Friday, December 09, 2005


Interesting how people across different cultures deal with business. WE recently sent a cooperative agreement to establish the parameters under which our mission in Brazil would operate in association with local church. We worked very hard to write a document that simply laid out the expectations we had, the expectations they had expressed, and set simple parameters for dealing with things that might come up from conflict to excess costs to other issues. WE told them it was not a final version but needed input from them. And apparently they were a bit put off by it. The only feedback I have gotten is from the Associate Pastor, who discussed the document with us before we sent it, translated it for them, and who has been our main point of contact. And he is for the document. We know the document is not legally binding but feel it is helpful to have some concept on paper related to expectations, needs, especially since unlike past trips where I have travelled with a team and only for two weeks, I will be going there alone for at least six months. If we had issues during two week trips, it seems reasonable to expect the possibility of issues arising during a six month mission.

Truth is, we honestly don't have all the facts about the objections but I was told they thought it was more serious than they expected. Culturally I don't know how to gage this. From the perspective of Anchored Music and our Board of Directors, sending someone alone to a foreign land in a city where he does not know anyone well, has spent all of six days before arrival, has to learn the language and culture, etc. is always serious. So it should be handled and treated seriously and a handshaked deal is probably not the most advisable route to do that. Makes sense to me. But anyway, in January, I will be there and meet with the leadership to understand better why they might see this differently.

The only reason I comment on it here is that it interests me that perhaps the more relaxed Latin American attitude toward such an arrangement might make such an arrangement seem overly serious to them. Now that is culture clashing. My Board does not want to operate without a cooperative agreement and neither do I. After all, it is my personal possessions that people have asked me to leave behind for them on past trips, implying that Americans are wealthy and could always buy them more easily. It is me who dealt with demands that we pay for various things which were not originally agreed to or necessisarily even our idea. And I do want to protect not only myself but them by clearly defining on paper what we are all expecting and agreeing to in starting this partnership. TO me that is common sense. And wise. Maybe not to everyone. WE will see. But either way, this cross cultural living holds many interesting lessons.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cultural Divide

One phenomenon I am seeing in Latin America in particular, and to a lesser degree in Africa, is a separation between church music and the music of daily life. This is deeply concerning to me because I believe worship is a way of life we are all called to. It is our primary purpose for being. And so we need to learn to worship in every word we say, every action we take, every thought. How can we do this if we see worship as something we do in a specific location or on a specific date and time? This is where having this cultural divide leads.

The cultural divide between Sunday Christianity and everyday living is wide already in the United States. And churches have been fighting against it heavily for a decade now. In Ghana, West Africa, at least they still have the holistic view, arising from African traditional life and beliefs, that all of life is spiritual and therefore, who you are spiritually, relates to who you are in every moment. This is helpful in fighting off the cultural divide. But in Latin American churches, particularly in Brazil and Mexico, what I see too much of is American songs from Vineyard and Integrity, translated into Spanish or Portuguese, using the same instrumental style and arrangement as the original American recordings. In the meantime, the rich musical traditions of Brazil (bossa nova, forro, samba, etc.) and Mexico (mariachi, nortano, etc.) are being treated as outside and worldly. Christians see these as things Godly people do not associate with, and this is to the great detriment of the church's relationships with the world they live in. It is leading them into the cultural divide. Now Christians listen to this music at work, shopping malls, street corners, on the radio, etc. But they just associate that with the secular half of their lives.

Why is this a problem? Because the Bible teaches that Christianity is a way of life. You cannot be a Christian in one area of your lives and not others. And because of the rich musical culture of these countries, and the connections people make with music to various activities, this creates a divide. Anyone who avoids these traditional types of music as sinful will have trouble relating to everyone else. And those who try and move between the two worlds find themselves pulled in two directions. Even worse, Christians lose touch with their own culture. And this not only hurts witness by creating a sense that Christians are set apart, different, or even "geeks" but it creates a situation where Christians find themselves unable to relate culturally to those whom they feel called to witness too. Furthermore, people being witnessed to often think they have to leave the music they love and everything associated with it to become Christians. And that is a very challenging thing to do. So... many give up.

Ever since our first workshop in Ghana in July 2000, I have worked to help natives look at their music through new eyes and critical eyes, but not culturally critical, asking questions about quality: How do the songs we sing match up with the Biblical message we are promoting? How does the musical setting/language/style match with people's daily experience? How does it further the teaching of the pastor? How can we use songs more effectively? Do the lyrics tell us everything we need to know or leave unanswered questions? And so on and so forth. And I have encouraged them to write songs for congregational use. Some have been successfully adapted into the churches, including some I wrote or cowrote with students. And some have been retired because of failure to answer questions.

As I prepare to work in Brazil and Mexico, I know of movements that are started in Brazil to use traditional musical styles and redeem them in Christian's eyes. There are people teaching the truth that all creative gifts are from God even if they are used sinfully by depraved humanity. But the styles themselves are not evil and if used with good lyrics and written with care, can be useful to churches. I hope this movement has started in Mexico also. I hope they can make the music their own and really use it to connect people more fully to the church and to their daily lives. This can only serve to make them stronger Christians and be a stronger witness to the world. And the world needs that more than ever.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Architecture and Dining in Cuidad Juarez

Okay, I just got back from Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso, Texas. I know it is a border city but I was simply shocked how many American restaurants there are there. Not to mention Walmart, Sam's Club, etc. Carl's Jr., Burger King, McDonald's, Applebees, Denny's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silver's....and the list goes on and on! And one of the missionaries there told me that TACO BELL was all the craze in Mexico City when it opened two years ago. I mean, there are Taco stands everywhere that sell the genuine article, much better quality shells, etc., and they are eating at Taco Bell?

Don't get me wrong, I just ate at Taco Bell this weekend, and I like it, but not compared to the REAL thing. It amazes me. The reason he gave is that anything American is popular down there. And I have seen McDonalds in Rio De Janeiro as well as a few other things. But the abundance was surprising. Okay, so we share a border of several thousand miles, but still, it was a surprise.

We ate at Denny's (for some reason the missionaries wanted to) one morning and they have the same silly menu items we have here. The Slim Slam (Is it EL Slim Slam in Spanish)? Unfortunately, since I had the English menu, they did not give me the Mexican insert, so my breakfast was not authentic. That is a little disappointing because I always try so hard to eat authentic food wherever I go and experience the culture. Especially in this case, because I only had three days there. BUT it was still a good fellowship and meeting I had with Mexican pastors and the missionary during that breakfast, so a fair trade, I'd say.

