Mt Monroe (45) – Culture, Conflict

January, 2019

(Note: I’ve updated this post in October 2019, after climbing Mt Monroe once again.  I’ve recently completed ascending all 48 4000-footers, and am going up a few again, in different seasons…)

I began a new journey in May of 2016: I set out to climb every one of the 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are at least 4000 feet tall and writing a description of the ascent; and, each time, I wanted to write a reflection on my journey since joining Peace Corps over 30 years ago: on development, social justice, conflict, experiences along the way, etc.

Since then, in 44 posts (so far), I’ve described climbing some amazing 4000-foot mountains. I’ve reflected on two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador; my 15 years with Plan International; the deep, disruptive changes in the development sector over that time; the two years I spent consulting with CCF, developing a new program approach for that agency that we called “Bright Futures,” and most recently my time as International Program Director at ChildFund Australia.

Last time I continued to describe a new phase in my career, related to conflict. I focused in particular on conflict analysis, and I described climbing Mt Washington, my 43rd 4000-footer, and the highest of the 48, on 27 October 2017.  Washington is the highest of the 4000-footers; in fact, it’s the highest mountain in the northeastern United States, a place where some of the harshest weather on earth has been recorded.

On that October day, after climbing Mt Washington, I also got to the top of Mt Monroe (5384ft, 1641m), which I will describe here. And I will expand on one important topic I highlighted in my first conflict-related article: the role of culture in conflict.

But first…


To skip the description of my first ascent of Mt Monroe, and go directly to exploration of culture and conflict, click here.


The Climb – Mt Monroe

I was quite out of shape that day, having spent the previous month (September, 2017) wandering around India with my old friend Ricardo Gómez.  At this point, I wasn’t sure I was up to climbing two of the highest mountains in New Hampshire in one day, but the first part of the climb had been great: cool but not cold, bright blue skies.  Getting to the top of Mt Washington was a challenge, and it got colder and steeper as I neared the summit.

But I had succeeded! Now the question was: did I have the energy, and the daylight, to climb Mt Monroe?

Eric had driven up from Durham with me, but had decided not to do the climb that day.  Instead, he would drop me at Pinkham Notch, and then pick me up at Glen Ellis Falls parking area, saving me a mile hike on the Direttissima Trail.


I had a decision to make after I ate lunch at the top of Mt Washington.  The days were getting much shorter now, as we got into autumn, so I hadn’t been sure if I would have time to climb both Washington and Mt Monroe.  So I decided to make the call once I got to the top of Washington.  I could see Mt Monroe from the top of Mt Washington, down below me.  At least I wouldn’t have to climb much more, and it didn’t look too far off.  I was making good time, and wasn’t feeling too exhausted…

So … I decided to tackle Mt Monroe.

I figured that, if all went well, I would take the Crawford Path down to the Lake of the Clouds Hut.  From there I would climb Mt Monroe and double back to the Hut, and then take the Camel Trail over to the Davis Path and down to the Glen Boulder Trail.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 4.08.09 PM.png

This looked like a challenge, especially since I was leaving Mt Washington at a little after 1pm and the sun would set by 5:40pm.  Would I have enough time?


I mentioned last time that there were a few late-season tourists with me at the top of Mt Washington. Most of them were now queuing to take the Cog Railway back down.  They were bundled up and seemed very cold in the wind; likewise, I began to shiver as I finished lunch, so I put on another layer of clothing, my cap, and a pair of gloves.

Leaving the top of Mt Washington, at first I couldn’t actually find the trail – it was so windy and cold that I wasn’t really thinking clearly because of the cold.  After wandering around the top for a while, stumbling about in confusion, looking for the Crawford Path in the snow and shivering, I returned to the Cog Railway queue, where I found a large relief map on the wall.  It seemed that the Crawford Path began near the antennae that are clustered in one area of the summit.  So I backtracked over there, but still couldn’t find any signs… but I could see rock cairns leading downward.

I started down from the summit.  The wind was so strong that I was blown over several times; I was really depending on my walking pole for stability, and began to worry that I would damage it as I was tossed around by very strong gusts of cold wind.  That would make things even trickier…

There was a heavy dusting of snow, that had blown into drifts in areas, and plenty of ice on the trail as I went downward, and I slipped quite a few times.

