29 February 2012

Hallway Apraxia

Brace yourself, it's about to get a little nerdy up in here!

In Galmi, we play chicken a little differently than in the US and other parts of the world. Instead of two cars charging head-on until one swerves (or they collide), we play with humans . . . in the hospital hallways. 

Often it's with a family member of one of the patients, but it's always the same thing: I move right, she moves right; I go left she goes left.  This continues until we meet in the middle for a either a slow-dance step or a more sporty fake-turn-and-run-with-the-ball type move. 

Maybe its the OT in me, or maybe I'm just weird, but for the past year I've been analyzing this societal trend: 

Why does this game of hallway-chicken happen so frequently?  Why does it seem so many people can't figure out how to walk through a hallway with on-coming traffic?  How can the idea of move-to-your-side-of-the-aisle be so difficult?  How is it that an entire population of hospital visitors do not understand the physical laws of a hallway? 

And after months of careful occupational and anthropological reflection, I've developed a theory which leads me to a brand new diagnosis: 

Hallway Apraxia 

The inability to adequately motor plan while passing another person in a corridor so
as to avoid a physical interpersonal collision. 

Motor planning is one's capacity to organize, initiate, coordinate and effectively execute movements.  In other words, it's the ability to make your body do what you want it to do, and go where you want it to go when you want it to.

Motor planning is when your brain says to your hand 'Hey, hand!  Pick up that glass and drink the water' and your arm obediently reaches forward while your hand takes the initiative to extend your fingers around the glass, flex them to secure the cup of water, at which point your wrist stabilizes, and your shoulder and elbow simultaneous flex in such a controlled manner that the water doesn't spill.  Your wrist then deviates and gently tilts the glass to your lips . . . and . . . well you get the point.

Apraxia, however, looks a little more like the glass lies shattered on the floor, water is spilled down the front of your shirt, and you sit wondering why they don't sell sippy-cups for adults.

Now, take my example of the cup of water.  If there's a breakdown in the communication between your brain and your body, a simple task such as drinking becomes an arduous, laborious effort of work that does not yield the desired outcome.  It is common to find apraxia in patients who have suffered a stroke or brain injury, kids with developmental disabilities, even older adults with dementia.  

But I'm not referring to individuals with impaired capacities.  This is a continual occurrence with highly functioning, mature adults.

Go ahead, accuse me of over-analyzing the minutia, but I find this phenomenon totally fascinating!  And I really think it has important implications for any of us who work cross-culturally.

I spent the first 29 years of my life living in a context that valued hallways.  We valued them so highly, we stopped thinking about them . . . we don't even notice they are there . . . except of course when its time to transform their walls into our very own in-home-gallery of family portraits.

Our homes have hallways.  Our places of work and government buildings have hallways.  Our schools have hallways . . . shoot, we even learn hallway etiquette as children!

But here, in rural Niger, the closest thing we have to hallways are the dirt roads that weave between homes.  And the way houses are designed, each room is separate on the compound . . . none are adjacent, and the courtyard is vast.  The village chief has a lean-to where he sits on a mat with the other elders . . . no hallways.  If there is a school, it is long collection of classrooms that open to the outside, similar to a strip-mall setup.


Of course there is a societal pandemic of Hallway Apraxia!  THERE IS NO CULTURAL CONTEXT FOR NEEDING TO KNOW HOW TO WALK DOWN A HALLWAY!

It's just not a necessary skill.  

Which makes me wonder . . . how many other 'life-skills' I've placed in the 'deficient' column, when in reality, they don't actually exist here.


Bobnrobn said...

There is such a thing as an adult sippy cup.....people here where I live use them all the time.....why I'm even using one....my 24 oz Tervis Tumbler sippy cup even has a handle.....would you like one with a flamingo????

Karin said...

Oh wow...Thanks Deb. You've taught me something about the "no hallway" skills of rural cultures.  When it comes to wanting to understand, love, reach out and minister to those who desperately need God, no amount of analysis will ever be regarded as "over-analysis" Praise God for your desire to want to understand why people do what they do. Blessings and prayers for you...from South of the Limpopo. ;)

Deb. said...

While the flamingo part is very enticing . . . I refuse to use one of those looks-like-your-drink-is-floating-in-space-inside-that-gainourmous-cup cups! At least not until I'm a card carrying member of the AARP! :)

Deb. said...

Thanks Karin! I need all the 'you're not THAT big of a nerd' encouragement I can get! :)

Deb. said...

Thanks Karin! I need all the 'you're not THAT big of a nerd' encouragement I can get! :)

Leah said...

I spent a little while wondering the same thing when I moved Italy til I realized that it was ME who was in the wrong lane all the time. They DRIVE on the correct side of the road, but they WALK on the WRONG side of the sidewalk. Took some getting used to. And a lot of wasted, "What's wrong with that idiot?" thoughts from me. 

Chcpe said...

You have way too much time on your hands...seriously you have invented and now coined the phrase Hallway Apraxia because of extensive research and "anthropological reflection". What do you do in your spare time? This was your best post yet...O.T. nerdy but funny. C