Tea Time with Sako


I bow back to a friend of mine, Sako, a Japanese contemporary dancer. Bowing is still a common expression of greeting, gratitude, or apology in Japan. Sako comes over and warmly welcomes me. We haven’t seen each other for a long time. We meet up that afternoon in an art house Tukad Abu, chatting and having a cup of hot tea, a typical drink in Solo, my hometown. Our jasmine tea with sugar sweetens up the afternoon. Sako laughs, pats my shoulder, and says, “We don’t have Japanese green tea today, do we? But I like this Solo tea with jasmine aroma, it’s sweet.”

The sun is peeking through the trees in that warm, sweet afternoon. Sako and I are chilling out in a bamboo house, sipping the warmth of our tea, having our good conversation. I first knew Sako when I was involved in an art performance project Human is Alien. We talk in English, and some Indonesian. Sako speaks a little Indonesian even with her limited vocabulary; she is enthusiastic in learning more. She jokingly tells me, “At times, when I happen to suddenly fail to recall my memory of words, my body speaks a lot. I will pat my friends’ shoulder, cheer them up, and shake my head showing I don’t understand some particular occurrences. I love to comprehend the moves of human body, which is why I decided to dance.”

sako 2

All types of communications are generally significant, be it verbal or non verbal communication. However, most people find it quite difficult to understand the message conveyed by the sender of non verbal communication. For instance, dance. When we dance, we are communicating messages in every move, which is not easily understandable by everyone. That is to say, dance is one of the mass communications, as the dancer directly communicates the messages of their dance to the public mass.

Between her sips of tea, Sako explains how dance possesses compelling body language. We let our body move to what we want to express; we don’t have to speak in words. Dance has emotions, in which the message communicated through the dancers’ moves can reach and touch the audience. It is as if we communicate with somebody from different cultural background: even though we have language barrier, we understand their body language. Verbal communication (showing politeness/impoliteness, intellectuality level, ability to speak foreign language, et cetera) is not the only aspect to perceive human; non verbal communication is essential as well. The importance of non verbal communication can be illustrated in this phrase, “it is not what he says that matters; it is how he says it”. We can recognize somebody’s emotions of happiness, confusion, or sadness through their non verbal communication.


Simply put, non verbal communication is all signs other than words, intentional or unintentional behaviors, as a part of the whole communication process. We send out many non verbal cues every day, without our noticing that the receiver may find them meaningful. These nonverbal behaviors include various activities, but touching is usual in relation to cross-cultural communication. Touching as the form of communication gives an idea of nonverbal communication as a cultural product. Sako explains, one of the nonverbal communications is eye contact. In United States, eye contact in communicating is highly considerable, while in Japan, it is often neglected. Nonverbal expression as a cultural component has numerous similarities to language. Both are code systems, studied and passed along to other generation as a cultural experience. Every symbol has its own meaning for each individual, due to their different, personal experience on that symbol.

When she is dancing, Sako believes that dance, a universal communicative medium, positions itself to the point where anyone from any culture can enjoy it anytime. Dance plays central role in human life. The society needs it not only in its function as aesthetic satisfaction, but also as traditional/customary necessity and communication medium.

I smile. Two tea cups with peonies pattern staying still on a wood table witness our warm conversation. It is getting dark. I bid farewell to her, we hug each other and will soon keep each other updated.

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Conflict management and facilitation

Hi all! I would like to reflect about my conflict management and facilitation experience that happened during a work shop which I organized. The work shop was devoted for youngsters from Kyrgyzstan to learn about using new media tools in civic engagement processes. The most of the participants were youngsters from different background like ethnicity, region, and gender.
During the workshop I was witness of the behavior some of the participants who were not easily come along with each other. The participants were divided into groups like rural and city. At this point I decided to use    some knowledge and tools from trainings that I obtained during the project “Does Culture matter” in Romania.


Participants during team-building game.

I used the same approach in facilitation of the group in order to get participants find not divisions but common grounds between each other. I used different interactive exercises and games to let the participants feel free and get to know each other and understand each other are prospective. I had noticed that on the third day of the workshop participants became closer to each other and started acting as a one group. The youngsters from rural and city areas found that they had many similarities. With a group we had found that the idea of aiding to our country Kyrgyzstan was uniting them. I was trying to use that idea as a main common ground idea of uniting youngsters. The workshop ended very productively. And this was my experience of preventing conflict.


