Saturday, July 6, 2013

"If you do anything, you will die"

So a common phase in my village is 'If you do "blank", you will die' said by many of the younger children in the village. For example, if you don't take a shower right now, you will die. Or if you if you don't stop playing with the knife you will get a cut and you will die. These are usually said by children to other children, but also from adults to children to scare them in to doing what they should know might hurt them. Might being the operative word here. But it is true in this land of many people and little resources. Something small can turn into a larger problem that you don't know how to fix and can be detrimental to your life in cases.

So much easier said than done and trying to convince others...ha!
The same apprehension is taken with foreigners (aka toubobs) and their work near, around or in villages. They think we are here for a short time (which usually we/they are), do work that looks good to us, but maybe not to them (it's true we do things differently for different reasons), and all in all there is a cultural, language barriers, and invasion of their lives that we can not even to begin to fathom in fullest scope.

I bring this up due to a recent NPR money podcast I listened to (before my ipod died) and it brought to light some obvious truths about being a foreigner in a foreign land trying to do work. Its difficult.


"The language barrier was the most obvious problem, but the most important. The biggest problem was the cultural barrier...The Hmong simply didn't have same concepts that I did. For instance, you can't tell them that somebody is diabetic because there pancreas doesn't work. They don't have a word for pancreas. They don't have an idea for pancreas. Most of them had no concept that the organs they saw in animals were the same as in humans, because they didn't open people up when they died, they buried them intact."  -The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down: An Hmong Child, Her Doctors, and The Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman Pg. 69

The questions of not of what could be done to improve peoples lives but the if they want it, will use it and will continue to maintain it should be the biggest factor in doing work in an unfamiliar land. And even in the land we think we know for that matter. Sustainability is a huge buzz word these days but show me any company, NGO or group that integrates it into every step of their work. I'm not saying its even possible, it's difficult. But sometimes as much as you can talk about something, the easier thing to do is simply lead by example. Let your actions show your intentions, because when it's all said and done, what will matter more. How loudly you tried to make yourself heard or simply you lead and lived by example?

Explaining a honey bee capture hive to a group of women farmers at a Master Farmer Field Day

So I that I do not die, become discouraged, a bad volunteer or simply someone I don't recognize before coming here, I vow to lead by example rather than trying to tell my counterparts, work partners and others what they coulda, shoulda, woulda, do to have better whatever. I will show them what I can with what I have and be patient as I can.

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” - Indira Gandhi 


  1. Meghan, be careful during Ramadan. Yes, you lose fluids, but, in that heat, you also lose electrolytes. Your DNA is ill-prepared for the rigors, so do take enough of the right kind of fluid to keep you on an even keel.

    ALSO: don't eat too much at one sitting, you'll actually start to gain weight. A good breakfast is important.

    Bill J, survivor of 20 Ramadans in Saudi, especially in Summer

  2. Hi, Megan. My summer class is over yesterday.. and I can enjoy summer vacation from!!! It's really hot in my hometown, Daegu even though Seoul has rain during over 20days. Ah.. I met Dr. DeLong and Max the end of June in Korea and we talked about the momory of "Mission Accomplished"and "Mission Continued". Miss you! Take care!