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  • 13 Nov 2020 11:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The annual business meeting was held on October 12, 2020 during the 2020 Annual Conference. You can click here to download a PDF of the Business Meeting Report for the Membership.

  • 13 Nov 2020 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Sherri Tapp, Membership Outreach and Diversity Director, SIETAR USA

    Greetings! I had the distinct pleasure to attend not one, but both of the POC sessions at this years SIETAR USA’s inaugural virtual conference. POC is often interpreted as the acronym for “people of color,” and that is accurate, however, for the purposes of our conference, it stands for “Practitioners of Color”. The first POC session was ninety minutes long, and the second was a deeper dive of two and a half hours! Both sessions were rich, filled with good and not-so-good experiences, lessons learned, compassion, encouragement, tenacity, and perseverance.

    We, at SIETAR USA always work to continue to grow and improve, so those in attendance saw a much different and enhanced set of sessions at this years’ conference than were available at our 2019 conference in Atlanta. Dr. Joel Brown served as a masterful moderator for both sessions. One of the things we happily resolved was that everyone is welcome in the POC sessions! There were some in attendance who were unsure as to which session they should attend as they share blended identities, ethnicities, and nationalities so it was a pleasure to assure them that they were welcome in this group! Dr. Brown thoughtfully opened each session by leading us in a relaxation/centering exercise which really helped us to breathe, release any anxious feelings and open ourselves to enjoy this wonderful experience.

    The fact that there were about 12 participants in each POC session was ideal in that it really allowed us to take the time to lean in and listen and hear from everyone else without rushing. After generally introducing ourselves as to where in the United States we live and work, and the types of work we engage in, we allowed each other to share some of the pain that goes along with the work of interculturalists of color, while at the same time voicing our commitment to continue this important and necessary work. We discussed some of the micro aggressions and macro-aggressions all of us experience and encouraged each other to remember to make self-care a priority. We talked about the importance of having a “safe place” to be who we are and talk about our work as the work we do with the identities we share can be at times very emotionally, and psychologically exhausting. We met several POCs that were new to SIETAR USA and learned about some of the strategies other interculturalists use in their venues. There were so many new faces that we got to meet and become acquainted with!

    One of the benefits of the POC sessions was that it provides us with an opportunity to be refreshed and recharged. It was so nice not to have to be “on” during the POC sessions. The “exhausted minority” is a real phenomenon that many of us have experienced as well. This phenomenon may occur when POC are called into service and sometimes “pressed” to provide information and education that could easily be gained by reading the readily available literature that exists.

    Humor is an important element of our work and was important in the POC sessions as well. It has been said that a “merry heart” is like medicine and I agree whole heartedly! I look forward to checking in with some of the new POCs I met as we continue to move…forward.

     


  • 13 Nov 2020 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Zoom Webinar - Eastern Time Zone
    Date: 02 Dec 2020 11:00 AM (Eastern Time)

    Art is powerful—it offers the potential to delight, inspire, and educate and also to confuse and even repulse. It can open us up or close us down. In other words, art is a perfect platform for cultural exploration and for developing self-awareness and skill-building in intercultural communication. Fanchon Silberstein, author of Art inSight: Understanding Art and Why It Matters, will explain where art's power comes from and how interculturalists can use it creatively to build observation skills that are critical for success in multicultural environments.

    Fanchon applies intercultural theories and methods to open-hearted dialogues that foster insight into oneself and into the worlds of others. She encourages us to collaborate with artists, to discover what Marcel Proust reminds us are views of the universe which are not the same as ours and would otherwise remain unknown were it not for art.  In this webinar we will engage in activities selected to illustrate how art can be used to promote intercultural understanding.

    Registration = FREE for current SIETAR USA members in good standing

    Registration = $25.00 for nonmembers

    About the Presenter 

    Fanchon Silberstein is a writer, teacher and trainer who has presented art and culture workshops around the world. After living and working abroad in Southeast Asia, Pakistan, and Brazil, she became Director of the U. S. State Department’s Overseas Briefing Center and joined the faculty of the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon. At the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum, where she served as a docent for over thirty years, she taught observation skills to students of conflict resolution.


