Thursday, February 19, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
What do you see in Las Terrenas?
The following analogy may enrich our understanding of cross-cultural transitions.
Here is a simple fable to explore. It clearly helps us to understand what culture is, how our culture is like an invisible prison, and how we can free ourselves from that prison so we can learn and understand about other cultures.
Imagine, if you will, that in your own country, from the time of the first people, today, and far into the future, everyone that was ever born or will be born, was born with two legs, two arms, two eyes, a nose, a mouth and a pair of sunglasses. The color of the lens in the sunglasses is yellow. No one has ever thought it strange that the sunglasses are there because they've always been there and they are part of the human body. Everyone has them.
Take the yellow sunglasses off and look at them. What makes them yellow are the values, attitudes, ideas, beliefs and assumptions that American people have in common. Everything that Americans have seen, learned, or experienced (past, present and future) has entered into the brain through the yellow lens. Everything has been filtered and interpreted through all these values and ideas that have made the lenses yellow. The yellow lens thus represents our attitudes, beliefs, values, and represents our "Americanness."
Thousands of miles away in another country (Japan, for example) from the time of the first people, today, and far into the future, everyone that was ever born or will be born, was born with two legs, two arms, two eyes, a nose, a mouth and a pair of sunglasses. The color of the sunglasses is blue. No one has ever thought it strange that the sunglasses are there because they've always been there and they are part of the human body. Everyone has them. Everything that the Japanese see, learn, and experience is filtered through their blue lenses.
An American traveler who wants to go to Japan may have enough sense to realize that to learn about Japan more thoroughly he will have to acquire some Japanese sunglasses so that he can "see" Japan. When the traveler arrives in Japan, he wears the Japanese sunglasses, stays for two months and feels he really is learning about the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the people of Japan. He actually "sees" Japan wearing their sunglasses. He comes to his own country and declares that he is now an "expert" on Japan and that the culture of Japan is green!
What happened? He didn't remove his own American filters of yellow. The moral of this fable is: Before we are open and free to learn about another culture (and put on their sunglasses) we have to remove our own, so that our interpretation of the new culture will not be " colored" or filtered by our own values, attitudes and beliefs. We are not there to judge another culture, but to learn about it. We need to develop "double vision" or the ability to see more than one side of an idea.
How do you remove the yellow sunglasses? It's simple. By being able to understand and describe the values, attitudes, beliefs, ideas and assumptions of American culture, the lighter the yellow color becomes and the more blue the other culture becomes. The more we can verbalize and really understand what it is that makes us American, the easier it becomes to lighten the yellow filters, and put on the blue lens, and see a truer shade of blue.
From "How to learn about a new culture" by Michael C. Mercil in Planning and Conducting Re- entry/Transition Workshops, a publication of Youth for Understanding. Adapted by José R. Bourget Tactuk.
The Secretary of State for Tourism, Lic. Francisco Javier García, received a request to conduct a technical review of the work done on the new sanitary sewage system in Las Terrenas. The request was made because there's evidence of potential technical problems of the system. The fear is that if the perceived problems turn out to be true it may result in raw sewage on the streets, and ending on our beaches.
During recent floods caused by heavy rains one could observed how muddy water was coming through the newly installed metal caps placed in the streets. The water was coming in through somewhere, which may occur once the system is put to work. Flood waters would push raw sewage throught he same vents. That's highly undesirable.
A technical review would end speculation of alleged technical failures in the system. In addition, the request ask for financial disclosure as the system was financed by CEIZTUR. 230 million pesos, or more than 6 million dollars, were invested in the project (not yet finished). CEIZTUR funds originate in taxes paid by travellers arriving or departing.
More details (in Spanish) at http://terraccion.blogspot.com/2009/02/solucituddenuncia-ante-secretario-de.html
Roseate Spoonbills (top, in the Dominican Republic) and Whistling Ducks (bottom, in Grand Cayman) may be some of the birds affected.
On January 12, 2009, I filed a complaint against Balcones del Atlantico through their P.R. person in town. The complaint was based on information (which has been documented), that hundreds of tons of "caliche" were thrown on a wetland that allegedly is part of the routing of migratory birds. If proven the action would be against current Dominican laws.
The complaint in Spanish appears at http://terraccion.blogspot.com/2009/02/protesta-contra-balcones-del-atlantico.html. Basically it demands the following:
1) to make public the environmental impact permits that they may have, provided by the Secretary of the Environment;
2) to stop any further filling of the wetland, preventing further damage if any is found;
3) to request from the Secretary of the Environment a certification (environmental impact) that alleged damaged have not occurred, but if damages have occurred that they implement corrective and preventive measures to prevent further damages.
Furthermore, the complaint indicates regrets that the company did not incorporate characteristics of the environment (such as the Wetlands) into its original design using a conservation approach. It is different to use conservation and preservation instead of exploitation and remedial actions after the fact.
The complaint was sent to Balcones del Atlántico through its local PR person, as well as to the Secretary of the Environment via two different offices. The complaint was also sent to national and international organizations that address environmental issues. It is understood that SEMARENA (the Secretariat of the Environment) has studied and is considering due action of some sort.
Four million people have seen "The Story of Stuff". If you haven't yet take a moment to view it. You may learn a thing or two. The most important thing for us, here, in Las Terrenas, would be, how to apply any learnings from this production into our life's experiences.
Find it at http://www.storyofstuff.com/.
Or watch it at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9153550196656656736. However, the previous link may work better for viewing.