Monday, September 1, 2014

On Sunglasses and What We Bring

“Imagine that in your own country, from the time of the first people, today, and far into the future, everyone that was ever born or will be born with 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth and a pair of sunglasses. The color of the lenses in the sunglasses is yellow. No one has ever thought it strange that the sunglasses are these, because they have always been there and they are a part of the human body. Everyone has them. What makes them yellow are the values, attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and assumptions that all people in your country have in common. Everything they have seen, learned or experienced (past, present and future) has entered into the brain through yellow lenses. Everything has been filtered and interpreted through these values and attitudes that have made the lenses yellow. The yellow lenses thus represent your attitudes, beliefs, values and cultural background.

Thousands of miles away in another country, from the time of the first people, today and far in to the future everyone that was ever born or will ever be born with 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes, a nose, a mouth and a pair of sunglasses. The color of the lenses in the sunglasses is blue. No on has ever though it strange that the sunglasses are these, because they have always been there and they are a part of the human body. Everyone has them. Everything the people see, learn or experience is filtered through the blue lenses.

A traveler from the yellow sunglasses country who wanted to go to that far away land has enough sense to realize that to learn about the country and the people more thoroughly, she would have to acquire some blue sunglasses so that she could “see”. When the traveler arrived, she wore the blue glasses, stayed for 2 years, and felt that she really was learning about the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the people. She actually “saw” wearing the sunglasses. She came home to this own country and declared that she was now an expert on the country and that their culture was green . . . “

Sarah began orientation with this story from Engineers withouth Borders to help TTS24 students think about culture and perspectives.

The story continued:
What happened? She had a hard time removing her own yellow filters. By being able to understand and describe the values, attitudes, beliefs and assumptions we have, the lighter the yellow becomes and the more true blue the other culture becomes.

For TTS24, the question is, how will each individual experience this program and what relevance do our lenses have as we interact with classmates, teachers, and people you meet throughout southern Africa?

Throughout orientation students thought about their own values, beliefs and traditions to understand each individual has a distinct culture and background, which may be slightly different than every other member of the group.

As students progressed through the week, they studied the culture of The Traveling School and eventually created unique community standards to uphold for the next 15 weeks. Based on common values and aspirations, these standards will help the group develop into a new community.

Students continuously worked to peel off their sunglasses and embrace newness. And, it was quite a sight to witness. Each morning they had Chichewa lessons with local teachers. On various occasions the group went to different sites and volunteered – reading books, playing games, repairing boreholes – and so they experienced rural Malawi.

Indeed, the first week has been filled with deep thought, as well, the days have included laughter and song. Wednesday's lunch provided the staging ground for spontaneous song and dance – a full rendition of Grease followed by selections from High School Musical and then Disney classics. It is moments like these that crystallize the power of blossoming friendships and free spirits. As an honorary member of TTS24 and many other semesters, it was a moment to relish – girls being girls and proudly letting the world know.
That same day, Sarah S. and Violet reminded me it was the one-week anniversary of the group's meeting. Soon others piped in about how fast the time is going, and they all agreed how naturally the group is coming together. "Is this how the semester really goes?" asked Sydney M. Yes, it truly goes by in he blink of an eye, sure there may be ups and downs along the way, but I reminded them to embrace the experience, recognize how fortunate they all are to be in southern Africa, and try to live in the moment.

I said goodbye to the group on Sunday morning as they prepared to visit an orphanage. Although it was early, the laughter echoed as everyone recounted Saturday night's braai and dance party. As the stars popped out of the dark evening sky last night, TTS24 kicked off a "Like I Do, Like I Do" dance off with the band.

It's always difficult to pull away from a TTS group. To leave the anticipation of the girls as they begin to learn about each other and their surroundings. But, unfortunately, it was time for me to head off to Zimbabwe for a few more stops before heading back to the States next weekend. I'll be back in the office in about a week with loads of pictures and stories from my time with TTS24. Until then, enjoy your fist phone calls to Malawi. 

Here's to a fantastic start!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Aunge! Wish I had the opportunity to see the world in different lenses when I was sixteen.
    To the parents of Marisa and Sydney M., I was in DC for the drop off and Caroline, my daughter, roomed with your precious girls. I have been meaning to post on our blog that Caroline was thrilled to meet them and they were doing well!