    More information: The Power of Art to Promote Intercultural Understanding


    Best regards,
    SIETAR USA


  • 13 Nov 2020 9:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    SIETAR WORLD:

    November 9, 2020: SIETAR Switzerland Congress 2020: “Unpacking Migration : Recognition of the benefits of individuals on the move in our societies” Part 3 with Anne-Claude Lambelet and panel. Visit http://sietar.ch/events/congress-2020-the-future-of-Inclusion/  to register!

    November 10, 2020 – SIETAR France WEBINAR: “Identities in Movement: Feeling Italian” with Grazia Ghellini, Maura Di Mauro and Bettina Gehrke. Visit https://sietar-france.org/index.php/events/  to register!

    November 10, 2020: SIETAR Switzerland Congress 2020: “The Inclusivity Training Toolkit” with Dr. Aminata Cairo. Visit http://sietar.ch/events/congress-2020-the-future-of-inclusion/  to register!

    November 12, 2020 - SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “How History Builds Values: Delivering Culture-Specific Training - a Focus on Brazil” with Mariana de Oliveira Barros& Adrienne Sweetwater. Visit https://www.sietareu.org/events/sietar-global-events/  to register!

    November 16, 2020: SIETAR Switzerland Congress 2020: “Virtual book reading and Signing session followed by an informal networking activity” with Aminata Cairo, Benoit Thery, Susan Schärli-Lim and Vlad Glaveanu. Visit http://sietar.ch/events/congress-2020-the-future-of-inclusion/  to register!

    November 18, 2020 – SIETAR BC WEBINAR: “Culture Wednesday” with Sandeep Johal. Visit https://www.sietar.bc.ca/  to register!

    November 18, 200 – SIETAR Southeast Asia & SIETAR UK WEBINAR: “Virtual Learning Success Factors” with Seiji Nakano, Chris Massey and Gabriela Weglowska. Visit https://sietar.co.uk/whats-on/upcoming-events/  to register!

    November 18, 2020: SIETAR Switzerland Congress 2020: “Assessing diversity and culture for communication competence development: concepts, indicators & tools for teams and organisations” with Hans Jakob Roth, Helen Spencer-Oatey and Dr. Pia Stalder. Visit http://sietar.ch/events/congress-2020-the-future-of-inclusion/  to register!

    November 23, 2020 – SIETAR Deutschland WEBINAR: “Deep Culture Learning” with Matthieu Kollig and Anna Schwark . Visit https://sietar-deutschland.de/veranstaltungen/ to register!

    November 23-24, 2020 – SIETAR Deutschland Virtual International Language Days (ILDs) including Intercultural Communication: “Viral Collaboration = Virtual Miscommunication?” with Prof. Dr. Renate Link. Visit www.th-ab.de/ilw  to register!

    November 23, 2020: SIETAR Switzerland Congress 2020: “The intercultural dimension in your work area”. Visit http://sietar.ch/events/congress-2020-the-future-of-inclusion/  to register!

    November 24, 2020 – SIETAR UK WEBINAR: “Refugee and Asylum Seekers Project” with Dr. Katharina Lefringhausen and the project team. Visit https://sietar.co.uk/whats-on/upcoming-events/  to register!

    November 25, 2020 – SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “What are your experiences of conducting cross-cultural workshops for the ‘social media generation’?” with Kalaivani Mattern and Camilla Deghert. Visit https://www.sietareu.org/events/sietar-global-events/  to register!

    November 25, 2020 – SIETAR France WEBINAR: “Made in France and elsewhere 3 - How can intercultural management be useful tomorrow?” with Philippe Pierre. Visit https://sietar-france.org/index.php/events/  to register!

    November 28, 2020: SIETAR Switzerland Congress 2020: “Final Keynote” with Peter Mousaferiadis and Petar Mitrovic. Visit http://sietar.ch/events/congress-2020-the-future-of-inclusion/  to register!

    November 30, 2020 – SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Whiteness, Fragility and the Culture of Niceness PART 2” with Natasha Aruliah. Visit https://www.sietareu.org/events/sietar-global-events/  to register!

    December 9, 2020 – SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Biases of Intercultural Communication Theory” with Amer Ahmed, Christian Hoerfle, Eila Isotalus and Livingstone Thompson. Visit https://www.sietareu.org/events/sietar-global-events/  to register!

    December 15, 2020 – SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “What creative methods could we use in the

    intercultural training evaluation process for the full illustration of the ROI?” with Gabriela Weglowska and Gradiola Kapaj. Visit https://www.sietareu.org/events/sietar-global-events/  to register!