Looking Back Up Towards Mt Washington – I Wasn’t Thinking Very Clearly. And Those Eyebrows!

The hiker in red that can be seen in the photo above had stopped to talk with me; he was working at the Mt Washington observatory and was heading back up that way.  I guess he could see that I was nervous at the weather conditions, because he took the time to assure me that those gale winds would end in about 1/4 mile, and from there it would be calmer.

Ahead of me, down the slopes of Mt Washington, I could see the rock cairns marking the trail and, beyond, Mt Monroe.  Above the cairns and Mt Monroe were the White Mountains around Franconia Notch, and a blue sky beginning to cloud:

Light snow, to be sure, but there were plenty of drifts that were icy and quite slippery. It was scary, I can tell you!

After about 0.4 miles I came to the intersection of the Westside Trail.  It was steep walking, as you can see from the angle!


I had descended a fair way; the antennae at the top of Mt Washington were visible far above me:


You can see that the gale winds had lessened, since my eyebrows had calmed! (And you can see that I had calmed down a bit, too!)

Soon after 2pm I arrived at the junction of the Crawford Path with the Crossover and Camel Trails; the Lake of the Clouds Hut was directly below me.  I would return here after looping over the summit of Mt Monroe:

A Beautiful View Down Towards Lake Of The Clouds Hut

What a spectacular day!

From the Lake of the Clouds (the lake, and the Hut) I could look back up at Mt Washington:


I pressed on from the Hut towards Mt Monroe, with increasing doubts about when I would finish the hike.  Despite some steep climbing, and some icy stretches, I got to the top of Mt Monroe at about 2:30pm.  The views from there were spectacular:

Warmer, And Happy, At The Top Of Mt Monroe
From The Summit Of Mt Monroe, Looking Back At Mt Washington

So I had climbed 45 of the 48 peaks! Yippee!

But there was no time to waste celebrating, it was getting late… so I headed back down. The sun was starting to drop back behind Monroe as I descended:


The icy patches that I had encountered on the way up Mt Monroe were trickier on the way down, so I had to slow down to avoid slipping: a fall on the way down would be much more dangerous than on the way up! So I took my time, but that fed into my nervousness about making it down off the mountain before dark…

At 3pm I was back at the junction of the Camel Trail, which I took.


After a short, steep climb, I reached a long, fairly-flat section of the Camel Trail, and then of the Davis Path.  On my left, to the north, the peak of Mt Washington accompanied me, always visible, as you can see in these photos, taken as I crossed the high plateau towards the descent down Glen Boulder Trail:


Some sections along here already had some moderate snow buildup:



The views were amazing, but I was beginning to be quite tired and my left knee was starting to give me some trouble, so I was paying less attention to my surroundings.  It was beginning to be a slog, verging on being a “torture hike”!

I reached the junction with the Glen Boulder Trail at a little after 4pm, and I was very tired.  But I remained optimistic, because I thought that it would be downhill all the way down to the road, which would be easy (unless the long, pounding descent made my knee hurt, which it did!):


Because Eric would be waiting for me down at Rt 16, I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to Pinkham Notch, so instead of having 3.2 miles to go, it was more like 2.8.  Easy, right?!

But I was still worried about the sunset that was due to come at 5:40pm.  I only had around 1 1/2 hours to get all the way down Glen Boulder Trail before sunset…


For a while I walked through some high-altitude scrub trees:


But soon I began to approach the steeper descent, and could see the road below.  Wildcat Ridge (which I had climbed in 2017: getting to the top of Wildcat “D” and Wildcat Mountain, with the Carter range beyond) was across the way, now in direct sunlight from the west: the sun would be setting behind me as I descended Glen Boulder Trail:

I needed to get all the way down to the bottom of that valley, where Eric was waiting. At just past 5pm I passed Glen Boulder, a major milestone hereabouts:

Glen Boulder From Above
Glen Boulder From Below

Here the trail began to descend steeply, and I began to lose my enthusiasm completely.  My left knee was really hurting, and the walking was on top of large granite boulders, which made things much worse: the rocks jarred my knee as I dropped down onto them, again and again.


