Bob Geldof is Pimping the Poor

Bob Geldof is Pimping the Poor.

“Do they know it’s Christmas?” That is the lyric of the Bob Geldof song. The song he sang with a bunch of celebrities 30 years during the BandAid concert to raise funds and awareness about starving people in Africa. He is trying to do it again for Ebola but this time lots of people are telling him that he should know better than pimping the poor.

In 1984 Bob Geldof decided to tell people about one of the greatest disasters of his time. The famine in Ethiopia was staggering and countless people were dying. Bob raised an amazing amount of money for a problem that the world was trying hard to ignore. I have to heartily applaud him.

The problem is that he is trying to do it again.

Why is this a problem? There is still a need. Poverty and disease are still problems. The West/North/Developed world still has no clue about Africa and needs to be made aware (my recent experiment proved that point)

Bob you asked if Africans know it is Christmas?

Coptic Christians in Egypt (an African nation) recall that Jesus spent his first two birthdays in Africa. There are 2.5 times more Christians in Nigeria alone than the entire population of Canada. In fact, the majority religion of many African nations is Christianity. I dare say that they all know about Christmas. Bob, the song sure sounds condescending.

“where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow, do they know it’s Christmas at all?”

Bob I know you didn’t start BandAid to educate Africans about December 25 on the calendar. You sang the song to collect money for a country of starving people and you succeeded. Shouldn’t I just thank you and move on? So much good came out of it!

A lot has changed since that first song.

What is the last image you remember from a charity that works with the poor? If they work in Africa it might be a poor black kid and his mother in front of a dirty hovel of a house. A white person stands there with a gift in hand and the child’s face lights up with a tremendous smile.

The irony is that donors give a lot of money because of those kind of pictures. Aid agencies know this and take more of those kinds of pictures. This ultimately means they  make money from the exploitation of children and women.

Mr. Geldof, it is called poverty porn.

Or pimping the poor. And as offensive as those terms sound, it is even more offensive to be made to feel like you are the needy subject of pity. An agency in Norway gives ‘awards‘ out to the worst offenders of this kind of advertising. We need to stop this kind of thinking.

Mr. Geldof, the world has changed since you first sang that song. Aid work has come a long way. Development workers have tried to get rid of the earlier paternalism that lead them to fixing other people. Some people have discovered that people in Africa are not a single faceless needy horde. I appreciate the first time you sang us the song, but it is time for a change.

Pimpin’ ain’t easy.

It is really easy is to criticize others. I find it a lot easier to find fault with someone else than to create something better. Bob, I don’t want to be your critic because it is the boring way to avoid the adventure of getting involved. I don’t ever want to stand by and take shots, or worse, make snide comments about you in a poorly read blog.

I also don’t have your ability to call even one artist, let alone pull an international cadre of superstars together. I don’t have anyone’s phone numbers. But Bob, I do think you still could do something that might make a real difference. Here is my unsolicited advice.

How to Stop Pimping the Poor

Bob Geldof if this ever reaches you, I think your motive is probably right but you need to reconsider your method. Think about your own life. At your personal poorest would you have wanted to be described as a “victim of poverty” or would you rather be seen as an “aspiring talented musician”? The same goes for everyone.  Don’t describe people by what they don’t have or don’t know, rather describe them by what they hope to be.

If you wouldn’t want it said about yourself and your kids don’t say it about African mothers and fathers and their kids.

  • Pull off the BandAid fast (it hurts less) and use the old song but co-opt it. Be subversive. Reverse the storyline.
  • Show Africans in positions of power and have them sing as ridiculous a song to all of your celebrities.
  • Have fun with the fact that the 30-year-old song is maudlin tripe.
  • Let everyone know you are in on the joke.
  • … and yes, please raise a tonne of money, we need you to use the drawing power of your A-list celebrity friends. I will be first in line to donate.

In short. Please Exploit the song. Not the Africans.

Thanks for listening Bob.

If you could talk to Bob Geldof, what creative advice would you give him?

Mark Crocker

I knew people would be upset, but you will NEVER guess what made people mad.

Last week I started up a war. I wrote a controversial post about the country of Africa and said that due to bad press because of the Ebola media hoopla, I was going to share some “lesser known facts” so people could understand the ‘real Africa’. I wrote a blog post. A lot of people complained when I said Africa is a country. It struck a nerve.

The Country of Africa

So why did I say that Africa is a country when I knew it was not true? It was all a joke of course. I know that Africa is an ancient city-state stretched along an enormous archipelago of 15 large and hundreds of smaller islands just off the western coast of India. For reference purposes, I have included a quick sketch of that fabled land (not to scale):

Africa is a country
A map of the Country of Africa

Why did I write the post? I had some noble reasons: I wanted to break stereotypes, stop the ‘poor African’ storyline, and to share a conversation with a wide audience, the same conversation I have shared with plenty of Africans  over the years.

I also wrote the article to have a little fun and I figured more people might read it.

There was a method to the madness, but if I am honest, it wasn’t until I saw the comments on Facebook or Twitter that I really understood what I had written. In the middle of the backlash one small niggling fact really stuck out for me. I learned a lot from it.

 

Clues

First of all, if you missed it, go read it and then come back here. I can wait.

In my post I tried to give plenty of cues that I was writing satire. I kept repeating that Africa is a country, and then wrote something else equally silly. Most caught the hints. If you were just skim-reading you may have missed what I was trying to say. Here are the clues I tried to leave:

  • I gave my article a sensational over-the-top title like the headlines that flood my Facebook stream.
  • I made sure that every single sentence I wrote was ridiculous or wrong, or both.
  • I made up absurd facts. Some were so crazy I thought that I had gone too far.
  • I used the most condescending language I could think of
  • I made up senseless quotes from imaginary people.
  • Each of my links in the post actually told the exact opposite story.
  • I kept the ruse going. I played an arrogant jerk or a clueless idiot in my Facebook responses when people reacted.
The Country of Africa
“up to your usual jackassery”

Africa is a Country: The reaction

I got a lot of confusing “WTF!?!” type responses. A number of people tried to correct my uninformed facts. But I must say that I was personally surprised by one little thing. Most people would only scold me about the error of my title. Again and again I was told:

“Africa is a continent, not a country!”

I was surprised that with all the dumb things I said about Africa, people were mostly concerned about my geography. They ignored the bigger picture. No one questioned my condescending tone about the needy people in Africa waiting for a brave hero from the west. People were fine with the thought that volunteers should go to Africa to hold babies and give away stuff. Or that an African’s favourite sport was war. No one challenged those statements.

