When our family guest had only just been opened, a lot of the people who stayed were just passing by or on holiday. Yet, as the years went by and our guest house became more well-known, we started to have people stay from all over the world.
This also meant that we had students stay throughout the year, and there were even moments when we had them over at Christmas. A lot of these students were from Japan, China, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
During The Year
At other times, we had people stay from Qatar, France, Italy, Australia, New Zeeland, and America, along with countless other countries. So, even though I was at home in England, I had the chance to meet people from all over the world.
It wouldn’t be right for me to say that I was completely on board with having a guest house, though, as there were moments when I wished we lived like other people. The moments we shared as a family were limited and this made it harder for anyone to be authentic.
If someone was around, for instance, we all had to be polite and to act happy. This meant that we couldn’t talk about anything personal; we had to act like the perfect hosts.
But even though I did feel compromised at times by having other people around, I did enjoy meeting different people. Instead of just seeing people who looked different - which would have generally been the case if we hadn’t had a guest house - I had the opportunity to find out more about them.
Bridging the Gap
The barriers that would have been up in another environment were down through being so close to these people. This allowed me to see that although these people often had different colour skin to me and were from different countries, our differences were overshadowed by what we had in common.
I came to see these people as my fellow human beings, not as people who I needed to be wary off and to keep my distance from. Through having these kinds of experiences, it had a big effect on how I saw people who looked different to me.
What also played a part here was that I was a very curious child, which meant that I wanted to find out about just about everything. Thus, being around people from other parts of the world gave me the opportunity to fulfil this need.
I wanted to know what it was like in their country, how they lived and how they spent their time. The fact I was brought up to be well-mannered and to respect others also played a part here.
When I think about the effect these early years had on me, I think about an experience that I had when I had just started college, in 2002. There was a boy who joined our class a few weeks later than everyone else and this meant that he was seen as an outsider.
There was something about him that pulled me in, and I soon found out that he was from Tehran in Iran. I didn’t know much about Iran, but I wanted to get to know more about him, and we soon become close friends.
The Key Component
I gradually came to see that I had more in common with him than just about everyone else who was on the course. There was a rebellious energy about him; he seemed far more liberated than everyone else.
Taking this into account, I would have been drawn to him even if he didn’t look different. However, if I hadn’t had these early experiences around different people, I might have behaved in the same way as the other people did when they first saw him.