There is a motto I live by: “Immaturity comes with inexperience”. In this context immaturity just means lack of experience. We tend to use negative connotations when it comes to that word. Prior to coming here I was immature in many aspects. But the more experiences I have the more “mature” I become. The more mature I become the more my view points on subjects evolve. It is quite amazing (at least in my own head). But isn’t that how it is suppose to be. When you are given data then you must form a new hypothesis? To me that is vital to my existence as a human being. I do not pretend to be an expert in everything. I do try to research things to be informed. From that data I form an opinion/belief. As I gain more data or experiences in topics then those ideas/beliefs/opinions change. What an amazing ability that is!
At work we are taught never to talk about sex, religion or politics. Especially with customers. Even though we are talked to a lot about those things and that makes for some awkward sales calls. Coming to Vietnam I had some opinions and beliefs that have evolved with the experiences I have had. I would like to share a few. No preaching I promise:)
- Politics: I never knew how influential our country is when it comes to this topic. I was very much about that is our country stuff and no one really cares. Wow was I wrong. As an American I get approached daily at work or even on the street to talk about the current political circus (I mean really we can call it that right now right?) Who is going to win? What do you think? How can America be like this? Is America intolerant? The fear that people have when our political system is in turmoil has hit me hard. We are the beacon to many people in many countries. We are what they want their country to strive to be. They see us as the most fair system and the guiding force on the planet when it comes to politics and political behavior. We are the example that all other elections are held to. Very eye opening and it has changed my view point on the US responsibility globally.
- Religion: Vietnam is mainly an atheist country. There are 4 million Catholics and about 20% of the population is Buddhist. About 2% are Muslim. You really do not hear any talk about religion. You see it, but it is not talked or preached. There are a lot of temples. In certain cities there are a lot of churches and mosques. This has led to allowing myself to absorb. To learn. I have also had the great privilege learning from 2 other volunteers here. Mohamed is Muslim and Sujay is Hindu. I have learned so much about their cultures and aspects of their religions that I did not know. This has greatly changed my viewpoints.
- In the US, at least where I have lived, it is not common to see Muslim’s in traditional garb. We call them a hijab (head wraps) or burka (full body). They do not call them these words;) But in America I will say I was jarred by seeing it sometimes. It was different. I had little exposure. I will say that now traveling over SE Asia and specifically Hong Kong, I am no longer jarred. In Hanoi it is not common to see Muslims either. But in Saigon it is. In Hong Kong and Thailand it is normal. When you take the time to observe you realize that you are jarred because of perceptions and not actual data. Or at least for me. Now I have data and I am glad that my viewpoint and my internal dialogue has matured.
- Asians: As westerners we have a tendency to lump Asians all together. I have done that. Mind you there are similarities but there are also vast differences. Cambodia really helped with this evolution. Going there you could not figure out exactly what race/ethnicity they were. You could see a mixture of many different ancestral traits. Asian, South Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Caucasian…You could see traits of each one in most people. In the end they were just Cambodian. And it was beautiful. It was not homogeneous. It was heterogeneous.
- In the mountains of Vietnam there are 6 different ethnic groups. They all have different languages and customs. They do not consider themselves Vietnamese. There is a lot prejudice towards them. I was asked when I got back “did they cast any spells on you?” Huh? What? “They are into black magic there.” That exchange really taught me that even when people look alike there are vast differences from a cultural standpoint. So my viewpoint changed. It evolved not to lump categories of people together. Look for the differences. Understand them. Accept them.
- Children: Mind you I have no children but have taught kids in gymnastics for 20 years. I had this impression that Asian parents were super strict and the children were very disciplined. I have learned that is not the case here. Children are very free here. To a westerner it takes a bit to get used to. They are allowed to “run wild”. They are allowed to be loud. They are allowed to explore. They are allowed to be kids. Once you get past the noise level it actually is quite beautiful. My whole life (even today) I have been told to be quiet or quiet down. Here, I am sure that happens, but it is not a forced behavior. On Sunday I got to interact with 30 6th graders here. I taught them the history of Halloween (new concept here) and taught them the Time Warp dance. Was it a controlled situation? Not in the least. But it was amazing. They learned, played, danced, were very loud and taught me several things along the way.
- Meetings: This will be the last subject I will touch upon. I have been to several meetings inside and outside of PATH. I have created and executed training. Last week PATH had a business retreat. And there was one theme that ran through all of these…fun. The Vietnamese are not going to sit there and watch a presentation. It has to be very interactive and game oriented. The thought of this happening in HQ GSK makes me smile a bit. It is organized chaos once you get them excited. They all participate and they all want to be involved. There is no one sulking or wallflowers. In the end they learned, appreciated all the effort that was put into creating the meeting and was sincerely grateful for a meeting. How many of us can say that after a 2 day meeting? So if I am ever in a role to influence that at GSK, I will do my best to bring this new viewpoint. This ability to have fun and learn. Have fun and still get work done. Have fun and be ourselves.
My viewpoint is my own. They are my views. I hope that everyone takes the time to allow yourself to gain input, data, and experiences to have your own viewpoints evolve. I assure you you won’t regret it! I look forward to more experiences that will help me continue to mature as a human being.
P.S. I lost my phone on Friday so I don’t have any pictures. I have added a couple from my visit Sunday with the kids and a couple from our retreat that I have access to!