Culture Clash


This story is part of a longer piece about the misunderstandings when people or beings of different cultures and abilities must work together.



Miss. Elizabeth – the president’s daughter who is working on her doctorate promoting education in primitive rural areas.

Miss Emily – one of the younger students recently moved to the mountains.

T’VN – a local youth from the mountains. He is illiterate and has little experience with outsiders.

Ophelia and Lizzy – sisters born to a white standard poodle and a Samoyed dog. Ophelia is Miss. Elizabeth’s companion. Lizzy is now living in the mountains with Emily.


Culture Clash

Miss Elizabeth stayed three days in the mountains. Emily tagged after her whenever she could. Miss Elizabeth even allowed the child to ride in the van to visit two other settlements that did not have schools. While Miss Elizabeth felt happy to have Emily with her, she did not appreciate the adolescent T’VN tagging along. His father had puffed himself up and insisted that as the most prominent family in the region, his son should represent them so the villagers would know the family consented to Elizabeth’s plan. To Elizabeth who had grown up witnessing the conflict between her father and the oligarchs who thought they should control the country, this decision irritated her. She understood that taking a local person with her would be a good idea and had planned to take Hannah or N’RA. She sighed, “Perhaps the arrogant lad would learn something.”

After making arrangements for the van to pick up students in each village twice a week for lessons, Elizabeth’s party drove toward home. Elizabeth put her arm around Emily.   “Sweetheart, I’m so glad you came today. You did a great job reading your story to the other children. I think you helped the parents see the advantage of educating girls and showed that our school staff takes good care of our children.”

Emily melted with happiness. The praise gave her the courage to voice something that troubled her. “I don’t like T’VN. Martha says he only flirted with her because he loves our truck.   Now he is flirting with you when Mr. Thomas is your husband.”

Miss Elizabeth laughed and whispered back, “Don’t worry about him. I don’t think he will try to touch me. If he does, I will teach him his mistake, if Ophelia,” she smiled at her large dog, “doesn’t get to him first.” The woman and child shared a giggle before Elizabeth added, “I think you need a room for a gym in your house so you can all practice your moves.” They giggled again.

As the situation played out, it proved that Emily had some wisdom for her age. Elizabeth took only one bodyguard, Lt. Chun, when she visited High Valley that evening to talk about the students needing someplace to study and read. She finally concluded, “Just a battery light by their bed will help. I will add providing one battery powered light per household to my list of things rural children need in order to keep up in school. Perhaps the Ministry of Education can provide that.”

Elizabeth needed to walk from the meeting place at the spring back to the truck waiting on the other side of the pass. She had Ophelia with her. Lizzy joined them just as Elizabeth stood to leave and the two dogs greeted each other joyfully. Delighted with a chance to play together, the dogs danced twenty feet in front of Elizabeth. One of the village elders trailed after her asking Lt. Chun questions about the army. Thus, Lt. Chun dropped behind Elizabeth for a few seconds at the top of the pass.

Things could not have worked out better for T’VN, or so he thought. He had convinced himself that Miss Elizabeth loved him.   Never in his life had a woman treated him so sweetly. Visions of her wealth and beauty danced in his head. He knew that the minute he kissed her she would fall into his arms and pledge her undying love. He’d imagined this so many times that he came to believe that every time she smiled at a child, or her dog, or one of her friends, she was secretly smiling at him, encouraging him.

He lurked in the dark by the trunk of a Scrubnut bush. He’d prepared a bed of ferns under the bush where they would consummate their love. Under his starry eyed fantasies, he nurtured a firm resolve to make this woman his, now.

Elizabeth reached the top of the pass and turned to say something to LT. Chun. T’VN saw Elizabeth pause to look behind her.   He knew she waited for him.   He stepped forward to wrap his arms around her. “My love.”

Elizabeth chose a move that involved elbows, feet and knees. Her master called it Dancing Goat.

All hell broke loose, or so T’VN thought. Something whirled into his chest at the same moment his leg flew up from under him. While he was off balance white demons attacked, throwing him into the Scrubnut. He woke up an hour or so later in the bed he’d made to share with his love. His nose bled, and he hurt in places no man should hurt. His clothes felt damp and smelled of pee.