    December 15, 2020 – SIETAR France WEBINAR: “Made in France and elsewhere 4 - Multiple intelligences: revealing the talents of your child” with Albane de Beaurepaire. Visit https://sietar-france.org/index.php/events/  to register!

    OTHER EVENTS:

    NOVEMBER


    November is National Native American Heritage Month, which celebrates the history and contributions of Native Americans.

    November 14: Diwali, the Hindu, Jain and Sikh five-day festival of lights celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and lightness over darkness.

    November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance, established in 1998 to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobia and to raise awareness of the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

    November 22: Feast of Christ the King, a Catholic holiday established in thanking God for the gift of time and a rededication to the Christian faith.

    November 25-January 6: Nativity Fast, a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus.

    November 26: Thanksgiving in the United States. It began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.

    November 27: Native American Heritage Day, held annually the Friday after Thanksgiving, encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe and honor Native Americans through appropriate ceremonies and activities. The day was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2008.


    November 29-December 24: Advent, a Christian season of celebration leading up to the birth of Christ.

    November 30-December 3: St. Andrew’s Day, the feast day for St. Andrew within various Christian denominations.

    DECEMBER

    December 1: World AIDS Day, commemorating those who have died of AIDS, and to acknowledge the need for a continued commitment to all those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.


    December 3: International Day of Persons with Disabilities, designed to raise awareness in regard to persons with disabilities in order to improve their lives and provide them with equal opportunity.


    December 6: Saint Nicholas Day, also called the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the feast day of Nicholas of Myra within various Christian denominations. It is observed on December 6th or on the eve of December 5th in Western Christian countries, and on December 19th in Eastern Christian countries using the old church calendar.

    December 10: International Human Rights Day, established by the United Nations in 1948 to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


    December 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a religious holiday in Mexico commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531.

    December 13: St. Lucia’s Day, a religious festival of light in Scandinavia and Italy commemorating the martyrdom of St. Lucia, a young Christian girl who was killed for her faith in 304 C.E. She secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome while wearing a wreath of candles on her head so both her hands would be free.

    Holidays list courtesy of:  https://www.diversitybestpractices.com/2020-diversity-holidays


  • 13 Nov 2020 9:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The SIETAR USA Newsletter “The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA” encourages letters to the Editor. Please know that your comments are welcome and some will be published and become part of the archives.

    This is your invitation to be part of this exciting virtual community of interculturalists. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to truly connect with other members through thoughtful and considered interaction.

    Please submit your contributions to the SIETAR USA Editorial and Communications team at editor@sietarusa.org.

    Editorial Team

    Editor: Sandra Fowler
    Assistant Editor: Emily Kawasaki
    Assistant Editor: Ingmar Pack
    Production Manager: Emily Kawasaki


  • 21 Oct 2020 6:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sandra M. Fowler Whew! The annual conference is history, and I think it will be remembered positively in the memory banks of the people who attended. The theme hit the mark and resulted in many sessions directly related to the stress caused by the pandemic and racial crises we are all experiencing at this time.

    Several subthemes emerged from the concurrent sessions, keynote addresses, and conversations held during the conference. Mindfulness was mentioned often. It started in the first session on the first day in the Invited Workshop by Rita Wuebbler. Many sessions throughout the week started with deep breaths, and a few minutes of mindful relaxation or quiet meditation.

    As expected, the topic of working with clients in virtual space and its challenges appeared in quite a few of the presentations. The best parts of those sessions were the helpful tips on what can be done to make virtual sessions work. Leadership was an important subtheme found in several of the sessions as well. The other subtheme that I felt—and I wasn’t the only one—was the underlying sense of love that Lena Crouso mentioned in her opening keynote address. It was clear that we had been missing each other, and it felt very good to be able to connect with old friends and lots of new ones. Much as I would like to continue to talk about my experience of the conference, the assistant editors (Emily Kawasaki, Betse Esmer, and Ingmar Pack) are writing about the conference too. I suggest that you read each one of their articles to get their impressions of the content and process within this novel experiment: our first virtual conference! They talked with many of the participants, so you may just find yourself in one of those articles.

