Monthly Archives: October 2008

Liberty Salad

24 October 2008

I’ve written before about one of the "culture shock" things I experienced when we went to China:  a lack of salad.  When I found out I was going to live in China, I asked one of my expat friends for advice.  He replied, "The first six weeks you’ll love it, because everything is different.  The next six months, you’ll hate it, because everything is different.  After a year, you’ll start to figure out whether you like it or not." 

What he said was true.  It was even true where it came to salad.  Where I live in the USA, people generally have access to fresh greens (often from their own gardens) from mid March through December.  My family eats something fresh and raw, often green, at every meal  (link here to previous entry).  It was different in China.

The first six weeks, I really enjoyed sampling all the wonderful Chinese cuisines.  The next four years, I pined for salad.  With its frequent lack of anything crispy and fresh, and often absence of anything cold from the meal, I think of Chinese food as somewhat wilty and overcooked, and having strong flavors (even though this overgeneralization is not strictly true).  As delicious as lettuce may be when it’s blanched and then stir fried, it’s just never going to be the same as a fresh, raw, cold, crunchy salad.    

It’s a good idea not to eat salad in China, especially for a tourist.  Bearing in mind that the vegetables are fertilized with human waste, and that tap water is not clean, and that a relatively large percentage of the population are carriers of Hepatitis A, it’s no wonder that most Chinese don’t eat too much salad.  A friend of mine makes a living by consulting restaurants on how to cook western style food.  She is particularly adamant that one should not eat salad in China, unless one has personally inspected the kitchen.  She told me, "you wouldn’t believe what goes on in the kitchen."  She tells stories of salads being prepared on the same chopping block, with the same knives, as the raw meat.  Rats and cockroaches in kitchens (I’ve personally seen both of these). 

Yep, you certainly need to be careful where you eat, or else make sure the food has steam coming off of it (to guarantee it’s been hot enough to kill germs, which still won’t help you if you’re at very high altitude where water boils at lower temperature).  Uhm, ever wonder why the folk wisdom also says never drink anything that hasn’t been served to you boiling hot? 

Of course I did fix salads, but it was never quite the same.  Perhaps part of that "not quite the same" feeling is because of all the extra preparation it took for me to prepare it in China. 

In the USA, I often grow my own salad greens.  If not, I can usually purchase lovely lettuces.  The greens in the Chinese markets are much more varied and often appear superior to the greens in ordinary USA markets.  The Chinese grow the most beautiful Romaine lettuces, which they blanche and then toss in a hot skillet with some soy sauce and garlic. 

I would purchase these Romaine lettuces and make salad out of them.  But I’d wash them much more thoroughly than I might have done in the USA. 

Generally, I would wash once in tap water to get the mud and grime off, then rinse again in tap water.  After this, I would rinse at least once if not twice in bottled water to make sure any little germs were washed away.  It is also advisable to put a few drops of chlorine bleach in the wash water.  (Some of my European and Aussie friends soak it in iodine water.)  So, making salad in China is a bit more of a chore. 

The first summer we were home in the USA, I couldn’t get enough of good salad.  Wow, what a convenience, the salad greens can even be purchased prewashed, in bags! 

But to my amazement, by the fourth summer, I found that I didn’t have the same level of pining for salad as previously.  I suppose that over the course of four years, I had lost some of my habit of eating salad, so that I didn’t miss it quite so much. 

Nevertheless, there’s nothing like a good salad.  This summer my daughters and I developed a salad recipe that’s as good as any.  Because of the colors — red, white, and blue — we decided to call this a "Liberty Salad".  It’s very pretty.  The colors of the American flag are laid over top of the rich green of the spinach.  It’s wonderful on a hot, summer evening.  Make it on salad plates, as individual servings.

Here is the recipe:

For each serving use: 

1.5 oz fresh, sliced strawberry

1.5 oz fresh blueberry

1.7 oz fresh, crisp spinach leaves

garnish with crumbled, white goat cheese

Top with a small amount of rasberry vinaigrette dressing

(To make the rasberry vinaigrette dressing, mix about three parts rasberry jam with one part balsamic vinegar)

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Christmas In October

19 October 2008

This is just a quick reminder.  If you are an American expat in China and hoping to send Christmas gifts home to the USA, it’s time to mail them.  If you are an American with a friend overseas, it’s time to mail those too, if you want to get them there by Christmas! 