As for the food, the mole with Empandas (?) was not my favorite. The sauce itself was just not something I am crazy about. I did eat a lot of it, but I just did not feel crazy about it. On the other hand, Huevos (Eggs) Rancheros I liked. I also enjoyed enchiladas and sopapillas. I enjoyed tacos as well. Great fresh tortillas. Good guacamole. Excellent Margaritas. Try the pina colada! WOW! Never had one before like that.

Cuidad Juarez was an interesting place architecturally. There were some amazing manses with huge gardens, surrounded by fences. There were some grocery and shopping centers similar to American ones, but most reminded me more of Brazil. More streets were paved than there are in Africa, though. But there were speed bumps everywhere. Apparently this is the favorite method of speed control. The other thing is that the traffic system is nuts and people do what they want anyway, so things get chaotic. But I will save that for another post.

Another thing that struck me was that Mexicans must just build on whatever land they can find because there were shacks that looked like they were in illrepair or close to falling down next to fancy new stores that looked brand new. I guess land is expensive and hard to come by. But yet there were whole empty fields in areas. It kind of surprised me to see so much mix, because usually I have seen it concentrated in Rio De Janeiro or Belo Horizonte or Accra, Ghana. Groups of similar poverty and groups of nicer buildings. Never so mixed. The other thing is that I was well aware that what I was reacting to might be considered a middle class home that just hadn't been painted or was not well maintained on the outside but was nice inside. So I honestly don't trust my own impressions.

Anyway, I did have a good time in what I assume is an upper middle class home. And went to the daughter's soccer game, which they lost 11-0. I came away with genuine Mexican art originals drawn by Carla, the middle daughter. She and Diana were so adorable! HE HE And fun to play with. I can always manage to bond with the kids first.

I will try and do a series of posts on my impressions from the trip. This is the first. Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, November 04, 2005


by Debbie Eynon Finley

This article is reprinted by written permission of the author. It recently appeared in BRAZZIL magazine and is quite relevant to our discussions here.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but I have found the lines at Carrefour, (Brazil's version of Wal-Mart) to be slow. Very, very slow, especially, compared to shopping in the US, unless you are shopping at the Albertson's near my old house in Austin, Texas.
There is one advantage to shopping in Brazil though. They let the people with children, the elderly (idosos), and handicapped skip to head of the line or go in a special line. My friend always makes sure to bring one of her toddlers shopping with her for this very reason.
Since my husband and I have no children, and are in good health, I've been trying to get my eighty three year old Aunt Ruth to move in with us. Although in Brazil, her name would be pronounced "Hoochie", which is her main reason for not wanting to come.
One day I was behind an elderly woman in line. She said that she was eighty, but, that when she first got in line she was only sixty, which is why she didn't feel right about standing in the special line.
Even if only one or two people are in front of you at the Carrefour, it can take ages to check out. The cashier will usually need to do one if not several time consuming activities.
The price check. This buying hurdle occurs when an item isn't priced. The price check requires the cashier to summons a store team member to roller skate over to their register. If the price checker can safely reach the cashier without having to field customer inquiries, and without knocking over merchandise or customers, the process moves to stage two.
Stage two is the committee meeting between the cashier, the price checker, and the non-priced item. If the two employees are about the same age, often in their early twenties, this may progress to stage three. Otherwise, the employees skip to stage five.
Stage three includes a personal conversation between the two employees about how long they have been working at Carrefour, and whether they like their job or think it sucks. If the two employees are of the opposite sex and or attracted to each other, this may develop into stage four. Otherwise, the employees skip to stage five.
Stage four is when the mutual attraction intensifies and flirting begins. Non-bogus phone numbers and e-mail addresses are often exchanged. They may even plan an upcoming date at the mall.
Stage five is when the price checker pulls out his compass and map of the store or Never Lost Satellite system, and ventures out to track down the price.
Stage six is when the price checker returns to the cashier with the price. Both employees separate until the next business or social encounter.
After a price check is completed, this raises other potential, time delaying issues. Does the customer still wish to purchase the item? For instance, do they still want the box of ice cream bars that have turned into a puddle?
During one of my price check torments, I was in line behind a couple who had just gotten the price for a six-pack of beer. The couple had a long discussion as to whether or not they would still like to buy the six-pack. Although I don't understand much Portuguese, since communication is 70% non-verbal, I could fill in the blanks.
"That beer has gone up two reais! You don't need it and it's not in our food budget. And, why do you want to buy those chips? "
"Because, I like them."
"No, it's because you want to snack in front of the TV at night, instead of listen to me talk about my day. We aren't buying them."
So, that price check wasted an hour of my life, an hour that I could have been watching The O.C. (Orange County). But, on a positive note, the price check for the six-pack of beer resulted in a date between the young cashier and price checker. I hear they're expecting a baby and are engaged to married.
Another frustrating checkout obstacle is investigating customer's money to see if it's counterfeit. A sweet looking older woman was trying to pay for her groceries with about twelve various bills to make up about 60 reais or twenty seven US dollars.
The cashier had to examine each bill front, back, sideways, and standing on one leg. Then the cashier's version of a lie detector test, was to look her with both eyes like Hannibal the Barbarian.
When the cashier's findings were inconclusive, she repeated the process until it was time for her lunch break. Then, she took the woman's cash and signed out of her register.
Another clog in the checkout process, is getting behind someone who is paying bills. Beware, that if there's a short line with only a few people, it's because the other customers have psychic capabilities and are avoiding that line at all costs. They can instinctively sniff out a shopper in line with bills to pay.
I got in line behind a woman who was not only paying her bills, she was also paying her sister's and brother's bills. She had seventeen siblings. I was so impressed by the sisterly love that she showed her family members that I asked to take her picture, (I keep a digital camera in my purse, since I still consider myself a tourist). We have it in our photo album next to a picture of President Lula, the president of Brazil (large South American country South of Florida).
Another hold up in line can be caused by getting behind a new foreigner or estrangeiro like myself shopping at Carrefour for the first time. I had been in Brazil for three days when I decided to take my first shopping expedition. I managed to drive myself to the store without setting the clutch on fire (it only smoked a lot).
It was not until it was my turn in line that I learned that my fresh fruit and vegetables had to be weighed in the produce section. Then, it took me fifteen minutes to figure out if the cashier was asking me whether I wanted paper or plastic bags. That's when I noticed that Carrefour only has plastic bags.
I didn't know that I needed a pin to use my new Brazilian credit card. I did have a pin for my new debit card. But, I hadn't figured out that when using a debit card at a store, you only enter 6 not 8 characters of your password.
It was my next shopping trip that I learned they'd be asking additional questions in Portuguese that I couldn't read. The machine requests the day, month, or year of your birthday. But, never all three. That way management feels that you'll be less likely to expect a birthday present.
Now, my only option left was to pay with cash. I took out twenty various reais bills from my wallet, which had to be cleared as not being counterfeit. From the depths of my purse, I shoveled up and sorted through a fistful of Brazilian coins mixed with US coins from home, and Euros from our vacation last summer to Holland (small European country East of New York).
Leaving behind a few of the higher priced impulse items, I managed to scrounge enough money to pay for my groceries and get through the line. It's nice that Brazilians are so patient.

