Category: Personal Development

Human RightsPersonal Development

Living one’s life as an example

Mother and Child. Edith E. Post 1987. Collection of Henry Lewis 🙂

Hatred is poison.

How inherently confusing the world must be for children growing up today. They are constantly bombarded by contradictory messages on social media while their parents frantically run around in circles trying to provide the material things dictated by American culture. What’s often missing is clear moral guidance, especially from the current leadership in Washington, D. C.

Although the TV was ever present in my childhood, the loudest voices were those of my parents and grandparents. And, I count myself incredibly lucky to have had them as my primary examples of how to live one’s life.

While family, of course, was important, there was always room for others at the table too. They lived lives of egalitarianism and taught my sisters and I that no one should ever be excluded. My parents and grandparents were what I believe to be true Christians who lived by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as it’s stated in the King James version of the Bible, or simply “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

It seems that many contemporary Christians (especially Evangelicals) now see those words as a sign of weakness and choose to worship a God of vengeance rather than one of love. Their God is also exclusive, as he (always male) favors people of certain races (predominantly white) over all others.

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CulturePersonal Development

Can we free ourselves of cultural bias?

I saw the sign ‘Real Estate—Apartments and Condos for Rent’ so decided to stop in and inquire. The professionally dressed middle-aged man running the office approached me and asked, in his decidedly American accent, if he could help me. We chatted for a few minutes about my desires for a living space—small, a studio apartment with a balcony—and he then asked my price range. When I said I would prefer something under US $1000 per month, he laughed and said, “Well, you’re not going to find anything for that price unless you want to live in a (with verbal stress) MEXICAN neighborhood.”

It was September 2016 and I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico looking for a small apartment to rent on a long-term basis. I was so shocked by this American’s brash rudeness and the way he was disparaging the citizens of the foreign country where he was a guest that I couldn’t respond. I simply turned and walked out. I thought about his attitude a lot over the following few weeks and wanted to return to the office and give him a good telling off but I felt it would be wasted energy and a stressful confrontation that I didn’t need.

Fighting cultural bias within

Living in a variety of developing countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America over the past 15 years has taught me a great deal about my own attitudes and prejudices and forced me to examine my cultural biases in a way that I never would have done if I’d remained in the USA. I’ve encountered my share of ugly Americans (and other Westerners) on the road—such as the real estate agent in Puerto Vallarta–and I must admit that I’ve also fallen into that category on some of my worst days.

As those of us who’ve traveled extensively or lived for long periods of time in poor developing countries can attest, things often just don’t work as efficiently as they do back home in one’s comfortable Western environment. Sometimes things don’t work at all—things like electricity, hot water and most importantly an internet connection. The food is different. Sights, sounds and smells can be offensive. And the locals may not speak a word of English (egads!).

Besides the normal bureaucratic trials and banking challenges, the things that slowly grate on my nerves are the incessantly barking dogs, blaring music from huge speakers placed in the street as ‘neighborhood’ entertainment at all hours and seemingly complete lack of the concept that noisy activities might be disturbing a neighbor. I believe the vast majority of the locals in all the countries where I’ve lived have been kind and caring people, so what gives with the lack of consideration for others when it comes to noise?

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CulturePersonal Development

An expat in need of roots

I’m just back to Colombia after spending two months in the USA, so I’m experiencing both major and minor cultural tremors on a personal level. Add an extended rainy season in the Colombian highlands (leaking roof and windows!) to the usual adaptation one experiences when culture hopping and you get the picture.

My half-opened door in the small Colombian highlands town of Guatapé

Visiting and spending quality time with my two unique Sisters in the USA is always a trip—in the literal sense. What we share genetically more than anything else are our eccentricities.

While we all have our own idiosyncratic personalities, and despite the challenges apparent in placing three older-adult siblings into the same living space for two months, this scenario always provides me (and I hope them as well) with a great opportunity for personal growth. We’re all three prone to saying “It isn’t easy being us” far too often. 🙂

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