By 6pm it was getting quite dark and, honestly, I was not enjoying the walk at all.  I followed along behind two other hikers for a while, and finally passed them just before it got completely dark.  I took one last photo before getting out my flashlight:

6pm, And It Was Getting Very Dark!

As you can see, I was at the junction of the Direttissima Trail, which is still nearly a half mile from the Glen Ellis parking area.  The trail descended steeply nearly the entire way from the Glen Boulder, until perhaps 0.2 miles from the parking area.  I delayed getting the flashlight out of my pack for too long; the moon was peaking from behind the clouds occasionally, so I was able to manage, carefully.

But once I did get the flashlight going I was able to move more confidently, and soon the trail leveled off and I could walk without too much worry that I would trip and slide down the hill!

I don’t think that I ever, ever, have finished a hike in the dark, at least since my very first backpacking trip way back in high school! So it was an interesting experience walking into the parking area at Glen Ellis using the flashlight, and finding Eric waiting for me.  Not something I’d like to repeat too often, because even with a good light you can’t see around you very well, of course… but it went OK.

Eric saw my flashlight approaching, and he flashed his car lights.  It was 6:30pm and I was completely exhausted and my left knee was in serious pain.  But I had conquered two of the last, and two of the highest, of the over-4000-foot White Mountains! Just three more to go…


We stopped in North Conway for a good Mexican dinner before heading south, and I got home to Durham around 9:45pm.  It had been a very long day!


So, at the end of October 2017, only three 4000-footers remained: Madison, Adams, and Jefferson.  But the days were getting shorter, and temperatures were steadily dropping; as you have read, Washington and Monroe had been real challenges. My knee hurt, and I wanted to rest it.

So I decided to postpone finishing the 48 peaks until the next season. 2017 had been very productive: I had climbed 22 of the 48 4000-footers despite having been in India for an entire month right in the middle of the climbing season.  Added to the 23 mountains I had climbed in 2016, I was very close to finishing – just three more to go for 2018…

But I had run out of time.  And even though I had climbed 45 of the 48 peaks, I had only published 26 of the blogs.  So I figured I would spend the next few winter months catching up on the blogging!

I climbed Mt Monroe again, this time in the summer season, nearly two years later. For a short description of that climb, skipping my reflections on culture and conflict, click here.


Culture and Conflict

As I mentioned last time, late in our years in Sydney, I took a couple of courses at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), first in Mediation and then on Principled Negotiation.  At first I looked at this coursework just as a way of acquiring skills that would be useful in my work.  Plus it had been a long time since I had done any formal study, so it felt like it was time to wake up the side of my brain that might be a bit under-utilized!

I ended up really enjoying that academic work, and learning about conflict and dispute management…

In my first blog posting about conflict, I shared five key insights that I had gained as I worked through my masters in dispute resolution at the University of New South Wales. Of the five insights I shared in that article, the fourth was that “all conflict has cultural aspects.  Conflict is culturally defined – these are good starting points, but be careful!” I fore-shadowed then that I would be preparing an article focused entirely on this topic, so read on!


When you find yourself in conflict, and suspect that there is a cross-cultural element to it:

— Analyze the conflict using Bernie Mayer’s “Circle of Conflict” that I described in an earlier article in this series. Culture is a key element in Bernie’s framework; so, next,

— Carefully consider the culture or cultures involved. And remember: culture is ALWAYS involved! Use insights from Hofstede as starting points;

— Develop and use your cultural fluency to put Hofstede’s insights to work in the particular situation you face;

— Analyze how culture is influencing the dynamic of the conflict;

— With these insights, determine how you will approach the conflict.

The rest of this article will focus on culture and on how culture influences conflict, and vice-versa.


