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Crossing the Street to a New Culture

While taking a nursing course in a Middle Eastern country, U.S nursing students and faculty members lived together in a large walled-in villa. Across the street was a large household with more than 30 extended family members. A number of young Arab women from this family invited students to visit, and students frequently spent evenings sharing stories of families and cultures. Friendships formed, and stereotypes changed. Through journaling, students reflected on their experiences.


One student wrote:


The first time we visited the neighbors was my first time in an Arab home. I knew that several girls our age lived there and the father had four wives who lived on the compound. This was a new idea to me, and I was anxious to see how the dynamics of this situation played out and how the family structure was shaped.


Another student described her initial feelings:


This visit was the first time I returned traditional greetings with the women in the room, and I felt awkward. Only women and children were present. One of the four wives came while we were visiting. Her head remained fully covered. I noticed the desire for the family to "show off" the little children. They showed us videos of the younger boys and girls dancing and seemed proud to have us notice them.


The daily interactions established a relationship between the students and the neighbors. A student journaled:


The girls were sweet and friendly; I was happy to get to know them. The girls showed a home video of them dancing and invited us to dance. [horizontal ellipsis] I noticed the father of some of the children who were at the visit being very loving toward them.


Another student reported:


The girls are outgoing, friendly, and eager for outside interaction. They loved to laugh, and we got along well with them. Facial expressions spoke a thousand words since our language skill was hindered.


In spite of lengthy orientations, the students still had preconceived ideas. One shared as follows.


Prior to the visit, I thought that men viewed women as inferior. This man was incredibly kind to his children. [horizontal ellipsis] He sat next to his wife part of the time, and I sensed his love for her and his daughters. He was kind to us and asked us questions.


Another student recorded her impressions:


I enjoyed seeing the similarities between our cultures. I started to think that perhaps children may be more highly valued in this culture than in ours.


The day the students left to return home, the neighbors stood on their rooftop with tears running down their cheeks waving good-bye. We had crossed the ocean to cross the street.


Internet Health Grows

According to comScore Inc., health Web sites drew about 72 million unique visitors last year, up 14% from a year earlier. Strong growth comes as sites focus on leading health concerns such as prescription drug safety, quality of care, and networking with others facing similar health problems. Users can enter personal information and receive customized alerts and health messages, but they should read privacy policies carefully and opt out of features that share personal information with marketers if they don't want to be contacted. Advertiser-supported sites can be useful but bombard users with ads.


Here are samples of free new or expanded sites to check out:


* information on drug-safety, education


* care at 4,500 hospitals nationwide


* 24 separate health sites


* and creation of free, secure online medical records



The Wall Street Journal: Health. (2009, January 7). What's new (or improved) in health sites. Retreived March 19, 2009 at


Jesus Helps Us Cross Cultures

Jesus was willing to cross the barrier of culture, gender, and religion and reach out to others. John 4:4-9 (NLT) records Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman, a culture shunned by Jews:


He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar. [horizontal ellipsis] Jacob's well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." [horizontal ellipsis] The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?"


Jesus interacted with the woman, offered her living water, and gave her all she needed for eternal life.


Just as Jesus crossed over the barriers into Samaria, he is willing to meet each of us. He is the One who helps us relate to our patients, lose our fears, and offer life and health to them.