It takes somewhere between eight and twelve weeks for packages sent by parcel post to travel around the globe between the USA and China.  (The shortest time any package ever took for me was about 5 1/2 weeks, and the longest was 13 weeks.)  If you slip up and wait too late, there are other options.  You can use DHL, UPS, and Fed Ex, but those options are more expensive.  Parcel post, however, is not too expensive and can be a great way to share things with your family and friends in your home country. 

There are a couple of ways to mail a package from China to the USA.  Some of the Five Star hotels offer mailing services, or even may have a Chinese post office in their business malls.  The employees in such a post office are more likely to have experience shipping packages overseas and may even speak a bit of English.  Unless you can use one of these services, it’s a good idea to take a Chinese speaking person with you (unless you can speak Chinese yourself).  Some Chinese postal service employees speak English, but don’t count on it! 

Before you go, package your goods sell wrapped in paper or bubble wrap.  Theoretically, the post office sells everything you need, but their inside packing materials are things like hard styrofoam and are not suitable for delicate items.  They also don’t supply packing tape, even if you buy the box from them. 

The postal employees are supposed to make sure that no newspaper is smuggled out of the country in the form of packaging.  One year, I had packed fragile items in newspaper before placing it in the box I carried from home.  The postal employee let me through, but warned me not to do it again.  They are also supposed to inspect and make sure you are not shipping out antiquities or illegal things.  Thus, do not seal the boxes prior to taking them to the postal service.  Leave things so they are easy to inspect.  Similarly, when I’ve shipped gifts, I have wrapped the gift but left the paper so that it was very easy to peek inside and see the contents inside the wrapping paper. 

When the item arrives in the receiving country, Customs there will also inspect it, so you want to have everything in a situation where it’s easy to inspect.  In light of the need to have things available for inspection at the postal service, you will need to carry your tape and packing supplies to seal the boxes up after they are inspected. 

As a matter of caution, I always put a paper inside the box which listed destination address and phone numbers as well as shipper address and phone numbers, and a photocopy of my passport.  That way, if the box were delivered to the wrong place or damaged, someone would know who to call for more information.  I also write the contact information on the outside of the box and place clear packing tape over the information, which is in addition to the shipping label.  I write the address in Chinese as well, because Chinese postal employees don’t all read English or Pinyin.  Probably not necessary, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.  I also never purchased the optional insurance.  Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t figure out how I’d ever collect on a claim if one arose.  Even this summer, when our air shipment boxes arrived here badly mishandled, the carrier claimed that the damage had occurred during Customs inspection.  (Fortunately, the contents had been rummaged through but not damaged.)

When you first arrive at the postal office, show the postal worker at the counter your boxes.  They may ask you (in Chinese), "ground or air?"  This distinction made for domestic envelopes does not apply to international shipments.  For international shipments, you fill out the international form and then figure out shipping cost based on weight and method of shipping. 

There are three different prices for shipping boxes internationally.  The cheapest way is to go by land (or sea) all the way, with no air component.  This is the option that takes about eight weeks.  The most expensive method is to air ship the box.  This will take somewhere between one and two weeks.  There is a third option, which is to send by a mixture of air and ground freight.  This third option will take about four weeks, so you really split the difference.  The third option also costs the average between the air and freight, so it is also the middle price tag.  When you take  your boxes to the desk the first time, they can weigh them, look up your destination, and tell you the exact cost for the three different choices.  Then comes the fun part. 

The job’s not finished until the paperwork is done. 

I heartily advise taking a hard pen and plenty of carbon paper to the Post Office when you mail your boxes from inside China.  This is because you will have to fill out each address form in triplicate.  I never had foresight to take carbon paper, but it is readily available in the little office supply shops that dot the city.  While you fill out your paperwork, make sure someone watches your boxes.  One time, one of my boxes disappeared while I was distracted with paperwork.  (Thank goodness, it was an empty box.  I’d like to think that someone thought it was an extra, but no one asked.  It was a reminder that all it takes is a moment of inattentiveness and you may have a very big loss.) 

In addition to the address forms, you will need to fill out a Customs declaration.  The postal worker will give this form to you.  One time I took my receipts for the items, to show them to the postal worker.  He said he didn’t care, that my Customs declaration was for U.S. Customs.  If they were to question me, he said, that’s when I’d have to produce receipts.  The form tells you to itemize and then put what you paid.  I generally said something about as detailed as, "six shirts, 300 RMB."   One time when I was sending a large box with a bunch of small "goodies" for some children in my family, I just wrote "various small gifts for children" and that went through Customs okay.  Of course, they had the option of looking in the box and they could see exactly what I meant.  Always assume that your boxes will be opened by Customs. 

