From the Preface of the New Expanded Edition
In this expanded edition I've added a broad array of interactive questions and activities at the end of each chapter as springboards for developing intercultural competence. A new chapter entitled "Globalization and It's Disconnects - Convergence Without Context" has also been added to address spiraling misunderstandings across cultures, especially in the worlds of migration, religion and technology.
To better cope with the disrupting forces of globalization, the chapters' questions and activities are designed to develop and heighten cultural self-awareness and sensitivity to others, among students, educators, individuals and groups of all backgrounds and professions.
Think globalization is bringing us closer together? Think again.
Foreword by Former Ambassador Martin Brennan
Preview Prologue Below! Smelling Lions...But There Were None
I. African Awakenings
The stranger sees only what he knows.
II. Close Encounters of a Cross-Cultural Kind at Berkeley's International House
The first large-scale attempt to integrate the human race since the Tower of Babel.
III. Seeing U.S. Americans Through the Eyes of Others
You cannot see the mountain when you are on it.
IV. Words That Conceal, Words that Reveal
Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything they do not make clear.
V. Minefields and Mind Openers in the News
The earth is a beehive; we enter by the same door, but live in different cells.
VI. - Misperceptions: Maxims and Musings from Around the World
A blind person who sees is better than a seeing person who is blind.
VII. Globalization and Its Disconnects - Convergence Without Context
Don't trust everything you see; even salt looks like sugar.
Afterword: Bridging Cultures by Dianne Hofner Saphire
SNEAK PEEK FROM THE BOOK: INTRODUCTION BY JOE LURIE
Smelling Lions…But There Were None
My awareness about perceptions and misperceptions across cultures was born in the Entebbe, Uganda, airport in 1967. I was en route to Kenya to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher.Late at night, I left the plane and headed across the tarmac to the transit lounge. In the heavy, humid air, I smelled lions. I knew they surely were close…even though I never had smelled a lion.
When I later learned that no lions were anywhere near the Entebbe airport, I began to realize that my senses had been tricked by many one-dimensional images of Africa.This East African episode was the beginning of a life of intercultural encounters, filled with minefields and mind-openers.
My experiences in Kenya—and other countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe—often confused me. The limitations of my previous experiences had clouded my understanding of other cultural realities.
When, for example, my Tanzanian Swahili instructor casually held my hand during a fifteen-minute conversation, I felt very uneasy, confused by his intent. Was he gay? Later, I realized that this kind of physical contact among Tanzanian men has nothing to do with homosexuality, and, in fact, is quite common throughout Africa and in many countries around the world.
I think I was just beginning to understand this Fourth Century Chinese poem:
How shall I talk of the sea to a frog if he has never left his pond?
How shall I talk of the frost to a bird of the summer land, if he has never left the land of his birth?
How shall I talk of life with a sage if he is the prisoner of his doctrine?
The stories I share in this book spring from my experiences and research across cultures, as well as from a long career in international educational exchange.
They illustrate that, often, we don’t see with our eyes, but, as this Chinese proverb suggests, “We see with what is behind our eyes”—through the prism of limited experiences. Anais Nin put it this way: “We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.”
Consider footprints on a toilet seat. How many of us would be startled, perhaps disgusted, to see this? Yet, millions of people from different cultural upbringings understand why there are footprints, and wonder why anyone would even consider sitting on a toilet seat. Only when one leaves one’s pond can both perceptions begin to make sense.
This book is about the confusion and clarity that can come with exposure to different cultures. It is meant to suggest the caution and wisdom of a Mongolian saying: “There are men who walk through the woods and see no trees.”
The stories are accompanied by maxims and wise observations from around the world and across time. My hope is that they’ll help put the cross-cultural encounters in perspective, and give them added life. As an Ethiopian saying puts it: “A proverb is to speech what salt is to food.”
Ultimately, this journey of seeing beyond our shores, and understanding how others see us, will increase our understanding of ourselves, and the forces that shape who we are.
This is illustrated so well by a Zen parable:
Two tadpoles are swimming in a pond. Suddenly one turns into a frog and leaves the pond.
When the frog returns to the water, the tadpole asks, “Where did you go?”“
I went to a dry place,” answers the frog.
“What is ‘dry?’” asks the tadpole.“Dry is where there is no water,” says the frog.
“And what is ‘water?’” asks the tadpole.
“You don’t know what ‘water’ is?!” the frog asks in disbelief. “It’s all around you! Can’t you see it?”