    Moving forward, the SIETAR USA Board of Directors has a lot of issues to address. Perhaps most salient is the ongoing harm caused by racism. DEI and Intercultural professionals have a role to play in finding solutions to achieving true systemic change in our association, in our work, and in our communities. SIETAR USA has taken a stand against racism in the past, but we also know we still have our own issues to deal with—now and in the future. We need to be clear about our commitment to facilitating dialogue both within various minority racial groups and across racial lines. During the conference, Practitioners of Color addressed the issues and challenges they face in two 2-hour special sessions. At the same time, a separate space for reflecting and discussing whiteness and anti-racism was provided for people who wished to join the conversation. We need to continue those dialogues, as well as embracing a combined discussion for Practitioners of Color and others.

    Listening and talking are both important, but equally important is a commitment to bringing diverse voices and experiences to add to the richness of the discussions and to our profession and society at large. The time has come for another SIETAR USA Town Hall. Time to add more diversity to the governance of SIETAR USA and to its committees and teams. Time to explore a range of actions that reflect our values and beliefs. Time to develop plans to understand racism in a global context. The Board should take the lead, but we need to rely on our members to step up and join the conversation. Like it or not—we are all in this together.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Board of Directors and others for their recognition during the conference. Your kind words make it all worthwhile and will be remembered warmly for the rest of my life! Thank you!

    Sandra M. Fowler

    President, SIETAR USA


  • 21 Oct 2020 6:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Chris Cartwright

    Written by Chris Cartwright, MPA, EdD, Science Editor

    I have been pondering the bridging of intercultural (IC) work with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work for quite some time now. This last year has caused me to refocus my attention toward equity and even more so on racism as the United States and the world have lunged sometimes forward and sometime backward into a series of gruesome murders and righteous civil actions due to acts of racism. Living in Portland, OR there are times when the ‘whitest city in America’ seems apocalyptic and then quirky as ever and even peaceful within the same moment. We live in complex times.

    I was pleased by the frank discussions held during the recent SIETAR-USA conference, addressing antiracism work as well as the many ways that interculturalist can align their work in the DEI realm. The honoring of Andy Reynolds and Donna Stringer, two pillars of this bridging of intercultural and DEI work is a callout to the value of the work and the people who forge ahead with it. But we are often plagued with the idea that the two constructs are parallel silos with little in common. I disagree. I acknowledge that there are DEI professionals with little interest who see little value in the types of cultural analysis of interaction that so fascinates interculturalists. Conversely, there are interculturalists with little background or interest in the power and privilege, let alone racism parameters that so often frames the work of the DEI professional. Depending on the work the professional does, their constituents and assignments may not call for such a bridge to be mentioned, let alone crossed. But I’m optimistic enough to believe that either camp can see the value in each other’s work and when possible, at least meet at the half-way mark.

    In a recent former SIIC (Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication) faculty Zoom call, I shared a dilemma I was confronted with where a trusted DEI colleague expressed exasperation with any individual intercultural efforts focused on helping the client better understand their own cultural perspectives, values, behaviors so as to better understand those of a colleague who are culturally different (I call this IC 101; The Self-to-Other Framework). My colleague insisted that these efforts can make no significant change and that ONLY working on deep structural change is of any value. … So my core practice has no place in the DEI world? To which my colleague Donna Stringer replied, “Chris, it’s a both and, NOT an either or”, and I trust her insight.

    Several years ago I served on a campus Diversity Council where we decided to see if we could make an impact the hiring of a diverse staff and faculty. We carefully analyzed the campus position notices, recruitment mechanism, screening process, and interview protocols. We met with deans, department chairs, HR professionals, and union officers to better understand what the cause of the seemingly intractable, majority-white hiring might be. We produced a report, and got some policies and procedures passed and a few were implemented. We followed that with a manual with recommendations at each step of the hiring process and followed all of these with required training for all university hiring department chairs and at least one committee member on each search and screen committee. We had protocols for more inclusive language in position postings, more diverse recruitment processes, more equitable screening and interview processes and kept this working for 4-5 years running. When we compiled the data, we found a slight uptick in diverse hires, especially in the staff roles, but the shift in faculty hires was uneven across disciplines and in general—negligible. The new campus Diversity Officer deemed the initiative a failure and discontinued all of the work. I was baffled.

    When I shared this story with one of my mentors, Jean Lipman-Blumen, she quoted her mentor Peter Drucker, the business educator and leader. Drucker would admonish his associates working on organizational change that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Ah, I said to myself, we attempted to shift the organizational structure without bringing the hearts and minds of the deans and department chairs who ultimately were making the faculty hires. … We had ignored the culture and tried to regulate the behavior. … Can you hear Donna saying ‘It’s a both and, not an either or’?

