Biking through a bit if Canada, 10 US states, 9 Mexican States and into Guatemala, we found that the vast majority of the wonderful people we met have something in common. They are debilitatingly afraid of their neighbours to the South. What is so frightening about the province, state, country or continent to the south of us? Does it stem from bible stories of a firey inferno with a red triton wielding, horned beast ready to devour our souls just below us? Or could it be Fox News? Maybe just the very real fear that we all feel of the unknown. Do our neighbours to he south really pose any threat to us?
When our clothes were still clean and our bikes sparkly new, biking in Southern Ontario we told curious Canadians that we were headed to New York State. New York? They would gasp!! You'll be killed. they would inevitably list unthinkable dangers from being run over by super sized pick up trucks to rape, shoot outs and general unnicities.
We biked across the "peace bridge" covered in banners celebrating 200 years of peace between the Canadians and American. So we pulled into the outskirts of Buffalo scared shitless of the seemingly harmless Americans. Wolves in sheep's clothing I guessed. So we bravely started mingling with these dangerous New Yorkers and we found that they were actually nice people who didn't want to shoot, rape or drive over us with their SUVs. We recounted for them the stories their neighbours to the north had told us and together we laughed. Here it's fine they would tell us. But Pennsylvanians!! They'll kill you just as soon as look at you. Our friendly New York friends would then spill over with stories of hill billies, bad drivers, drunk drivers and again the general unnicities. Gulp! We were headed there next!
We found Pennsylvania to be just like New York State, lots of full dumpsters and really polite people. We recounted the stories we had been told by the Canadians and New Yorkers alike and I am not exaggerating to say that our Pennsylvania friends told us that the real threat would not be found in pennsylvania with the hill billies but with the red necks in Ohio. I guess you are starting to sense the pattern in my story. As you may guess, we found the people living in Ohio to be just like the rest, generous, helpful, kind and a lot of fun! I don't need to run on with this story forever but I would like to say that the warnings that we received suggesting that we, at all costs avoid West Virginia were repeated and repeated throughout our breathtaking bike through Ohio. I can't wait to get back to West Virginia because some of my favourite people live there!
At any time, if we told someone that we were headed to Mexico, they would recount tales of murder, kidnapping, robberies and rape. SCARY SCARY stories that made me really afraid of Mexicans. All of the Americans that we met (except for two very generous hosts, one from Ohio and one from Louisiana) literally begged us not to pass over into Mexico. The two exceptions to this rule told us that we would love Mexico. They told us of a country rich in mountain views, culture, history and full of kind, generous people. What set these two people apart from the rest was not just a different view point on their neighbouring country but that they were the only two who had actually been to Mexico!
In all of our travels, we were warned about the people to the south, a bit of a switch up took place in Mexico where they would also (perhaps justifiably) warn us of the states to the North and of course, Guatemala.
We travelled around in all of these states and countries a bit and never had any problems. sure people in Kentucky talk like they have a potato in their mouth, like Veracruzanos are always late and Texans drive really big cars and people from Louisiana (among other states) say ya'll a lot and Canadians DO say eh all the time although it hurts me to admit it. We all have a little something influenced by our surroundings that makes us special. What I want to tell you is that you should not be afraid of other people even if they live to the South, are really different or have a lower income. They are beautiful and afraid just like you.