Participants of media-camp in Osh.

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On the Emotions in Conflict Management

There is a reason why we talk about ’conflict management’, rather that ’preventing conflict’ or ’solving conflict’. Conflicts are an inevitable and natural part of life, and depending on your definition of the concept, it could encompass anything from a difference of opinion to a nuclear apocalypse end of the World showdown. Obviously, the apocalypse style of conflict is one that we should avoid at all cost, but we definitely should not avoid having different opinions or sharing those different opinions with each other, even if it means some discomfort. The world would not evolve anything at all if we all just agreed about everything in order to get along smoothly. Science would be an impossible endeavour, for instance, as it in its very core relies on challenging prevailing ideas and opinions.

At the same time, conflict can really make people feel bad. There might be some people who really thrive on it – I seem to have had some bosses in that category – but for most of us, conflict is something that can make you feel hurt, worried or shameful. I get into a lot of intellectual/academic conflicts, both as part om my job, but also as part of my private life, because I think it is very important to discuss politics and social policy. And people will disagree. I have spent many sleepless nights and uncomfortable days feeling bad that I might have hurt someone, or someone disrespected me, etc. This is one part of conflict management that is often left out of conflict management training.

Training and theory about conflict management tends to deal with strategies for resolving conflict, for getting to the best, or at least an acceptable, outcome in terms of a decision or solution. But it rarely deals with our emotions about these conflicts, how we as people should handle how we feel about it. I think that this is one area where a lot of work and thinking still needs to be done.

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3 ideas to be more efficient at work

As a PR freelancer, I am working with some trainers that are very preoccupied about time efficiency and productivity. Thanks to being close to them, I found about some very good techiques to gain time. Today, I want to share with you 3 ideas that can help you in your daily work, in order to be less stressed and get things done:
1. group similar tasks: if you have to make phone calles and write emails, firstly make all the phone calles and then, write all the emails. This way, you won’t waste time by passing from one to the other and getting in the mood again and again
2. Start with the most difficult tasks. Recently I read a study that was saying the we are more productive in the morning, before 12-1 pm.
3. Establish 3 main tasks for the day. The Pareto principle works also in this case: 80% of results are brought by 20% of the tasks done. So, prioritize: take 10 minutes in the morning to be clear what are the 3 main tasks for the day.

Don’t forget about the “Not to Do List” and the “1993 rule” discussed in the other post I’ve written 🙂

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Greatest conflict in my life.



Thats not just picture. That is my reality and I am suffering from it. My idea about teaching, about University, about students and their values. I will explain. My teaching methoda really differs from University plan, I mean I give all necessary things but in different way. I want to change their lives, with tha help of my own expirience. But my boss and Department cant understand that.

So, I leaved my job last week. I had very different politics in my Depatment. My students were like my University friends. I teach them not just how to be competent in IC sphere or in theory of translation, I teach them how to be good and tolerant persons, how to deal with different stuffs in life. Am I not right? SO, maybe.

But now, I am sorry about it, just because I have to leave my students, they call me every day and say a lot of different as to say “warm words”.  I am happy that I could change their lives however in these three month, change their opinions in different spheres. Especially the great work I did with understanding their values. 20151030_101126[1]



To be teacher in my University – that means NO self – development. Last words before Bali was – Leave your place, then go to any trainings you want. I really just wanted to cry and shout! I try to do all this things for them! For their Department! Innovation is not for them…new skills and methods of ICC competence teaching not for them. No self – development, no innovation, no trainings and be a “bitch” – sorry for this word, but thats true. If your students hates you…yes! Cool! You are perfect teacher…

I love them, I am sorry just for my guys. But I will contnue working with this theme. Nothing will stop me.



