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Latin America Abeja Dispatch

100% Culture Clash--Handle With Care

It's been over a month since began our Trek but it seems like forever. We were all reunited in Guatemala as we prepared for the webcast. Although happy to be together, we dealt with some of the difficulties and differences that exist between us all. Some of these included being stressed out, tired, concerned, and very busy. Shawn was sick and his computer didn't work, and Monica's computer was also on the fritz. Jamila was worried about returning home in time for the start of her classes, and I was so bummed to be back in noisy, dirty Guatemala City. The time had come for our first group arguments. Maybe things wouldıve happened differently if we had been at some peaceful, seaside resort instead of the city, but in this adventure we all volunteered for, these obstacles are simply an inevitable part of our journey.

Traveling with someone is a sure way to get to know to a personıs good and bad qualities very quickly. Even little differences that are initially overlooked eventually become magnified. For example, Shawn is always the last one ready to go and I'm usually the first. He is thorough and methodical whereas I'm speedy and impatient--not the best combination for traveling together. Kavitha comes from a family where everyone shares everything, often without asking. On the other hand, Monica's family is very respectful of each otherıs personal space and things. You know how it is when little things start to build up. We were waiting AGAIN for Shawn to finish something so that we could get going, and although I know it wasn't that long, I was hungry and just lost my patience. Another time, Kavitha only wanted a sip of Monica's coffee, which normally isn't a big deal, but it wasn't the first thing she'd wanted from Monica that day.

I don't know what this team will do once Jamila is gone. Jamila is cool, patient, understanding, and insightful, making her a perfect second grade teacher and group facilitator. She really helped us talk to each other and understand that what we were experiencing was not disrespect between travel companions, but rather a culture clash within our own group. In my family, "We're leaving at noon," meant you'd better be in the car and ready to go by 11:59, 'cuz that car was outta there. So, Shawn puttering around getting his stuff together at 12:07, again, seemed so rude to me. Doesn't he know I've got better things to do and that we're all waiting for him? I suppose that to him, I'm an annoying and impatient nag. For Kavitha, using Monica's pen if it's accessible seems logical. Why should she dig around in her bag if Monica has a pen right there? Monica however, wonders why people can't care for themselves. "Do I have to be everyone's mom?" she asks after the third request for something from her well-stocked bag of useful things.

Trivia!!
As we work, meet, and travel together, we come to understand what Monica refers to as our "handling instructions" [Every time she says that I imagine a little tag that says "100% Abeja- Handle with care. Do not leave waiting long, especially when hungry"]. We're realizing that by acknowledging our individual quirks, we can better communicate them to each other, and express our needs more clearly. Most importantly, we can work to determine where those quirks come from. Really, what we perceive to be a problem with someone else is merely a reflection of our unique perspectives about the world. It seems funny that our greatest culture clash occurs among ourselves!

Abeja

Abeja - No More Small Talk: Stories of the Civil War
Abeja - No More Small Talk: Stories of the Civil War (kids version)
Shawn - Smashed Eggs and Sacrificial Roosters: Shaman Healing in Todos Santos
Kavitha - Juventud por La Paz - Youth for Peace
 
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