“To be culturally competent is to be knowledgeable about cultures other than the dominant American (generally white, middle-class) culture and to use the knowledge in ways that serve mediation clients.” ---Lisa P. Gaynier, writing in Alternative Resolutions, Fall, 2006, publication of State Bar of Texas, ADR Section.
He has traveled the length and breadth of Mexico, by train, bus, plane, and personal car, often staying in the homes of Mexican families, from humble casitas of adobe ten miles from the nearest road in Tamaulipas to modern, middle-class homes in Guadalajara. He has eaten tamales of pigs feet, red with chilies and wrapped in banana leaves in Vera Cruz, danced in the street during New Year’s fiesta in the shrimp fishing town of Alvarado on the Bay of Campeche, and climbed the Mayan pyramids of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Belize. He has driven the length of Baja California, sailed across the Gulf of California to the mainland and had Chinese food in Mexicali.
Hewitt has traveled the width of Canada by train and car, and made many visits to Quebec and Ontario. He has visited Vancouver Island on two occasions, and toured Alaska by train and bus. He has walked from the end of the last road on Oahu to the west end of the island and watched giant albatross birds nesting and tending their young. He has eaten pineapple at the Dole factory in Honolulu, drove every road on the island, and drank Kona Coffee on the big island where it’s grown.
Hewitt has been the guest in many homes in England, and has traveled Britain by train and car, driving 3,000 miles (on the left side of the road) throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.
He has visited Russia three times, sometimes staying in apartments with Russian friends, eating many different kinds of borsht, and learning of the people’s hopes and dreams. On one occasion Hewitt went to Muravlenko, an oilfield city in Siberia, built on 600 feet deep permafrost, at 64 degrees north latitude. For twelve days he stayed in an apartment with a Ukrainian family, and spoke at a church and four schools, and visited in the homes of many Russian families. He was stranded twice in Siberia, once because of the weather, and once because the Aeroflot plane he flew in on broke down and couldn’t fly out. He made arrangements on another airline. When that plane was ready to take off, he watched a jet engine mounted on a flatbed truck blast ice off the runway.
Hewitt has toured Israel twice, sailing across the Sea of Galilee, walking the narrow streets of old Jerusalem, and surveying the Dead Sea from the heights of Masada where 900 Jewish Zealots committed suicide in 73 AD rather than surrender to the Romans.
When gold was $35 an ounce, Hewitt bought his wife a 22 caret gold ring in Turkey, diamonds in Haifa, Israel, and custom-made rings on the Isle of Rhodes. He drove through the streets of Beirut, Lebanon, and walked barefoot on Persian carpets several layers thick in a 1300-year-old mosque in Damascus, Syria. Noticing the streets of Damascus crowded with men, but few women, he asked a passer-by, “Where are all the women?” The man answered, “At home, where they belong.” Hewitt climbed the Acropolis in Athens and stood on Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul had addressed the court.
Hewitt descended stairs to the tomb of Barnabus on the Island of Cyprus, and watched bearded monks paint Greek icons. He ate small, sweet Cyprus oranges, and later In Israel, big, juicy Jaffa oranges.
Hewitt survived driving in gridlocked Madrid, and drove across Spain to the coast and swam in the blue Mediterranean. He visited the Holy Family Cathedral in Barcelona and learned why gaudy things are called gaudy. He visited an ancient maritime museum where the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, were probably made.
On the Island of Corsica, he was scolded in French by a bartender, irate because Hewitt had discovered the unmarked women’s toilet to which he had escorted his desperate wife. He visited Monaco, but not the casino, and the Mediterranean cost of France.
He saw the Pope, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Library, Coliseum, and the Rome subway where a pickpocket tried to lift his wallet, walked the rutted cobblestone streets of Pompeii, Italy, and soaked up history on the island nation of Malta.
Hewitt has visited in the homes of many Brazilian families during two trips to Brazil. He has spent time in Porto Alegre in the South, in Rio de Janeiro, and has taken a boat trip where the dark water of the Rio Negro and the coffee-with-cream colored Amazon River waters run together, side by side, not to be thoroughly mixed until 50 miles downstream. He dropped his glasses in the Amazon, but didn't go after them.
On several trips to Central America, he has toured the highlands of Costa Rica by car, and visited banana plantations and city of Puerto Limon on the coast. He has gone by ship through the locks of the Panama Canal, taken a bus across the isthmus from Colon to Panama City, and visited the Indians of San Blas Islands, who commute from island to island in dugout canoes.
While in Cartagena, Colombia, he learned that more than fifty men had been killed in a battle only fifty miles away.
Hewitt swam with the stingrays and snorkeled at Grand Cayman Island, where his brother Gordon Hewitt lives, and sailed a small boat that took a dive every time it hit a large wave.
He has traveled all fifty of the United States, and has visited many islands, including the Florida Keys, Catalina, California; Hunting, South Carolina; Mackinac, Michigan, and Isle Royale, in Lake Superior, where he walked trails among moose and wolves, and at night saw, through the clean, cold air, the most brilliant display of stars in a black sky.
Ms Gaynier’s statement is certainly true: “Today’s mediators must possess a motivation (interest, willingness, and curiosity) to learn about others and the capacity to make sense of others’ cultural experiences.”
Mediator Joe B. Hewitt is at home with people of any culture, background, or economic situation. The benefits of this mediator’s life experiences and Cultural Competence are available to courts, businesses, industry, churches and organizations who need a conflict resolution specialist.