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Kalpak as a mediator

Intercultural communication plays great role in multi-ethnical communities where I work, especially if the beneficiaries are special categories of hyper-active women, we call them OBON-women (difficult type of women who participate in different rallies and political provocations). And we always are very careful in working with them under this component.
Target community in Uzgen town is very populous and ancient. And month before the election to Parliament we decided to meet with local women and organized meeting against their political involvement during the elections.
We were happy to have sunny day that day in old city; our trip went on along the markets in noisy streets and vendors offering their goods. When our car stopped at a traffic light, unwittingly I took look into a number of shops where were laid out nice Kyrgyz national traditional things, especially Kalpak (traditional Kyrgyz headwear). They were really beautiful! But soon we continued our way and in few minutes arrived at the venue. Lot of women were expected us, the women with unpredictable behavior and actions. That would be not easy auditory for meeting.
Since women invited from different regions, I suggested them to get acquainted and learn more about each other. I started from myself and used that exercise from our training in Romania that really helped to defuse the situation. From this minute participants smiled and I suggested them to choose the working language for the communication. When they proposed at least 5 local languages that can be used, I really felt that I am in big intercultural environment. In order to feel in comfort, I decided to look at these women as not aggressive and bad, but look at them as good and usual women who have families, children and good values. So, they will feel not fear but positive reflection from my side.

During the meeting I provided them with project materials and we talked a lot about the things that can bring positive changes in their lives and development. When we discussed on serious topics, many of them vehemently advocated and tried to protect their rights. In cases when they share about their opinions on different cases – female voices had the opportunities to be heard by other participants and analyze their actions. Sometimes they had ridiculous stories with desperate situations to share – and women laughed because it seemed funny for them but then became serious and started to analyze on that. In these cases they seemed for me young and beautiful even if they were dirty with untidy and old clothes, some of them did not have teeth but some of them had gold teeth and they often tried to show them. Different women.

At some point we all felt happy and pleasure to be in this meeting. During the sessions I used some interesting techniques for efficient planning of their time, showed the mechanisms of how to positively interact with local government bodies and law enforcement agencies with a better outcome for themselves and participate in the various spheres of social life. And how to direct their strength and skills in a positive manner and participate in decision-making processes. I also showed the video of other OBON-women who were unceremoniously at rallies and pickets against the government and the opposition and see the reaction of our females. Some women left the hall, many of them said that the women were funny and made them shy. I did not ask to express their opinion in this case but everyone has made conclusions for themselves.

At the end of the meeting we exchanged contacts and decided to continue the meeting but in the form of trainings or workshops. They originated good ideas that could serve as a good example for them. At the end of all we compared the expectations which were described in the beginning of the meeting. This exercise was also a pleasant surprise for all. Many said that they feel relaxed after the meeting and forgot about their negative thoughts.

When the participants were about to leave, there was some unexpected dispute happened between two men outside of meeting building. Participants were going out the building and met those men. No one understood the reason of the dispute but I felt that this could affect the general mood of the women and can escalate the conflict by involving them. The men were from other ethnic groups, and loudly said something in their own language. Several women tried to separate them and calm down; some of them decided to leave the place and rushed somewhere. Later, they were separated and the conflict was stopped. I tried to understand the reason but seemed it was not important for the women. After some time those woman who were rushed somewhere returned to us holding 2 Kalpaks. One of them came up and put on their head and asked to forget old conflict and live peacefully. Everything happened so fast and only now I understand that thanks to this conflict situation women checked their reaction, and it was first step of not being OBON and kalpak became itself a mediator. That was immediate impact of something good, probably of the meeting. Women stopped the conflict.

Everybody was happy and went home. I said good bye to everyone but stared at kalpak and could not remember where I saw them. Actually they were among those beautiful things lying on the shelves of shops in the street we stopped before. This case became lessons learnt for me – and Kalpak was good sign from the very beginning.

Later in October we had peaceful and democratic elections in entire country without conflicts from OBON women, especially in Uzgen.

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Unexpected solution

I am coordinating peacebuilding projects in the Southern provinces in our Kyrgyzstan. And most of them are directed to help local self-governance to prevent potential conflicts. Our target beneficiaries are marginal people, women and youth at risk, radical religious people in multi-ethnical communities. To work in the field is not easy but interesting as every day I face with different situations and have to facilitate, catalyze and try to bring positive changes into people’s life. This is really practical experience where I have opportunity to use the knowledge and skills I’ve received from the training in Romania.

One of these experiences happened in multi-ethnical village where we supported construction of sport playground initiated by young people in order to get their attention from negative to the positive. The project was stopped due to force-major reasons and I decided to meet with local partners and construction company who were involved in this work.