First: culture. There are many frameworks for culture, which is a tricky concept, with different approaches and plenty of disagreement. And, as a consequence, there are also many different ways of looking at cross-cultural conflict. In this article, I will be sharing the important work of several authors and experts:

— Geert Hofstede, whose culture-related research and frameworks have influenced many across several decades, while not being immune to controversy. Much more on Hofstede below…;

— Kevin Avruch, whose thinking and writing on conflict and culture is some of the clearest and most complete that I have come across;

— Michelle LeBaron and Venashri Pillay, whose excellent book “Conflict Across Cultures: A Unique Experience of Bridging Cultures” was the text for my final course in the UNSW degree in Dispute Resolution, which I actually took at James Cook University in Cairns, returning for the in-person workshop soon after having relocated to the US from Australia;

— Finally, I’ll be drawing on outstanding presentations made by Steve Fisher and Maria Rodrigues, who led that final course in Cairns.


What is “culture”? I want to share three definitions here, all of which make sense to me.

— For Avruch, culture is the “learned and shared ways of behaving appropriately in social settings. It’s things that people learn by virtue of belonging to a social group. These things are encoded in cognitive structures, schemas, paralinguistic structures like metaphors, and language. Then they’re also publicly encoded in symbols and values. Culture is learned; it’s shared, more or less. The degree of sharing that is always an empirical issue is a social setting, and it’s passed down from generation to generation, which gives it some kind of traditional force. But it is also created. It is also emergent because it represents people in ways in which people face the dilemmas, such as the problematics in everyday social life, including conflicts and disputes. What it is not, is it is not encoded in the human genome. It’s socially created”;

— For Hofstede, culture is: “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others”. This definition appeals to me because the metaphor of an operating system helps me understand how culture manifests in human reality. Of course, I can understand how this definition would not be as appealing to others: I am an American white male, trained (long ago) as an engineer, so it’s perhaps not surprising that this kind of framing for culture would work for me! (In my defense, I’m at least somewhat aware of my bias!)

— Finally, taking from a presentation given by Maria Rodriques as part of the cross-cultural conflict course I took in Cairns, culture is the lens that we look through when we view reality. Take for example a yellow flower: it appears to be orange if we look at it through the red lens, and green if we look through blue glasses. Just so, a particular set of events, or behavior, can appear quite different to us when viewed from our, or another’s, cultural point of view.

Of course, to emphasize here something I already have outlined above, as Avruch says, “… a conception of culture is inadequate, (a) if it fails to reflect the ‘thickness,’ or complexity, of the phenomenological world it seeks to represent, that is, if it oversimplifies; or (b) if it is connected, overtly or covertly, to a political or ideological agenda…”


Later I will argue that all conflict is cultural in nature; to a greater or lesser degree, culture is always there. But before we discuss conflict and culture, I want to introduce the important work of Geert Hofstede, one of the most significant researchers in the field of culture, and his six “dimensions” model has been widely influential, though somewhat controversial.

Hofstede’s research originated in his work at IBM International in Holland, in the 1970’s, where he was involved in employee surveys spanning many countries. Analyzing the data, Hofstede discerned patterns that seemed to cluster in what became his “dimensions.”

So Hofstede’s concept of culture was originally based on work with IBM employees, a population that certainly doesn’t represent the rich diversity of our world; but, over time, his research grew to cover many more countries and a much broader population, and has become one of the most common and widely-used ways of studying culture. I will be using his framework in this article.


There are two dangers here, traps that we must avoid. Firstly, Hofstede often seems to conflate culture with country; on his website, which we will explore in more detail below, we will find amazingly rich and useful detail for comparing cultures, listed by country. The problem is that all countries contain a rich mixture of cultures, so we must avoid the trap of assuming that Hofstede’s description of a culture in a country represents the particular situation we are analyzing. The danger is that we construe a majority culture as describing an entire national population.

Secondly, even assuming that a particular country can be described as one, homogeneous culture, which it certainly can’t, there still will be a wide spectrum of cultural traits across that theoretically-homogeneous population. For example, although, in general, Australians are much more individualistic than South Koreans, there are certainly some Australians who are less individualistic than some South Koreans.

So we must avoid the trap of assuming that the culture in any country, no matter how homogeneous, is uniform across the population. This means that it is imperative that any conflict professional, or anybody seeking to better understand a cross-cultural situation, must use Hofstede’s Dimensions, and his incredibly rich data set, as a starting point only! In other words, to benefit from Hofstede’s research and insights, we must use his framework as a starting point for our analysis, not as a true representation of the particular situation we are studying. Making a stereotypical generalization based on his findings could lead to great errors.

