Today’s post is written in partnership with Missy Gluckmann at Melibee Global Education Consulting. After reading my thoughts on this book, please check out Missy’s comments.
There we were, sitting across from each other at the Looking Glass cafe, sipping hot coffee and iced tea.
“How about we read a book and each review it on our blogs?”
Missy and I were brainstorming ways we could collaborate, and I immediately loved her idea. I don’t remember who suggested Katie Krueger’s Give with Gratitude: Lessons Learned Listening to West Africa, but I’m so glad we chose this book because I’d been meaning to read it.
It was fantastic. Just beautiful.
What’s Katie’s book about? From the back cover:
When 24-year old Katie Krueger set out from Wisconsin for Senegal, West Africa, on a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship, she was looking for adventure and an education. She had no idea what a profoundly new world she was entering and how completely her life and belief system would be overturned.
Katie’s book, which is divided into six Lessons, is a delight to read. Not only is she a beautiful writer, Katie is a gifted storyteller. Each Lesson is a story in and of itself. Read together these Lessons unfold the larger story of her year-long experience in Senegal and profound personal transformation. Katie is a keen observer and tells her story with humility, honesty, humor, and hope.
Even though I’ve never been to Senegal, or anywhere in Africa for that matter (not yet anyway!), there were times when I felt like Katie was not just telling her story but also telling mine.
In Lesson 1, for example, Katie describes her rocky adjustment to a strikingly different place by telling a story about a chocolate chip cookie. She struggles with having no time or space to herself, and her coping mechanism leads right to her first Lesson. (I’m not going to tell you what that lesson is or how the cookie factors in – I don’t want to spoil the story for you!). What caught my attention was this:
I debated which was more distressing: having to get out of bed or knowing that the past exasperating 20 minutes were the only alone time I’d have all day. (p. 24)
Being an introvert who relishes – no, requires – time by myself to recharge my batteries and keep from getting cranky, I’ve often wondered if I’d survive living in a heavily group-oriented culture where alone-time doesn’t seem to exist. But as I read the book and saw how Katie learned to balanced caring for her introvert while still immersing herself in the culture she was living in made me hopeful I could do the same.
Katie also writes about other universal ex-pat topics. Like language mistakes that make you blush (Lesson 1), that soul-crushing homesickness many of us have experienced at one time or another (Lesson 3), and those awkward weeks of re-entry into your home culture (Lesson 6).
Katie’s book is so relateable yet still uniquely her story. After reading it I felt like I’d just gone through a very enjoyable pre-departure orientation and was all set to hop a plane to Senegal.
“Time moves in Senegal, but quite differently than it does back home.” (p. 59)
I intended to read Katie’s book for fun. I hoped I’d learn something new about Senegal (I’m always filing away cultural information for future use) and maybe chuckle at some humorous intercultural incidents. I didn’t have any intention of incorporating Katie’s book into a class I’m teaching in the fall on intercultural education, but after reading Lesson 2: Step by Step, which is all about time, I knew I had to include it.
I don’t have all of the details worked out quite yet, but I think I’ll have students read this part of Katie’s book as an introduction to exploring different perceptions of time (monochronic/polychronic), relationships, and individualistic/group-oriented cultures. I think students will not only enjoy reading Katie’s story, but that it will spark students’ reminiscing and aid in processing their own intercultural experiences. I think Katie’s book will help me build a much-needed bridge between theory and practice.
Would you like a free, autographed copy of Katie’s book?
All you have to do to enter the drawing is go to my brand new Facebook page and “like” it. Even better: post a comment on my wall about a lesson you learned listening to another culture.
Everyone who “likes” my Facebook page by Monday, May 24th* at 12pm noon Eastern time will be entered into the drawing. (For those of you who’ve already “liked” my Facebook page: you’re already entered into the drawing.) I hope you win!
Don’t forget to read Missy’s review of Give with Gratitude: Lessons Learned Listening to West Africa!
*Update: So according to the calendar, there’s no Monday, May 24 in 2011. There’s a Monday, May 23 and a Tuesday, May 24 but no Monday, May 24. I meant to end the contest on Monday but since I ended up ending it on a date that doesn’t actually exist, we’ll end the contest on Tuesday, May 24. In the meantime I’ll learn how to read a calendar.