I went to Sudan when I was in my early twenties while it was at the beginning of a civil war.

My purpose for going there was to volunteer as a teacher’s aide as a native English speaker.

Despite all the advice and warnings I was given, I had no expectations or fears.

Looking back at my experience there, I have come to realise that my greatest achievement was to win the respect of the local male elders.  As a woman who was perceived as a foreigner or westerner, this was far from any achievement I could have expected.

I wonder how I did it? What did they see in me or learn from me that made them treat me as an equal?

I was asked by the teachers at the centre to take some of their classes so they could observe and learn, the students were well-mannered and willing.

Not long after, a headteacher from a local girls secondary school asked if I would provide maternity cover for some English classes.  I taught ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ to classes of 60-65 students aged 15 – 16.

A male teacher tracked me down and asked if I would teach at the local secondary school for boys where he worked.  I was willing, the director at the centre was not.

Soon after, a male teacher at the centre invited me to dinner at his house.  I was the only woman present, as the women generally sit separately.  I hadn’t realised I would be meeting a group of male elders and that they were going to ask me to join their co-operative for local causes and concerns.  I felt honoured just to be asked and to be treated as an equal by some of the most important men in that community.

My journey took an unexpected twist.   I contracted malaria and while my fever was running high and I felt as though I was leaving my body, another great man honoured me with his presence.

A mystic came to me and revealed another side of my life to me, I didn’t have to introduce myself or tell him what I was doing, he knew it all already.

The message he brought to me was ‘trust your heart’, his voice still echoes inside of me particularly when I am in need of help.

What experiences of cross-cultural work have you had?

What were your experiences?

What did you learn?

Would you do it again?

Cross-cultural work

Working with different cultures.

Have you been in a situation completely outside your comfort zone? A different country, continent, culture, tribe, religious group?

I would like to share some of my journeys and stories with you and would be interested to hear your views, comments and experiences.