living in a culture of the written word

May 1, 2008 at 5:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I took the subway uptown today with my new intern from Kenya, who is one awesome young lady.  I had stuffed an article in my purse, three pages about a trip of US church leaders in Sudan.  I skimmed it on the S train, it took me about 5 minutes.  She was reading over my shoulder, and it took her all the way to 116th, about 20 minutes.  Now she is an articulate youth leader, brave to come over to our crazy country, and btw, Kenya is a British colony so her English is arguably better than mine.  

But it got me thinking.  In the field of development, progress is marked in thick reports from the UN and NGOs.   In my world, development studies is a race to read as much research as possible and then produce your own.  This is a huge cultural divide.  I have copiously read and reported since the age of five, yet she could get up and give a brilliant speech off the top of her head whereas I would melt into a pool of shy.  

But this is a story about what cultures have to learn from each other. She can read all my favorite NGO reports and I can listen to her and absorb some of the oral tradition, which we have moved away from in this country.   If only we could get this kind of cultural exchange to happen at a grand scale.  

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