Taking the Cultural Plunge

cookin class copy 2I started my blog to explain my passion for cultural immersion and to increase cultural sensitivity. As a teacher, I taught my students how to look beyond cultural borders enabling them to create authentic and effective relationships across cultural divides. In our rapidly transforming world, the skills needed to be compassionate citizens and knowledgeable leaders extend beyond imaginary borders. I want to affect a change, develop a sense of cultural competency, and open windows to the world. Simply, I want to share our experiences in looking at the world with eyes without borders.

I teach by modeling. We took the cultural plunge, but it hasn’t been without its pitfalls. Language, socioeconomic status, gender roles, and cultural norms sometimes temporarily halt us in our quest for understanding, but we keep plunging deeper to find solutions to problems we encounter with cultural differences.

The tools I use to affect and change cultural attitudes are compromise, modeling, focusing on our similarities, and most of all…finding humor in daily challenges. Sometimes, I feel like I’m trying to balance on a slack line (Cory’s latest fun activity). I wobble a lot trying to keep  my balance, and sometimes I fall off. But, I get right back up and try it again…and again…and again. All I need are a few reassuring and helping hands. That’s life, right?

I’ve learned not to compromise my values, though.  For example, when a producer for a popular TV show contacted me through my blog, I said that maybe we weren’t the right people for the show because, although I love the show, they place an emphasis on granite counter tops, crown moulding, coffee on the veranda overlooking the beach, and gated communities. We only agreed to the production if the film crew would spotlight the talented local people and we could be shown culturally immersed in our community. We wanted to give hope to the many retirees searching for an affordable place to retire abroad, while living on a small fixed income.  I think it’s going to be a ground breaker and I’m thrilled that we could be a part of the new wave of cultural immersion.

I’d like to offer my readers a challenge. Are you willing to take the cultural plunge? I’d like to start a monthly cultural plunge challenge.  My goals are to:

1. Challenge one to have direct contact with people who are culturally different from oneself in a real life setting.
2. Gain insights into characteristics and circumstances of a culturally different group
3. To experience what it is like to be very different from most of the people one is around
4. To gain insight into one’s values, cultural biases, and how they affect attitudes
5. To offer ways to affect change for cultural competency

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m sure if you are up for a challenge..it will be an eye opener to the possibilities of living in a world without borders. Stay tuned for more details on taking the cultural plunge.


7 thoughts on “Taking the Cultural Plunge

  1. In my travels I have been searching for places warm, comfortable, and with a low cost of living. You are right to concentrate on the cultural aspects. I have seen two places become ruined in Ecuador by people exploiting the real estate aspect. They are selling conferences, real estate tours, and relocation assistance. Maybe it is inevitable, your blog like my article in Escape From America Magazine makes more people aware of Ometepe.
    My hopes were to find places for humble people such as yourselves and maybe a few ol’ hippie types like me to co-exsist with the locals on our low budgets.
    The bad part is when the people show up that need to have their hand held, re: shown every step of the way. Most of these people will never learn but the very basics of Spanish. This is when the profiteers come in building condos and/or gated communities.
    The result is a few making money and the majority having their standards lowered because of the rising price of property. Prosperity is a double-edged sword. Can you imagine how life would be on Ometepe if everyone could afford a car or at least a motorcycle? Or when they start pumping water out of the lake to irrigate a golf course? Si una pesadilla!
    I think the savior of Lake Nicaragua will be the tiny chayules, When I first came to the lake 11 years ago I couldn’t understand why there was almost no waterfront development.

    • Haha! The chayules…yep! That’s the reason. Dean, I was asked to write an article for one of those online websites “boasting a low cost of living and real estate development tours.” At first, I thought, “No.” “I can’t write for THEM.” But, I changed my mind and wrote a piece titled, “You ain’t in Gringolandia No More!” I specifically addressed the chayules, Ron pulling a boa constrictor out of our neighbor’s kitchen wall, and how cultural immersion has changed our lives. After I sent the piece, they responded, “Thanks for your article. We’ll get back with you.” I’ve never heard from them again. jejeje

  2. When we watched the show back in the States, we did enjoy it at first. Then it was the “same old-same old”, as you said concentrating on everything but the specific location and locals. So glad to hear they’re changing their focus. We moved to San Clemente because of the people and laid back style of living, so it was fairly easy for us to take the plunge. The difficulty of adapting / adjusting to a different culture is certainly based on the reasons why you have chosen the location to begin with. If it’s based solely on the cost of living there will be extremely bumpy roads ahead.
    Great post , looking forward to part two 🙂

    • You, mis amigos, are fine examples of spreading the need for cultural competency in our troubled world today. As far as the show goes, hmmm..we’ll see. They took a large amount of footage and they will have to do much editing. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they keep the focus on cultural immersion.

  3. I’m dying to see the show. You are going to get lots of emails from people that want to live abroad, I love House Hunters International but not everybody can afford an expensive home next to the beach, it would be nice if they focused more on places like Managua, Ometepe 😉 or even the quiet little towns like Masatepe(The weather is LOVELY) were a teacher, or even somebody that works in your local department store can come down to Nicaragua and live with a $900 pension

    • Jorge…I think we changed their focus. 🙂 The film crew said that they have been all over the world filming and this has been their favorite shoot. They loved that we focused on cultural immersion. In fact, they said that they passed out more release forms ( anyone shown on TV had to sign one) than ever before…and they were all local people. I think they had over 20 release forms signed. 🙂 I’m writing my post about the shoot soon.

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