This article was written in a humorous vein and should not be taken seriously.

© D. E. Finley 2005.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cutthroat White Man

Well, my Board and I are close to being ready to set a date for the commencement of a short term missionary assignment for me in Brazil, so I imagine I will soon have lots of more interesting stories for this blog about Culture Clashing! But for now, here is a funny one from Ghana in 2002.

I was with my Team touring the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in downtown Accra, which has fountains, a museum, and the masoleum of Ghana's first President and the man who led them to independence from British colonization in 1957. Very interesting man whom I am trying to write a movie about, but that's a story for another time.

As we made our way back to our car, we were being bothered by various street vendors who see white people and think "MONEY, MONEY, MONEY" (sing Apprentice theme song for effect). One was particularly aggressive and kept bothering our team and we were dealing with a problem with our van, which had broken down. I tried to shoo off this vendor and finally he left. Another vendor moved in to take his place. Without thinking, I cut him off mid-sentence with a finger pulled horizontally across my upper chest as if to say: "NOT A WORD." He got a terrified look and moved off. Soon I noticed a crowd on the street gathering and talking and pointing my way.

My Ghanaian host, and dear friend, Lydia, asked me what had happened. I explained and she started laughing. "You just threatened to slit his throat. He is afraid of you." I felt terrible. Lydia said it was no big deal, just a cultural misunderstanding and seem very amused. Soon our driver fixed the van, and we left. But I have never forgot the fearful look on that poor man's face. Or the way the crowd stared and gossipped at the cutthroat white man and his friends.

Hope this gives you a chuckle. Just an example of how even our body language can cause culture clashing!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Fighting a Culture of Hate

I often think a lot these days about something I see developing around the world. It has been developing over the course of years, I am sure, but I have really began to take notice in the last three years. That is a culture of hate. Brazilians, for example, often slam America for its' President and his policies, lumping Americans in general with the government. Africans do the same, lumping Americans in with Europeans. And Democrats and Republicans seem hateful toward each other today. We seem to have lot any sense of commonality and instead see only the differences that divide us. I stuggle myself with this, because the lies and exaggerations I so often hear spreading make me angry and resentful. They are distortions of the facts and used to reflect badly on honest people like me who have firm convictions and are highly educated but also deeply passionate about our views and our compassion for others. And more and more this has me wondering: are we building for tomorrow a culture of hate?

I firmly believe there is nothing we could do to more aid the spread of terrorism than allow a culture of hate to develop in our countries. If good, decent people who work hard to love their families and provide for them cannot see past the ideological differences to the fact that they have the same ultimate goals as each other despite this, then how can we hope to help our children have the same goals? They will get lost in the angry ideology and this is what breeds terrorism. Angry ideology with no roots in goals of family, work, and a better life. All they want is to destroy those who do not share their views. Insane ideologists like Osama Bin-Laden feed on this kind of thing and they use it to create terrorist bombers. Think I am wrong? Look at the reactions of the families of young men involved in the July 7 London bombings. Surprise. Dismay. Denial. They never imagined they were raising a terrorist. Never saw their own child headed for this distruction. But look what happened.

Brazil and America have large media infrastructure. In Brazil, there seems to be no sense of the ethical restraints we have so often believe American journalists operate with. But as we are seeing from recent incidents involving Time Magazine, CBS News and more, those ethical restraints are failing even here, and worse, open bias in reporting has become the norm, not the exception. This just feeds the anger of those with a different ideology from those reporting the news and feeds their frustration. It makes them want to fight back to spread their own ideology, and the cycle continues. The culture of hatred gets more ammunition and moves further and further into reality.

In Brazil, and to some degree this is becoming more and more true in the U.S., there is increased deadening of reaction to violence. In Brazil there are more murders per capita in Rio De Janeiro, the second largest city, than in whole countries have in several years. That is just one city. Brazilians killing each other, robbing each other, is a common reality. Though I did meet one Brazilian teenager who denied such things ever occurred. In America, with violence in movies, television, even news outlets, more and more we are not shocked or saddened any more. We just react with resolve: "This is how the world is today." Maybe that is why the problem just gets worse and worse. If we were actually shocked and aghast, maybe we would fight harder to change things.

Some of you may think I am being alarmist, but just pay attention. I would love nothing more than to be wrong about this, but I fear that my predictions will prove true. If that is the case, America must be concerned about homegrown terrorists in its midst. Look at the young Muslims already arrested fighting AGAINST U.S. troops in Afghanistan! What if what happened in London, happens here? We are closer than we know and we all need to take action to reverse the dangerous course.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Future so bright.....

Well, my Board just let me know that they think I can plan on going to Brazil in August or so of next year to begin full time work, on an initial six month approval, training the musicians, worship leaders, and
congregants of First Presbyterian Church, Varginha, Brazil! YAY! I have been waiting for such an opportunity for a long time, and I think my blog will be much richer, and written in much more often as I am more involved in cultural interaction. First, though, I have to review the first 10 and do the last 30 lessons of the Portuguese CD course I spent $80 on which claims to be equal to two years of college study. It sure helped me a lot when I tried it before, so I am sure it will now. I want to complete that by January so I can work with a private tutor for the six months or so before I head to Brazil. HA HA WISH ME LUCK!

