Thursday, August 25, 2005


I am now pausing for a moment. Well, actually, probably a week or so. On my way to KS tomorrow and then next week I have the MN Get-Together -- MN State Fair (cheese curds anyone?) and writing on the thesis (see previous blog). I must focus! I also spend too much time on the ol' blogs at work. ick!

You know I love ya, but the time has come to take a pause.

(I know I'm a freak, just didn't want you to wonder 'bout my whereabouts.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The beginning...

"To understand another culture takes hard work, contextual knowledge and practical interaction." Adeney

I'm wasting away (I wish) whilst I finish my thesis. My M.A. is in cross-cultural communication and for the sake of something to post that is definately going to be longer than anything my freak of a sister might come up with (don't make me post it all), here is Ch. 1.

Essentially, I'm writing a book, which is still a work in progress, so for the sake on saying I 'worked' on my thesis this afternoon. The real work happens tonight at the school.

This is also for the few who are asking what the heck I've been doing lately. Here it is...

By the way, it's in Terrabian format (footnotes) and doesn't paste well.


Today the opportunity to travel is abundant. Students have options to study abroad, and business associates spend time traveling, and even living, overseas for their companies. Missionaries are literally in every corner of the world; and due to civil unrest, people are finding themselves without homes, running for their lives to other countries that offer protection. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz,[1] people who are in these unfamiliar settings with “strange-to-them” customs know that things are different. These outsiders observe various differences but do not always know how to be effective communicators within this new cultural context; they just know that they are not at “home” anymore. The clich├ęs fit: they are trodding new grounds; they are stretching their boundaries, and they are indeed outside of any box that they have ever known. Now what? How do people learn about these new surroundings, the people, and the customs? Who can give guidance and direction?
Cultural brokers can offer help in adjustment. Cultural brokers, or intermediaries, are people who know at least two differing cultures and are able to “juggle the ways of different societies with apparent ease.”[2] Throughout history, numerous individuals served as intermediaries without being given the title. As one example, both Native Americans and Euroamericans learned each other’s worlds and served to help interpret, direct, and mediate between the two.[3]
In the last 10-15 years there has been revitalization in the idea of cultural brokers. At the beginning of the 21st century, the immigrant and refugee population is not slowing down. Mary Pipher in her book, The Middle of Everywhere, discusses the need for guidance for these “strangers” entering the United States from places such as Laos, Somalia, and Bosnia.[4] While the 2003 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics shows that even though legal immigration did decrease in the 2003 fiscal year, the number of refugee arrivals rose by five percent.[5] Television and news media offer greater insights into foreign worlds due to political unrest around the globe. People are now aware that Kabul is in Afghanistan, and that Serbia is an individual country. These once unfamiliar places, people, and cultures are not always portrayed in a positive light by the media. A cultural broker can offer greater understanding to people who have a deep enough sense of curiosity to be receptive to a broader spectrum of information.
Not only does the media provide a close-up view of the world, the accessibility to air travel has made the world an increasingly smaller place. While years ago, children spent all summer trying to dig to China in their back yard, now they can actually fly to China in less than a day. Traveling brings a host of cultural issues. While on vacation, a local may be kind enough to help out in instances where there is a culture gap. A hotel concierge can be a good person to whom one could turn for advice and clarification. Vacationers might find themselves under the care of a particularly good tour guide who knows the region and understands the culture of origin for those who are traveling, thus providing cultural advice.
Traveling for business provides different challenges than those that occur during a vacation to another culture. Business oftentimes occurs in a different cultural context than everyday cross-cultural interaction. At this point, the study of both language and culture should come into play. Corporations most likely find benefit to cross-culturally train their employees prior to sending them to foreign cultures.[6]
While there is certainly a fair portion of the world economy spent on business travel and numerous cities around the world are dependent on tourism, a significant number of people choose to travel for a service beyond that of a regular job. Whether that service is in the name of religion, medicine, teaching or building, individuals need more knowledge of host cultures to be able to make a larger impact during the duration of their work. Unfortunately, people sometimes are under-prepared for cultural challenges and find the task at hand pushed aside due to overwhelming cultural difference. These people sadly cut their service time short, returning to their home culture with a sour taste of the culture that they are leaving.[7] People can twist one or two bad experiences into the idea that a whole country or culture is negative, never giving that country or culture a positive glance again.
There can be a lot at stake when interacting cross-culturally. The question is not do cultures act and react differently – they do. The question is how do people best prepare for that cross-cultural interaction?
Cultural brokers work to bridge the gap between cultures. A growing genre of literature is what can be termed “cultural fiction.” These are stories that cross cultural lines in a variety of ways. They most often are specifically about one culture being introduced into another culture. These books also focus on a minority culture in comparison to the culture in which the novel is being marketed. The stories deal with how both cultures react to their coming together. Cultural brokers are not always found in the midst of the struggles that lie within the plot of these stories. Looking at a cultural fiction book, this research examines how cross-cultural situations might be influenced or directed by a cultural broker.
