Friday, April 01, 2011

decide as you go

It is not yet noon and things are getting crazy.  Please pray for Francette (see photo) - she is in labor.  Please pray for Fedline - she is possibly moving into Harbor House.  Please pray for Enisse (and Sophia) - she got angry and decided to leave the HH.  :( Please pray for Paige - she is ready to be done with all of this infection and medicine crap and have some fun.

Sometimes the most awesome and freeing thing about the way of life in Port au Prince, Haiti is that by necessity we must "fly by the seat of our pants".

Sometimes the most annoying and exhausting thing about the way of life in Port au Prince, Haiti is that by necessity we must "fly by the seat of our pants".


To fly by the seat of your pants:

Decide a course of action as you go along, using your own initiative and perceptions rather than a pre-determined plan or mechanical aids.

This is early aviation parlance. Aircraft initially had few navigation aids and flying was accomplished by means of the pilot's judgment. The term emerged in the 1930s and was first widely used in reports of Douglas Corrigan's flight from the USA to Ireland in 1938. That flight was reported in many US newspapers of the day, including this piece, entitled 'Corrigan Flies By The Seat Of His Pants', in The Edwardsville Intelligencer, 19th July 1938.

In previous posts we've admitted to occasionally making a loose plan ... but the less we do of that, the easier things are.  We can't count how many times in one week we say something along these lines to one another:  "That is tomorrow, we can't determine what that will be yet. Let's talk about tomorrow when it is tomorrow."

When tomorrow comes we fly by the seat of our pants - we decide as we go what the day will entail (as irresponsible as that sounds it is actually  true) and take things as they come.  Like a pilot with no navigation tools in hand; just a certain faith that we're not walking through our day alone.

Truth be told our cultural norms taught us both to schedule our time, to plan in advance, to try to have clear direction each day. By nature we prefer to plan. Culture is much more than style of dress and daily habits. Culture is the framework for how we make sense of the world around us. It encompasses behaviors, traditions, beliefs, values, and assumptions. 

I am not sure I can pinpoint exactly why our cultural value of goal setting and planning doesn't really work very well here.  It is probably a combination of many things.  Vehicles break-down. Traffic jams of epic proportions are the norm. Emergencies happen frequently. Communication is often difficult and getting to the bottom of an issue takes patience and time. Plans that include another person mean their vehicle has to work and their traffic route has to be open ... But it goes deeper than these things. It goes to values and thought processes of the culture.

Sarah Lanier writes about cultural differences based simply on climate and says:

“One of the most important differences between the hot- and cold-climate cultures in the work setting is that the hot-climate culture is relationship based, while the cold is task-oriented … All hot-climate communication has one goal: to promote a ‘feel-good’ atmosphere, a friendly environment. The truth can take a backseat to the relationship.”

“… the cold-climate person may be very friendly and warm, but when needing to get a job done or answer a question factually, he or she is completely focused on the task at hand. Rightly or wrongly, personal feelings are not considered to be part of the equation.”

One of the best ways to end up frustrated living in this hot-climate culture is to have strict expectations about how you will get information when you need it  - and how you will manage your time. 

The happiest expats learn to laugh at themselves and their unrealistic expectations and they try hard to honor their host culture's attitude and styles of communication even when it goes against their preferred methods.

All that to say, in Haiti deciding as you go - Is the way to go.