Anyway, I am learning more and more how each of us live in a bit of our own culture. I, for example, have what they call TDAH in Brazil or ADHD in America. And I am constantly "culturally challenged" in dealing with others, my Board of Directors, for example. The big challenge is that people who have not lived with ADHD or around it much, just don't realize that at a certain point it is just WHO YOU ARE, and so the problems inherent with it just have to be worked through and dealt with, from the approach that this is how life is for you. Because those problems so often involve the ADHD person's interpersonal interactions, it is a particularly difficult area for people without personal experience with ADHD to accept without thinking: "you can work on this so these problems don't happen." I used to buy into that. And while I have made progress, I have found the progress is not in how others percieve me but how I react to their perceptions and how I handle it when issues arise. There will always be issues like that in my life. There have been for 26 years since I was diagnosed and there always will be no matter how much medication, therapy or life experience I have.
Some on my Board seemed to have the attitude that if I just work a little longer and harder I can work through that and eliminate the issue. Or at least get to the point where it is a minor issue in my life. Personally, I think I am already at the point where it is minor, because incidents of it over the past two years are very few. But it is always something I will struggle with. My best way to deal with it has been to confront it head on: be honest with the key people in my life who will interact with me and explain ADHD, how it effects me, then ask for patience and grace when situations arise. That has worked great at my present jobs since October 2003, so I feel like that is the only way I can face the future. Not that I have not been studying and working on coping skills with a counselor and such, because I have. But there comes a point where only in living one's life as one feels called and desires, can a person truly know and learn how they will be in those situations. And there comes a point where one can only learn to handle situations in those situations themselves.
Anyway, things look good for going. I am very excited. I have prayed for a longer term mission opportunity for seven years. So please pray for me. I think it will go well, and I will learn a lot. With success there is always failure, but if we learn from them and grow, there is no real failure in those situations, in my opinion. If things go as well as I expect, I will be able to continue my work in Varginha for several years. Who knows how much better able to lead Anchored Music Ministries and provide cross culturally relevant leadership development training I will be after such an experience! Anyway, that's a little bit about my own "culture clashing."
By the way, we can do pictures now, so here is one of me at the Zoo in Rio, taken by my girlfriend, Bianca Sousa. We are two BSes. Bryan Schmidt and Bianca Sousa. Tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Evangelical Culture Divide

Okay, today I decided to blog on something that may not seem in the scope of what this blog is about, but it is bothering me a lot, so I am going to address it. That is what I call the Evangelical Culture Divide.

Recently, as we face the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice, I heard news reports that evangelicals said they deserve the nominee of their choice because they helped decide the election. I want to say that I have no words for how sick this makes me. I AM AN EVANGELICAL. I VOTED. I am glad to feel my vote counted, but the facts show that most evangelicals had not voted in years. They love to complain about where the culture is going and what the government is doing but they did nothing to exercise their right to have a voice in it. This is like one of the churches criticized in Revelation. They love to complain, but they don't do anything positive about it. Now that they have acted and voted, they want all the power. How does that work? One of the things that Democrats and others offended by the evangelical lobby complain about which is valid (so many are not but really reflect instead the different values they have) is the fact the so many evangelicals mistakenly think they have the duty and obligation to shove their beliefs down other peoples' throats. This has created a huge cultural divide between Evangelicals and everyone else.

Now I should say that there should be a divide based on values and lifestyle. If there was not, there would be something wrong. But the problem is that an attitude of superiority or moral defenders has taken over many evangelical circles and now they label anyone who doesn't agree with them as non-Christian or unsaved, which is very arrogant and unloving, not to mention unbiblical. Who are these people to determine who are saved? And where is the love of Christ in what they are saying? No wonder the world mocks our hipocrisy and misses our witness. It is a shame.

The United States of America was founded on a system of government that changed the world. And it has worked for over 200 years in spite of naysayers because it allows protection for people to speak what they believe, and especially those possessing unpopular opinions. It provides for equal representation for all citizens, and it achieves this as best any system can, I believe. The reality is that our culture is becoming liberal and watered down. If we feel our representation is watered down and liberal, that doesn't mean they are not representing our culture accurately. And while I would like to see this change, it will never change if a small minority demands the power to force their views on everyone else. Evangelicals, unlike some places in the world, are still a minority in the U.S.A. so while we should expect representation from evangelicals in congress like Senator Jim Talent and Senator Rick Santorum, we should neither ask nor expect that we have a right to pick our choice over everyone else's. We have to win fair and square by putting up good candidates who are honorable, decent, and trustworthy, and fight hard to do the right things in spite of the imperfect system in which they work. That is the only way we can effectively hope to impact culture and government. Not by demanding our own way.

I am ashamed that some of those who call themselves evangelicals, some of whom are even influential like James Dobson, have lost the sense of this and are making us all look bad. They are intelligent and successful and richly blessed of God, and yet in their anger and frustration, they have lost their way. We all need to pray for them. And we need to ask God to guard our hearts so that we don't become like them. Then we need to work hard to make sure they don't rule the day and cooler heads prevail. Otherwise, evangelicals will never be taken seriously again.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Pedestrian v. Car

I was in Rio in April and just thought of an interesting cultural difference worth writing about here. There are probably more but life has been a whirlwind since I got back, so I will have to catch them as they come to me. This phenomenon involves the difference in attitude toward pedestrians v. cars on streets in Brazil from America. What is even more interesting is that the attitude varies from city to city in Brazil.

In Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Belo Horizonte, Brazil's three largest cities, you cross the street at your own risk. Even when you are on a crosswalk with a light. Basically pedestrians are regarded as obstacles and nothing else. If you get hit, it is your fault for being there, not the drivers' fault for hitting you. And I am told it would be unlikely someone would be convicted for vehicular homicide for pedestrians struck by his or her car in this manner and killed. Now, in the U.S., of course, pedestrians have the right of way -- as long as they cross in a lawful manner -- even though most drivers tend to forget this from the quick read of the driving laws booklet given to them by the DMV. I mean, after all, we all skimmed it just enough to pass the test. The only time reading it was even partially serious was in high school drivers' ed. And even then, how many really read it thoroughly? But definately, in the U.S., if you hit someone with your car you would be sued and could lose your license. And if they died, you could go to prison for murder, voluntary or involuntary, depending on circumstances. Pretty much if you danced around with glee afterwards, you would likely get voluntary.

Anyway, in Varginha, Minas Gerais, Brazil, a smaller city in the interior, I found the attitude was much different. While Brazilian drivers there were as reckless as ever, crossing the street mid-sidewalk was generally much easier and safer than in the larger cities, and required less running for your life. Locals also told me, unlike those in big cities, that pedestrians were much more respected there. And I certainly felt that as I walked around. I will still never forget my first time in belo Horizonte when pedestrians in a crosswalk with a green walking light scattered in all directions as a car came racing blindly up a steep hill and plowed through the middle of them without applying brakes.