Use this very helpful tool with caution and discernment.


Keeping those caveats firmly in mind, let’s unpack Hofstede’s six “dimensions” of culture, which we will be using as starting points for analysis. During his career at IBM, collecting information on the personality preferences of company employees, Hofstede noticed six poles, across each of which people tended to cluster in national / cultural commonalities:

In other words, Hofstede asserts that people in particular cultures (which, again, he seems to conflate with countries) cluster in certain places in each of these six poles or dimensions. Some cultures (countries), on average, will typically express higher, or lower, rankings for “Power Distance,” and “Individualism versus Collectivism,” etc.

As I mentioned above, vast research underpins Hofstede’s Dimensions, from their origins in studies of IBM employees through to the much wider and deeper data now underlying the concepts today, and their relevance goes well beyond application to conflict. They are very useful in unpacking conflict behavior.

Space precludes me from fully describing Hofstede’s dimensions; for a complete explanation, consult the website noted in the figure. For now, I’m taking the liberty of adapting the following outline from Hofstede’s work:

Power Distance:  This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of Power Distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low Power Distance, people strive to equalize the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power;

Individualism versus Collectivism:  The high side of this dimension, called individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families. Its opposite, collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we”;

Masculinity versus Femininity: The Masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented. In the business context Masculinity versus Femininity is sometimes also related to as “tough versus tender” cultures;

Uncertainty Avoidance:  The Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviourand are intolerant of unorthodox behaviourand ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles;

Long-Term versus Short-Term Orientation: Every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and the future. Societies prioritize these two existential goals differently.  Societies who score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honouredtraditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.  In the business context this dimension is related to as “(short term) normative versus (long term) pragmatic” (PRA). In the academic environment the terminology Monumentalism versus Flexhumility is sometimes also used;

Indulgence versus Restraint:  Indulgence stands for a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun.  Restraint stands for a society that suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.

Comparison of the Dimensions between a wide range of cultures can be sourced on Hofstede’s website; but be careful to recall my caveats, above, about conflating country and culture!

For example, here I’ve compared Australia and South Korea, plotting them together across Hofstede’s six dimensions:

It’s easy to see how conflict could emerge, and intensify, in an interaction between these two cultures: one party might well be focusing on gains over the long term, while the other could be placing much more value on short-term benefits; and perhaps one side of a negotiation is looking at discussions from the point of view of their organization, while the other side is thinking about how various options might be good, or bad, from their personal, individual standpoint. The discussions could very easily become tense, and then “Power Distance” could come into play, leading one side to communicate very indirectly and to be offended by the other side speaking directly.

You can create similar plots across a vast range of countries on Hofstede’s website. Try it, it’s fascinating.

I’ve found that colleagues overseas are often very familiar with Hofstede, but that Americans are much less so. Highly recommended!


So how does culture relate to conflict? Here I want to acknowledge the text we used in the final course in my masters degree: “Conflict Across Cultures: A Unique Experience of Bridging Cultures,” by Michelle LeBaron and Venashri Pillay.

First time through, the book was a bit hard to grasp, partly because the concepts are complex but also because the authors take a very unusual approach of framing the presentation around how the, together, experienced their collaboration. Second time through, accompanied by the excellent lecturers at JCU, I found the book to be very impressive, deeply considered, and extremely useful.

Speaking of which, I want to recognize the lectures given by Steve Fisher and Maria Rodriques in that course. Steve conducted the course in-person, in Cairns, while Maria prepared lectures that were were presented via PowerPoint.


Three key concepts help us understand the relationships between culture and conflict: cultural fluency, culture-conflict dynamics, and cultural “carriers.” I have found that a thorough grasp of these concepts, together with a clear view of culture itself, really helps me to understand conflict in cross-cultural settings.


