Step #135 to Accomplishing Anything

This step involves doing a little bit at a time. Have you ever noticed that about yourself (or maybe you’re different)? That when you have 10 points to cover, you do none of it, even though you could easily write two a night and be done by the end of the week. Yet instead it sits on the sidelines of your life for far longer than just that. The size of the task psychologically overwhelms any desire to do it. Well, there is my brief understanding of myself. So, long story short, sorry I promise so much then take forever to deliver. I do indeed have to tell ALL about my trip to Foz do Iguaçu, but how about today I just tell you after a few parts of it?

Traveling there was actually kinda fun because I was on a plane with 10 other Division employees. And for someone who’s used to traveling by herself (other than an occasional adventure with mom) it was quite a treat to sit with someone I actually knew for dinner during a layover. On one of the flights I got to sit by Jorge [you may know him from the story of how he met his wife, Yenza] and we were really able to get to know each other better. I’m especially glad looking back because at the Council he was elected Treasurer of a Union in Peru and will be moving from Brazil in a few weeks.

We arrived late Saturday night and were up bright and early Sunday for pre-meetings, which were basically rundowns of responsibilities and the plans for the upcoming week. And yes, it was boring, though most of the day was free as my work didn’t arrive until later Sunday evening. So I got to enjoy the hotel, seen here.

And watch the pastors in their free time as they arrived from all over the continent. 


And let me start out by saying that this week of translation was really an interesting cultural experiment for me. Because here I was not only mediating between two languages but also between cultures. On one hand I had to treat the Brazilian administrators like you treat Brazilians and on the other hand I got to treat the American administrator like an American. And this may sound easy, because I’m used to dealing with both groups, but it becomes harder to navigate than you might imagine. First example of this was when Pastor Wilson and Nancy walked through the door with the Division president. I was just walking out from dinner so I was heading through the lobby when I saw them. As soon as I saw them I thought to myself, “Oh, I better go introduce myself so that they know they can come to me if they need help.” And as soon as I took my first step, a South American hand clasped my shoulder and said, “No Angela, wait for them to acknowledge you first and then call you over. You can’t just go up and talk to them.” Haha, have fun telling ME I can’t talk to someone, especially someone I’ll be working for [translated in my mind “helping”]!

Now, I know that there is specific protocol for people of higher positions, but even cultural studies, there’s this cultural dimension called “Power Distance.” Geert Hofstede, best known for his work in developing these 5 cultural dimensions, defines that, “Power Distance Index (PDI)  that is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.” In layman’s term, Americans with a lower PDI see less distance between higher and lower positions. Brazilians, with a higher PDI, see more separation between the two. And I’m afraid I fall in a lower PDI than most Americans but thankfully Pastor Wilson and his wife and extremely humble and down-to-earth people, and they appreciated the fact that I wasn’t as ‘awed’ as everyone else. But I digress.

 PDI: Power Difference Index
IDV: Individualism
MAS: Masculinity
UAI: Uncertainty Avoidance Index
LTO: Long-term Orientation

The point of all of this… it’s difficult working directly with two cultures at the same time. I had a tendency to treat my American guests as if there were little power distance between us (I like to think of it as treating them like humans and not gods), but those Brazilians who were looking on were more likely to find it disrespectful. So the difficulty is managing these differences well, while understanding that it’s possible that there will still be people that don’t understand why you do what you do. That’s why it’s important that those you work for trust you and your understanding of the work you’re doing, because they might not always understand it themselves. I noticed that sometimes through the week I got looks from my SA co-workers, as if they were thinking “What are you doing? Don’t you know he’s the GC President?! You can’t joke around with him like that!” But I trust my decisions and felt I treated them both with respect and most of all love.

Ok, we’ve made it through the first 12 hours of my trip. There will be more to come.