All of this points to the difference different cultures place on the value of human life and of personal responsibility. In the U.S., human life is quite valuable and the drivers' are held responsible. In Brazil, the car wins and you were stupid to be there. I am not passing judgement on which is better, but I certainly think drivers do stupid things, too. Some kind of mutual responsibility seems more equitable to me. Maybe that's why I liked Varginha's attitude better. But in the dog eat dog world of cities like Rio, I doubt this will change any time soon. After all, Rio De Janeiro has more murders per capita than any city in the U.S. People are regularly subjected to a level of death and violence that most Americanos cannot imagine. Maybe this in itself desensitizes people to death and thus decreases the value of human life. Maybe death by such a manner is just more accepted as natural and part of the reality of existence because of it. I don't know. I do know I will never casually cross the street in Brazil like I do at home.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Continent-AL Divide

I recently got into an argument with my girlfriend from Rio because their country teaches that the two Americas, South America and North America, are one continent. My geography is a bit rusty, but I remember being taught they are separate continents, and looking at them on a map or globe, this seems clear to me. Yes, Central America runs as a trail down connecting them, but then the Panama Canal completely divides Central America in two (and Panama, too). So, I still think they are not the same continent. They look like landmasses that are totally different in shape and form. And culturally, there is little connection, other than the fact that American cultural influence (North America I mean) is so predominant the world over.

I know this seems like a silly thing to argue about and be concerned with. But then again, what happens if I marry her and we have kids and then my kids start learning this stuff. Do I want them to feel stupid around their friends at school or be mocked because they are learning different truths about geology than their friends? I guess it would depend on where we live. But these kinds of issues can be important to think about, and the truth is, it has me wondering how crosscultural couples deal with it. I also wonder how the world came to have such division in science. Why, for example, does my country still use miles and inches and yards when the rest of the world uses kilometers and centemeters and meters? Why do we use gallons when the rest of the world uses liters? And why are we learning a different system of continents than the rest of the world? How does this help our children be competitive on the world stage and how does it help us understand and communicate in a world which increasingly requires cross-cultural interaction in business and daily living?

I mean, I still have a hard time with Bianca's argument. To me there is Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Antartica and Australia. To her North and South America are combined and Australia is part of Oceana with New Zealand and other islands clearly not connected to it by any land mass if you just use common sense and look at a map. Does it matter for our relationship? Probably not. But it is something we can continue to argue about. She hates when I tell her she is on a different continent. And that cracks me up. But what about children? How will they handle such confusing information? They will be born into a world that increasingly will require them to know how to talk across cultures with people who have learned something that is supposedly scientific yet may be completely different from what they know and have come to believe. How will they do it? Will they become frustrated and angry? Science, as I was taught to believe, is not perfect, and is full of theories, but there are certain indisputable facts, and I guess I thought the continents was one of them. Certainly it ought to be something we can all agree on. I mean, how much is there to debate about? But what about our children? How will they function in such confusion?

Not that I personally put too much stock in science. As a Christian, I don't believe in a lot of scientific theories. A lot of it is just plain bunk based on false pretenses that come from lack of faith in God. Nothing founded without belief in that, in my opinion, is worth much. But a lot of people live their lives that way. And the confusion that is resulting could be very harmful. Don't you think so?

Thursday, May 19, 2005


My friend Gerhard from Australia shared an interesting story I want to share with you:

One experience I had was when I was working with a guy who was a Samoan part time Pastor of the Samoan church and who was also doing studies to become a Pastor, and since I was a Christian we had the same interests so I offered him a lend of my most favorite books and audio tapes. But little did I know that if you lend anything to a Samoan it’s just like giving it to him.

So I never saw any of my books and tapes again until about 4 years later when he was sitting in the canteen reading a book, and when I sat next to him he said: Garry this book is really good, you should read it. So I told him to look behind the front cover and when he did he just looked and never said anything, and now 22 years later I’m still waiting for them.

One good thing about it was that the book looked like the whole Australian Samoan community had a lend of it, which makes me think that maybe the idea is that if the person that has the book keeps lending it to the next person it will eventually come back to you, if there are any Samoans here you might be able to tell me if that’s true. One thing though, it might be hard sometimes to adjust to different customs or cultures but don’t you think that when a person is in Rome he should at least try to do what the Romans do. I would be interested to hear if any one else had a similar experience.

God bless you all.

I actually experienced this in Africa. I tried to loan something to one of my students but when I went to get it back, he had written his name on it and incorporated it as his own. I just let him keep it because I didn't want to cause offense, but I have been VERY careful about this in future visits, believe me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Cross Cultural Love

Okay, well, I guess I am not a very good blogger, because it takes me FOREVER to write these days! I just have not been thinking about Cultures Clashing the way I used to. But I should be, because I am preparing to marry a Brazilian and move to Brazil, so I will be dealing with Culture Clashing as a way of life!

Some people have asked me: Why are you so attracted to Foreign women? Why not an American girl? The answer, to be honest, is that most American women I have dated or wanted to date have been difficult. Either they lied, cheated, or were arrogant. OR they were rude and not ready to be in a relationship with someone who is so dedicated to his work with other cultures. Either way, they were not for me. And it turned me off. American women, in my experience do not appreciate men like me the way that foreign women do. Foreign women see my intelligence and success and work as a positive, not a negative. They want to be involved in it with me, and they are excited about the unique possibilities it brings for life -- travel, cross cultural encounters, constant new experiences and learning. To be honest, I have just had better experiences with the three foreign women I dated than the Americans. There were less games and more opportunities to have honest, open relationship. Obviously, I am not still with two of them, so there were problems. And in both cases, some were cultural. But they were more related to the character and maturity of the other person (and perhaps me as well) than to anything overwhelmingly cultural.

Anyway, I think it does take dedication to date cross culturally and a generosity to remember that you see the world differently and it will take work to sort these differences out and make the relationship work. You also have to compromise a lot. And you have to be willing to accept and appreciate the other person culturally. In some ways, I think being open to compromise is easier in cross cultural dating because there is less expectation that the other person will do things by cultural norms and standards you are used to. So you go into each situation with the expectation that it may be a cultural difference and looking to understand and find compromise. With a person from the same culture, we often just expect them to do things a certain way, and when they don't, that can create frustration and irritation.