To understand how culture and a particular conflict are relating, we need to be fluent with the concept of culture itself. According to one of the co-authors of the LeBaron and Pillay volume, Arai Tatsushi, cultural fluency is defined as ‘our readiness to internalize, express, and help shape the process of meaning-making’ (p. 58). Tasushi uses the following figure to illustrate cultural fluency:

Figure 4.1, p. 62 of LeBaron and Pillay

Tatsushi uses the metaphor of viewing a flower through different-colored lenses to illustrate how we gain cultural fluency:

— We need to anticipate that others might see the flower differently from us;

— We need to gain a better understanding of the nature of our own lenses, and those of others, and gradually reshape our perceptions to include other possibilities instinctively (embeddedness);

— We must express how our lenses are shaping our perceptions and encourage others to do the same;

— Finally, we have to navigate to take action and move forward in a constructive manner that builds on this enhanced and nuanced understanding of the situation. 

This is not always a sequential process – sometimes we make mistakes and need to go back and alter our ways of anticipating, etc. As with many things in life, gaining cultural fluency is, fundamentally, about being self-aware and cultivating a non-judgmental sense of curiosity.


The next concept to grasp is culture-conflict dynamics. It turns out that there is a dynamic and intertwined relationship between culture and conflict:

— culture shapes conflict by attaching meaning to it, prompting our response to conflict, how we view conflict. The lens we look through shapes how we interpret events, and strongly influences how we behave in a given situation, which can be viewed quite differently by people from other cultures. Culture defines who is “us” and who is “them” – and since many conflicts are strongly influenced by tribal identities, the history of ethnic loyalties or enmities, this is a very powerful way that culture shapes and expands conflict across long periods of time and expanses of geography. At the same time, culture can provide us with opportunities to transform conflict, can be a positive “lens” to view conflict;

— And, over time, conflict has a deep impact on culture by changing the way we view a particular situation.

That’s how culture shapes conflict. But the influence goes both ways: over time, conflict influences and shapes culture also. Here the concept of “cultural carriers” is very helpful.

“Cultural carriers” are things like institutions, songs, symbols (such as flags), stories and histories, metaphors such as proverbs, and so forth. These are “containers” – concrete objects as well as abstract ideas – that carry our culture across social contexts. Conflict shapes and reshapes these cultural carriers, which then become embedded in our world view. (For an excellent article about how differing “worldviews” can create and exacerbate conflict, see this chapter of a great book about the Waco catastrophe.)

As Tatsushi says in the text, “conflict affects culture most deeply when it transforms the kind of cultural carriers that penetrate our identity.” And, looking at Mayer’s Wheel of Conflict, we can see that when values become involved in a conflict, enormous fuel is added to the fire.

Tatsushi mentions examples of four types of conflict-related phenomena that shape cultural carriers: protracted violence (war, or domestic violence); forced movement (such as mass migration or individual change of household); cultural mergers (such as when a new country is formed from smaller nations, or when a couple marries across two cultures), and new systems of thinking (in a national revolution or even as a human being moves from adolescence to adulthood.)

So culture influences how individuals or groups interpret behavior and engage in conflict. Conflict influences the “cultural carriers” that, over time, symbolize and define our culture, shaping who we are and how we see ourselves, thus influencing future conflicts.


All conflicts are cultural. I start with Mayer’s “Wheel of Conflict.” Then I dig deeper in terms of culture: when I face conflict working within my own culture, I start by reflecting on how my culture influences me. I review Hofstede’s analysis of US culture and use it to start to analyze my behavior and approach. Across cultures, I bring the cultural fluency I’ve gained over my career (and from Tatsushi!) to enhance my self-awareness and authentic curiosity: I ask, “what’s going on here?!”

It’s sometimes easier said than done, but adding in a dash of compassion and forgiveness always helps.


In a future article in this series I will describe a real conflict involving Western and Asian parties from an international NGO (which I will not name!). Looking at Hofstede’s analysis of Australia and South Korea, above, it’s easy to see how easily conflicts could emerge between people from these two cultures: just consider the vast differences shown in “Individualism,” “Long-Term Orientation,” and “Indulgence”!

Stay tuned for that!


A Second Climb, A Second Season

I climbed Mt Monroe again nearly two years later, on 1 July 2019, after having completed all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers late in 2018. I was on my second round of the 48, trying to get up each one in a different season and on a different route (if possible).

