This week I wrap up my internship. From hopping a plane to South Africa for regional meetings on raising global … Continue reading Bringing the SDGs Home
It isn’t an election year in Zimbabwe, but everyone seems to want to talk politics. Perhaps this is because it is an activity that has been historically dangerous, during colonial times of course, but also as recently as 2008 when the ruling party was intimidating dissidents ahead of national elections. This is the story from the interns at my office over lunch the other day, one of whom says he witnessed the beating of such a dissident firsthand. It amazes me that they speak of these things with such good humor considering that the same people are still in power.
As the 21st century takes shape it is clear that our world is becoming smaller, more interconnected and imbibing us with this new concept of a “global citizen.” The challenges with constructing this global citizen are many, and the concept itself is not entirely unproblematic (though it may be noble in its intent).
A central, and most challenging part, of learning about, and operating in, the local context is navigating work situations. Even office dynamics are filled with cultural idiosyncrasies, which, though not necessarily obvious, can make a huge difference in how your co-workers view you. I was aware of much of this having lived in the region previously, but I was unsure what to expect at a UN office. So, I initially decided to be observant and deferential to help understand my place and how best to establish a role that was valuable to both me and UNESCO. This was particularly challenging because I am the first intern from Penn to work in this office. This meant having to create a good impression, establish a bit of a rapport, while accepting the first assignments offered to me, and, simultaneously trying to demonstrate my value and skill set so that I could take on more serious work.
(What’s Up WhatsApp: The World Comes Home)
Returning to southern Africa after five years away is a chance to see how globalization is rapidly shaping life and to simultaneously see how local culture is persisting in noticeable ways while shaping the meaning of the global mechanisms at work. WhatsApp is a great example–a smart phone app that isn’t widely used in the US, where it was developed, but is more central to local communication than the Zimbabwe telecom company’s own SMS service–so much so that airtime recharge includes a feature specifically for WhatsApp usage.