Why?

I am not sure, but I have suspicions. Most people got the joke of course (many Africans loved it!). But for others I wonder if it has a lot to do with how we have grown up thinking about Africa, or maybe it is about reverse racism where we elevate people unrealistically. I don’t know. All I know is that I am sure glad I wrote the article. I loved the reactions! It has definitely given me some ideas for future posts!

Enough serious reflection. Back to the funny!

One of my favourite recent videos comes from a  group of students in Norway. SAIH has made some hilarious videos about this way of thinking. Do yourself a favour and please watch this genius clip! Maybe Africa is a country you can visit to save a child?

Other videos from SAIH are here on their Radi-Aid page. They are so brilliant that the only fault I can find is that I jealously wish I could have made them.

Know any other great videos like this? Share the link-love and post them in the comments below!

Mark Crocker 

The country of Africa

10 Astounding Facts about the Country of Africa (#6 will break your brain!)

The country of Africa is receiving a lot of bad press during this time of CRISIS OUTBREAK of EBOLA (the deadliest disease in recorded history). While these fears should probably be increased, I wonder if it is time to also share lesser known African facts.

I have travelled throughout the country of Africa, and while I am not an expert, I do have some experiences worth noting. Here are my views! CAUTION: although Africa is one of the world’s greatest destinations, during this deadly EBOLA outbreak, I would not recommend ANYONE to visit ANYWHERE in the country of Africa.

A little knowledge is a powerful thing – very little knowledge is the most powerful thing of all. – Nelson Malala

1. Africa is not only a big country it is a HUGE country.

A wonderful magical majestic country only slightly smaller than the USA and consisting of over 5 distinct people groups.

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The second worst way to think about the poor. 

I was in the middle of a boring class and unfortunately I was the teacher.

My nightmare is to have too many people nod in agreement while I am speaking. If everyone already agrees with you, it feels comfortable like a warm hug on a sunny summer day. A great recipe if you are trying to have everyone enjoy a luxurious long nap.

Bloody terrible for a memorable teaching moment.

 

How do you think about the poor?

The people in front of me were preparing to get involved in poverty reduction. They figured that they knew more about poverty and travel than 90% of their friends and family and they were used to being the experts. They were not yet practitioners, but they knew the language, they understood the stats, they had made some visits. Everyone in the room identified with the poor. They felt their pain.

The problem was everyone in the room thought they already ‘got’ what I was teaching.

I was talking about how many people think about the poor. How we see their needs more than we see them as people. The students were nodding in agreement with me. It was terrible.

This is one of the toughest groups to train. People who quickly agree with you have invariably mentally checked out. I could read the thoughts coming from some of their heads, “I hope so-and-so is listening to this, THEY really need to understand!”

My friend Paul once taught me a technique I still use. Great teachers will occasionally create some tension and disagreements in the classroom. Everyone pays attention to an argument. The problem was that I couldn’t find someone to disagree with me. Everyone was being too agreeable – thus boring class.  Here is a hint, if you ever find yourself falling asleep in class, vehemently disagree with the prof. It will make the time go by a lot faster!

I felt like I was becoming the kind of teacher I hated –  a fool blathering about things everyone already knows.

As I tried to push people to think a little different about the poor, suddenly I caught a little break. A great student began to speak, she said “I understand the poor, I was recently spending time with some poor people and they began to complain about their poverty. So that’s when I told them “In many ways you are better off than me.’ …”

It was a perfect moment for a disagreement and I did. I responded. “Really!? If you really think that the poor are better off than you, go ahead and trade places”

How would you respond?

Would you trade places?

If you wouldn’t trade, then the poor people you are talking about are probably not really better off than you. Sure you may admire or even want some parts of their life or their community, but that is not the same as saying you are actually better off than me. That rings hollow.

That brings me to my point. The #1 worst way to think about the poor is that The poor are victims waiting for our help. Most international workers have learned how offensive and destructive this is.

The solution is not to try to think of the poor through the exact opposite lens. If you do, you will hit the #2 worst way to think about the poor. “The poor are magically noble.”  People who have worked with the poor for a short time will say things like:

  • The kindest person I ever met is homeless
  • The poor are so noble and super inspiring
  • The people in [insert poor country here] are the friendliest people you will ever meet!
  • On the street, they really know how to give

 

Is it true that the poor are inspiring?

Sure, sometimes, just like any group. But I am suspicious of any sweeping generalization. Places with extreme poverty also have people who want to manipulate and rip you off. Platitudes about the poor that ring hollow don’t help. The poor are not some second-coming of Gandhi, Buddha, Robin Hood and Jesus.

Stereotypes rip people off from real friendships
 Don’t get me wrong. I understand why people want to embiggen the poor. It comes out of a healthy wish to right the wrongs. To reverse the terrible tragedy of seeing the poor as hopeless and incompetent. But sharing any simple opinion about a huge community is not helpful even if it is tries to paint them in a noble light.

To deal with poverty we must stop all one-dimensional versions of the poor. Negative and positive. The people who make a difference in poverty are the people who see the poor as friends people. Actual friends people. Occasionally witty, sometimes annoying. Like your friend who is always late, the one your mom likes, the one who forgets your birthday, the one who always calls you to go for lunch at the exact right moment.

People we want to share our lives with. Real. People. Just like you or me.

Have you ever been guilty of talking about the poor in unhealthy noble terms? What has been the result?

Do not be the change you want to see

Have you ever tried to corral a group of friends and come up with a plan. What do we want for lunch? What movie do you want to see? Should we go camping for the long weekend?  It could be anything but when you get 5 or 6 friends together it gets tough to make a decision on something simple. Imagine something hard:

Hey friends, want to start a successful business together? “

Getting all your friends on the same page is not easy, add something as complicated as a new business and finding a way to agree just got a whole lot worse! That is why I think it is naïve and maybe even unhelpful when I hear people ask ‘why aren’t these poor people collecting together and collaborating to make their lives better’

Brendah on the right
Brendah on the right

 

“It’s naïve to say poor people should just collect together to make their lives better”

Liz is a woman I trained who is volunteering in Zambia. Energetic and adventurous only begins to describe this retired Dutch-direct woman. She started her work with a child program for a year and went back for a second year to continue with a group of 5-6 widows and single mothers. Her agenda was simple – Connections and support for the women. They would cook together and chat over a meal, sharing laughter and tears at the table.