    But who better than an intercultural professional to employ the IC 101, Self-to-Other Framework and guide the deans and department chair to understand that their organizational culture (read US-centric, dominant, white male culture) is NOT equitable or inclusive … and may well even be racist? Who better to educate the constituents of the legacy of racism and deprivation than a committed antiracism facilitator? Who better to decode and realign exclusive organizational structures than a dedicated DEI professional? Why not work together, or combine practices if you have acumen in more than one of these schools? This is seriously hard work—it seems better to have company than to slog it alone!

    Dr. Lipman-Blumen wrote that “we live in a world where inclusion is critical, and connection is inevitable.” The COVID-19 Pandemic, world-wide economic disaster, Black Live Matter, and Me Too Movements have all taught us that we are highly interconnected and interdependent. Despite being socially-distanced in place for most of the year, I have never felt more connected to my friends, colleagues, and other people from around the world more than I do now. I have never felt the immediacy of my own racist upbringing and culture than I do now. I have never been more hopeful for deep structural change that leads to a more equitable and inclusive world than I do now. … and I’m damned glad to have the professional colleagues of SIETAR to join arms and cross this bridge with—we’re in this together and I trust the wisdom of this membership.


  • 21 Oct 2020 6:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Craig StortiTwo Peace Corps Memoirs: Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman; The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell. Reviewed by Craig Storti.

    The column this month is the 2nd half of a two-part look at the writings of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). We believe that the inherently cross-cultural nature of the Peace Corps experience—hence of the books RPCVs write—will be of interest to SIETAR members, many of whom are themselves RPCVs. In the September column we looked at the website that promotes, publicizes, and in some cases publishes the work of RPCVs; in this column we review two RPCV memoirs.

    The Peace Corps experience is about as close as you can get to the quintessential cross-cultural experience. The core elements of a classic Peace Corps assignment—you learn the local language (often very local), you get sent to a remote village, you are the only American and often the only westerner for miles around, you live the way the locals live—these elements more or less guarantee that every day is a parade of cross-cultural moments. More than serious travelers, more than most other expats, PCVs see the culture from the inside, or as much as outsiders ever can.

    The typical Peace Corps memoir unfolds in three acts:

    Act One: What have I gotten myself into? My language skills are pathetic; I make all kinds of cultural mistakes; no one really trusts me—heck I wouldn’t trust me either if I was one of them; my project is not coming along that well; the chocolate-covered ants aren’t really my thing.

    Act Two: This might just be possible (in spite of me, I should add). I can say whole sentences; I’ve made one or two friends, I think; I’m more of a village fixture and less the village idiot; a few people are interested in my project; I’m getting used to this place.

    Act Three: I might actually be making a difference. Two years now doesn’t seem that long; I’ve accepted a lot of things I thought I could never accept; I see results in my work; my biggest worry isn't whether I’ll ever accomplish anything but whether what I did is sustainable when I’m gone; leaving this place isn't going to be easy

    This description is a bit unfair, making the typical Peace Corps memoir sound like it’s all about the writer, a story of personal growth and self-development. It is that, of course—all memoirs are—but not to worry: that's not what you’ll find on the page. Rather you will find compelling incidents and unforgettable characters, the stuff of any good story. To be sure, you’ll get brief glimpses of the narrator now and then, just enough to care what happens to him or her, but the main event is the village and the people. The three acts merely give the memoir its plot; all it needs then to come alive is a writer who is unusually observant, exceptionally self-aware, and who never takes him/herself seriously.

    Nine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah Erdman

    I’m trying hard to understand this place. She’s mocking my efforts and my ignorance…. “I like to have fun,” she has told me many times. But this isn’t fun…. She is my closest female friend here, but I don’t know if I can trust her.*

    I did try to find another word to describe this book—“touching” was a strong candidate—but in the end I came back to my first instinct: “charming.” I was wary of charming because it feels quite inappropriate for a book with its fair share of death, disease (AIDS among others), and grinding poverty. But I came back to the word because of the people Erdman gives us; they are so honest, so strong, so funny, and so true that you can’t get enough of them.

