise. I suggested we stop for a bite of food so we could discuss this experience.
We felt soothed with each fork full of comfort food and reviewed what had happened.
I explained that the Indian tourists were acting in a totally normal way according to their culture. The problem was our lack of familiarity with their way of living,
Foster and Logan relaxed their negative feelings. They began to understand that the problem was the Indian people did not realize behavior in Switzerland is different from behavior in India and did not adjust for this difference. They acted as if they were still in India.
We had an opportunity to experience what life in India is like on a daily basis. And we didn’t have to travel to India for this insight. We began to see this as a special experience, a gift of learning from travel.
Once back at our apartment, the boys were brimming with tales of our time at the Jungfraujoch including our opportunity to experience life in yet another country.
We returned from this trip with an understanding of cultural diversity and were the richer for it.