As Liz walked deeper into the stories of her friends she saw the everyday hard decisions of poverty. She wanted to step in and lend a hand. She talked to the group and suggested that maybe they should start a business together. Liz had her retirement income and she thought she could swing a small loan.

 

Noble intentions.

When she told me the news I felt really uneasy. I have seen this kind of well-intentioned solution way too often. It usually ends in pain – for the donor and the recipients.

“Want to REALLY help? Give up on the romance that the #poor are waiting to hear your great idea.”

The idea is out there that no one in the village has thought of working together before and they need a visitor to arrive with plans for them to happily share a business together. This way of thinking romanticizes people. The local culture may certainly be a lot more collaborative than yours, but it sure doesn’t mean that they are all going into business together. Do you have the free time to find a group of five friends and start a new business? Think of how tough that would be.

  • What business do we start?
  • What do we need to buy?
  • Who is in charge?
  • Who does what?
  • How much do we chip in?
  • When can you work?
  • What’s fair?
  • Who bankrolls this?
  • Where will the profits go?

And another 1000 practical questions

 

Getting into business with friends is a recipe for complication.

I wanted to warn Liz about these questions, but since I was travelling all I had time for was to send her a strong email, written directly to her, asking her to hold on! I gave her some rushed quick points and asked if we could meet soon.

Liz told me that she read my email and suddenly saw the trouble she was getting into. She certainly didn’t want this project to end up totally dependent on the outsider. She wanted to change her plans but felt bad that she had already promised money. As a woman of strong faith she prayed and decided to lay her cards on the table.

 

She did something awful.

Liz opened up my email to her and read it to the group. When she told me this I felt terrible. I hadn’t known she was going to read my email out loud. I certainly would have written it differently if I knew I was directly communicating with her friends.

When Liz and I later talked, Liz laughed. She told me that my fears were unfounded. The meeting went really well. The women even told Liz that they had wanted to talk to her about the same questions that I had raised but they didn’t want to offend her. They liked her too much.

In the end Liz read my suggestion that the women start a savings group together. The women discussed and agreed. Each of them decided to pitch in a little each week, and at the end of the month one woman would get the cash, enough to fund a personal project.

 

Then Liz did something great!

Liz asked them to consider how much they could save each week and did something really helpful. She didn’t suggest an amount. The next time they met Liz discovered the women were saving double what she had assumed they could. They drew names and at the end of a month, Brendah received the group savings of $200. She immediately put it into buying more handbags to sell at her stall in the local market. No committee meetings. No profit-sharing. Just a hard-working woman who is building her business.

Every month, another woman receives her group savings cash and expands her own business. Some women are fixing their homes and shops, others are buying more stock to sell, others pay school fees and build up their sewing businesses. Community collaboration is vital for development. Unless it is the wrong kind (lead by an outsider)

Our solutions are easy – we think about them every day. Sustainability is hard. To be successful we must restrain ourselves. Maybe as outsiders we need “to not be the change we want to see in the community”

Did this post influence you? If so, tell me why in the comments below.

Mark Crocker 

——————————————————–

PS. This is the email I wrote to Liz, unedited.

hi Liz,

thanks for the further detail … I love the heart you have to engage and appreciate the wealth of experience you have with the women in the room.
I want to give you some principles of a good project as this is a critical phase to begin well. There are many people who start these kinds of projects and the high majority of them fail.  I want you to succeed, so here are some principles to keep in mind.
  • i would encourage you NOT to be the one who holds the money and gives the loan.  Instead, I would do the training and ask if they would like to do a program like this.  the unspoken thought if you hold the money is that a foreigner needs to be involved to really make this work.  Good, sustainable development puts this back in the hands of the local people each and every time.
  • secondly, I would suggest it is very important that the project is owned by an individual, not the group.  If a group owns it, the group will commonly consider the project somewhat outside of themselves.  failure and success are not as important to a group as blame for the failure can be put on something outside of oneself.  the worst possible outcome would for the project to be seen as your project.  This is what we see with projects all over Africa … “That is Unicefs well..”, “That is ERDOs chicken farm…” for a project to be successful, it must be owned locally.  
  • Do not start them out.   Let the group build up savings together in order to build trust and anticipation – and most importantly long range project planning where there is a real risk for failure and lost money.  Even a failed project that is owned localy is good for a person, as they tend to be a lot more cautious with how they plan for the next opportunity. If failure is not a very real option, in such a way that it will affect the people personally, the project probably does not have local ownership.
  • Finally – realize that your suggestions are not suggestions.  As the richest person in the room, they are heard with Biblical weight.  IF Donald Trump ‘suggested‘ a business opportunity to you, you would probably pay very close attention and ignore your other plans, because you know that he is very financially successful. You are the Donald Trump to these women!
These concepts are not from me, but are the results of hundreds of thousands of others who are attempting this work around the world.  The principles I am suggesting are proven and I encourage you to slow the process to do the research on how to faciliate an implementation with the ladies you are partnering with.
In short:
1. you cannot be in charge of anything (suggesting a project to do, or even holding the money at your home)
2. have the individuals come up with individual plans (they can collect money together), and let the project fail or succeed
3. Dont suggest options – let people make up their own mind on what to do entirely.  fight the urge to suggest.

I am gone to Japan and Philippines for a few weeks, perhaps we can find a moment to chat after?


Mark Crocker

 

Did this post influence you? If so, tell me why in the comments below.

Only have $2 to help the poor? This might be the best way

I was training a group in Toronto. All of them were on their way overseas to go work in countries where poverty is the norm. They all want to help the poor. The question is what helps?

That’s when I surprised them with a strange social experiment.

I asked the group to do a crazy social experiment where they were to give away a toonie at a time to three unique people. They were not allowed to explain why, they simply had to give $2 to three separate people. To make it interesting they had to:
  • Give $2 to a person who is obviously economically poorer than you
  • Give $2 to a person who looks like they are at about the same economic level as you
  • Give $2 to a person who is obviously economically wealthier than you
Laughing a bit nervously, they fanned out across the city and bravely attempted. Later when we debriefed the experience I asked them how it went, I thought the responses were surprising!

The Poor

Everyone said that it was easy to give money to people who looked poorer than them. People simply gave to pan-handlers who were already asking for money. When they gave the $2, the people who received looked them in the eye and said thank-you or God Bless.
It was a pretty natural exchange. The gift felt good and kind.

The Same

The story changed when people tried to give money to people at the same economic level. People who were offered the money were guarded and surprised. The donors raised a few eyebrows. They were asked ”What is this for?” and “Why are you giving me this?”.
The general response was perplexed wonder and confusion. Recipients laughed and gave the givers a double-take, shaking their heads at the craziness of the situation. The gift felt odd.

