Becoming Indigenous

I want to be clear that this is Dane, not Brittany, writing this blog entry.  In the future I hope to be allowed to post as an author on this blog but for now it seems to be much more difficult to be allowed to do that than I thought.

The thing that has been on my mind for a little while now is fitting in to the Nepali culture, or to be more exact, to become indigenous in the areas that won’t compromise my convictions.  The thought process came to mind when I was watching the movie Avatar, not to be confused with Nickelodeon’s T.V. series Avatar: The Last Airbender (which I thoroughly enjoy watching to this day), and there was a scene that made me laugh a little.  In the movie, scientists have made these avatar bodies where they can send their consciousness into a bio suit that looks just like the people of a distant planet.  If you haven’t seen the movie the genre is sci-fi if you couldn’t guess.  What caught my eye was a scene towards the end where scientist Norm Spellman (dorky sounding name) was in the middle of all the natives from this planet.  Even though he had the body of a native his entire outfit and make-up said, “I am a foreigner”.  Just to make my point clear here is his action figure:


Norm at his finest

Norm at his finest

Now, he isn’t around the native people but here is a comparison action figure of Jake Sully, the non-scientist who ends up becoming part of the native people’s way of life:

Avatar 2

Jake Sully showing us who is boss, and a little more 😉


Even their action figures exude a sense of what I am trying to say.  How do I become a Jake Sully (hopefully a little more clothed if you get me) in this culture?

This is as far as the Avatar analogy goes and really this is more thinking out loud than coming up with a definite solution.  What I do know is that in any cultural situation it is easier to get to know the culture when they are comfortable with you.  Obviously there will be things we can’t change physically without undergoing major reconstructive surgery.  (ie: being at least a foot taller than everyone around, being 10 shades lighter than most people, etc.)  The question I have been asking myself is, “What can I do to be more approachable, or fit in better, to the culture that surrounds me?”

I don’t want to be the white guy who spends years working with these people and somehow is unaffected by them.  I remember reading a biography on Hudson Taylor.  He was ahead of his time in frontier missions and most people didn’t know how to take him.  What did he do?  He was a white skinned, blonde man working in China that made himself and anyone working with him dye their hair black, cut it like a Chinese person, and put Chinese cloths on.  He took what he did seriously even though in an American context it was rediculous.  Several years down the road his practices were adopted by any mission sending organization who took what they did seriously.  Why?  Because it was effective. Meeting people where they are is effective. What is comfortable for people is effective.

With our time spent in this country I want to be effective.  I want to walk down the street knowing that I am doing things to better my understanding of these people and learning to adopt those principles into my life, even if it doesn’t come naturally to me.  I want my friends back in the US to see a picture of me and think I look rediculous.  I want to be a Jake Sully and a Hudson Taylor to these people.  (Did I really just compare a famous missionary to a sci-fi character?)

I hope at the end of our time here, if it ever ends, I can say that I tried to become indigenous in every real sense of the word.


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