For heavens sake, don’t try to ship in counterfeit goods.  Anything brand new with that designer label and certificate of authenticity is going to be stopped.  Also, don’t try to ship DVD’s to the USA.  Forget sending Grandma a Rolex watch or Mont Blanc pen!  There are nightmare stories about fines for people trying to do this.  In my view, we consumers are merely the victims.  How am I to know whether something is fake or not, but U.S. Customs will rank you right up there with the most reviled smugglers.  One time my husband got stopped and interrogated by Customs over his personal golf clubs.  The only thing that saved him was the dirt and scratches on them. 

This brings us to what is allowed to be in the box that you ship.  Different countries have different rules about food.  Australia is the most strict.  Australia won’t even let parents bring in baby formula in bottles.  So, no, do not try to ship even packaged food to Australia!  On the other hand, the USA is really only concerned about things that could bring in germs or seeds that could disrupt the environment or gene pool here in this country.  Packaged and processed food is okay. 

One time, for example, I had some dried apricots in my bag that I had purchased at a street market.  I assumed they were forbidden, so I pulled them out and showed them to the Customs officer as I entered the U.S. at an airport.  He replied, "we’re not concerned about those," and let me carry them into the country.  That’s because they were preserved and did not have any seeds that could grow.  I could not, however, have carried in a fresh apple, because it had seeds. 

With that said, one of the funnest gifts I sent "home," I think, was that one time I went to a Chinese grocery store and purchased packaged snack foods that you simply would not find in the USA.  It was things like eel flavored potato chips, strawberry flavored popcorn, shredded dried pork, and Chinese flower teas.  These were a fun treat for some children in my family to sample. 

All in all, a trip to the Chinese post office is a challenging trip.  Count on it taking at least an hour, longer if you have a lot of boxes, but lots of people do it with good success.  The people in the post office will work with you.  It’s helpful to have plenty of time, patience, and a Chinese friend to help you navigate. 

And in the end, there will be something from you and hopefully for you under that tree on Christmas day! 

Good luck! 

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The Importance of this Election

6 October 2008

In February, I traveled to a country where only 5% of the population has electricity.  The road from the capital to the second largest city consists of a two lane, potholed strip of pavement.  There is very little traffic on this road, because cars are a rare luxury.  It’s a country that has no free speech.  Knowing this, I was careful only to talk about subjects that other people wanted to talk to me about. 

And guess what was on the minds of the people I spoke with?  It was right in the middle of the Democratic Primary season.  Everywhere we went, I was asked, "Who do you prefer, Hillary or Obama?" 

If you are an American reading this, how many candidates’ names are you familiar with, in a country other than your own, before an election? 

I mean, sure, you know who Vladimir Putin is now, but what do you know about the candidates who might succeed him?  Had you ever heard of him before he was announced?  Here’s another one, I’ll make it easy for you.  Name the only female Vice Premier of the Chinese Communist Party?  She’s one of four, and she came to the White House and met with George Bush in 2006.  Feeling ignorant yet?  I hate to confess, I’m ignorant, too!  (Click HERE for chart of Chinese government leadership, and HERE for photo of Vice Premier Wu Yi.

***

Everyone in China knows who George Bush is, it seems.  How many Americans know who Wen Jiabao is? 

(okay, I confess, my photo op with the #1 Guy in the Chinese Government occurred at the wax museum, along with my small talk with Eddie Murphy)

***

I think most Americans would think it normal for an American to know the names of the candidates, but we don’t expect to learn the names of candidates from other countries so often, do we?  Why is the world so interested in our candidates, do you suppose? 

I point to the rest of the world’s preoccupation with the USA presidential race, even in places where most people don’t have access to radios or television, to illustrate the influence of America in the world and the significance our leaders have for people all over the world.  In almost every conversation I’ve had with people in other countries, when the subject turns to American policy positions, people in other countries almost seemed to feel as if they were the subject of taxation without representation.  I don’t mean literally, of course!  I’m not really talking about tax. 

What I mean is, they feel as if they are being forced to live with the consequences of decisions made by a government that is not accountable to the rest of the world.   I believe this fuels a lot of the resentment the USA feels coming from the rest of the world but which we Americans don’t really understand.  When others resent our country and say that they want to see the USA toppled off its pedestal, we wonder what we have done to inspire such animosity.  The answer is, I think, simply that it’s because the decisions of the United States on policy bear so heavily on the rest of the world that everyone is affected.  We are like the bull in the China shop, or like a giant tromping across the countryside.  The effect of our policies is felt far and wide. 