Within the genre of cultural broker texts, Randy Alcorn is one of many authors. The focus of this thesis will be his novel Safely Home, a story of the persecuted church in China, published in 2001[8]. The story centers on two college roommates who have taken different roads in life and how the different lifestyles then converge. This story wraps the worlds of the West Coast and Corporate America with the worlds of the underground Church, China and Corporate China. The battles that ensue involve pride, greed, ignorance and Truth. The narrative utilizes the role of the cultural broker in a variety of positions. This study brings such opportunities to the forefront to offer a look at how a cultural broker is best utilized and show the benefits of such a service. The purpose is to illustrate the types of situations that gain benefit from a cultural broker, not to critique the story.
The context for this study is cross-cultural communication. The frame of reference focuses the study more narrowly on cultural brokers in cultural fiction, showing the benefits of the presence of the cultural broker and the gains and losses of each situation. The idea is that by using the genre of cultural fiction, people are more able to visualize and understand the benefits of cultural brokers and apply those benefits to personal lives.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, states the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world,….” This document also notes, “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group, or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”[9] The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America states clearly “that all men are created equal.”[10] Equality does not mean same. Diversity abounds in this world but due to the equality of all people, there is a need to make a real effort to understand one another. That is the design of a cultural broker.
Before more clearly defining cultural broker, a definition of “culture” should be established. Bock talks of culture as the core that makes people strangers when they are not at home.[11] People learn culture from those around them; however, for people coming into a new culture, away from their homes, they need help adjusting to the status quo for that new culture.[12]
Culture is a broadly defined term with most authors and researchers, such as Bock, aligning with Lingenfelter and Mayers when they define culture as “sum of the distinctive characteristics of a people’s way of life.”[13] While in the purest sense, everyone can have his or her own culture,[14] most often culture is better thought of as a combined group of people with similar beliefs, who, when together, do not have to think about communicating as much as when with those of differing cultures.[15] While Kohls defines culture as the sum of the parts of what makes up all of who an individual is,[16] Steinfatt and Christophel bring culture to a more intimate level: culture is who an individual is deep within the heart of hearts. They also suggest that culture can only be passed along from generation to generation through communication.[17] Gudykunst and Kim go one step further in stating that people learn “individual implicit theories of communication while learning to be members of our cultures,” overlapping the study of communication and culture.[18] Therefore, due to a consensus of culture being a natural part of an individual, encompassing all aspects of life, and that culture is a natural connection to others within a similar society, culture is defined throughout this study as follows: Culture is a natural and all-encompassing communication system through which individuals of similar backgrounds and societies can relate.
Cultural broker, culture broker, and cultural intermediary are used interchangeably to define an individual who understands and is a part of different cultures and helps to bridge the gap between parties on both sides. Cultural brokers, as they will be referred to from this point forward, are foremost, supreme listeners.[19]
These brokers help provide understandable information from one culture to another through a variety of ways, ultimately giving the power of knowledge. A cultural broker works with the thought process of the old proverb: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Brokers do not just do things for a stranger, but cultural brokers prepare starngers to do for themselves by sharing ‘rules’ and reasons behind varying cultures. Brokers help individuals new to a culture by “teach[ing] them to make intentional decisions about what to accept and what to reject” from the host culture.[20] Cultural brokers are similar to all other types of brokers – housing, cattle or stock – in that they provide a commodity. For cultural brokers, that commodity is information. Sukey Waller, a psychologist Anne Fadiman met while researching her book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, suggests that Fadiman get a cultural broker, not just an interpreter. Sukey says, “They teach me. When I don’t know what to do, I ask them.”[21] It is the job of the cultural broker not just to know the cultures he or she is working with but to provide information to those within a cross-cultural context.
While some of the issues facing those traveling across cultural borders are changes in obvious things such as food, language and weather, most of the changes are of a different nature. The subtle nuances of culture are not clearly communicated; information taken for granted and ingrained into individual cultures cause difficulties, and even trauma. Cross-cultural communication is the basis for this study. It is within the boundaries of looking at a communication system through a cultural lens that people can then begin to walk across those cultural boundaries.[22] One of the benefits of cross-cultural communication is that the process encompasses a vast array of communication topics:
Despite the infinite variety of intermediaries, most of their lives have followed certain patterns. They have been interpreters, or linguistic brokers; they have been traders, or economic brokers. Some have been spiritual intermediaries; others, educational intermediaries. Some have brokered between governments; others have brokered through music, the humanities, and the arts; still others have moved between western science and medicine, and native healing and understanding of the land. Finally,…have brokered through humor.[23]

