I write this as I sit on a plane. You can’t travel from Victoria without ascending above a cloudscape burnished by the sun, and a horizon carpeted with rugged mountaintops. An uplifting sight.
A reward of visiting other countries is that it expands horizons. Horizons are faraway, external things. However: unless you are on a quest of some sort of cultural imperialism to expand not your own but the horizons of those you are visiting, you return home with the realization that for most of us the expanded horizons stay with us, in our own minds. Our impressions of the wider world compel reflection and self-examination. Most of us also can’t prevent a few moments of renewed gratitude for the virtues, and often the freedoms, of home. Visiting other countries, and other corners of one’s own country, does re-draw the map of one’s world.
Although visiting other places can be a delight, the actual travel to get there is not. Airports, taxis, hotels, and all the waiting around that is attached to these necessary evils make the actual act of travel a chore. Most of us make the best of it. In my case, I have indulged my amateur’s interest in world affairs by reading articles on the tribal regions of Pakistan, on politics in Bangladesh, on civil strife in Bolivia, and closer to home, on the current global financial crisis. I am also part way into a novel called The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani educated at Harvard and Princeton, who now lives in London. My time isn’t entirely filled with this sort intimidating and edifying activity – I also manage a few games of solitaire on my computer, and check the golf scores on my blackberry (which clicks in every time we pass a centre of population).
The plane I am on is not actually taking me to another country. It is taking me to Toronto, where I am participating in two days of strategic planning with the Canadian Educational Standards Institute (CESI), an organization to which our school belongs, and which is the accrediting body for Canadian independent schools. I have been invited on the coat tails of the reputation of our school, which is recognized as an example of strategic execution – a “poster school” we have been told. Even when I lived in Ontario, I used to shake my head at a mindset that flourishes and fades like a virus in Toronto – that often unconscious assumption, confidently matched by corresponding behaviour, that that city is not just the centre but also the fount of wisdom in Canada. Fortunately this particular organization is earnest and modest in its attitudes, while it is ambitious in its vision – to make good schools better, from coast to coast. Nevertheless I do approach such invitations with an awareness of some irony – a voice from the western fringes singing perhaps a different tune from one they are used to.
The next month does see me in a number of different cities in North America as I visit alumni, attend the annual Heads’ Conference for the Canadian Association of Independent Schools, and serve on a panel (again in Ontario, again on the coattails of our school’s reputation) on the topic of International Education. This travel will provide me with more than a few opportunities to blog. I feel very trendy, I have to say, to employ the verb “blog” when I write these days