Interpreting Differences

July 13, 2009

Over the past year, I participated in a seminar called “Interpreting Differences”.  People with a variety of differences including race, gender, background got together on multiple occasions to talk about how we interpret situations differently.  A lot of good came out of it, as we improved our communication skills and learned to include an appreciation for how others think.  Now, I get a chance to take this to another level.

I am on my way to Gbranga, Liberia.  Over the years, I have spent time/worked in Liberia on several occasions.  However, this time I’ll actually be spending a significant amount of time outside of the capital city (Monrovia) and will be immersed in the rural areas in Bong County.  This time I’ll be going back to Liberia as the first Fulbright Specialist working in country since the Civil war began in the early 90’s.    Because I’ll be working to expand their capacity to re-build their own country,  I’ve spent a significant amount of time studying up on Liberian culture, the Kpelle people, and broader issues facing the country.

One book I read was ‘Mask of Anarchy’…talk about Interpreting Differences!

Interestingly, the Kpelle people migrated to West Africa around the 1500’s.  They are the largest clan/tribal group in Liberia.  During the era of Human Trafficking, the Kpelle were one of the groups (forest clans) that were regularly rounded up in the Slave Raids by some of the other tribes who participated heavily in the Slave Trade.  Completely throw away the notion that it was just the Europeans…some tribes made a living off of the slave trade.  To the point where they engaged in armed conflict with others to maintain their lucrative positions in the trade…Look up King Joe Harris (Bassa).

So it really drives personal reflection to go back to Africa as a Fulbright Specialist to work in an area dominated by the Kpelle people…who in large part could actually be my own ancestors.

I’ve got a few more days to prepare…and also make sure I’m caught up on all my work!  While I am working in Liberia, I’ll regularly post pics and my thoughts on this Blog.  But, I’ll also be posting on my new web-site.  I’ve been working on a book over the past couple of years…It should be ready to go to print when I get back.  To go with the book, I have a web-site to support the concept : Taking Ownership.  So follow along with me on my journey of immersion in West African culture.

My new web-site will be up in a few days:

It is under construction so be patient with me!  If you look in the photo gallery, I’ll also be posting pictures of my various travels.  There is a pretty interesting set of photos of Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana.

Interpreting these Differences…should be very interesting!