Yet, only Americans get to vote and have a say in choosing the leaders who will influence the lives of almost every citizen in the world.  The rest of the world envies us our privilege of having a say in this matter.  And the rest of the world resents it that the USA seems not fully cognizant of the weight our every step carries elsewhere in the world, especially in matters of economics and world resources.

Give just the current banking meltdown as an example.  If the U.S. banking system goes down, the rest of the world is so interconnected with it that everyone else is going to have to scramble and pay, as well.  And we are talking about countries, like Sweden, who have already taken care of their business and cleaned their own houses (enacting strict regulatory reforms and demanding accountability) and who really would be innocent bystanders being forced to bail out the irresponsible big guy. Why, the Swede asks, should my currency suffer because you didn’t clean your own house? 

In rambling on about how important the USA government and policy, economic system, and military presence is to the rest of the world, I don’t mean to say that other countries aren’t important.  I do not intend to imply that other leaders or other countries are not important. And I don’t mean to imply that the USA is fully incognizant. 

But the choice of our leaders is of such paramount significance for the rest of the world that global citizens everywhere wait with baited breath.  One of my friends from Singapore wrote me an email just this morning, "All these financial choas in the States is keeping everyone on edge and the coming election should be quite interesting to see who wins (action packed indeed)!"

Who will we choose?  I think Americans need to have more perspective on the seriousness of this cause and its impact around the globe.  Of course, some countries want to influence our election so that our foreign policy will be favorable to them or their interests.  But for the most part, I feel, ordinary people– the small folk of the world — are afraid.  They are afraid that McCain, with his temperament for rushing to rash decisions, will lead the world into a hot tempered war.  They are afraid of Palin, who lacks not only experience but who has a world view that pits "us" against "them" in an extremist sort of way.  They don’t someone in the Oval Office to kill sensitive negotiations with Kim Jong II by hurling personal insults at him. As for Obama, my finger-in-the-wind guesstimate is that many outside the USA see him as a junior senator who seems to have potential but who hasn’t really been tested. People do like the fact that he has lived overseas and been exposed to other cultures, however.  They seem to think that he will at least be cognizant of some of the issues and be less likely to polarize and demonize "foreigners" than would McCain.  I suspect more people would vote for Obama if they were given the opportunity, not because they know him so well but because they are afraid of another Republican ideologue in the White House. 

Regardless of who is elected, many of the citizens of the world who are not citizens of the USA care deeply about this election.  They worry over the potential consequences.  They just don’t have a say, and they wish they did!   How do they respond?  Well, they talk about it.  And, let’s be honest, some of the wealthiest and most powerful of them devise ways to influence our election process with money.  They make campaign contributions, or give money to others to do that, or tinker with economics (e.g. by changing the price of oil).  But most of the ordinary people of the world, the ones who don’t have power or resources, can only use their pleas to us. 

The movie below is a YouTube video that someone in another country took the time to create.  Can you imagine feeling so strongly about an election in a far away land that you would take the time, make the effort, and spend the money, to create a video endorsing a candidate? 

      

All I can say in response is this, to "My Fellow Americans."  Take the time to learn the issues and sort out the truth, and then take it seriously to vote.  Given our position in the world, I believe that exercising the privileges accorded us through democracy is the solemn duty of every American.  

In that country where only 5% of the population has electricity?  Guess what.  They would give anything to even vote for their own leaders.  Don’t you think we owe it to them to vote wisely for ours? 

 

I was told that the civilians as shown in this photo deliberately surrounded the monks to provide them a human wall of protection from police who might otherwise have opened fire.  Approximately 1,000 of these monks, beaten and arrested after the protests a year ago, are still in prison.  (Would we take such risks for our right to speak against the actions of our own government?)  And this highlights one thing I would like to point out to any readers from "out there" in the rest of the world.  That is, in many respects, the difference between Obama and McCain are negligible in terms of the big picture.  Both are Americans.  As those two men illustrate, Americans are a diverse group, and they do not always agree on everything among themselves.  Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans — and certainly both McCain and Obama — don’t just give lip service to certain ideas embodied in our government, they really believe it.  I have confidence that either man, if elected, will do his best to ensure freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the rule of law, sovereignty of peoples (including the people of YOUR land), and the dignity of the person. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable [inalienable] Rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these
Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed.
    

