Looks Can Be Deceiving

Story by Katie Thurbon

Most Americans have a mental picture of Europe that is largely formed from watching movies and television shows. When they think of traveling to Paris, London or Rome, they see themselves drinking a glass of wine and watching a Parisian artist paint the Eiffel tower, messing with the guards of Buckingham Palace, or sitting near a magnificent fountain enjoying some gelato.

In essence, it is a lifestyle reminiscent of a simpler time — one with fewer worries and more time for pleasures.

While I’ve found that this idealized world does exist to some extent, it’s also important to realize that these places are just like any other. Despite the royal treatment they receive from Hollywood, each place is supremely real and thus not exempt from economic, political or social crises.

Watching the turmoil on the news every night with my señora and seeing the beggars in the street every day on my way to school remind me of this.

This past week I traveled to Morocco, Paris and London, and each place revealed different struggles.

One of the days I was in Rabat, Morocco, there was a protest organized in response to a recent decision by the Moroccan government to raise fuel prices and the potential impact on the prices of household goods. In Paris I saw numerous people sleeping on the street because they had no bed.

While signs of unrest and poverty weren’t as obvious in London, the occasional beggar or graffiti commentary showed that some people had more on their mind than what the royal baby would be named.

Even though these things were difficult to see, it was essential to grasping the true essence of each country.

On the other hand, it’s also important to seek out the good in each place. I wouldn’t want a visitor to the United States to think every American was incompetent just because the government was incapable of preventing a shutdown.

Similarly, many people have misconceptions of Morocco and Africa in general, yet I would truly describe it as the most pleasant place I have ever been.

Today in class we learned the phrase, “las apariencias engañan,” which is the Spanish equivalent to “appearances can be deceiving.” While we mostly used this as an icebreaker to get to know the other people in our class, I think it’s very prevalent to anyone who is traveling to other countries.

Before this past week I would have said that Paris appeared to be a really great place to travel to and Africa perhaps not so much. After being to each place I must say I was mistaken. I found Paris to be overrated and Morocco undervalued.<br/>

As such, I intend on going forward into each coming journey by first dispelling any preconceived notions I might have because I have learned firsthand that ‘las apariencias engañan.’