The Rich

donation1It was when people tried to give money to the rich that things got really interesting. Flashes of irritation crossed people’s faces. Responses were quick and snappy, “No thanks” and “I don’t want this”. People walked away in a hurry, trying to avoid the giver.
In most cases it was almost impossible to give $2 to a rich person. The gift was an insult.

What does it mean to help the poor?

 Giving money is an exceptionally powerful act. When we give money to help the poor we are setting up a powerful relationship. Money is power. And the act of giving money conveys power to the giver. This relationship with money affects us in deep ways:
  • the giver is benevolent, the receiver should be grateful.
  • the giver is kind, the receiver is needy
  • the giver is good, the receiver should learn from them

Giving $2 to a homeless person reminds us that we are noble. We are re-affirmed and thanked.  When we disrupt this story (by giving money to the non-poor) we create tension. It breaks down this story. This is a good thing.

 

Poverty needs you in power.

If we continue to find immediate gratification by giving to an person who can thank us. We will continue to reinforce the power structure that poverty requires. Don’t believe me? Do one of two things:

  • Just go and try to give some money away to a rich person yourself.
  • Or sit on the corner and beg for money for 30 minutes

So what should you do with that $2 in your pocket the next time you want to help the poor? You may just try giving it to a person in a BMW. This kind of giving will change your perception of how money affects you as a giver just as much as it does the receiver.

Until we change how we give, we won’t be able to understand how others need to receive.

$2 per day per person, is the average of the national poverty lines for all developing countries.

Never believe that your $2 doesn’t make a difference. It makes a powerful difference in people’s lives.

Did this post intrigue you? If so, tell me why in the comments below.

Mark Crocker

How to reduce the threat of militants who are trying to kill you

My brother was working in Pakistan, in an area where terrorist attacks have become commonplace. He was there to aid the local people rebuild after some devastating mudslides had torn up their homes, communities and lives. While he was helping, militants were actively looking for ways to kill people who look like my brother. It was and still is a dangerous place. Thankfully he made it back home safely and I recently asked him what he considered the secret to his safety.

I too have felt the results of war a few times – In the Palestinian territories as I talked to the soldier in Bethlehem square, blocks of concrete whistled past my head at a guard post. The soldier clicked his gun off safety and ran towards the youth. Later that same trip as I walked up a hill to find a moment to myself, my persistent guide began to shout for my attention. I ignored his cries until I heard him say “They are shooting up there!” I decided to turn around.

 

Driving the shooting gallery

I have worked in a war zone in DRCongo, the longest running war in the world with a death toll of over a 1,000,000 people in the last 20 years. I most remember the striking image of the rocket launcher slung across the shoulder of the militant. She was there to protect me I was told. I missed a border crossing and had to run the hazardous trail from Bukavu to Burundi in the afternoon – the time when the local militias got trigger happy. My friend, Raha, kept calling and checking in every moment he could reach us by cell phone, frightened for my safety.

In the grand scheme of risk, my stories do not share the same drama that others have faced. Much more horrible things happen to international workers. I got a call from a volunteer within hours of the moment when he held a man as he bled to death. A construction accident on a job site building a children’s home.

The equipment burst in his hands, sending a shard into his heart.

There is real danger in travel.

Most development takes place in places where there are greater dangers than home. Disease. The Environment. and Armed Men With Guns all play a part.

Back to my brother in Pakistan. He was surrounded by razor wire, and high fences. The guards on the compound carried guns. There were protocols and procedures. Safe areas and meeting points.  Still that is never enough. He let me know his secret to personal safety, the same one I use.

He got to know the neighbours.

 

Like most of life, the secret is relationships

He dropped in often to the neighbour next door. He brought over food. Learned the names of the kids. He drank endless cups of tea. He asked questions about their lives. He shared his own experiences. In short he became a neighbour, not a foreigner.

After getting to know them, at one point he asked about the dangers of local militants, “What should I do if something bad happens?” His neighbour pointed out how the neighbourhood worked, the narrow streets that felt so confining also held an advantage. The houses were all close together for a reason. He told him, “if ever you are feeling in danger get on your roof – jump over the gap to our house – we will shelter you.”

When surrounded by danger, no amount of protective razor wire or fire-power is as powerful as the protection of a neighbourhood. The first step to safety is to become a fellow human begin and get to know the neighbours.

Have you ever been in a dangerous situation?

Mark Crocker

Photo Credit: gfairchild via Compfight cc

A Poorly Kept Secret about Another Broken Well

Wells have been installed all over the world by organizations that collected donation money from people just like you. A lot of pictures are sent back home of the big celebration, unveiling of the plaque and congratulatory speeches. This is usually the last we hear of the well.

Job Well Done!

Another Broken Well

The problem is that the pumps were broken by some local kid and haven’t worked in years.

The first time I saw this kind of thing (and it is not that uncommon) I thought, what is wrong with these people? They have to walk for kilometres for water, often to polluted streams, and this pump is just sitting there at their doorstep – Why don’t they fix it?

 

Don’t they care?

If someone gives you a gift shouldn’t you keep it up?

That is a fairly obvious isn’t it? Is this some sort of moral deficiency or “cultural” issue … I tried to come up with all kinds of explanations. Most of them were convoluted and sort of racist, but over time I think I am starting to understand why.

The answer is the people did not realize the pump was theirs

In too many cases, no one knew who actually owned the pump. Sure it was given to ‘the community‘ but it was never clarified who that actually was. It is like the road in front of your house, it is “yours” But you don’t fill the potholes.

When it is given to everyone, it is given to no one.

 

No one owns the well.

Everyone else assumed someone else owned it. When the outsiders came in with the water in the first case it is usually enormously appreciated, but because no one actually owned the pumps, and no one collected money for maintenance, it meant that no one was in charge.

The pump is most commonly seen as a broken promise and a failed responsibility of the donating agency

Whenever I saw a broken well, I started to ask a simple question, “Whose well is this?” I had hoped to hear people tell me that this is “my well”. Instead I heard over and over that “this is the well of [insert name of your favourite development agency here]”.

 

Changing ownership

Why does the community think the well belongs to an outsider? Probably because an outsider brought it in and even though they most certainly told the local people it was theirs, words don’t mean as much as action.

And their actions clearly showed that this well was not theirs. At no point was the well actually given to anyone with an enforceable interest in maintaining the well.

 

 No thanks!

