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Building Cultural Intelligence with Trisha Carter


Bridging the distance in times of sadness

There are times when electronic communications don’t go anywhere near to making up for the face-to-face, walk alongside you, and give you a hug sort of communications. Sometimes it’s celebrations.

My Mum’s 70th birthday party was while I was living in China and we had to make a choice to be back in New Zealand for that celebration or my brother’s wedding. We missed Mum's birthday. Even the annual celebrations can be tough, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring festival - times I have wished - or seen friends wish - for “home”.

But I think in many ways, the sadder times are even harder. When you can’t be there for the funeral of a loved one, or to help someone who is ill, or to share the load with those experiencing the clean up after disasters then it really hurts. In the last couple of months as my Dad has been ill, two of my favourite Uncles have died and earthquakes have rocked one of the places I call home I have wished I could do more than send my love, donate, or call to chat.

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Running in the wind

It was blowing a gale when I went for my run the other day.  Truly.  Gusts ranged from 60 knot winds through the 70s and at one stage it was even 80 knots.  Running in a gale is quite fun when it’s behind you but my route is an “undulating circuit”.  So I turned the corner at the bottom of the first hill and it hit me full in the face and left me gasping for air.  And sort of running on the spot.  It immediately took me back to when we lived in Wellington (New Zealand).  I ran my first fun run there and the training involved a lot of hills and a lot of gales.  If you didn’t run in a gale in Wellington, you didn’t run very often.

It got me thinking about places I have lived in and adapted to exercising in.  Perth (Australia) was hot, at least for someone who moved from Wellington.  It was midsummer when we first arrived and the 35-45 degree days were too much for me to run in. A swimming pool in the backyard was a continuous joy! But gradually it cooled somewhat and my need to pound the pavement overcame my fear of heat collapse.  I learnt to run carrying a water bottle and never left home without a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Hefei  (PRC) was humid in summer and freezing in the winter.  But the greater inhibitor there was my desire not to be regarded as an object of curiosity by the locals.  Or perhaps it was an object of insanity.  My bright red jogging face was a great concern for the locals.  Again I tried other forms of exercise but the jogging shoes were calling and eventually I put my embarrassment aside and learnt to run in the humidity, ignoring the stares.

When we think about moving to different places we often think of the bigger stuff we’ve learnt.  Languages, cultural insights, relationship skills, cooking styles, but sometimes the little things can be important too.  Each little adaptation makes it easier to live in the new location. Changing small but incremental aspects makes the bigger adaptations more likely.  

And for me, making changes that enabled me to continue doing the things that were my joy, that took me into flow and brought stress relief – this brought me far greater satisfaction than the effort required.  This was flexing my adaptation muscles for real strength development!

What little things have you adapted to in different locations that have made your life better?  Let me know in the comments below!

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