During this adjustment time, I feel as if I’m hosting 3 or 4 separate personalities. There is a clear tension between assimilating into Ugandan culture and keeping “citizenship” with the Western paradigm. At one point I’m reading the latest best practices in psychosocial programming from an academic journal and maintaining professional correspondences, while at another moment I am being swarmed by the neighborhood boys, practicing my Lango, and trying to figure out what I can eat without getting sick. The two worlds seem to collide.
A behaviorist would tell you that personalities are formed by the experiences that one encounters. We learn by accommodating to our environment. We are constantly taking in an infinite amount of intuitive details in which our minds, over time, translate into beliefs or values. As such, we are guided by our circumstance. Our physical environment, socio-economic status, family, friends, culture, biological aptitude—basically everything that influences our being at any given time, builds our values. (Naturally, I’m not a strict behaviorist. I believe in divine intervention and God’s sovereign ability to work in people’s lives regardless of their circumstance).
Every “environment” has its unique set of values. And each of these value sets have core values and periphery values. The more diversity a person experiences, the easier it is to locate those core beliefs and hold onto the periphery values lightly. In coming to Africa I have been faced with an obviously different set of values. I am just beginning to learn how Africa will affect my value system, but I already know that I am grateful to be here and have the opportunity to learn from them.