Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Donna prepares for her time in Mongolia with intercultural training

Today was the first day of my pre-departure training program with the Centre for Intercultural Learning, a course required for all participants in CCA international missions.   The program is about intercultural effectiveness, and participants ranged from a group of interns heading off on their first international placements to the dean of the Perth campus of Algonquin College, about to retire from that position to take a three-year posting in Guyana with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges.
It was a fascinating day.  Jas, our facilitator, is originally from India and shared her own experiences navigating intercutural waters.  We talked about cultural tendencies:  attitudes toward such factors as time, power and justice.  And we played a game of cards. Each table of four or five participants was given a deck of cards and the rules to what looked like a simple trick-taking game.  We were asked to spend five minutes reading the rules, after which the rules sheet was taken away from us. 
Then we started to play.  When Jas clapped her hands, the winner and loser at each table went to another table…and then the fun really began.  I didn’t really get what this was all about until one of the new arrivals at our table, Kristiane, told  us we were playing by the wrong rules — why were we taking tricks with diamonds as trump?  Then it dawned on me — each table was given a different set of rules, and when people from different tables got together, chaos ensued. A simple message — different cultures play by different rules — but we learned it in a way no lecture could .
More to come…
-- Donna Balkan

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