    Erdman was a health volunteer in the remote village of Nambonkaha in northern Ivory Coast, a village with a modest health clinic run by the book’s hero Sidibe. Erdman’s job is to help Sidibe add to the clinic’s repertoire of services, especially in the maternal/child care arena. The book builds slowly to a lovely climax, with all manner of setbacks along the way, small and medium-size triumphs, one or two crises, and a few moments of introspection giving us just enough about Erdman to make us care what happens to her next. When Erdman’s tour ends and she leaves for home, you want to get on the next plane to Abidjan and pick up where she leaves off. After all, these people are all now your closest friends, thanks to Erdman’s lyrical writing and her ability to create indelible characters. These people need me!

    At the cost of an embarrassing revelation, let me say that I was not planning to read this book straight through, thinking instead that I would jump around to get enough of a feeling for it to be able to write a review. But I was so captivated—so charmed—that I devoured it. I know of no higher praise for an author.

    (*In an email the author recently wrote: “You might be interested to know that I saw Abi (the woman from the quote you used) last year on a trip back with my husband and my son. The reunion was so wonderful, like finding my family after so many years. I joked with her about how she used to make fun of me, and she said, ‘Really, I did that?’ and she was genuinely chagrined.”)

    Author Interview: Sarah Erdman

    1. Why did you write this book?

    I had to. When I finished my Peace Corps service in Côte d’Ivoire in spring 2000, I traveled overland from Nairobi to Johannesburg. While we saw and did some amazing things, West Africa was the Africa I understood and loved, and I missed it terribly. Oddly enough, my culture shock came not when I returned to the States, but when I rode into South Africa from Mozambique on the fanciest bus I had seen on the continent. We stopped at a gas station with a big, shiny convenience store and a deli and I panicked—I wasn’t ready to return to the Western world yet, especially when I was still in Africa. I realized what I had to do next was write the experiences I had lived and tell the stories of the people of my village. Friends of my family had a house in the Montana Rockies that was empty at the time, and so I settled in there by myself and wrote for three straight months. It was my way of reacclimatizing to my own country, of processing all I had experienced in West Africa.

    2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?

    My greatest takeaway from living in a remote traditional village with no running water and no electricity—where funerals involved many hours of dancing and medical issues were tied up with sorcery—was that, in the end, we are not all that different. The village nurse said, soon after I arrived, “Americans think we all live in trees and wear animal skins.“ At the time, I couldn’t argue otherwise. In writing the book, I sought to smash American stereotypes of Africans, help my readers develop an understanding of West Africans as nuanced, multi-dimensional people that share many of the same fundamental worries and joys as Americans do.

    3. Is there one book about crossing cultures that you really like/would like to recommend to SIETAR members?

    In Americanah, by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the main character comes to the U.S. from Nigeria and has to adapt not only to American culture but also to Black culture in America, and both present challenges. Her perspectives on race and culture in America remind the reader that sometimes it takes an outsider to reveal real truths about a place. As the daughter of a Foreign Service family who spent half my childhood overseas, I appreciated that when the main character returned to Nigeria, she saw her own country differently and had trouble fitting in there too.

    4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?

    During the years that my family was posted abroad, my parents made an effort to explore our host country and the region as much as possible. When I was 12, we drove to Morocco from our home in Portugal. Outside of Marrakech, we drove up into the Atlas Mountains and stopped for a picnic on a hillside where a Berber girl was tending her sheep. My father, also a former Peace Corps Volunteer, called out to the girl in French, “What’s your name…Aicha?” She looked at him with huge eyes and nodded.

    Then she ran down to a stone hut to get her mother, who invited us to have tea. She was dressed traditionally and staying with her kids in this tiny stone structure in the middle of nowhere for weeks so that the sheep could graze. She told us all about her life and her family and we told her about ours. We stayed drinking tea in that dark hut for more than an hour. We ended up exchanging letters with her for several years afterward. This was a moment of awakening for me: that you could encounter someone in the most improbable circumstances, establish a real connection and touch each other’s lives.

    5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?

    Remember to laugh at yourself. Being able to not take yourself too seriously, to laugh at your mistakes, can quickly defuse a situation and put others at ease. It conveys humility, and humility is indispensible when you’re trying to communicate across cultures.

    6. This newsletter goes to nearly 1,000 readers, folks who are either in or interested in the field of intercultural communications. If you’d like to say something else to these folks, something we have not asked about in this questionnaire, feel free to add your brief comments here.

