Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's All Perspective

I think I spent a good deal of this journey on autopilot when it came to cross cultural dealings. I feel I can trust my autopilot because I have lived cross culturally so much. But there are times that I realized in a profound and fresh way that even when we think we are all speaking the same language and seeing the same things our cultural worldview is like a pair of glasses that are tinted with our perspective. It just changes the way things look.

In the first half of this trip I remember having ‘ah ha’ moments when I realized that a team member had a very different perspective of the same thing we just experienced together. Maybe it’s safe to say that after a few of those it was normal or easy for me to remember and operate from the realization that we are always coming from different angles.

However I also remember being surprised a few times during our debriefing on the last day about what our dear Kenyans thought of Americans in general. Actions one names as pride, I would call openness. And if you look at it, it’s understandable from a Kenyan perspective how that action would be considered pride if a Kenyan had done it.

One lesson learned is that even 3 months of touring dozens of families doesn’t necessarily yield a correct assumption. I like to think I’m a good life long learner. And I was always discovering new things about Kenyan culture, but one thing this tells me is that perhaps even after several samples and long observations, I may have come to wrong conclusions about what happens in Kenyan culture.

For all my questioning I still think I have come up with some new insights into American culture. I hope to explore those in the coming entries. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm from Minnesota

Yesterday I got to thinking that even though I haven’t experienced a winter for the last couple of years and I don’t really have a winter coat per se, I seem to be taking this cold weather in stride. Today it dawned on me I like that I’m from Minnesota.

I’ve seen what Northerners are like and specifically those who live in the northeastern part of the US. I’ve had conversations with Tennesseans and Texans. I have a feel for those from the Southwest and Californians too. But there is something about where you are actually from that makes you who you are and gives you an innate understanding of your environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Kenya too. There is so much about there that warms my heart. And in some ways I feel more at home in Nairobi. But this place is in my fiber. I know how to drive on the highways, I know the proper etiquette for shopping, I love the evening dusk sky looking west from downtown. This place is home. (At least for now.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Afrizo Tour in Retrospective

I think I have just done the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I was the tour manager for the Afrizo singing group from Daystar. They arrived on Aug 30 and left of Nov 22. The relationships are worth it. I was working for Daystar University scholarship funding so when I think about the many students who used to come to my office for assistance it’s worth it.

That said, I don’t think I could ever do it again. It was the longest extended time that I was so saturated with a task I literally could not think about the future. It was just one day at a time or maybe two ahead. I am facing a huge transition now but I had absolutely no time to process it.

I also had a hard time processing what was happening as we went along. I wish that I could have been writing in the van, but the little reading I did in the van sometimes made me a bit nauseated and gave me some eye strain. So it’s a good thing I didn’t try. I would however like to try to do a series of posts related to the trip for the sake of remembering and noting some of what I learned from this venture.

I am so thankful to have traveled the entire US in a three month span. With the Afrizo team I stopped or passed through 25 States. The team hit another 3 States without me, as I was back in the office for two different weeks during the time the team was here. I think there is about a dozen of the continental States I haven’t set foot in, mostly in the South and New England. Someday I may have to round that out, but for now, I’m happy to stay put for a bit, even if it means enduring a Minnesota winter.

Please check back as I hope to fill you in on more of my cultural tour guide travels.