Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 10 of Internship: Culture

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. I believe blogging is not for me because I seem to lack consistency. However, in order to fully determine the accuracy of this statement I have to at least attempt to rectify the abovementioned inconsistencies and upload a new post.
By now, I have embarked on my internship venture. We have, since last week (Tuesday 21st), been in the throes of orientation – a lot of which involving learning about Uganda and Kampala – which, incidentally  is not just of value to the diverse group of interns that we have with us. Re-learning my city/teaching others about it has given me a very interesting/entertaining perspective of the area. I am also learning more about the part of the city that the office is in, namely Kiwafu in Kansanga. I actually live in Kansanga, and have for about 10 years, but my home is just a couple of "blocks" (the Ugandan equivalent of these) from Kiwafu so I have been learning more about the other side of home, which I had before only known as "where the shortcut cuts through".

I got to meet most of my team on the 21st and the following days. Did I mention that we are quite diverse? Before recent years, the intern team has mostly consisted of interns from the US but this year, we have, in addition to the 3 Americans, 4 Ugandans, 1 Australian/Hong Konger and 1 New Zealander. Out of the Ugandans, we have one person from the North, one Easterner, one person from the West, and me, another westerner but from a different tribe. We have Americans from California, Georgia/Netherlands (the European Country) and Texas. We are still waiting for one of the other Interns, who is currently stuck in Tanzania, his home country, with passport issues.

Orientation has been interesting, learning about different customs, cultures (we celebrated Chinese New Year with the Chinese-Australian Intern this morning), learning how different accents pronounce the word “water” – “wateh”, “wat’r”, “wota” – and basically getting to know our office mates.

One of the most important aspects I have learned about is cultural differences and how important it is to take that into consideration when interacting with people. I realized a lot about my Ugandan Culture that I have never considered because I have never had it highlighted, aspects like the way we tend to under-emphasize things – which has never occurred to me before, or how my habit of not looking at people in the eye, that I had to take pointed steps in breaking, was actually a cause of my cultural upbringing and not something personal.
I think it has basically been a week of growth to which I am sure I will owe a lot of my future skill in working with other cultures.

Tip no. 3 on saving Africa – learn about culture… your own included. J

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