The project site was located in the territory of secondary school where there were school principal and 5 men waiting for me. Also I noticed about 15 children who were standing outside of sport playground. We started our discussion on the issue and the construction company tried to explain what the problem was. I can’t say that it was peaceful. From the beginning everybody wanted to know how we can manage allocated funds to finish the field work and everybody wanted to be heard and defend own resources. The voices were too loud and the children could see us and hear clearly even from the distance. Meanwhile, we decided to go into the playground and continue the meeting there. 30 minutes were left for discussion of nothing and we still could not find a way to solve it. I asked few papers from the school principal and started to draw table for making SWOT analyze of the situation. In order to have clear picture, we should know our internal and external strengths, weaknesses and threats for solving the problem. Meeting’s participants stopped discussion and looked at the papers to know what I was drawing. I asked everybody’s opinion about their possibilities to make additional contribution to this project and write down the paper. Also the opportunity of local people for mobilization was included as well as through brainstorming we discussed about possible future risks. At the end everybody had clear picture of the situation and with this plan the playground can be constructed. But nobody agreed yet.

We were looking at the SWOT-analyze and at the same time felt the tension in this long silence. Nobody still said “yes” or “no”. With limited resources of our project we couldn’t finish the work and I was standing and thinking about other projects and ways for possible synergy. Without current partners everything could be crashed.

Suddenly we heard a voice and turned to him. It was the voice of a disabled boy from Uzbek ethnic group and behind him there were other children. Seemed during stressful discussion we did not notice those children who could not wait anymore and decided follow us into playground. He suddenly threw the ball in the direction of one of the partners and when he caught it, he suggested him: “Let’s play!?” Everyone froze in anticipation of his reaction. It was totally unexpected situation for him and others. The man could not refuse children and involved others to play the football. I went out playground together with the school principal and instead of criticism we were witnesses of football game. I would call it – the game of life. These grown men apparently have not played sports and looked funny with big bellies. They tried to encourage the children and run around then jump. When finally they scored in a goal together with children, one of partners looked at my side and said that we will finish the construction works in couple weeks without any discussion. That was positive answer to the SWOT-analyze work.

I gave the papers to local teachers who asked me them for their work in the future. And was thinking that sometimes we complicate our lives with small things but we need to be heard as a good mediation element for further facilitation of positive processes.

Later sport playground was constructed and everything went well.

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Digging Deeper on the Values of Performance Art – Human is Alien

hia 1

During the ancient time of our Earth, when it was only animals, plants, and other universe beings roamed this planet, the aliens were watching over them from their distant, mysterious galaxy. The galaxy was accidentally sucked into the black hole which transported them to a new land, later known as “Earth”. Lush trees, a house, parasites, bamboos, and rivers containing garbage are transformed into an exotic multimedia art performance. Electric music is on the air, enveloping the dimly lit space of Tukad Abu (Abu River). Colorful lights unleashing souls are projected onto a tree reconstructed in dozens of bamboo sticks and wild vines on the twigs. Aliens feel strange upon seeing the creatures they have never seen before. Moreover, it is not always a tranquil season, and some of the plants are poisonous. The strange things don’t stop them from exploring the Earth, even though other living creatures on Earth, humans, dislike their presence. In the end, time shows the damages as the result of human behavior. Human “alienate” themselves as they never really “made an acquaintance” with other living organisms and the universe. They begin over-consuming technology and repeating the same mistakes. (more…)

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On Categorizing Cultures and Losing Ones Soul

I teach courses in cognitive anthropology, evolutionary psychology and social cognition, all of which mean that I must keep at least a watchful eye on what is going on within the more general area of anthropology. What this amounts to, in my case, is a fairly good idea about the diversity of cultural practices around the world, and of even more interest to me personally and professionally, an even better idea about what could be thought of as universal human characteristics. While “human nature” is something that I really believe should be at the core of any psychology or cognitive science, such knowledge is not all that useful in dealing with humans from over the globe. While all humans and all human cultures have more in common with each other than with any other known phenomena in the universe, the practical issues of the differences for interaction between the cultures is not to be underestimated. (more…)

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How Can We Utilize Different Learning Styles?

I am giving lectures, seminars and exercises on group dynamics, leadership and conflict management to engineer students volunteering to help high school students with learning math. As these are students who will deal with younger students, some of which have a hard time with learning, I thought that it could be an interesting idea to utilize the Honey & Mumford learning styles questionnaire as a starting point. While I am always a bit apprehensive about these kinds of somewhat crude classifications, they can provide a preliminary model for developing a better understanding of the differences between yourself and those who are not at all like you. (more…)

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