As can be seen, cultural brokers communicate across the boundaries of language, education, business and humor, all deeply rooted within each various culture and including historical and non-verbal references. Helping others to understand these intricacies, brokers provide the knowledge for people to communicate more fully and effectively. Therefore, the obvious benefit for all that have access to and take advantage of cultural brokers, deems it is necessary to give a clear understanding of what a cultural intermediary, or broker, is. This study hopes to illustrate these benefits through the literary realm of cultural fiction.
Through competent communication, a cultural broker provides essential information for the non-tourist in a host culture. A narrative analysis of the cross cultural text, Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn, illustrates the theory behind this thesis.
Cultural brokers help to provide knowledge, understanding and clarity for a stranger. Stranger is defined in greater detail in the next chapter but can be seen as someone new to a culture. The knowledge of cultural hows and whys that a cultural broker shares with a stranger that help that stranger understand and clarify the host culture.
Walter While some key terms have already been defined such as culture and cultural broker, Chapter II will provide further definitions needed to work with the problem statement, including “understanding,” “self-sufficiency” and “non-tourist role.” Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm and the principles of narrative rationality provide the vehicle for the understanding of “competent communication.” The method for this study will be further detailed in Chapter III.
With vast opportunities to travel, oftentimes people find themselves in a position similar to Dorothy Gale, saying, “There is no place like home.”[24] While there is great comfort in home, a cultural broker can provide a sense of comfort for those away from their homes by offering understanding and familiarity with the host culture. The researcher’s ultimate purpose through this analysis is to show the benefits of cultural brokers through means understandable and acceptable to both academia and the general public, encouraging readers to be more likely to serve as, or utilize, a cultural broker in the future. It is a strength of any cultural broker to understand that there is no finite definition of “culture” and that there is benefit in incorporating several of those definitions into an overarching understanding on culture.
[1] Frank Baum. The New Wizard of Oz. Garden City, New York: Junior Deluxe Editions, 1900.
[2] Margaret Connell Szasz, ed, Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994, 3.
[3] Ibid., 18.
[4] Mary Pipher, The Middle of Everywhere, New York, New York: Harcourt Books, 2002.
[5] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2003, Washington, District of Columbia: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004.
[6] Kenneth J. Thompson, interview by author, email exchange, Liberal, Kansas and St. Paul, Minnesota, 14, April 2005.
[7] Robert J, Gregory. “The culture broker role: Ideas from rehabilitation models,” Adult Education and Development 40: 71-75.
[8] Randy Alcorn, Safely Home, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2001.
[9] General Assembly of the United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, resolution 217A (III), December 1948.
[10] Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, June 1776.
[11] Philip K. Bock. Culture Shock: A Reader in Modern Cultural Anthropology. New York, New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1970, ix.
[12] Ormond H, Loomis, ed. Cultural Conservation: The Protection of Cultural Heritage in the United States. Washington, District of Columbia: Library of Congress, 1983, 3.
[13] Sherwood G. Lingenfelter & Marvin K Mayers, Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1997, 17.
[14] Bernard T. Adeney. Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1995, 16.
[15] Bock. Culture Shock, ix.
[16] Robert L. Kohls. Survival Kit for Overseas Living: For Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad, 3rd ed., Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, Inc, 1996, 24.
[17] Thomas Steinfatt and Diane M. Christophel, “Intercultural Communication,” In An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research, ed. Michael B. Salwen and Don W. Stacks, 817-334, Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996, 318.
[18] William Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim, Communicating with Strangers: An Approach to Intercultural Communication, 4th ed. Boston, Massachusetts: McGraw-Hill, 2003, 16.
[19] Gregory, “Broker Role,” 73.
[20] Pipher, Everywhere, 89.
[21] Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, The Noonday Press, 1997, 95.
[22] The phrase, “break through,” was intentionally not used here. To break through something gives the sense of force and domination, where there is a winner and a loser. To walk across alludes to a more peaceful meandering; a journey to see what lies on the other side and take in all that there is to behold. There is no winner or loser in this sense but hopefully a partnership.
[23] Szasz, Indian and White Worlds, 19-20.
[24] Baum, Wizard, 34.


