The food we eat

All the parts of the chicken that we in the US discard were on the menu of tonight’s dinner, presented on tiny bamboo skewers: piece of cartilage from the chicken’s back; slices of fatty chicken skin; pieces of its liver, and the gizzards. Each skewer received some special spices before being put on the braziers that lined the tiny cooking space around which we were all seated. And then there was the chicken breast sashimi (yes, raw), grated daikon with a raw quail egg, tiny green peppers. And we loved it all. It was yet another culinary adventure.

In the morning I conducted a session about organizational behavior with nine junior but fairly experienced international development professionals in the room and one on Skype from Washington. The latter was a last minute surprise. I took it, optimistically, as an experiment but I think it failed. Experiential exercises and small group work with all but one of the students in the room and the other 14 time zones away, plus a connection that dropped every 5 minutes was not a formula for success.

For lunch my Japanese colleagues proposed Italian. I politely declined and proposed Japanese as there are still many discoveries to be made. Lunch consisted of a raw egg broken over grated taro root and rice with soy sauce, thin strips of fatty pork dipped in a fish sauce, miso and pickles.

After lunch we went over the program for tomorrow’s workshop which is about leadership, basically a repeat of the one we did in November. The difference is that this group’s English is very poor, at least according to test scores. This means I will speak less and T will speak more.

We racked our brains, once again, to come up with a scenario that would allow small teams to experience the role of ‘opposer’ in a group task. Finding a task where anyone would oppose the leader is nearly impossible in this culture. Nowhere else have I had such difficulty finding the right topic.

We also re-wrote the tasks that the students have to tackle in a simulated work environment. In November the task was the writing of slogans to educate the Japanese public about emergency preparedness. This time we are using a more traditional Japanese pastime, paper folding, as the main task. I was assured that everyone here masters this skill.

In the meantime Axel is exploring the art scene and collecting more brochures than you can shake a stick at.

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January 2012
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