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A 'Walk' beyond hate, toward understanding

March 11, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

A 15-year-old boy visiting from Jordan is asked by his American hosts how he felt on Sept. 11. "Actually," he says, "I was happy."

A 16-year-old North Carolina boy touring the Middle East as part of the same exchange program gives his thoughts on the question to some Jordanian youths: "I was very angry, very hateful," he admits. "I found that a lot of people in America were very hateful to Muslims, or Arabs in general."

Despite this rocky beginning, a broader understanding manages to emerge from both camps in tonight's absorbing half-hour edition of "A Walk in Your Shoes," airing at 9 on the N, the Noggin channel's nighttime programming platform for "tweens," or young adolescents.

The series takes two young people from vastly different circumstances and has them swap households for a few days.

They attend each other's schools, pal around with their counterpart's friends and share meals with the host families as the cameras roll.

But tonight, things get worse before they get better. After young Abdulrahman's comments on the terrorist attacks, two male friends of Jim, the American teen, seem on the verge of creating an international incident.

"I was ready to just punch him," says one. The other nods in agreement, saying that while he will accompany the Jordanian boy around town as agreed, "it won't be the same anymore."

The wise inclusion of these bumps along the road gives some texture to what otherwise might have been a sterile and simplified exercise in the merits of Kum-Bay-Ah diplomacy. By the end, however, both Abdulrahman and Jim express mild astonishment at the commonalities that exist between them, with pledges to spread the word back home.

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