Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Culture Clash

I read something once about culture clashes between Westerners and Africans. It said that when you lend money to many people in the African culture, the cultural tendency is to use that money for the most pressing need first. So for example, say I loaned a hundred bucks to a Mozambican friend to buy books. If on the way to buy books, his tire blows, the money is likely to go towards fixing that tire, regardless of the lender's ideals towards money management. In fact, the lender will have little say as to how that money should be used after it changes hands. It blows my mind, but that's just how it works here. And it works well for the most part.

I've never loaned a dime, it's against SALT policy in Moz. But I have given rides in the truck.

I spent the last couple days camping in one of our partner communities, Caphaia. You remember Caphaia. Whenever I go there, I'm definitely the only guy in town with a truck so I get asked for rides. A LOT. Sometimes I give them if I'm going in that direction anyway. If I am giving rides to anyone for any long distance, inevitably the rider will tell me to pull over for someone else. This will happen once or twice per trip, but after a while it adds up.

I'm a time oriented person and so are you. We're Westerners. It's been kinda frustrating to stop what I'm doing to wait for more people to pile on. In my head I get all surly, "I'm the one with the truck here. I'm here to work not to be a shuttle. Be grateful I even gave you a ride in the first place!" Every time.

But I think it's the same dynamic as the money lending. The power of the help lies in the person receiving the help. And I see them rolling their eyes, baffled that I would refuse to give an additional ride to their friend as I drive on by. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned somewhere in all this. But I'm not sure what it is and I gotta get to work.

Your brother,

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