You know, for a woman, one of the only things more important than finding the right man to marry is finding the right person to do your hair. Once you find that person -- HOLD ON! Finding someone new is hard, it pretty much sucks, actually.

I am heading to Sterling KS this weekend and I love my hairdresser there. She's a stich and knows that I am hair challenged and she works with me. I've had at least 3 hair dressers here and the current one is the best, but no one beats Tami. I mean, most anyone who ever had their hairs cut at the ol' Salon Out Back (due to the fact that it's out back of her house, out in the country on your way to Nickerson on the back road) has their hair done when they are back in town. People will drive from an 1 1/2 hours away to have her do their hair! She rocks (and the price is right!)

I miss Tami and my every-5-week haircut. But this weekend will be a moment to cherish. I can hardly wait to pull into the drive. I can already feel my heart begin to palpitate. You see, I haven't been there in 1 1/2 years due to a terrible airline debacle at Christmas that included landing with all the emergency crew to meet us.

Ahhh, there really is nothing like a good haircut from the hands you trust. My head is tingling just thinking about it.

art anyone?

This is what I did last week. My friend Church Marty (as opposed to my friend Fair Marty - because he lives near the State Fair grounds, not that he isn't a church-going, God-fearing man) is an artist and painted this mural on a wall at church. He convinced several of us gals to come and help him paint it in as he taught us. We had a great time! He taught and then would go back and blend in our errors. What a guy! I did the sun and it is perfectly round, I must admit. GORGEOUS!

Monday, August 22, 2005

lunchtime on the interstate

I look out at the intersetion of 2 interstates as I eat lunch. nothing good out there today, but one day, last summer, I looked up to see the joy of my life -- the Hershey's Kiss mobile! Unfreakin' believable! You really have to see this one.

Thinking of driving it around the country someday. So next time you see it, be sure to honk!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Thesis work

I just want it to end. I've spent the last 3 nights at the school, which I thoroughly dislike where the library isn't open, working on my thesis. Tonight, I received the comments back from my advisor and 1st reader. It was the first time the 1st reader had seen it. hmmm. Disappointing, but I know in a few days it will be much better. My ego needs time to heal. This is like my baby, I've put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this and I'm not done yet. ARGH! You can't get blood from a turnip.

