Yesterday I ate some pie. Unfortunately, it was humble pie. Now we all know that this kind of pie is homemade and the bigger the mistake, the bigger the humble pie you need to eat.
I could write out the story (which is rather unexciting) and I could give my justifications for being right (which are many in my mind) but it all comes down to realizing that I was acting appropriately in my own culture but extremely inappropriate in the Sudanese context. In fact, while I was aiming to be fair, honest, and firm, it was coming across as rude, spiteful, unfair, selfish, miserly, insolent, disrespectful, and downright mean. Did I mention that I ate a lot of pie?
I know this is a bit like starting out by saying, “Oh, You won’t believe what happened today!” or “I heard the funniest joke today!” but then not telling you but ask me in a few years and perhaps I’ll be ready to tell you then.
However, important reflections include:
- I, as the foreigner, should be ready and willing to accept the customs and common practices of the host culture even though they are, in some cases, illegal in my home country. For instance, every day we load our children into a 14 passenger school van that only has three seat belts for the 192 children stuffed into it.
- The only way for many people to survive in times of trouble is by coming together and sharing the cost. Imagine you have no insurance for your house, car, property, or business. Instead, your family, friends and neighbors are your insurance; that is how we operate here. As relatively wealthy foreigners, we will be asked to help out. A lot.
- Who is talking matters a lot more than what is being said. That means when older people are talking, it is time to be quiet. It also means having advocates in the community can get you out of some pretty sticky messes. They know how to smooth things over while you (by ‘you’, I mean ‘I’) would probably just create a bigger mess.
Hopefully no more pie for a while. -Eli