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Shana Tova

This is the week of Rosh Hoshanah.   I didn’t know what this was until a Jewish friend reminded me that she is fasting on the last day of Rosh Hoshanah, which is Yom Kippur. 

Rosh Hoshanah, at the close of the old year, is a time when G-d examines the names in the Book of Life.  We want to make sure our name is inscribed for the coming year.  Thus, it’s an important time to examine ourselves, to correct things we have done wrong during the past year.  It is a time for making peace and for making amends with those whom we have injured or offended, to eliminate anything that might prevent our names from being inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.   

Rosh Hoshanah culminates in Yom Kippur, which is a day of prayer, fasting, and atonement.  Observant Jews adhere to the same rules on Yom Kippur as on the Sabbath, in addition to some other observances which set the day apart.  The fast is the only fast decreed in the Hebrew Bible.  A twenty-five hour fast, it begins before sunset and ends after nightfall on Yom Kippur.  In the year 2008, Yom Kippur falls between about 6:30 PM on Wednesday, October 8th and ends at about 7:30 PM on Thursday, October 9th. 

Here’s one humorous rendering of how the candidates might handle the day of Atonement:

        

Shana Tova is the Hebrew way of saying "New Year Blessings"

    

 

If you want to learn more about Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur, here is one link and a place to start:  Click Here

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Listen to the White Noise

3 October 2008

One of my friends wrote her doctoral dissertation, for her Ph.D. in Philosophy, on feminist epistemology.  "What is that?" you ask. 

Epistemology is the study of knowledge itself.  Epistemology examines the nature, scope, and sources of knowledge.  It asks questions like, "How can we know when something is true?" and "What constructs do we use to perceive the world?"  Epistemology happens to be my favorite area of study within the field of philosophy.     

Though I could use examples from history of how we extrapolate our known experience to interpret our new perception of the previously unknown (a common example is the description Galileo wrote when he looked at the moon through a telescope), I will use the much more close-at-hand example of the first time my daughter cut herself. 

She cried, "Mommy, there’s ketchup on my hand!" 

My daughter had never seen blood before, and so the closest analogy she could find to explain this red stuff was ketchup.  Her experience that day expanded her world view, but the first impulse of her mind was to relate the red stuff to something else that she already was familiar with. 

I remember the dramatic expansion of my own, personal world view when in 10th grade chemistry class I learned about molecules and the periodic table.  Suddenly, instead of thinking of hard things and liquids in simplistic terms, a bit like the categories of "earth, air, fire and water" (or various combinations of those things), my mind was opened to the concept of a universe filled with molecules that were themselves comprised of electrons whirling on orbitals around protons and neutrons.  It was a liberating shift in how I perceived of matter and of the universe.  For particle physicists, even these simplistic images dissolve into, and are subsumed by, a multidimensional world of subatomic particles, time, and gravity. 

When we learn new, mind expanding concepts, it’s not so much that we throw out our previous notions of the world completely, but rather that we revise those notions as our base of knowledge increases or as our ability to analogize expands. 

In short, we perceive of a universe built upon constructs that we can somehow relate to in our experiential lives.  So, the epistemologist recognizes, those constructs are very important. 

What feminist philosophers noticed at some point was that male dominated professions (science, philosophy) only attended to certain kinds of knowledge, dismissing other ways of constructing reality.  I admit that I collect "dumb blonde" jokes, but that genre is basically what was happening to women in science and in philosophy who asked strange questions, questions that didn’t quite fit into the box with neat answers. 

This marginalization happened to me in my legal career, as well.  I saw things differently.  Because of my different perception, I asked questions a male colleague wouldn’t have asked.  My challenges were not well received.  Challenges to long-standing ways of seeing things can be dismissed as stupid, or they can be valued, all depending on who is making the decision — their motives, their own insecurities, their degree of comprehension of the question. 

As a case in point for the way non-conforming thoughts can be marginalized, to the great detriment of science, my friend writing her dissertation used the example of submarine technology.  I cannot go into great detail, but the basic point of her dissertation was to examine how the fact that for decades, the data from sonar was dismissed as "background noise."  People just assumed it had no real meaning.  The fact that this was considered just "noise" with no significance impaired development of sonar for perhaps decades.  When someone finally paid attention, sonar was a great breakthrough not because it was a new discovery but because it was a new way of looking at the same facts that had long been known. 