Consider if you were suddenly told by a friend, colleague or pastor that the work that they have done for the past year is now yours. And – “oh yeah, by the way, the money run out in 6 months so you need to make sure that you find a way to keep it going …” How would you feel?

You may feel a lot like many recipients around the world feel when they receive one of our projects. Sure, I like this project, but I like it as a user, a recipient, not an owner. Why are you trying to pass this time-consuming and expensive responsibility on to me?

  • When wells are given to a community and not to an owner (person or team)- no one owns the well.
  • If you form vague requests for maintenance schedules but avoid the plans for a person to make an income from his work – no one owns the well.

When there is no clear system in place, everyone expects that the company who brought the water will manage their investment, collect fees and repair the breakdowns.

 

If you don’t want another broken well

For a project to last in a community, the community must own it at all times. From long before the planning phase, to long after you are gone. How do you make sure of real ownership? Simple.

Don’t do the kinds of things that owners do.

If you dream it, plan for it, pay for it, manage it and sell it to the community … guess who the owner is? You, of course. Do something different instead, find out the dreams, plans, resources, management and promotion of the community and join what they are doing.

Have you ever been frustrated by a big waste of money?

Mark Crocker

The fatal flaw to understanding another culture

A few years ago I was in India and I met a travel writer for Outdoor magazine. We chatted about life, travel, writing. I was a little jealous of his life and work. I had overheard him talking to an Indian guy about his wife and so I asked about his family. He told me that he wasn’t actually married, but in Indian culture it made sense to refer to his partner as wife.

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Indian Women with Headscarves

I understood why he did so. I was also there with my wife Supriya, although at the time she was my girlfriend. We had gone for a walk in Pune one night, we held hands and, looking for a place to buy water, made our way into a roadside pub. Almost immediately Supriya’s cousin Biyah appeared to ask why we were there? It seems we had violated a number of unspoken cultural taboos. (more…)

89 reasons why you think about poverty the way you do

When I think of living out in the country, farm-life, the picture that comes to mind is of “Anne of Green Gables” and “Little House on the Prarie”. Those were the shows I watched as a kid. Sod-busters. Barn-raising. Ice cream socials and square dancing.

So when I think of village life I think of rustic, hard-working strapping men and women who may be poor, but by using their few resources they pull themselves up by hard work and gumption.

If there are any problems, they were solved in about 22 minutes – or 44 if it was a two part episode.

The first time I walked into an African village my perspective of the quaint village shifted.

Some things are similar.

A village in Africa is also filled with hard working men and women.

They are real people with full lives. They wake up everyday and get the job done. But the village there is very different than the village I learned about on TV. In a developing country, living in a village usually means you are poor.

Nothing wrong with being poor of course, but most people don’t want to stay that way.

What picture comes to your mind when you think village?

Pictures stick with us, sometimes for decades. For me it was the first time I went to Ethiopia, I knew the famine was long over, but those images during the 80’s were in my head. Of course that wasn’t the reality anymore when I went and so my perspective had to change.

How many pictures of Africa do you think you have seen? How many pictures of aid work? We have all seen 10’s of thousands of images of international aid workers.

What story do they tell?

I searched the web for pictures of people doing aid work and put 89 of those images together into this short slide show. Individually, each of the pictures probably tell a version of a story that is strangely different when you take them all together.

a perspective that was probably not intended …

Here is my suggestion.  Watch the video and ask yourself a question:

What is the story that is being told through this collection of pictures?

Mark Crocker

How to tell time

We left our guesthouse just after 7 am because our host had told us that the high mountain road was under construction. There was only one way in, and there would only be a couple moments when we could get through. We had to get there before 8 or we would have to wait until after noon.

How to Tell Time
We were cutting it close, but I felt good, we were going to make the deadline. We kept up the pace, until suddenly we rounded the corner to see a long line of parked vehicles in front of us. We stopped for what would turn out to be an unexpected lesson. (more…)

How to Tell a Story so People Pay Attention

A number of years ago I met Foday. He was tall, lanky and busy. Always moving. His young sons would run to hang on him whenever he could find his father taking a break, which was not often. Foday knew how to smile. A kind man, he quietly lit up a room.

Boday Sierra Leone
Foday & Sons – Kabala, Sierra Leone

Foday wanted what every good father wants. The best opportunity for his sons to succeed in life.  I don’t know if I really understood that as much as I do today – my two daughters have probably helped me understand this in a new way.

The problem was that we were in Sierra Leone. A country that had just come out of a savage and brutal time. Many people in the community shared the physical scars of the war.

Foday introduced me to a farmer with a missing arm.

Rebels had stopped this particular farmer and asked him a question”Do you want a short sleeve or a long sleeve shirt?(more…)

How language almost starved a 12 year old boy.

When I was a kid I went overnight camping with a group of other boys. We got into normal shenanigans. Lit fires. Chopped down trees. Got into fights. Our leader had enough of us and at one point in frustration he shouted his threat “if you don’t shape up you won’t be getting any mail!”

Mark Age 12Strange right?

I did not understand. It was a weekend camping trip. I didn’t expect mail and the threat seemed hollow. Weak. “Who cares about mail!?” I thought. But everyone seemed to calm down in a hurry. In the sudden silence I wondered if I was missing the point.

So I asked him, “What’s a mail”?

My question only seemed to increase his frustration. He grew visibly more upset as I repeated my question. A little louder. A little more forcefully.

“What’s a MAIL?”

I did not help to reduce the tension. If anything his temperature was sky-rocketing. I felt like he was going to lose it on me, and for what, “mail“!?!

Scott StillerIt all made sense

That was when my friend Scott grabbed my arm and told me to shut up. “Meal! Mark. MEAL! He is telling us we will have to skip a meal if we don’t listen!”

I immediately shut up. Few things matter more to a 12 year old boy than food.

Everyone there thought I was just bring a cheeky little snot and was trying to aggravate him. Fair enough – I often was. But in this case it was an honest mistake. His British accent, although tempered by years spent in Canada, still came on strong. Probably more so when he was sick and tired of playing babysitter to a dozen boys (…looking back – good on you Keith).

You don’t have to speak different languages to require a translator

As I travel I have discovered that people speak differently.  I am not referring to language. I mean that people who share the same language will use it in very different ways.  I may be speaking English to someone, but I need to know the other rules of communication. One key rule, is the difference between direct and indirect speech.

  • Direct speakers say things like, “What do I think? I disagree. Why don’t you try it this way?”
  • Indirect speakers say things like, “I love your plan! Have you heard Petra’s idea, what do you think about it?”

