Thursday, May 8, 2008

Management Training, South Africa-style

A very interesting cultural experience this week, although management training’s not generally known for its exotic nature. But still. Non-profit management training here is and is not the same as in the US. For instance, every day starts with a gospel song or two and a prayer. The topics are taught in English, but then will slip into Sepedi (which I know a little bit), and sometimes Shangaan or Ndebeli (which I really don’t know). The amazing number of languages I'm surrounded by never fails to awe and frustrate me.

In surprising ways, the training in very American, in that the sessions generally start on time (a big deal, here), the presenters are organized, and there are times for individual reflection, group work, and lectures. At the same time, these are community development organizations in the poorer parts of South Africa, so there are interesting discussions about development, culture, what blacks can learn from the whites, what whites did to the blacks, how Robert Mugabe (the Zimbabwean president who is largely responsible for 150,000% inflation rates) is admired because he stood up to George Bush. I love it and find it incredibly surreal at the same time. A lot of South Africa’s like that, in that you never quite know what country you’re in, but to be sitting in a training that I’ve sat in before in the States, listening to debates about post-colonial politics from the African perspective… Well, that’s just my idea of a great day.

Tonight is the training’s social event, so people are very excited to see me dance. I’m not much in the mood, since I’m just getting over a cold, but then again, when did I ever pass up a dance party? Never! And I will not start tonight… Tomorrow’s the last day, then it’s back to my chickens and maize field after a week of hot water and television. I’m looking forward to it.