TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood. And sorry I could not travel both. And be one traveler, long I stood. And looked down one as far as I could. To where it bent in the undergrowth
– Robert Frost
By Nakeisha Brownlee
A book written by Elizabeth Gilbert and a movie starring Julia Roberts, entitled Eat, Pray, Love, is about a woman who leaves behind her “American Dream” lifestyle and ventures out to find what she truly wanted out of life. Although her trip was a tad longer than mine, I believe the premise was the same. I experienced 3 countries, 3 different cultures and took a piece of each culture home with me.
My decision to take this journey alone was not easy. There were several times when I was uncertain I was going to get the internship with 3c Ministries and other times, when the nicely packaged trip to Belgium seemed more fiscally responsible. I mentioned earlier that traveling alone is not something I typically do, but it has been life changing. I have learned more about myself, my profession, the world we live in and how others live in it too. This all led me to believe that there is so much more to life than what resides within the borders of the United States. Sometimes the trivial things we hold on to only hold us back in our personal and professional lives.
I have officially been back in the United States for a full week. When I landed and stepped foot off the plane, my first reaction was to take a deep breath without the fear of unfair foul play (if you get my drift). It was great to be home. I did not have much time to reflect right then, because the very next day I had to report back to work ~ there is no rest for the weary. Jet lag has not been a major issue; I do wake up earlier than usual, but I am sure after this week, I will be back on my regular sleeping pattern.
During my travels, I made it a point to try to distinguish how South Africa’s work ethic compared and contrasted to that in America. This proved to be difficult since the differences were quite subtle. South Africans, like Americans, appeared to be very schedule and task orientated when it came to completing the project. Actually working with the organization was very different from trying to set up the internship. The delayed responses and what seemed to be a lack of concern, led me to believe that their work day was potentially all over the place. It was not until I started working that I learned that sometimes there are internet connection issues that prevent emails from going out in a timely manner or there are more pressing issues that require more time than others.
On the contrary, one area that stood out to me was the amount of time one spent at work or working from home. In America, a typical work week is Monday – Friday, and Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for ones’ own leisure activities. This is not the case at 3c, where employees usually work 6 days a week, have limited downtime and are always on call. What little time they do have, is spent with family. The balance between work and one’s personal life was blurred due to the amount of time working for the ministry, whether in the office or conducting site visits. But this didn’t appear to bother them, as you could tell they loved their work and felt their presence made a difference in the community.
While in Morocco it was hard for me to gauge the work ethic since I did not work directly with anyone; however, things seemed to be very relaxed as well. We already know (from my previous post), that communication is not their strength and I am sure that it is cultural. In America, we prefer things to be spelled out in black and white, leaving nothing to question. In Morocco, everything will work itself out and those who are supposed to have the details have them. What appeared to be very hectic and unorganized from within always turned out to be a great production. Things worked out, the Moroccan way…I just wish I better understood their way.
As a result of being gone for 35 days without a familiar face, I realized it was one of the hardest things I have ever been faced with, but the hospitality and the warm welcome I received from my South African and Moroccan families, helped those days go by a little easier (along with skype and facetime). Although I did not agree with every decision made by others, or the way in which they went about their workday, it was not my decision to make and it was all a learning experience. One that I would do again in a heart beat. The road less traveled may seem daunting in the beginning, but your steps will be ordered and your path guided and you will come out on the other end better than you were yesterday!
Until next time…