Sunday, January 01, 2006

The little things

Preparing to come here, we spent a lot of time focusing on the different things we might encounter, and getting ready to spend time in a culture so unlike our own. Being here, though, I've found that it's the small things, both similar and different, that really make the experience. It's those little differences, often in things that I take for granted, that really mark that I'm in a different culture.

For example, the weekend here is Thursday and Friday. Which, of course, makes a lot of sense because Friday is the sabbath here. But the idea of Saturday and Sunday is so firmly embedded in my mind that it's, at the very least, odd to adjust. It's funny, as a non-Christian, to learn the ways that living in a Christian-based culture has shaped me.

Another thing I noticed at the training yesterday was that a lot of the ways that we talk about Mount Holyoke involves comparing it to co-ed schools. In the US, we are always on the defense about why we chose a women's college, and so the way we speak about it constantly emphasizes why an all-women's education is a good and useful thing. But here that's the standard thing, and even so we're on the defensive, as though we're at home. In fact, one of the girls mentioned that she was interested that there were women's colleges in the US, and that we'd chosen that option even though we had other choices.

That said, when speaking to the students at DWC, I was struck more than anything else by how similar we all are. In a lot of ways, it's the liberal arts college vs. technical school concept that creates most of the differences in the attitudes we talked about, rather than the fact that we come from opposite sides of the earth. In so many ways my experience yesterday was just like talking to a group of students at home.


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