Anyway, that is my experience. My present relationship with Bianca is one in a million because we have found acceptance and love that overcomes barriers. I can say anything to her without shame. And she is always there working to sort it out. Even when I am being a pain or foolish, she still is ready to accept and love me through it. I try to do the same with her (though I honestly think she is better at it than I am). And it has been easy to do this with each other in a way I never experienced in other relationships. Cultural issues have not been a big deal. Helpful is the fact Bianca speaks English very well and has spent a year living in America. Additionally, most of the cultural issues we have faced have related to my interacting with her family or other people (or them reacting to me) not our own interaction. We are lucky, I know.

But anyway, that is my thoughts on Cross Cultural Love. At least for now! As the Brazilians say, BEIJOS!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Worship Wars Part 2

Well, I just resolved an interesting issue that actually ties to my last post. There were some accusations made about me from a mission trip in January 2003. Considering how many mission trips I take, that I work in music (which is always a sensitive and touches people to the core), and the degree of differences between my culture and the cultures in which I most often work, this in and of itself is not surprising. It was not pleasant and disappointing, because I did not expect it, because people love to gossip and make more of accusations than they need to, and because I never wanted to do anything but bless the people I was there to serve. Also, the issue came up 2.5 years after the fact and I had been in touch with the people involved a number of times since then. So, it seemed a bit late. But anyway, at core, the elders of a church I visited at this man's invitation iun Goiania, Brasil were upset and felt I was insensitive to their traditional style of worship and cultural situation. Because of a contemporary concert I was brought in and asked to do. But by someone else, not them.

I realized when I got there that the church was more traditional than I expected and I had prepared musical material that might prove challenging. But I also had rehearsed a program with musicians paid to work with me, and it was hard to just switch it around last minute. As I recall, it is hard to remember something 2 years ago, I did adjust my performance style and tone it down a little bit. BUT nonetheless, my host felt he tried to ask me to be more sensitive and I failed to do so. To be fair to myself, he admits he used a subtler way of telling me, and expected, as Brazilians do, that I would fill in the blanks. I did not to his satisfaction, though he says that he himself thought the concert was fabulous and the majority of those in attendance enjoyed it very much. It is just church elders and leaders who later made it an issue. This is most unfortunate as my host was put through the fire. And I had nothing but the best of intentions. Additionally, a local school they sponsor loved me and wants me back, but it is difficult to return given this controversy.

So you see, even in my own work, I have lots to learn. Of course, my awareness of Brazilian culture and even traditional worship culture has grown a lot from my 1.5 years working at a very traditional church recently as well as studying Brazilian culture, interacting with Brazilians, and travelling there more often. So I have grown, and my host in meeting with me agreed that things now would probably be very different. It certainly gives me things to think about and work through as I seek to grow into a better, more sensitive worship leader and trainer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

WORSHIP WARS: Modern v. Old School

Okay, so I am writing twice in a month, hoping to get back on track to doing this at least once a week. We'll see what happens. Today, I am going to take up the topic I hinted at two entries back. There is a conflict I get involved in on a regular basis in my work with Anchored Music Ministries. We in Christendom call it: "The Worship Wars." And it is all too common around the world. In Italy, where my friends have asked us to teach at pastors' conferences about the importance of traditional church music and liturgy and maintaining recognition of the ties to the past. In Brazil and Africa, where churches fight between either being all contemporary music or all traditional, and even refuse to use most musical styles common to their own culture. And in America, where churches sometimes resort to dividing their congregations in two for two distinctive services because both sides cannot agree on how they want to do worship.

Wherever and however it occurs, it saddens me, and I believe it grieves the heart of God. And it is very much CULTURE CLASHING. The heart of the matter, sadly, is failure of people to have generosity of spirit toward one another. And in Christians who claim to follow Christ and model their lives after Him, this is very destructive and, quite frankly, unacceptable. But the battle rages on. We all want to fly in worship. We all want to achieve the high that allows us to feel God's presence most distinctly and fills us with His Spirit so we feel like we can fly. We all want it. The problem is, we all think we should have it every moment and anything that interferes we want outta there! Wouldn't it be great if there was a worship service for a congregation where everyone achieved that high at least at some point throughout the gathering? To me, that is the ideal, but without generosity of spirit it will never happen.

Contemporary music fans can't stand to be bored by the classics, even though there are rich lyrics full of well presented and deep theology. They can't get past the "Thees" and "Thous" and musical style. They see connection between it and their daily lives either, so how can it help them live a life of following Christ in that world? Traditional fans can't stand the contemporary music which is often symplistic and repetitive. They can't stand that it ties to the world outside, either. After all, the church is supposed to be not of this world, isn't it? And it is only complicated in countries like Ghana and Brazil where there is a rich cultural history of musical styles and development deeply connected to people's communities and daily lives, but the church -- both contemporary and traditional -- doesn't use it because they are afraid it has too many sinful connotations with secular life. Even worse, sometimes they think the styles themselves are sinful instead of recognizing it was how they were used that was the real issue.

So here we are, in the midst of a war. And it is frustrating and painful, especially for those who try to bridge the gap like myself and my Board members. At the church where two of us served in that past (and one still does) the pastor thought contemporary music was anything 1960s and beyond and he liked the old stuff. But what the congregation craved was clearly the more modern stuff. He just didn't get it. At the church where I now serve with another Board member, the senior pastor is an old traditional Southern preacher and he likes things tight and traditional. He doesn't connect his own style to contemporary music. My feeling is that we are often so handtied by time limitations and his last minute planning style that we don't get the time to develop really good material. We need to search out the stuff that is well written and has a certain lyrical complexity to more readily match his style and approach. Then I think it would bother him less, but reality intrudes.

This is an issue on which we have gone back and forth many times. My Board member and the pastor are often at complete odds about it and deeply frustrated with one another. I try and surf the middle, which is like walking a tightrope with no balance. But anyway, my head is above water. What saddens me is the pastor really longs to grow the church and give people a deeper experience and the Music Director, my Board member, is immensely talented and he brings such high quality even working under challenging circumstances with limited prep time that if they would just compromise and work together just a little bit more, things could be incredible! It would also help a congregation of upper middle class to wealthy Angl0-Saxons more readily apply their faith to their daily living and business activities, and they need it. I know, I grew up in that world. The challenges of the poort are different from the challenges of the rich, but that doesn't make them any less challenging. Sometimes it is harder to surrender when you have it all.