Right now I'm listening to the cleaning guys talk about foreign music. Interesting things go on on a college campus. Earlier we overheard one discussion about how this guy proposed with paint all over his hands but that's who he is and she needed to know that.... Anyway, I ramble and just want to go home and take this eye make-up off and get something to eat. Let's see... dry meatloaf or Rocky Road... Your vote? Honestly, won't matter, I'll have eaten (maybe both) before I read what you've posted anyway.

Hasta, friends.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Look where I'm going!

Pike's Peak

Colorful Colorado

I'm headed for the mountains again! My cuz is finally (heeheehee) getting married and I hope to be there. A mini-family reunion, if you will. More time with friends and maybe even slip in a job interview or two. Yippee! Wonder if any of my friends from other places, like Alaska, will be there this time. I need more than just a few hours of airport time though. Random thoughts...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Latecomers to the Blog Craze

Really, now this is silly. I only created a blog so that I could comment on my friend, Clint's blog. Now my sista has one -- listed under links as Sarah-Ruby and now her friends, mine by proxy, are starting them. It took us a little longer than normal, but here we are! Wonder if we can get the little sis in TX to start one now, too? That is after the tonsilectomy heals. OUCH! Sounds like things are fine though, going to try and sneak off and call her now.

OH! My friend, Texas Laura, was on a mission trip to Kenya, Africa and has returned with all of her fingers and toes. You just never know with Laura. She did fall down half-a-dozen times, so ya just don't know. Anyway, her weeney blog can be found somewhere (don't have it here will have to add later. Don't know that she's updated it yet, but praise God she's back (even if she is still far, far away from here).

Friday, August 12, 2005

My sibs

Once again, I have no idea what I'm doing and if anyone else can see a picture here. This is from ST4 -- the Graduation Tour. We try and take a trip with just the sisters each year. The first one was Dallas in Oct. '01, then WIchita, KS; southern CO to the family cabin minus one sister add one cousin; then I think we missed a year until this past May when I graduated from grad school. Here we are cheesin' it up with Snoop at Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America. We really did have a great time! Happy Birthday to Sarah-Ruby today, by the way.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I'm bored at work, boss is gone (praise the Lord) so here I sit. I've spent the last week or two applying for jobs all over the country and now I wait. I've decided to quit applying for now and focus on finishing my thesis (which scares me to death) and then start again.

I have an awesome trip to CO last month filled with visits with numerous friends and family, some of whom I hadn't seen in 8 or more years -- that's you, Clint-baby! It was such a blessing to see everyone. I hope to head out again in Oct for a wedding and we shall try to gather together again.

What's next, God? I just don't know. I sit and wait and try to discern His voice over mine. Boy am I loud.

Off to clean the place tonight, company tomorrow. I love being the hostess. LOVE IT! Just munchies and fun and games. Not to mention "The Bar." You have no idea how amazingly fantasic and stupendously dreamy these dang things are, really.

Off to get more caffeine. Hung out with a Sterling friend who now lives in TX (Tricia C) last night and didn't leave Minneapolis until almost 1am, I think.

We ran into a guy with a story to whom we gave cash. I never know, but felt good and led to do so. The longer time elapses, the more I think it was a scam, but perhaps not and God will use it to bless him. I feel good about giving the money to him.

I also am becoming ever more aware of how much I hesitate to offer my witness in normal conversations with those in the secular world. Tricia and I prayed for "Mark" after he left, but why didn't we then? Why do I hesitate during conversations at work? How do I share God when I gloss over His impact in my life? hmmm

Too tired to go on, and I still have 2 hours to go and work and several hours of laundry and cleaning (I hate doing the dishes). Hooray for me.

Godspeed all of you, my friends and neighbors.