Sunday, August 8, 2010

Culture Shock

Sometimes, when I'm sitting here in my new home, I feel like I'm in culture shock. Although the people are very similar, and the language is the same, there are still such differences that it seems odd.

Just yesterday, I went to fill the car up with gasoline and buy a newspaper at the same time. You would think this would be fairly easy. Fill up. Go in to the station and get a newspaper. Pay for both.

Well, the first two places I went to were unable to do this. At the first place, the people were insulting because I was unaware that I had to pay for the gas before I filled up, even though there was no sign saying this. In fact, the pump told me that it just awaiting authorization to turn on. After waiting for a while, I finally went in to see what the problem was. After being insulted, I went elsewhere without getting gas at the first place.

At the second one, I went in, got my newspaper and asked them to use my credit card to authorize me to fill the tank. "Oh, I'm sorry. We can't do that." I was a bit surprised, needless to say. They told me that I had to tell them how much I wanted to buy, and then I guess I was supposed to hope that it would not overfill the tank. After a bit of carefully explaining what I wanted to do (fill the tank), they said that this would be ok, as long as I knew how much the gas would cost.

I went to a third place, beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I was missing something obvious.

I was assured, at this third gas station, the I was not mistaken. They could easily charge some random number above what would be needed, and that the computer would automatically adjust the charge after the fact. Oh, and, yes, I could buy a newspaper without having to make another charge.

So, is this a rant? Well, yes it is. Just a bit. But actually it is to introduce the idea of culture shock.

I remember, years ago, I had the bounty of attending a workshop that was designed to assist people who would be facing culture shock. Prospective pioneers were encouraged to attend, so I did. Amidst all the various things they had, including many quotes from the Writings which were not all that helpful beyond the fact that I already agreed with them and it is always nice to read them, there was a card game. That, out of everything they offered, proved to be the most help.

It was a very simple card game. There were four players per table, and you were not allowed to talk. Period. No talking at all. The rules, in case you were wondering, were written on a card placed on each table.

The rules were very basic. Your partner was the person across from you, and each player played a single card per round. High card won the round. 2s were wild and automatically won.

No problem.

The difficulty came when we had to switch tables. At each table, three of the four moved to other tables.

When we went to play, we quickly discovered that each table had differrent rules, although they were very close. At my new table, for example, 8s were wild. At another table, low cards won. At the fourth table, you had to play the same suit as was led, if possible. Subtle, but different.

That's how I sometimes feel here. I think I know the rules, but not quite.

Does that mean it is better back in Winnipeg? No, of course not.

Is it better here in BC? No, of course not.

They are different.

But you know what? Even though the "rules" are a bit different, people are still the same. We are all human. And the core activities are still the centre of the community. If we want to make the world a better place, they are still the way to go.

What Marielle and I learned back in Manitoba about how to apply the core activities, the need for involving the parents with the children's classes, still applies here. When talking about the growth of the community, it still needs to be framed in terms of the cycles of growth and the hard statistics we can measure. The qualitative measurements are still just as tricky, but still just as vital.

And we still need to turn to the Writings.

In the end, they are what draw us all together.

It is like that analogy of the balloon that I once heard. The different societies and cultures are like the various points on a balloon. They may be right next to each other, or at polar opposites. They may agree on a few things, but not on others. It doesn't really matter. The important thing is to realize that at the centre of the balloon are the Writings. As we move closer to them, we are naturally moving closer to each other at the same time.

I don't quite know why, but it all reminds me "that all the forces of the universe, in the last analysis serve the Covenant".

Even something so simple as buying gas can remind me of the oneness of humanity, and how the various rules we make up as part of our culture are just that: made up. Despite our differences, and how tightly we may cling to them, we really are still one people.

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