This time I would climb Mt Monroe in the summer season, ascending from the west, from near where the Cog Railway begins:

In this map, I show my July 2019 hike in black, and part of the October 2017 route in red. That time, I came from the east, over Mt Washington, and then climbed Monroe. This time, I parked at the Ammonoosuc Ravine parking area, at around 10:30am, and walked east towards Monroe…

Walking up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail was pleasant, only a few bugs, but very humid. We had a rainy late spring, so there was plenty of mud, but not too bad. So I was sweaty almost from the beginning!

I walked up the ravine.

There were a couple of nice, small waterfalls along the way:

Around 12:15pm, I entered the alpine zone, and approached Lake of the Clouds hut, which had been closed for the season on my last ascent of Mt Monroe:

I stopped at the busy, crowded, joyful hut to have a quick lunch. Mt Monroe was very close, and visible, closer than I had recalled from two years before. But Mt Washington was in heavy cloud, as it had been thus far in my hike.

I left the hut at around 1:15pm, headed up Mt Monroe:

Before I knew it, I was at the top of Mt Monroe, and started down again.

From the hut, I took the Crawford Path, which is the Appalachian Trail here, with lots of company – the Lake of the Clouds Hut was full, and everybody wanted to get to the top of the highest mountain in the eastern United States. Sadly, at least most of the time, it was in the clouds…

But after getting most of the way up Mt Washington, walking with a group of young men in white short-sleeved shirts in the cold and windy afternoon, I diverged onto the Westside Trail, hiking north just underneath the summit of Mt Washington. There, I left the crowds behind.

I was in no hurry, so I stopped halfway along the Westside Trail, and sat for a while, all alone, on a gorgeous White Mountains day. It was a spectacular sight:

This was a very special place, full of a sense of well-being and peace. I hope you can get a feeling for how calming and peaceful it was by looking at this video. Unusually for me on these hikes, I stopped for quite a while just to watch the weather and the mountains around me, in the wonderful silence.

Continuing along to the north, soon I came to the Cog Railway. This being the 4th of July week, it was busy, so I was able to film a car going downward:

In the background you can see Mt Jefferson, which was the final 4000-footer I had climbed in June of 2018, just over a year before…

Crossing under the tracks, I came to a spot where I had a great view back towards Mt Jefferson and Mt Adams and Mt Madison. Looking the other way, I could see Mt Washington in the clouds:

I turned back towards the west here, onto the Jewell Trail, which was a pleasant and uneventful White-Mountains walk down to the parking area, where I arrived at about 5:15pm. It had been a wonderful climb.


Here are links to all the blogs in this series.  There are 48 articles, including this one, each one about climbing one of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers, and also reflecting on a career in international development:

