Friday, May 20, 2011

Cultural Orientation

I've been a little busy lately and not had a chance to post here or to work on the Pilot Mountain Project. But actually I've done a lot of thinking about it because of what I'm doing with another passion in my life, AFS.

AFS is an international exchange student program that sends students from the US abroad to live with host families and accepts students from abroad to live with host families here. I have been preparing the students from the western half of North and South Carolina to go abroad in 2011. Tomorrow is our pre-departure orientation. We will talk a lot about students leaving their comfort zones and adjusting to a new culture.

Adjusting to a different culture happens within a nation, too. Take Pilot Mountain for instance. Three times the topic came up with former students I was interviewing. They all had moved into the community and had to adjust to a new way of life. All three said it was like coming to a foreign country. One was from a city environment and his adaptation was the most difficult of the three. He went from bicycles on sidewalks to wide open fields, from houses within a stone's throw to no neighbors within sight.

All three of them had trouble understanding the local accent, tarred for tired/laught for light/torlet for toilet. There were local traditions to adjust to also. May first wasn't a Maypole dance. It was the first day each year when children were allowed to come to school in bare feet.

Thing is, children adapt. There are universal experiences and emotions that override the differences. Children find comfort in the likenesses and learn to appreciate the differences, whether they are going across the state or across the ocean.

I wish a grand bon voyage to this year's students. Adjusting to a new culture is possible, just ask those Pilot Mountain children of so long ago.

Catch of the day,



  1. Good post --tying together many different parts of your life right now.

  2. Gretchen,

    I heard a quote that goes something like this: "We are more alike than different." Isn't it great that you can see similarities even in very different works you're involved in?

    Linda A.

  3. I've always looked for the commonalities and worked from there. That makes good literature, yes?