“The fear of sounding foolish is the insidious enemy of learning a foreign language.” –Rita Golden Gelman, in Tales of a Female Nomad (2001)
Rita Golden Gelman is a modern-day nomad. She has been on the go for over twenty years, traveling all over the world to live within different cultures and to learn from the people she meets along the way. RGG says: “I’ve been living my nomadic existence since the day in 1986 when, at the age of forty eight, on the verge of a divorce, I looked around and thought, ‘There has to be more than one way to do life.’ There is.” Her book, Tales of a Female Nomad, is a collection of tales about how people “do life” all over the globe.
As I read RGG’s book this week, one theme emerged: it’s that in order to be with others and to learn from them, a person must consciously live in the present. “While I’m here,” says RGG—“here,” meaning wherever she is at the time— “I want to be 100 percent here…When I am writing, I am inside the sound and meaning of the words…When I am eating, I luxuriate in the taste and texture of every bite…And when I am with people, I am really with them.” Espousing this attitude, RGG has been able to move throughout the world and share meals with women in their kitchens or around their cook fires. She has slept in palaces and thatched huts. She has learned to speak in foreign languages and to communicate without words. RGG is older than my mom, and I found her story to be an inspiration because it’s really a story about living without constraints. Age, gender, color, and culture do not stop this lady from living out her passion for people.
One of my friends working in the Peace Corps in a rural village in Fiji sent this book to me, and while I read it last week, it made me wonder at what point a person attains “nomad” status. I haven’t had a permanent address in nearly four years, so I wonder if I fall into the category. I’ve been hoping for more stability in my life (this autumn, I’ve promised myself, I will stay put)—but RGG’s book certainly rekindled my desire to be present within these beautiful moments of geographic unrest.