‘Where are you from?’

Who would have thought that question would be such a difficult one to answer.

But for me, it is.

I was born in South Africa. Grew up in Canada. Have British / South African parents, and TIE and a huge part of my soul is based in the UK.

I now live in Brazil with my little family. We have two little girls who were born here, who understand English perfectly, but only ever respond to me in Portuguese.

Although I have been based in Brazil for over 10 years now, I still find myself seeing things in a new way.

Recently I was one of the lucky ones to get the mosquito borne virus Chikungunha.

It’s as tropical as it sounds.

I read something somewhere that said it’s worse than getting malaria. I have never had malaria, but I can personally attest to the fact that this has not been much fun.

But this crazy virus has managed to shed a fascinating light on a part of the Brazilian culture I never knew about before. And I’ve learned some pretty amazing natural ways to feel better and improve my immune system.

There are few things as powerful as stepping out of the world of where ‘you’re from’, and stepping into a whole other dimension.

Living, breathing and getting under the skin of another culture is such a wonderful opportunity. Not only do you start to really appreciate the idiosyncrasies of that place, but also you start to see other ways of doing things.

The first quarter of this year saw the completion of five fascinating placements with our brilliant TIE Alumni situated around the world – this time Uganda, India, Ghana, Brazil and Malawi.

And with them, we got another window into the lives, cultures, and trends in those places.

So keep reading to see what is going on around the world in Andy, Tom, Scott, Kelly and Kate’s own words.

Andrew Connolly, BBH, The Kasiisi Project, Uganda.

“I’ve seen a quantum leap in development in this part of Africa, caused by technology. People may still live in mud huts, but they now have mobile phones. I think this challenges the “assumed trajectory of development”. People aren’t following the steps in an A, B, C order, rather jumping from A straight to Z. On the one hand this could be a good thing. Cheap technology has made people’s lives easier. On the other hand, it could create new problems, through a mixture of “Western technology” with traditional attitudes and beliefs. We shouldn’t assume that just because someone in this part of Africa has a phone that they hold the same beliefs as us and they seek the same Western standard of life. I’ve seen children here who are living in poverty, but don’t appear to be despairing about it. On the contrary, they seem quite happy and content. I don’t think we should mistake superficial change with underlying, fundamental shifts.”

For more insights, visit Andy’s blog at andybacktoschoolblog.wordpress.com

Tom Reas, Grey London, SMV Wheels, India.

“It feels as if India’s attitude towards women is changing. It’s still very much a patriarchy, but it feels as if awareness, and self judgement of this is growing. It’s hard to say from the perspective of only a month, but there is an energy around the youth of India which feels powerful.”

For more insights, visit Tom’s blog at tietomblog.wordpress.com

Kelly Satchell, Wieden+Kennedy London, Mulheres do Cabo, Brazil.

“Others countries have such a rich culture that shouldn’t be undermined.
We should cultivate these. Western progression should complement existing cultures, and their approaches for development need to be sensitive to the local dynamics.
Information is well and truly powerful. It’s noticeable how valuable freedom of information is when you witness countries that are less developed than the West. This experience has reaffirmed my opinions of the importance of education and access to information. The internet is an incredible thing!”

For more insights, visit Kelly’s blog at kellyincabo.tumblr.com

Scott Brenman, WPP, Golden Baobab, Ghana.

“As far as I’ve seen, Ghana is not short of entrepreneurs and ideas. What it is short on is
distribution and infrastructure. It feels like there’s a massive opportunity for brands and
companies that have an established market presence to bring people’s ideas and opportunities to
market. The Golden Baobab and the ABS is a great example of that.”

For more insights, visit Scott’s blog at scottsbaoblog.tumblr.com

Kate Nicoli, Leo Burnett, Chance 4 Change, Malawi.

“In the second induction exercise, we were each asked to name one thing that we like and one thing that we hate. I was just second to go, so opted for ‘Avocados’ (I like them) and ‘Baths’ (I strongly dislike them). I hoped as I said it that the group realized I didn’t mean washing in general … but who knows. As the questions proceeded around the circle I started to feel that the things I’d chosen were a bit more trivial than was expected. Others answered things like, “I like reggae music, I hate my baby crying when I’m tired”. In fact the list of things that was liked and hated said a lot about Malawi as a whole. Liked: going out, dancing, music, acting, football, reggae, games and having fun. Hated: people who follow the crowd, winter, being interviewed, injustice, pretenders, corruption, two faced people, being shouted at and people talking about me behind my back. I think it’s a pretty strong and comprehensive list on both sides. Not a single brand, product, TV show or celebrity. Nothing you can buy (other than the beer), just very human experiences. We can all learn a lot from the people of Malawi.”

For more insights, visit Kate’s blog at amonthinmalawi.wordpress.com