Working in a country, any country, that is different from the place you spent the majority of your time growing up is difficult in a variety of ways. Barriers impose themselves in the strangest of fashions, meticulously working into routines you once knew so well.
At times, I find myself continuously hitting these barriers with the ineffectiveness of someone ramming into a cement wall. I try, I change, I alter and yet… somehow, there is an inconsistency that is not necessarily obvious, but always present.
That’s not to say any culture, any way of doing something is right or wrong. It’s to say that people as a whole, while strung together through basic similarities, are vastly different.
I’ve noticed something while working in Uganda, which is the unparalleled emphasis on human connection. A meeting may take three hours longer than initially planned due to the necessity to introduce, meet, evaluate, make friends with those who you share your work hours. A party with those you don’t know quickly transforms into a gathering with fast friends. Even when far behind schedule, tea breaks are a necessity – in the morning and afternoon, a welcome break from endless work. If a family member of a coworker dies, the entire program attends the funeral because here, where you find your coworkers, you find your second family.
And People say hi to you. All of the time. They literally cross the street to wish you hello.
I love interacting with others. And while I boast an incredulous amount of incurable awkwardness, listening to people talk, especially those who I have developed close ties with, is something I could do for hours. Part of the reason I chose to work in this field is how incredible the simple act of connecting with another human can be.
At home in Canada, I was lucky, I worked with a great group of hard workers in a small program where meetings were interactive and all input was considered valuable. That’s a rarity, I’ve found. A majority of people I have met and worked with throughout university, not that I enjoy generalizing, have propelled forward on their own principles, seeing the world around them as stepping stones to a final goal.
The problem with calculating every meeting, every person, every piece of work as a piece of a puzzle limits you to an image that is inflexible and when one piece falls to the wayside, what you had crafted as the perfect image of your life remains incomplete.
What I’ve learned is that the people that surround you and the interactions you have with them are immensely important. What people and their life experiences, their skills and their presence can teach you far outweighs anything you can read in a book or study in a classroom. The reality is, no one person knows everything and to attempt to succeed without learning from others is to miss a vital part of the equation to success.
Maybe taking the time to listen, to communicate results in a slower rate of achievement, but I would think what it offers is an end result that is far more representative of a whole group of people and not a select individual.
Let the people you meet impact you. Human connection while messy, insane and chaotic can simultaneously be phenomenal, intriguing, a lesson learned.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow [humans]; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”