Bridging the Gap

5 Sep


I was ordering lunch from a stall on the street the other day when I heard the now familiar cry of ‘Father, Father!’ coming from the row  of shacks along the street.  (Catholic priests were the first white people many people in the area came in contact with and many children still refer to all white people – men and women – as ‘Father’)

I squinted into the darkened doors trying to locate the children so that I could wave and  say hello, but I quickly realized that the voices were coming from the alley behind the shacks and the children were peering through the gap between the mud structures.     

After exchanging greetings, I asked if they would like their picture taken.  I extended my camera into the darkened gap so that they could view the results on the camera’s screen, which sent them into gleeful hysterics.

At times this week it has felt like, despite my curiosity and the curiosity returned by most of the people I meet,  the cultural gap is just too big for me to hope to contribute at work and truly understand what it is like to live here in just 4 short months.  At other times, however, there have been minor victories where I have felt that I’ve managed to connect and build my understanding.

The monthly meeting at my office contained both types of moments.  Many of the dynamics were familiar from home and I saw some areas where I might be able to suggest alternate management and leadership approaches.  In asking follow-up questions over dinner with a co-worker after the meeting, however, I realized that there were several subtle complexities that had gone right over my head. 


Buying my bike for 70GHC ($60) was a small victory this week.  Pretty sweet ride, don’t you think?    Apart from making it easier for me to visit nearby communities, I think that seeing a white guy on a bicycle instead of in a Land Rover sends a pretty good message and makes me a bit more approachable.


It is still just the very beginning of my time here and already the minor victories give me energy to tackle the challenges. 

4 Responses to “Bridging the Gap”

  1. jblechta September 6, 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    Hey Mark,

    Keep on with the small victories, and keep updating us! It’s funny that you’re called Father, when children here chant “Salaminga Hello!, Salaminga Hello!” (white man hello!) It’s quite entertaining 🙂

    See you in 2 weeks!

  2. Monica September 7, 2010 at 4:25 am #

    Mark, great bike! and Bravo for seeing small victories and already making a contribution. You seem a good listener and good at follow up Q’s,so the cultural understanding is sure to follow. Cheers.

  3. Steffanie September 10, 2010 at 3:38 am #

    Great photos Mark! 🙂

  4. Cat October 5, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    I LOVE the scooter vs bike photo!

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