Not too complicated, but most cultures have preferences.  Roughly 3.5 billion people on the planet prefer to speak directly; and 3.5 billion people prefer to speak indirectly.

deceptive or unrefined

If you belong to a highly direct culture you will find indirect speech seems evasive and tricky, maybe even a little deceptive. If you belong to a more indirect culture you will find direct speech shockingly abrupt, it seems unrefined and rude. The same sentence will mean very different things.

As a Canadian I tend to speak directly and I wonder if I really understand how indirect communication works.  Maybe as a direct speaker I have some weird unconscious bias against indirect communication. I think it gets in the way of getting things done. Although, I must admit, Japan and India prefer indirect ways of speaking and they sure make things happen. They lead the world in productivity. So I wonder how they are able to get so much done, when it seems like they never directly confront problems? I wonder if I am missing a perspective? Do I have a cultural blind-spot? Understanding this would certainly be a valuable skill if I was working with people who prefer indirect ways of talking – Don’t you think?

Did you see what I did there?

If you followed that last paragraph, then guess what! You understand indirect communication. A much more direct approach would have been if i had simply stated: Direct communicators, like myself, have an unshakeable and somewhat arrogant belief that we have the right way of communicating. I am wrong.

Although all cultures have preferences about direct and indirect communication, cultures tend to use both. You do better if you know the preference for the place you are travelling.

Have you ever felt like you were communicating clearly, but totally missed the point?

 

Mark Crocker

8 key comforts you should take on a plane

A few years ago I was flying overseas when I was suddenly hit with a wall of stench. My eyes watered. It smelt like some hellish mix of ammonia, cat pee and pinesol. I instantly bonded with the stranger sitting beside me as we searched for the source. Was it a spray? No one looked suspicious.

I wondered if the airline was experimenting with some new industrial cleanser, or spraying disinfection through the air vents. Were we the unfortunate guinea pigs?

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Over the next 10 minutes the smell faded and I took a few cautious breaths. Until, there it was again! A fresh assault. My seat companion gagged. I looked around me and asked aloud, “what is that smell?” No reply.

Innocence only.

Another few minutes and a third attack. This time I was sure where the source was. I turned and directly confronted the woman behind me. ‘What are you spraying?’ (more…)

You have an appetite for Aid Work …

… but do you have the stomach for it?

This was the question a friend posed to me a couple of months ago in Haiti. It made me stop and think. I teach people about patience in community development, but if I am honest, my first impulse is to come up with a brilliant solution.  I know lots of ways to fix the problem, and I have a fight to stifle these words from leaving my mouth “Have you ever thought about …?”

 

I started this work, out of a dream to travel and save the world. I wanted to be the solution to the biggest problems on the planet. I saw people inspire their friends to fill a container with shoes for kids who have none. Others pay for prostitutes to give them a night away from their pimp. I heard of groups stepping between men with guns and their victims!

Inspiring stuff. Who wouldn’t want to be a part!?!

Then I joined the ranks of aid workers and saw the other side of the story. Real aid work is waaaay different than the images on CNN. (more…)

The 11 people you meet in the boarding lounge.

Sitting in the boarding lounge before a trip to haiti.
We are on travel time. Not real time. A portal to elsewhere.

Flight crew saunter in and wait in the no mans land between the gate agents desk and the security doors. Flight attendants read People magazine. Captains and first officers brightly chat as they carry and ferry Starbucks to flocks of flight attendants.

Wheelchair porters stand ready. Chatting quietly with one another until it comes time to push a passenger forward. Then the appropriate charm or chill will come out according to some internal barometer of passenger patience.

Gate agents try to create order of the mass of people. Continued calls for various passengers to approach. Facing down the horde who lie in wait for the hint of upgrade. The list grows ever longer. Super elite. Elite. Sapphire. Gold. First. Business. Emergency row. Plus. Group one. The crush forward. Older annoyed passengers exclaim ‘we are all getting on the plane – no use in rushing to sit down!’

STM team members wear matching tshirts. Comic sans font proclaim team name and English scripture references. The groups resting on and around luggage piles. Members smile and chat as middle aged men share the finer points of culture or travel advice back and forth with one another as Haitians listen on.

Young Aid workers wearing jeans and fashionable scarves sit hunched over macbook pros. Older more jaded NGO workers wearing wrinkled quick dry long sleeves sit hunched over beaten-up windows machines with stickers of their aid agency stuck on the back. Both read from spreadsheets, graphs and endless email.

Black men, affable and portly in clerical collars walk by with cheap luggage. smiling at everyone and no one alike, slightly baffled at the intricacies of the airport.

Mixed race couples with children sit together even as they are casually separated by various I-devices. Familiar with the routine they amble forward at the call for business class passengers.

White women with Haitian babies held protective and close. If you catch their eye they look a little longer. Willing you to ask them a question.

Business men in blazers on cel phones. Those with Bluetooth gadgets in their ear at some point in the call announcing the fact that they are in an airport, credentials as an international traveller appropriately noted, they continue with the more banal news of collegial deadline and meeting – the gossip of the office.

The modern backpacker – Hipsters rest with their girlfriends. Sharing screens and earbuds. Carry on luggage artfully aged in vegan dyed leathers shunning the convenience of handles and wheels.

Young men dressed in dark jeans, loud t-shirts and gold chains sport bright red Beats headphones. They point at friends greeting and meeting their way along to the gate.

Then my group is called …

Repeat.

We are on travel time. Not real time.

Have you ever stood here?

Mark Crocker

How to tell the story of poverty without exploiting poor people … again

A few years ago I talked with a person who wanted to volunteer overseas. As she spoke she gushed about her love for the poor in Africa, and at one point actually said these words, “I just love those chocolate babies!” I am not joking. Those words actually came out of her mouth. She meant it in love and compassion. Her heart was in it, but her words were a bit insane.

(more…)

The #1 Change That Haiti Needs

I recently had lunch with a friend and we talked, as I often do, about international relief and development work.  He asked about my travel over the next year and I mentioned that I was planning another trip to Haiti in about a month. He asked, as most people do whenever I mention Haiti, “So how are things going there anyways?”

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

I have found that the unspoken question behind this question is this, “Is all of our efforts, goodwill, intentions and resources really making a difference? Are we able to change what seems like a fundamentally broken place?”

Are we making a difference?

