14 November 2008

Cross Culture

This morning I saw two ladies sitting at the Vision Community Works, Library and Craft shop in Macha. They are from Mabombo area in Chikanta Chiefdom. This night they traveled the 60 kilometers distance over virtually impassable dirt roads. They offer their Tonga baskets for sale, and will go back with money to pay for transport, their children's education, clothes, and other goods that will help them in daily rural life, all in exchange for their locally created produce.

It was moving to see that opportunities in Macha are drawing people from far. These ladies came with their hands full, with what they have produced. In the process they palaver with people from Macha and learn about the developments that are taking shape. They will go back inspired and empowered with fresh ideas as how they could adapt what they have seen with their own eyes as to reach their collective and individual potential.

It reminded me about what a long road it has been to come this far as a community; I had to learn a lot, and continue to learn every day.

First of all I had to shed my drive to help as in this inclusive environment everybody is geared towards helping each other, which includes me. I had to redefine the value of ratio, as the rural African environment first and foremost relatio is where it is about. Next was looking at goals defined by the answer on the question 'what?', as goals in rural Africa are enshrined within answers on the question 'who?'. My western sense of individuality then was to go, as in rural Africa the individual is defined as being part of the collective, the community.

And on it went, next the anticipated solid grounds of legal security, which needed rerouting to base security in the authority granted for the responsibilities one commits to bear as part of the community. And my drive to accumulate tools to get the job done was challenged by the environment where one gets the job done through the power of tested relationships.

It takes a considerable length of time to become member of the rural African community and references from my previous - non-rural African - life were of no avail. An important barrier to being together went when I grasped that my default linear view on time does not coincide with the more corkscrew or circular notion of time in rural Africa. I started mainly motivated by the opportunities in the future but it all became more wholesome when appreciation grew for the community working from wisdom and knowledge distilled from experiences in the past.

It is a privilage to be together with the the ladies from Mabombo. I recognize it is almost unavoidable that new entrants to rural Africa go through often heavy culture shock and strain in their personal lives as they must adjust to the local environment. We did and do so for almost seven consecutive years. It is worth it!