Poor T’VN couldn’t imagine what had gone wrong. The idea that a girl had beat him up could never gain entrance into his head.   He thought about the problem for three days before confiding to his papa and grandpapa. “I have thought and thought about the attack on me. I think we have evil spirits at the top of the pass.   Perhaps they came for the president’s daughter, and I got in their way. Should we talk with the priest?”

As the next full moon started its descent from the sky, the shaman and High Valley elders crept silently to the top of the pass. Each man carried a smoking sheaf of grain for protection. The shaman had a small bell and each elder carried an instrument made of two pieces of wood that clacked when shook. At the top of the pass, T’VN pointed out the place of the attack. Searching the area by moonlight, one elder found the demon’s nest of ferns under the Scrubnut. The Shaman sniffed the air in every direction and affirmed that the demons lurked in this place and indeed evil spirits surrounded them.

With faces set in concentrated scowls the men began their ceremony. They walked slowly in a circle clockwise blowing on their smoking grain to spread the smoke. At the end of the first circuit, the shaman rang his bell, and the elders clacked their sticks three times. Next, the elders walked their circle counterclockwise while the shaman chanted. At the end of the circle, the Shaman rang his bell and the elders clacked their sticks three times.   After seven circles clockwise and seven counter clockwise had been completed the Shaman stood in the middle of the circle sniffed toward the four points of the compass and pronounced the evil demons gone. The men continued to chant quietly while they marched back to their homes.


Bio:  Delinda McCann is a social scientist with a background in working with at-risk youth. She has published 6 novels that focus on the foibles of the human race and their furry friends.

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12 thoughts on “Culture Clash

  1. Bryan Murphy

    The great psychologist Leon Festinger would have loved this story showing how people react to “cognitive dissonance” – denying reality rather than changing their beliefs when that reality hits them in the … face. In these days, the newspapers are full of it.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      Large portions of our population are living under the influence of cognitive dissonance unable to accept the world outside their own narrow perceptions. When this happens people everywhere resort to their favorite rituals to bring them comfort whether those rituals are religious, or athletic or dietary.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      Micki, In the larger story we have a group of youth and young adults moving from the city to the remote back country. While they face challenges relating to the neighbors, T’VN has had the most trouble adapting. The young women in his village are happy to meet other young women. If they notice the young men, they’ve been very appropriate. Poor T’VN suffers not only from culture clash but has testosterone poisoning as well. I hope he can get his life together.

  2. Kenneth Weene

    Love can be a many-delusioned thing. Sadly, while this sequence of events ends well enough, except perhaps for T’VN; it is unlikely that his stalking will cease. Therein lies an issue in many cultures around the world, a willingness of men to believe that their lust gives them a right to the woman’s response.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      Alas, T’VN has some problems. We can only hope that an acquaintance with the larger world will give him a better understanding of his place in the larger society. I with the help of my characters shipped him off to the army. Mr. Corbain who is well respected in the country whispered a few words about T’VN’s eye for the women in the commanding general’s ear. We can only hope for the best in a country where women are often disrespected.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      I love including animals in all of my stories. Of course, I’ve lived more with animals than humans in the past few years. These dogs appear in earlier works in this series. I love them as much as I have the ones who inspired their fictional counterparts.

  3. James L. Secor

    And then there are the more appropriate signals that are different. While in China, I missed a wanted opportunity for an affair because I did not understand the signals or the manner of, shall we say, approach. This began with a visit from the woman with friend, a second meeting also with a friend and then a subtle innuendo I had no idea had taken place. Only when the snubbing and the e-mail black out occurred did I understand. On top of that, a student filled me in, with a giggle. The opposite occurred as well: a woman gave signs that a Western man would understand as showing interest; when I responded I was slashed with pretty virulent language, in both tongues. Alas and alack, I remained “shy” for most of my time there. Although intercultural relationships are probably the most touchy, there are many other sensitive errors, mostly made via language. Indeed, in reading this, I was waiting for something really subtle, small, in language.
    I often wondered, as a youngster, how all of the canned good for underdeveloped peoples in Africa would amount to anything without can openers. No charity ever asked for can openers. Such assumptions we make!
    And here, in the US, our use of “sex” when we mean “gender.”
    I, too, want to read the “longer” piece. T’VN in the military must be a hoot!


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