I responded with some of the success stories, and suggested that it takes time to change social patterns, thoughts and behaviours (worldviews), blah, blah, I started to bore myself. I realized as I spoke, I knew the most critical, most difficult, #1 change in attitude that is absolutely necessary in any successful development project.

(more…)

3 secret rules to learn a new language quickly and easily.

I once sat with a guy in Guatemala. For over 30 minutes we talked about our lives, our families, where we came from and where we were going. The funny thing is that we didn’t actually speak each other’s language! He spoke Spanish, and I didn’t.

How do you learn a foreign language?

Photo Credit: tobyct via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: tobyct via Compfight cc

Ever wonder why some people seem to learn a language quickly? They seem to have it so easy. Do you wish you had their skills? Here are the secrets: (more…)

Why I Refuse to ‘Just Help Out’

 

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

Many people ask me what I actually do when I show up in a new country. Do I pick up the tools and help out in a garden project, do I build the walls or hire people to build? Am I training people on how to start a new business? Handing out food, water, clothing and blankets from the back of a truck? What does it look like?

If I try to explain “community sensitization” and “needs & asset assessment“, I watch eyes glaze over. As interesting as being an accountant I suppose …

Some wonder why I don’t “just start helping people out!?” I have one really important reason why:

I want the projects that I am involved in to last beyond me

I want someone other than me to own the project. I leave.  I always leave and so will you. If you like the idea of starting a sustainable partnership, then how you think about a project will make it succeed or fail.

  • Whoever starts a project owns the project.
  • Whoever pays for the project owns the project
  • Whoever manages the project owns the project
  • Whoever problem-solves the project.   Owns. The. Project.

Just like here. So what’s the problem? Some people ask, why not just own the project? Simple.

Whoever owns the project, owns the future problems of that project.

Have you heard those horror stories of wells that were put in and fell apart in a year, or buildings that are falling down and no one maintains them?  Of course you have, we tell those stories of international development all the time.

I don’t want to own projects. I want to help the dreams of communities.  I can’t do that if I am the one who decides how that community develops.

Sustainability is a tough practice. People say that they want to be involved in locally owned and sustainable projects, yadda, yadda, but wishing won’t make it happen

Here is what I will do.

  1. I spend way more time into the beginning of a project than the project itself – sometimes years. The more time you put into pre-project, the greater the chance that the project will last
  2.  Unless people are going to die today or tomorrow, I ignore immediate needs and inquire about peoples dreams = the real local priorities
  3. I listen
  4. I look for people in the community who are already successful. I highlight what they are doing. And I point to them as a possible model for others
  5. I am inspired and learn
  6. I find tools and resources to help people discover and put voice to the kind of future they hope for their children and grandchildren
  7. I am offered meals and rides
  8. I offer tools for people to use (or not)
  9. I share examples of other communities who are successful and invite others to be inspired by the stories
  10. I am taught even better ideas from people as they explore and share new innovative ways to deal with old problems
  11. I walk alongside and share my own experiences and resources to help people fulfill their dream
  12. I receive new ways of seeing the world, new skills and abilities, new places on the planet to visit, and an incredible story to live

If I come up with my own dream, people will often welcome them, but they won’t own them. They are my dreams after all. My work is with community development and great community development takes time.

How much time should we take to start a project?

Mark Crocker

How to skip travellers diarrhea

Dukoral … I just took my first dose.  This is supposed to help prevent all kinds of intestinal parasitic problems, I hope so.  I leave for DRCongo again in about 10 days and I sure don’t want a repeat of my last flight home!

This time I head to Uvira, into a remote area.  I have been at the back end of nowhere the last few times, but Uvira is supposed to be really, really out there. In Congo I am usually in Bukavu, which is not on anyone’s top 10 list for travel destinations. I am really curious to see what people in Bukavu think of as remote.

Last year at this time I was in the middle of managing a $2.5 million dollar food aid project in the area. This time I am working with the people on the next steps. What do they want to do to stabilize future food security? Hopefully we will work out a project that will be a real and lasting benefit.

Hopefully the rebels don’t take it all away.

My second and last dose of Dukarol is to be taken in a week. This is also supposed to keep me safe from cholera, a water-borne disease, for three months.

I got caught by some bug on my last visit and spent an uncomfortable plane ride home in all kinds of (euphemism) ‘abdominal distress’. Contaminated water is a real concern so we are also looking at a well project in one of our project areas. It would be great to reduce illness without the need for a few thousand (expensive) Dukoral doses for the community

I will also be scouting for Mike and Amy Boomer who I am helping to the field this fall. This is a double-duty role for me – I will train and facilitate them through our Mid-Termer Process at STMN (check it out stmnetwork.ca) and I am also their project manager for ERDO.ca They are a great couple and are inspiring many others to support them, check out their blog at www.theboomers.org (UPDATE: Wezesha project) maybe they will inspire you to head overseas – let me know, I will be able to help

What do you do to protect yourself when you travel?

Mark Crocker

See all the Famous Sites of London in 1 day

Travellers are well aware that Heathrow in London, England is often the hub through which you connect to the rest of the world. Often the stopover is several hours, or a day. If you have a few hours to kill, here is my recommendation on how to spend the day in London … enjoy your next Stopover!

 

Photo Credit: -Jeffrey- via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: -Jeffrey- via Compfight cc

London is a walking city

You can and will have to walk any and everywhere, but it can take a toll on your feet. Bring really, really, really comfortable shoes. Bring an umbrella or a raincoat, or be prepared to be damp, London is famous for fairly constant rain.

Drop your stuff at the airport short term storage, Heathrow charges by the individual bag, so cram one into another, or find a garbage bag and stuff in two or more backpacks.  Voila! one bag.

There are many tourist maps that you can find at info booths, in the tube stations (subway), at almost any attraction, etc. Grab one, they are often helpful. Even better, download the tube map on your iPhone now. You may not find wifi to do it after you arrive. The freebies will not be as good as the London Mini-map that you can often find in a coin-operated vending machine in a tube station for a couple of pounds.

Get an all day tube pass that includes the zones that you want to see the sites of, that will probably roughly include everything within the Hammersmith and City and the District lines of the tube. If you look on a tube map, those two lines form a rough circle around the most popular tourist destinations.

Things are expensive there, most prices will look like a price you would pay in Canada, but because it is one pound instead of one dollar, depending on the exchange rate it can cost you a lot more. If the cost of an item looks like a Canadian price, then it probably is a fair price for England.

After paying for short-term luggage storage, the Tube and meals, the following suggestions are for the most part free.

Itinerary for a perfect day in London

Head to Piccadilly Circus, have a look around at the sights.

