I am finding since my arrival in Lesotho, I have been on a roller coaster ride of sorts. A ride, which I would label, “Cultural Perception.” For the first couple of months here I idolized the culture I came from. I compared everything I saw, tasted, heard and felt to what I deemed as normal or right from my American culture. The differences upset my sensibilities, and I stood in judgment of the Basotho culture. I often found myself thinking negatively, “This would NEVER happen in America.”
Subtly, however, my cultural perception began to shift. So, subtly in fact, I did not even realize it was happening. I began to see the value in the Basotho culture, the wisdom in their ways, the beauty in their simplistic lifestyle, and I began to idolize the Basotho culture.
I began to see the American culture in a very different light for the first time, and found myself in awe of the aspects of the Basotho people, which sets them apart from my own. Then, from a positive standpoint I began thinking, “This would NEVER happen in America.” The character our football players display on the field at such young ages, the generous spirit of friendship, the discipline of getting a job done no matter what little resources or tools available, the free way in which they worship Jesus; I began to love it all.
I also became frustrated with my culture of origin for not caring more about these people I had fallen in love with. I began to view my own culture very negatively. How could Americans not do more to help these hurting people?
I don’t believe either cultural perception was accurate, or fair. Today, I believe my roller coaster ride has evened out a bit. After seven months here, I am now able to appreciate my American heritage and the strength it brings to the world’s tapestry. I am also able to appreciate the small, delicately woven, vibrant strands the Basotho culture offers to that same fabric. Both reliant upon the other, each could learn from the other, neither superior nor inferior.