short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Monday, September 20, 2010

For the Best Experiences in Life, Be Adaptable

At a recent faculty development seminar that I conducted, an American teacher of Japanese told me about living in Japan for 15 years. She volunteered that she had to learn much greater patience in order to fit in there.

Being adaptable goes a long way toward keeping our lives blooming. Those who are not flexible often become cantankerous and are viewed as difficult people by colleagues. I would not have but a portion of the wonderful travel experiences, much of the time living with friends, had I been unwilling or unable to adapt.

An acquaintance in Brazil told me that I was the most cross-culturally flexible American he had ever met. Cross-culturally flexible? I have difficulty finding differences between Americans and Brazilians. Brazil is definitely a first-world country in all aspects of things. Even the showers there work -- although I was so adaptable once that I did not remember that I was in Brazil, the land of working showers. Being able to draw only hot water, I drew it and let it cool off, then poured it over me. Used to living in places where some of the things Americans consider essential are, for the most part, luxuries, I did not stop to think that the shower should work. Later, I asked about it, and it was immediately fixed.

Being adaptable cured my bronchitis, too. After 18 months of coughing that would not go away (a frequent experience over a lifetime of struggling with bronchitis), I was giving a workshop in Siberia in 1993 where the workshop organizers heard the cough and sent me to a Siberian doctor. The medicine practiced there was different than in the United States, but it cured my bronchitis, which has not returned since.

Being adaptable can sometimes require the setting aside of one's most instinctive responses. The most challenging moment for me was when a Regional Minister of Education in Russia decided to hold a meeting with two members of her staff and me in the public baths, which she reserved just for us. Unlike in American saunas where one drapes oneself modestly in a towel, in Russian baths one sits entirely nude. A nude staff meeting definitely "pushed the envelope" for this American. (For heaven's sake, there was nothing to take notes on!)

Still, no matter what, adaptability is essential. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to gather the sweetest bouquets abroad unless one does in Rome what the Romans do. The meeting in the baths developed much camaraderie and collegiality among those who attended. We parted with hugs, not handshakes, and years later I still hear from some of these people and have worked with them long-distance on professional matters.

Yes, indeed, one cannot gather the prettiest and most unique flowers if one looks only in one's back yard. The most delightful and most delicate ones sometimes grow in the most unlikely places.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your posts. Love the part about not having anything to take your notes on!



About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.