If you want to go to a play or a musical in the evening either download the TKTS app, or be at the lone building at the south center of Leicester Square (pronounced Lester) for 11 am. There you can buy ½ price tickets to many of the evening shows from TKTS (formerly The ½ price ticket booth). do not be fooled by the many, many other places selling half-price tickets they commonly inflate the price to make it look like a discount. There will be a line-up, so getting there a little early would not hurt.

From Leicester Square, you can walk a couple minutes south stopping in at the National Portrait Gallery as well as the National Gallery a few steps beyond that. Both include originals of many famous works of art. In the National Gallery you can see original Van Gogh’s, Monet’s, Manet’s, Gauguin’s, etc. It is worth a visit.

The National Gallery fronts onto Trafalgar Square (of Mary Poppins fame), there you will find thousands of pigeons, hundreds of people feeding them, and interesting statuary. Also the square is ringed with embassies, including the Canadian.

If you continue walking south on Whitehall street for another couple minutes, you will come to the Admiralty Arch, which leads directly down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. From the arch it may take 15-30 minutes to walk to the palace. There is not really a closer tube station to the palace.

If, instead of walking through Admiralty Arch you continue down Whitehall, you will soon arrive at the Horse Guards. If you are there at the right time, you may see them marching about. A little further down Whitehall takes you to 10 Downing Street (The British PM’s house).

If you walk through the Horse Guards Arch you enter St. James Park this is a pleasant walk through the park to get to Buckingham.

Say Hello to the Queen

Once you have finished gawking at Buckingham, which is fairly unimpressive, unless you can convince the guards in to let you have tea with HRH, you can head over to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. To get there either walk about 5-10 minutes south to Victoria station, hop on the tube (Circle or District line) and ride to Westminster station. Or you can simply walk east 15-30 minutes up Birdcage Walk (on the south side of St. James Park) back to Whitehall and then south on Whitehall about a block.

You have to pay to tour Westminster, unless you arrive at some service time. If you want to step inside during a service, pop around the side entrance, let the guard know you are there for the service and they will let you through. There are often choral groups inside and you can also see the headstones of the many famous people who are buried there (ie. Churchill, Sir Isaac Newton), it is a beautiful building. You can also walk into the Houses of Parliament, to view the House of Lords as well as the House of Commons if they are in session (this is a great idea if it is raining and you want to dry out for a while. Take note of the massive entrance hall as you enter into the Houses of Parliament, it is built without a single nail. Ask the guards there for more history, they are often happy to oblige and let you know who was killed there (hint – lots of people). Big Ben is actually the bell of the very large clock outside the Houses of Parliament. The Thames river is also immediately east of the Houses of Parliament.

At some point grab lunch, I do not have good suggestions about places to eat, but there are thousands of places all around (try to avoid anything that says “special prices” or “where Londoners eat” in places such as Leicester Square for lunch, they cater to tourists and are usually awful.

Choose your own adventure

There are many other things to do/see from this point. But it is best to get on the tube to get around. Some suggestions.

The Big Ferris wheel across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament is called the London Eye. This slow-moving ride is a nice way to see the city and it takes about ½ hour to complete. The Tate Modern Museum is also nearby at this point, use the funky Millennium Bridge

If you go to the Tower Hill station you can get out and see both the Tower of London as well as the London Tower Bridge (and no, it is not falling down). It is best to go in the early evening as this is when they are all lit up with their lights.

If you want to do some upscale shopping, get off anywhere on Oxford street (Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus or Bond Street stations)

There are also other market areas to shop in. Camden Lock (Camden Town station) for antiques and crafts. Petticoat Lane (Aldgate East station), Sundays for all kinds of stuff.

If it is raining you may want to visit the British Museum (about a 10 minute walk from Tottenham Court Road station). They have free days, and often the last hour of the day is also free.

St. Pauls Cathedral is also a beautiful church (St. Pauls station)

Winding Down

For a rest, hop on a double-decker bus (the regular public transport with the closed top is included with your tube pass not the open top-type with a tour guide) , get to the top and ride around for a while as a self-guided tour. Do not worry too much about getting lost, if you are not sure where you are, get into a tube station and it is pretty easy to find your way back to where you want to go.

For the evening I would suggest you go to a show, (Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Cats, Oliver, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Mousetrap all play somewhere in the theatre district). Almost all the seats are good as the theatres are fairly small. Before or after the show, you can wander a little through Soho, the theatre district. This can be a little seedy, but there are great places to grab a bite.

Those are many suggestions, and I know there are many other places I have not yet gone myself. If the above itinerary is not too appealing, look on a tourist map and explore

Have fun. Tag me in your pictures!

Mark Crocker

4 stages of stress when you travel

When I travel, I find that sometimes I just hit the wall. I am sick and tired of being there and just wish I was home already. The adventure fades and reality is just tiring … I know! poor me! what a hard life I have 🙂

Hard Luck Life

I also know that this is normal. I am a unique individual who feels these feelings just like everyone else!

I just taught a session in Saskatoon where an old friend, Rob Shepherd graciously hosted me. At one of his sessions, Rob talked about the Five Stages of Cross Cultural Stress.

Stage 1. Expectation and Optimism

Stage 2. Acceptance and Fascination

Stage 3. Frustration and Rejection

Stage 4. Regression and Hostility

Stage 5. Adjustments, Acculturation and Assimilation.

Rob unpacked the normal responses to stage 4: Regression and Hostility in this way. People choose to fight, flight, filter and flex. I have definitely felt each of these responses during my travels

  1. Fight – for change
  2. Flight – escape, go home
  3. Filter – see only the bad of the present culture
  4. Flex – work thought it.

 

Have you  experienced any of these stages?

Mark Crocker

How do you say hello in Korean?

My brother just returned to Canada from language learning in Costa Rica. He brought his Korean-American partner Mary home with him. My wife Supriya and I thought that we should greet her in Korean, we did so very very formally. She got the joke and laughed.

ESL
Photo Credit: jovike via Compfight cc

I cheekily told her, “Wow, your english is great” (this should not be a surprise, she was brought up in America)

Her response … “So is yours!”

Fantastic response!

I find it curious when I hear someone say “They don’t speak any English here” while they are travelling in another country.  Why should they?  The better comment is for us to say “I don’t speak any Korean” the traveller is the outsider. The expectation should not be that others speak your language.

Anyways in Korean “Welcome” is “Oso oseyo” which surprisingly I spoke in an understandable way!?

Do you know how to say hello in another language? Share what you know here!