Feminism, in philosophy, seeks to be inclusive of alternate ways of looking at the facts.  What might have been a generation ago referred to derisively as "feminine intuition" can now be acknowledged as building on a different kind of knowledge, perceived from a different vantage point and based on more subtle cues.  Rather than listen to the facts as recited by a speaker, say, "X is true", perhaps we notice instead that he blinks his eyes a hundred times in a minute.  (Intuition, in fact, may be simple attentiveness to cues that others miss.)   Based on those blinks, we decide we can’t trust the truth of the speaker’s factual assertions.  A different kind of knowledge, listening to blinks.  Different theoretical constructs. 

What amazes me is how simple this notion is.  And how practical.  And how, sadly, even when we know of the weakness of older theoretical constructs and the importance of being open to new information, we still seem programmed to see only what we expect to see. 

What brought this to mind today, for me, was a quote from a news source describing the discovery of Steve Fossett’s plane.  You may recall that this plane went missing a year ago and rescuers scoured the mountains for it.  After being given up for lost, the wreckage was discovered by a hiker this week.  The news article reports:   

"The rugged area, . . .  had been flown over 19 times by the California Civil Air Patrol during the initial search . . . . But it [was overlooked because it ] had not been considered a likely place to find the plane [emphasis supplied]."

(From article "Searchers Find Fossett’s Plane and Human Remains," http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081003/ap_on_re_us/fossett_search, 2 October 2008.)

Now, I completely understand that this was mountainous terrain, difficult search conditions.  The article makes that quite clear.  But isn’t it amazing, too, that even when they were looking for the plane, even when they searched that exact area nineteen times, (nineteen times!) they didn’t see it —  in part because they weren’t expecting to see it! 

Another, more shocking, example was the fact that NASA engineers attempted to warn of a potential problem in the Space Shuttle Columbia’s skin while it was still in orbit.  They were told not even to aim cameras at the orbiter.  The rationale were that damage to the skin was impossible (of course now we know that not only was it not "impossible," it was a fact).  Secondly, some small minded manager said that even if it was damaged, it was impossible to fix it, so there was no use looking to see if there was damage.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20.  Thanks to that decision, dismissing facts that didn’t fit the prevailing paradigm, we’ll never know if the Shuttle crew might have been able to come up with a solution that might have saved their lives, if given the opportunity to do so. 

So, what does any of this have to do with the price of beans in China?  Well, that’s one neat thing about philosophy.  Philosophy applies to almost everything, including the price of beans in China.  Or more appropriately at this time, the price of milk tainted with melamine.  It applies to how we decide to test for a potential problem, when we discover it or when we acknowledge it to exist as a fact rather than theory (e.g. are polar bears in danger or not), and what we do about it after we acknowledge that there may be a problem.

A business person working as an expatriate in another culture will of course be aware that there are cultural differences, but it’s important to be aware that those differences may be like a fault line, not visible from above the surface of the earth and only discerned by the most sensitive of seismic measures.  An expat manager trying to function in a cross cultural environment must learn to view the facts from outside the perspective of a single paradigm.  He always must scour the clues with a fine toothed comb, picking up crumbs from nonverbal and unstated or understated cues.  Always on the lookout for cues that otherwise might be overlooked, he must ask how those cues may be a clue that things may not always be what they seem.  I realize, this is easier said than done. 

The most obvious example that immediately comes to mind, in a Western-Asian context, is the concept of face (mianzi).  The idea of giving or losing face is broader and more compelling in Asian than in Western culture.  Indeed, this concept is so commonly known that it is the subject of almost every book on China.  Less well known are some of the other, even more fundamental differences that are only learned with time.  In the melamine scandal, it would pay to ask, "What values and ideals facilitated the decision of not just one, but many, Chinese managers (at all levels and at many places in the supply chain) to dilute milk and add melamine to enable it to pass the spec for protein?  What blinders caused others not to see this until tens of thousands had been sickened? What factors played in the government’s failure first to regulate, and second in failure to take corrective action?"  A failure to anticipate that this scandal could happen, and take measures to prevent it, is one of the consequences that results from failure to see or think outside a particular paradigm.     

In my own life, I try to use these types of examples to remind myself to be open minded.  There are other ways of seeing the world.  In some of those viewpoints, there is legitimate strength in that different viewpoint.  It is not just some strange, distorting lens.  At other times, we must be vigilant to protect that which we know is right.  In either case, sometimes things can be different from the way they seem, even if we’ve never imagined that viewpoint before. 

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