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the babysitter folded my pajamas

October 27, 2012

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks. The first week we were here, our whole organization here (SITAG) had a week-long training. It was called a “Cultural Self-Discovery Workshop.” Here at SITAG, we have Australians, Solomon Islanders, Americans, and a Canadian. People from each country are from many different cultures too–we can’t assume all Solomon Islanders are from the same kind of background. It’s important to be familiar with how our culture differs from other cultures, but there are way too many cultures in the world to be able to understand them all. (Of course we still make an effort to understand cultures around us.) A way to interact better with other people is to better understand where we come from. This workshop focused on understanding where we’re coming from ourselves. Then, when something happens that upsets us or makes us uncomfortable, we know more about why we’re bothered.

Example: One day after lunch, a Solomon Islander woman came to our house while Little D napped so that we could go to the afternoon workshop session. When I came home, I saw that she’d washed our dishes, made our bed, and folded some of our clothes including my pajamas. My first reaction was, “That’s awkward, and she’s intrusive.” But then I thought about why I thought it was intrusive. What did I expect her to do?

I thought “babysitter” is a totally separate job from “housekeeper.” (Then again, I never really babysat.) A babysitter would read a book, watch TV, or talk on the phone while the kid is sleeping. Also, if a babysitter did my dishes, I would think my house must have been so messy she couldn’t stand it. Maybe they aren’t separate jobs here, and maybe there’s another reason she did my dishes. That was a way that thinking about my own culture helped me not jump to a conclusion about someone from another culture.

I got used to it quickly enough. The next day, I thanked her and was glad to find clean lunch dishes again when we got home from the workshop, especially since the all-day schedule of the workshop left little daytime for the many other things to do.

Little D preferred to play in the meeting room with us rather than go outside with other kids.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mom permalink
    October 27, 2012 6:10 am

    Yes, even here some disagreements with babysitters come from expectations about what else she will or won’t do. And some girls might feel the same way way about their mother-in-law helping. I just figured I liked clean dishes!

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