    Join the Peace Corps (when it starts up again)! I’ve spent half my life out of my native country and still the experience that most changed my perspective on the world was the two and a half years I spent in the Peace Corps. Joining remains the best life choice I ever made.

    The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell

    When he finished digging his first pond, he insisted on understocking it because, he claimed, rainstorms would deliver additional fish from the sky.

    “The sky?” I asked.

    “Yes,” he told me. “That’s how fish get into rivers and lakes. They come down as tiny babies inside raindrops.”

    The Ponds of Kalambayi The Ponds of Kalambayi has enjoyed a certain elite status as one of the best PC memoirs since it was first published in 1990, often compared to the best of the best, a book called Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen (PCV Ecuador); the book even has a blurb from Thomsen. The comparison is not facile; Tidwell tells a moving narrative of his struggle to convince dirt-poor, rural Zairean farmers to dig fish ponds and raise tilapia to feed their malnourished families and to sell in the local market. The subtext, as it is in both of these books, is Tidwell’s struggle to understand why poor Africans have so many children, knowing that when these children get sick, as many inevitably will, being malnourished precisely because they are so numerous—when they get sick, there won’t be any money to cure them; they will die. Why can’t they see that fewer mouths to feed means even a poor family has a fighting chance to keep everyone healthy?

    Tidwell’s struggle with local logic almost derails his project, while his growing acceptance of it makes for a powerful story line. The incident Tidwell tells about chief Ilumba, who must sell his fish to get his wife back, is riveting; the story seems to be heading in a direction that is poignant enough when it suddenly turns into a stunning clash between the chief’s personal need and family/community obligations, leaving Tidwell—as it will you—amazed and speechless. The Ponds richly deserves its status as one of the great Peace Corps memoirs.

    Author Interview: Mike Tidwell

    1. Why did you write this book?

    I’m 58 years old and my two years in the Peace Corps —right out of college —are still the most formative two years of my life. I packed 20 years’ worth of peak life experiences into two years, good and bad experiences. I made friendships with village people the depths of which I’ve never known since. I saw love and hate, life and death, beauty and sorrow—all way beyond the boundaries I’d known growing up in suburban America. I went to 200 funerals for children under the age of five—in two years! I saw wild hippos at sunset from river canoes. So when I returned home to Atlanta afterwards, the stories poured out of me like water. But after a week, I noticed the eyes of friends and family glazing over from my endless tales of village life – and I was just getting started. So I had to write it all down. I had to meditate on what it really meant to me, paragraph by paragraph. I wrote the book so I wouldn’t go insane.

    2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?

    I want people to love the villages of Kalambayi as much as I did. Life without electricity and running water is both wonderful and terrible. The sound of women singing together as they plant corn in a gentle rain is better than any podcast through your ear buds. But there’s a trade off. I wanted readers to appreciate the drama of poverty, the drama of drought erasing next month’s meals, and the dark immediacy of sickness and death in the underdeveloped world.

    3. Is there one book about crossing cultures that you really like/would like to recommend to SIETAR members?

    Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman

    4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?

    I tell this story in the book. I had been in Kalambayi for a year and was finally fluent in the local language Tshiluba. One morning I met a blind man alone along a river bank. We were both waiting for a ferryman to return from the far shore to carry us across in a canoe. The blind man and I began chatting and I quickly realized he didn’t know I was a white foreigner. He thought I was from a nearby Congolese region that spoke a dialect of Tshiluba, hence my accent. We talked for 20 minutes about the weather and his grandchildren and our mutual love of the local food favorite: porcupine stew. It was every traveller’s dream: complete cultural immersion. Only when the ferryman returned and yelled, “Hey White Mike,” did the blind man and I surrender to the distracting facts of race and nation. But the lesson lingered on for me: Given half a chance, our differences melt compared to our common humanity.

    5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?

    I once wrote a travel piece for the Washington Post about haircuts I’d gotten all over the world. In Vietnam they clean your ears with a long, tiny spoon after your hair cut. An outdoor barber under a Hanoi mimosa tree told me afterwards, “Now you can hear me. We can be friends.” My advice to readers: Keep traveling. Keep crossing cultures. It’s great to be heard and to hear. We need it more than ever.

