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Washing Dishes and Cultural Awareness
November 6, 2016 @ 7:07 AM by: Richard Steinecke

It was drummed into my head as a child that you should not leave the water running; our well could go dry. This was reinforced as an adult as being bad for the environment as clean drinking water is a precious commodity. So when I saw some of our volunteers washing the dishes by cleaning it through running tap water pouring down the drain I was concerned. I grabbed the plastic tub and put it under the running water to capture and save it for future dishes. The volunteers did not react and I felt satisfied at being so responsible. Another volunteer, born and raised in Canada, but who had spent most of her adult life in other countries including South America, pulled me aside. She told me that it was a cultural value in South America to clean things in running water and not in still water. I was violating a cultural norm, and in a rather abrupt manner at that. I was thankful for the information and we all had a good conversation afterwards. However, without that gentle intervention I am sure that I would have unknowingly offended volunteers trying to help Oasis. I wonder how often I do this without ever learning?

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