Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Cross-Cultural Journey

Note: The following was submitted to a local contest asking residents of the Naperville area to write their stories of a "journey" related to Thanksgiving. This captured my favorite journey, with our son (above), Macrae.

A Cross-Cultural Journey

He was diagnosed as having brain damage. That explained why he was kept in a separate hospital wing in the Moscow orphanage.

The video taken by own oldest son, however, told a different story. The little 13-month old guy who weighed only 15 pounds—in the early nineties, food and medicine were in short supply in Russia—seemed alert and engaging. He interacted with his caregivers, and he played with the few toys in his area. His movement, his emotion—all appeared to be normal.

And so it was that we made a three-week trip to Moscow and wound our way through the social service system to finalize our adoption of little Pavel, soon to be known as Macrae. It was not only a journey across an ocean, but across cultures. In Moscow, we were the foreigners in a strange land, but we and our hosts were also bound by a common desire: to secure a loving home for that eager boy in the video.

Little did we know that the most meaningful part of the journey would occur during the ride home.

And some ride it was: Thirteen hours with an excited toddler squirming on our laps. After seeing only his hospital unit for his short lifetime, Macrae was far too excited to be in the real world to ever fall asleep.

I held him close, and he looked up at me.

Our eyes met.

He pulled his head back just a bit.

Bump! In a flash, he tapped his forehead against mine.

I was a bit startled, but stroked his head and continued holding him.

Back went his head.

Bump! This time his head hit mine harder. Ouch!

I shifted him back on my lap and the sequence began anew.

Our eyes met.

He pulled his head back.

CLUNK! This time it was a big knock against my head.

What was going on? A dim voice within me entertained an awful thought: Maybe he really *is* brain damaged!

It made for an interesting trip: holding Macrae close, pulling away to avoid getting head-butted, and him starting the action all over again.

When we returned, I called the social worker in Moscow. As casually as I could, I mentioned the head butting. She laughed and explained:

In the orphanage, the care givers played a game with the male children. The game was called “ram”. They would count to three and touch heads, just like rams.

Only I wasn’t playing the game! I wasn’t counting, and I wasn’t touching heads. So, with ever greater insistence, little Macrae tried to get me to play. Quite literally, he was attempting to knock some sense into my head.

It was the greatest journey of all: the journey of understanding. Our new son didn’t have a problem. He was trying to bond with us in the only way he knew. I was the “brain damaged” one, unable to pick up on his communications!

How many other misunderstandings in life—between people and between cultures—could be resolved if we just took that journey to understand what is communicated, not just what is heard?

Happy Thanksgiving to All: Here Are Today's Blog Links and Market Stats


yinTrader said...

Hi Brett

What a cross-cultural journey you had and will have given your inclinations to bond across cultures!

It is a touching story ....

God bless & Happy Thanksgiving

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Yin, one of the joys of writing the blog has been being able to meet traders from around the world--yourself included. I hope that 2007 will bring much more education and training in global markets that will include traders from a variety of regions: Europe, Asia/Pacific, Middle East, the Americas, and elsewhere. If only our governments could cooperate so easily in common cause!


John Wheatcroft said...

Thanks Dr. Brett - A great story for a wonderful day.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks, John; have a great holiday--


Michelle B said...

Thanks for sharing that inspiring story.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Michelle; hope you've had a wonderful holiday--


Anonymous said...

Brett: I enjoyed reading this post; it's a very touching story.

In addition, I just wanted to say that I read your blogs daily and have learned a great amount from your insights on trading. And, I was very excited to see you mention my blog on your other weblog -- how you find the time to manage two blogs, in addition to everything else you have going on, I'll never know! Thanks for all your hard work.

I hope you have an excellent holiday weekend and take care.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks estocastica!

I appreciate your site and your comment on the article. My blogs have been a great way to meet traders from various countries and markets. Do email me when you have posts that you think would be of interest to readers; I'll be happy to link. I am *very* interested in getting more global content on my blog. Thanks--


Krasimir said...

Hi Brett,

Its a very touching story. I admire your openness toward world and its cultures. Must tell that things are much differnt 16 years later in Eastern Europe.

Have a great holiday.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Yes, Krasimir, it is *amazing* how things have changed in Eastern Europe. We are very much looking forward to returning with our son to show him the region in which he was born. Even when economic times were terrible, however, we encountered only hospitality from the people we met in Russia. It was a memorable trip. Thanks for the note--


Anonymous said...

Very touching story. Hope you and your family have a great Holiday Season.


Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Thank you, DT; have a great holiday weekend, and thanks for your excellent Downtown Trader blog.