In any case, this culture clashing really gets in the way of relationships and successful worship in a big way and it is sad. Because truthfully all sides seem to be genuinely seeking a deeper faith experience and communion with God. And they lose out in that because of the Worship Wars. I will think more on this and write more about it later, but it is something to pray about for sure. And it definately fits the topic at hand -- CULTURE CLASHING.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Linguistic curiosities

Hey! Okay, so I don't know that very many people read this enough to miss it, but my last post was well over a month ago! How terrible of me! I never did write about the other issue I was going to bring up, but I will try and post on that next week. Life has just been busy! BUT I will write about an experience I had with my girlfriend Bianca, who is Brazilian, the other night.

In America we have a silly version of the Birthday song that goes like this:


Okay, so Bianca was asking me what I said to a friend of mine about her. Jokingly, I said: "I tell him you look like a monkey, and you smell like a monkey, but I like monkeys, so it's perfect." I thought this was so ridiculous as to be amusing, but Bianca was kind of concerned. She said: "But I am not a monkey. And this person doesn't know me." We had some more discussion. Finally, it came out: In Brazil, the term "Monkey" is used this way in the same way people use the term "nigger" in the U.S. Okay, forgive me for using this deplorable word here. But these kinds of misunderstandings happen a lot crossculturally, so I thought it would be useful to examine it a little here, as it is very on topic for this blog.

So in Brazil, black people are called "monkeys" and it is very degrading. She said she knew that I knew she was not black and so she did not take offense, but she did not want me to joke like that around Brazilians because I might make a lot of trouble for myself. And she would appreciate if I not call her that because, even though she knew I was joking and meant no insult, culturally it is not a good thing to hear said about you. No problem. I, of course, apologized, and we moved on. And of course, Bianca missed the joke. I later explained about the birthday song. But she had not heard that in her time living in Miami, Florida. So the humorousness kinda bombed. Oh well. I hate when that happens. But see this is one way I make trouble for myself in Africa and in other places.

I remember doing a similar thing with a friend in Ghana once and people got upset that I was insulting him. They apparently have heard Africans called "monkeys" by whites in a degrading sense. Funny how I forgot all about that until now. BUT truthfully, because I simply adore Bianca, and she knows it, and we have a very playful relationship, I doubt I would have thought anything of it anyway. I would have thought she might get the culture reference and said it. So I am lucky she is patient and forgiving enough to allow me the error, but this kind of error is very important for those of us working cross culturally to note and try and not repeat.

Another example is when we were in Ghana and one of those street vendors so common in Third World countries kept bothering us to buy his wares. I made a sound and ran my finger across my throat to say "silence." A lot of people do this in the U.S. in my experience. Well, he looked very shocked and walked away and told friends and they all stared at me horrified. When I explained to my Ghanaian friend and hostess, she laughed and told me I had just threatened to cut his throat, so he probably thought I was an evil spirit now -- the scarey juju man, Bryan Thomas, bane to innocent Ghanaian street vendors. She and my companions found this quite amusing. I was horrified. That certainly is not the reputation I want in Ghana.

In Brazil the sign we often use for "ok" of the first finger curled back to the thumb with other fingers extended is the same as flipping the bird (middle finger alone extended) in the U.S. My first two trips to Brazil I really struggled to remember that, as sign language was an easy way around the language barrier. I did this several times without thinking. Luckily my Christian friends in Brazil were not only gracious but aware of the American use of this, so they did not take offense. But anyway linguistic curiosities, whether verbal or body language, do matter in this type of work. Please write of any other incidents or issues you have discovered, so we all can learn from them.

Be blessed!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Crowds and Culture

Okay, I have been very bad at blogging this year. Part of it is just my general busyness, and part is the desire to actually have something to write about. Today, I can think of two things, but I will save one for next week and hope it helps me get back on track.

I just went last Friday night to a Carnaval Party at Panama Reds, a local bar/club which hosts Samba Bom, St. Louis and Chicago's own Brazilian samba specialists, once a month. Usually it is on a Saturday night, so, because of my work at the church early Sunday, I don't get to stay, but this time, I was there until 3 a.m. when things wound down. That took a while. The band stopped at 2:25 and I assumed we would all head to our cars, but people just started talking and mingling all over again. I was irritated because my host wanted to leave like 1:30 and so I got my coat and the coat of our Brazilian friend ready, because I figured we would soon be leaving. My Brazilian friend saw me with the two coats and ignored me, while others looked at me as if I was some fool who couldn't enjoy himself. Then the host who wanted to leave sat there and did nothing to gather up the rest of our group. Finally, at 2:15, I told our mutual friend that the host was waiting to leave and waiting on her. My Brazilian friend said: "She needs to tell me that, not you." And went back to partying. More annoying, when it finally was time to leave, she walked past and told me she was riding with someone else but our host was waiting for me. I went back to our host, who was really the Brazilian friends' friend and hardly new me, and she acted surprised I needed a ride, because she thought I was going with my Brazilian friend. So I just gave up and caught a ride with other friends who were headed my way. To say I was annoyed was a bit of an understatement. I considered the behavior of both of them to be inconsiderate of me. And I don't think it is necessarily a cultural thing. I personally think rudeness like this transcends culture. I mean, I have thought about it a lot since then, and I can't imagine that anyone else wouldn't be offended by it in any culture. What do you guys think?

Another interesting thing I noticed was that the place was almost twice as crowded as it has been past samba nights I have attended. And people were acting very Brazilian about it. What do I mean? When I rode the public buses in Belo Horizonte this past August, I found that at crowded times people walked around and pushed their way through as if it wasn't. Sitting practically on top of you or shoving past you. No "excuse me" or "please let me through" like we are accustomed to in the U.S. (Except rude, mostly urban teenagers who act that way on public transportation along with obnoxious laughter, talking, cussing, and berating anyone who looks at them funny!) They just pushed through and went where they needed to. When the doors opened, no matter how many got off (always at the back) or how crowded the bus clearly was, people boarded (at the front). It was crazy. I would have waited for the next one myself, except I was already on it and pushing my way out along with the three or four others with me, did not seem to be something I could easily accomplish so I stayed put. At the club, people brushed past me, walked through, etc. in the same way.

Now, I can admit, I am not big on the club scene. I don't go out partying a lot or stay up late drinking. Just not who I am at 36 years old (this coming Sunday) and never something I was that fond of. I will dance with someone whose company I enjoy and enjoy the music, which I very much did on Friday night from a bar stool. In fact, I spent a lot of time listening to the rhythms and instrumental arrangements and words to see how it all comes together, as a musician. I did try dancing but found my clumsiness and the fast pace challenged each other. But I honestly was not drawn to the dance floor to rub up against complete strangers, many drunk and disorderly. It just wasn't appealing to me. I did dance off the side with friends and move to the rhythms where I was. I did chat with some interesting people and make some potentially useful contacts. I met more Brazilians from Belo and from Ouro Preto and other places I had been. But trying to get to the bathrooms was a nightmare and someone would see you coming and just move in the opposite direction as if they owned the right of way. Another time, I tried to just go with the flow and move past people, not worried about bumping and such. But was accosted by a drunk accusing me of being rude and arrogant. So again, I am confused about how to navigate this cultural phenomenon comfortably.

