Window Into Another Culture

Building Bridges - Unit II

Students will examine a real-life confrontation of cultural values through the experience of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea.


  • Students will grasp the vastness of the gulf that can lie between two cultures—both in values and in communicating those values.


  1. Discuss with students the meaning of "lucid" as "extremely clear." Ask students to think about the meaning of the story's title as they read.
  2. Read the essay "A Single Lucid Moment" to the class, or have the students read it for homework. Then discuss the essay with them, addressing the following questions:For additional lesson plans to use with this story, see Reading and Responding to "A Single Lucid Moment," in Voices From the Field, a volume of writings by returned Peace Corps Volunteers about their experiences overseas. Please contact World Wise Schools to get more information.
    • What is it about American culture that allows homelessness to occur? (Students might consider laws that prohibit incarceration for mental illness alone; the existence of agencies that provide food or shelter enabling people to survive on the streets; the largess of sufficient numbers of passersby to allow homeless people to eke out a living; the drug addiction or mental illness of many homeless people that prevents them from functioning productively in society.)
    • What is it about Maimafu culture that does not allow homelessness to occur?
    • At what point in the essay did the author have his "single lucid moment"?
    • What was it that suddenly became clear in that moment? How do you know? Does the author say explicitly? Have students review the text, if necessary, to answer.
    • Why does the author understand that the idea for the homeless men will not work, while the Maimafu believe it can?
    • If the Maimafu had succeeded in bringing the homeless men from Chicago to Papua New Guinea, would their idea for the welfare of the homeless men have worked? Why or why not?

Frameworks & Standards

Enduring Understandings

  • A "single lucid moment" can challenge and change our worldview.
  • Some cultures believe that the group is responsible for the well-being of each individual. Other cultures believe individuals are primarily responsible for themselves.

Essential Questions

  • In what ways can a "single lucid moment" challenge and change our worldview?
  • When is taking care of the individual more important than taking care of the group? When is taking care of the group more important than taking care of the individual? 

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