    6. This newsletter goes to nearly 1,000 readers, folks who are either in or interested in the field of intercultural communications. If you’d like to say something else to these folks, something we have not asked about in this questionnaire, feel free to add your brief comments here.

    I would refer you to the answer just above. Hang in there. The world will come back. We need you.


  • 21 Oct 2020 5:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This monthlong event celebrates people of Hispanic heritage who have contributed to American society at large. SIETAR USA appreciates and applauds the SIETAR USA members who have Hispanic family backgrounds. They have enriched our association with their unique perspectives, ideas, and contributions derived from their cultural histories.

    September 15th to October 15th celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. This is a celebration to honor the history, culture, accomplishments, achievements, and contributions of past and present Hispanic and Latino/a/x Americans, whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

    In June 1968, Hispanic Heritage Week was introduced by California Congressman George E. Brown, who represented East Los Angeles and a large portion of the San Gabriel Valley. Congressman Brown wanted to celebrate and recognize the important role and contributions of the Latinx community throughout American history. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first Hispanic Heritage Week presidential proclamation on September 17, 1968. It was expanded to Hispanic Heritage Month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and enacted into law that same year. On September 14, 1989, President George H.W. Bush became the first president to declare the 31-day period from September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month. (Editors, 2020)

    Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15th to October 15th to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations of several Latin American nations. September 15th is significant because it’s the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16th. Chile celebrates its Independence Day on September 18th. Belize declared its independence from Great Britain on September 21st. Additionally, October 12th is a U.S. federal holiday, Columbus Day. Alternatively, many cities and states recognize October 12th as Indigenous Peoples' Day. Día de la Raza (Day of the [Hispanic] People) has been celebrated across Latin America since 1917. (Editors, 2020)

    Many U.S. government agencies recognize this important cultural heritage celebration, including the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    As we celebrate the diversity of people and cultures across the world, it is important that we recognize, understand, and learn more about how people choose to culturally self-identify. Important terms to know are Hispanic and Latino/a/x. Here is the key difference between the terms.

    The term Hispanic or Latino (or the more recent term Latinx) refers to a person’s culture or origin—regardless of race. On the 2020 Census form, people were counted as Hispanic or Latino or Spanish if they could identify as having Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” (Editors, 2020)

    Hispanic refers to a person who is from, or a descendant of someone who is from, a Spanish-speaking country.

    Latino (noun): (in North America) a person who is from, or a descendant of someone who is from, a country in Latin America, especially a man or boy.

    Latina (noun): (in North America) a woman or girl who is from, or a descendant of someone who is from, a country in Latin America

    Latinx (noun): (in North America) a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina).

    Latinx (adjective): (in North America) relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina).

    The term Latinx was first used in activist and LGBTQIA circles as a way to establish more gender-inclusive forms of Latino, such as Latino/a and Latin@ (the @ symbol features the letter A surrounded by a shape similar to the letter O). Awareness of the term Latinx does not necessarily translate into common or widespread use. One study in 2020 by the Pew Research Center found that only 23% of Latino Adults have heard of the term Latinx and of that group, only 3% use it to self-identify. According to research by Cristobal Salinas, Jr. young Hispanic women are most likely to self-identify using the term Latinx. ‘Usage of [the] term Latinx has gained popularity in higher education settings, [yet students] perceive higher education as a privileged space where they use the term Latinx. Once they return to their communities, they do not use the term.” (Salinas, 2020)


    Written by: Emily Kawasaki





    Works Cited


  • 21 Oct 2020 5:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2020 Virtual Conference LogoWritten by Sandra M. Fowler, Editor

    The articles on the SIETAR USA Conference were written by the new editorial team. The Assistant Editors wrote their articles based on interviews with participants as well as their own experiences as they wandered about Remo, attended concurrent sessions, the opening and closing keynote addresses, the awards ceremony, and generally took in the conference from beginning to end. The Editorial Assistants are Betse Esber, Emily Kawasaki, and Ingmar Pack. As the Editor in Chief, I will make sure that you learn more about them in future issues. In the meantime, you will get to know them through their words as they continue to contribute to The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA.

    Several key elements of the conference are not contained in this issue of the newsletter. We have saved some important highlights for the next issue: the evening of powerful stories of resilience from around the world, and the annual business meeting. You may notice that we have an article on the whiteness and anti-racism sessions but not on the Practitioners of Color sessions. That will be in a future issue as well.


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