I have noticed similar crowding on public transportation in Ghana, West Africa also. Perhaps the rest of the world is just more comfortable with body contact that we are in American culture. Perhaps the realities of cost of living negate such concerns. Perhaps you do get used to it. I think the bombardment of noise and smells and shifting bodies is not at all something I could get used to, but if I live with it for a while, who knows. I do recognize it as startlingly different from what I am used to, though, and also in a setting that I am not commonly accustomed to. I did ride the Metrolink for six months, daily, last year, so I have some idea of the realities of public transportation and some of the manners and customs/etiquette do indeed seem cultural. I also noticed that in Ghana, when I rode the tro tros (minivans and such acting as taxis always stuffed to the brim with people) I was offered the front seat frequently, presumably to allow me not to be crushed in amongst the Africans in the back. At the time, I kind of felt like they were denying me the full experience, now I guess I am not so reticent about it.

Anyway, how people in America and Africa and Brazil deal with crowds is certainly interesting. Perhaps I have not provided a very deep insight on the topic here, but it is something to think about as we all live and move and observe this aspect of our cultures and other cultures as well.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Immaturity Worldwide

More and more I am becoming aware of one thing that all countries seem to have in common, and it is really sad, a proliferation of immature people, who mistake themselves for intellectuals, thinking they have the need and obligation to comment on anything and everything. They do so in blogs, newspapers, chat rooms, etc. And their comments are usually rants full of insults, demeaning remarks and such which clearly demonstrate not only their own immaturity but their ignorance of the topics under discussion. From foreigners, these rants are often anti-Americans in general. From Liberals, they are anti-conservative. From conservative, anti-Liberal. No one among them wants to look hard at themselves and the world around them and see that we all really have much more in common than different these days. No one among them wants to build on that foundation to build a better world. No, that would actually require intellectual thought and hard work, something they avoid like the plague. It is more fun to just hurl insult after insulting, wasting whatever mental capacity they have, to come up with what they think are clever plays on words or new ways of saying the same old insults.

Think I am being harsh? I know, Christians are supposed to have the love of God for everyone. But even Jesus got angry in the temple at ignorant people who were abusing God's house solely to benefit themselves. I get annoyed by ignorant people who abuse the gift of breath and a brain to be generally unpleasant and attempt over and over again to prove their superiority over everyone else. It never works. They always show how ignorant they really are. But they are the only ones who don't see it, them and others like them. And so the rest of us are stuck wading through this garbage to find the gold or the nuggets of truth and real information we can learn and grow from. I guess, what I am ranting about really, is the large number of aimless people who just aren't doing anything with themselves to make a difference in anything they complain about.

I know life is busy. I work two jobs, 55 hours a week, neither of which I am all that passionate about, to pay for student loans for a degree neither requires me to use, but which keep me from pursuing my real passion -- full time missionary work. I make sacrifices of my time, money and energy to find every opportunity to use my gifts and indulge my passion and help people. I guess I work too hard for those other people. But I feel like we can complain until we are blue in the face, but if nobody ever stops complaining and starts working, what will ever get done?

Anyway, that's one reason I started this blog. And now I started a CULTURE CLASHING community in Orkut to help further the dialog, get stories to tell here, let people know what I am doing, and above all, learn from other people. I want to be culturally sensitive. I want to have as broad of a cultural awareness as I possibly can. I want to be culturally educated. And I need other people's perspectives to accomplish it. So far, no one reading this blog has taken me up on it, but I challenge you this year -- put your experiences to good use and post them here in comments, in your own blog (but be sure and let me know about it so I can read and learn from it), or -- for my friends on Orkut -- please feel free to post them in the CULTURE CLASHING community there.

Let's be honest, we all have experiences where despite our best intentions we end up having misunderstandings with others. Usually these are the results of different world views, coming together. Sometimes, they are the result of our own or others' misinterpretations of what we or others say and do. Sometimes they are just what happens when two different people try and come together. It's okay to be frustrated. It's okay to be sad that they happened. It's okay to be embarrassed, but I think it's important to also let others benefit from the wisdom of your experience, so, if nothing else, they can learn and grow from your mistakes. If we all can talk about these things, I think people from the Middle East reading what Americans say here, might actually come to understand us better and be able to respect and relate to us more effectively. And Americans reading what Brazilians say here can actually learn to respect and relate more effectively to Brazilians. Etc, etc. That's my goal for this blog and the Orkut community. I can't succeed without your help. So welcome aboard, and please, let me know you're out there! It'll only make this better and more helpful to all of us!

Don't worry, if you want to remain anonymous, I will let you. Please don't let that keep you from sharing your wisdom. I, for one, want you to help me grow. Happy blogging!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Feliz Ano Novo!

Happy New Year! Well, I have not even visited for a while. So I guess I am behind, but what a crazy two weeks, I have had! I hope all are well and wish you the best success in 2005!

I will have a new experience this year visiting Italy for the first of two trips in November to teach at two conferences, one in Milan, the other in Sicily. It should be an interesting time. Will be hosted by and staying with, in between, my friends Joel and Jessica Rinn in Ferrara, Italy. I hope to get their thoughts on culture sometime featured here. But it will be my first chance to teach in Europe, my first visit to Italy, and my first time in Italy other than airport connections in 20 years! So, I am looking forward to it! I also am actively searching for a job that can pay enough for me to continue paying off my student loans while living and working elsewhere. Brazil has been my main focus, but I would be open to other possibilities if they arose.

For me, who writes about and thinks about crosscultural life, and who interacts crossculturally on a regular basis both online and in daily life, to finally live full time in another culture is a learning experience I have long awaited. Think how much richer this blog will be! Plus, I really feel I will grow in my ability to function crossculturally, as well as my understanding. And this will prepare me for the future I desire and missionary and researcher. So we will see what happens. I have already had one woman who owns an English school in Brazil respond to my mention of it in my profile. So we will see where that leads.

Anyway, I will write again soon about something more on topic. But for now, Happy New Year and may God richly bless you in the days and weeks to come!