15 March 2012

A Challenging Boss

I have faced many challenges living and working in diverse groups, in both the United States and abroad.  The greatest challenges I faced were during my three years in Morocco.  One of my hardest days as a volunteer was in April 2008.  It began as usual, with an Arabic lesson from my tutor.  After the lesson, we went into my supervisor’s office to discuss my English classes.  My tutor, trying to improve my language, did not translate.  My supervisor, a grizzled 50-year-old with yellow teeth, blew smoke in my face and acted like he did not understand my Arabic.  Used to his personality, I stayed calm until my tutor’s best friend came into the room.

The three men began to speak in the fastest Moroccan Arabic I had ever heard, and then started asking me, “What good do you really think you can do in our town?”  “Why did Americans vote for Bush twice?”  “Do you all hate Muslims?” and others.  Overwhelmed and surprised, I realized I my language was not yet advanced enough to properly answer their questions.  I decided to leave before I started to yell or cry, which would risk my fragile reputation in the community.  I quietly stood up with dignity, said a polite goodbye and - ignoring my tutor’s surprised look and the growling shouts of my supervisor - walked out of the office.

Fortunately, the next day, I was able to meet with my tutor and explain that I had felt outnumbered and overwhelmed.  He explained that they had simply been excited to ask a “real” American questions, after hearing so much about us in the media.  We went back to my supervisor and, this time through the mediation and translation of my tutor, we succeeded in planning the English language classes for the next month.

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