  1. Mt Tom (1) – A New Journey;
  2. Mt Field (2) – Potable Water in Ecuador;
  3. Mt Moosilauke (3) – A Water System for San Rafael (part 1);
  4. Mt Flume (4) – A Windmill for San Rafael (part 2);
  5. Mt Liberty (5) – Onward to Colombia, Plan International in Tuluá;Just a
  6. Mt Osceola (6) – Three Years in Tuluá;
  7. East Osceola (7) – Potable Water for Cienegueta;
  8. Mt Passaconaway (8) – The South America Regional Office;
  9. Mt Whiteface (9) – Empowerment!;
  10. North Tripyramid (10) – Total Quality Management for Plan International;
  11. Middle Tripyramid (11) – To International Headquarters!;
  12. North Kinsman (12) – Fighting Fragmentation and Building Unity: New Program Goals and Principles for Plan International;
  13. South Kinsman (13) – A Growth Plan for Plan International;
  14. Mt Carrigain (14) – Restructuring Plan International;
  15. Mt Eisenhower (15) – A Guest Blog: Max van der Schalk Reflects on 5 Years at Plan’s International Headquarters;
  16. Mt Pierce (16) – Four Years At Plan’s International Headquarters;
  17. Mt Hancock (17) – Hanoi, 1998;
  18. South Hancock (18) – Plan’s Team in Viet Nam (1998-2002);
  19. Wildcat “D” Peak (19) – Plan’s Work in Viet Nam;
  20. Wildcat Mountain (20) – The Large Grants Implementation Unit in Viet Nam;
  21. Middle Carter (21) – Things Had Changed;
  22. South Carter (22) – CCF’s Organizational Capacity Assessment and Child Poverty Study;
  23. Mt Tecumseh (23) – Researching CCF’s New Program Approach;
  24. Mt Jackson (24) – The Bright Futures Program Approach;
  25. Mt Isolation (25) – Pilot Testing Bright Futures;
  26. Mt Lincoln (26) – Change, Strategy and Culture: Bright Futures 101;
  27. Mt Lafayette (27) – Collective Action for Human Rights;
  28. Mt Willey (28) – Navigating Principle and Pragmatism, Working With UUSC’s Bargaining Unit;
  29. Cannon Mountain (29) – UUSC Just Democracy;
  30. Carter Dome (30) – A (Failed) Merger In the INGO Sector (1997);
  31. Galehead Mountain (31) – What We Think About When We Think About A Great INGO Program;
  32. Mt Garfield (32) – Building Strong INGO Teams: Clarity, Trust, Inspiration;
  33. Mt Moriah (33) – Putting It All Together (Part 1): the ChildFund Australia International Program Team;
  34. Owls’ Head (34) – Putting It All Together (Part 2): ChildFund Australia’s Theory of Change;
  35. Bondcliff (35) – ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
  36. West Bond (36) – “Case Studies” in ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
  37. Mt Bond (37) – Impact Assessment in ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
  38. Mt Waumbek (38) – “Building the Power of Poor People and Poor Children…”
  39. Mt Cabot (39) – ChildFund Australia’s Teams In Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Viet Nam;
  40. North Twin (40) – Value for Money;
  41. South Twin (41) – Disaster Risk Reduction;
  42. Mt Hale (42) – A “Golden Age” for INGOs Has Passed.  What Next?;
  43. Zealand Mountain (43) – Conflict: Five Key Insights;
  44. Mt Washington (44) – Understanding Conflicts;
  45. Mt Monroe (45) – Culture, Conflict;
  46. Mt Madison (46) – A Case Study Of Culture And Conflict;
  47. Mt Adams (47) – As I Near the End of This Journey;
  48. Mt Jefferson (48) – A Journey Ends…

44 thoughts on “Mt Monroe (45) – Culture, Conflict

  1. Pingback: Mt Madison (46) – A Case Study of Culture and Conflict | Mark McPeak

  2. Pingback: “The Functions of Social Conflict” by Lewis Coser | Mark McPeak

  3. Pingback: Mt Adams (47) – As I Near the End of This Journey. | Mark McPeak

  4. Pingback: Mt Carrigain (14) – Restructuring Plan International | Mark McPeak

  5. Pingback: Mt Tom (1) – A New Journey | Mark McPeak

  6. Pingback: Mt Field (2) – Potable Water in Ecuador | Mark McPeak

  7. Pingback: Mt Moosilauke (3) – A Water System for San Rafael (part 1) | Mark McPeak

  8. Pingback: Mt Liberty (5) – Onward to Colombia, Plan International in Tuluá | Mark McPeak

  9. Pingback: Mt Flume (4) – A Windmill for San Rafael (part 2) | Mark McPeak

  10. Pingback: Mt Osceola (6) – Three Years in Tuluá | Mark McPeak

  11. Pingback: East Osceola (7) – Potable Water for Cienegueta | Mark McPeak

  12. Pingback: Mt Passaconaway (8) – The South American Regional Office (SARO) | Mark McPeak

  13. Pingback: Mt Whiteface (9) – Empowerment! | Mark McPeak

  14. Pingback: North Tripyramid (10) – Total Quality Management for Plan International | Mark McPeak

  15. Pingback: Mt Eisenhower (15) – A Guest Blog: Max van der Schalk Reflects on 5 Years at Plan’s International Headquarters | Mark McPeak

  16. Pingback: Middle Tripyramid (11) – To International Headquarters! | Mark McPeak

  17. Pingback: North Kinsman (12) – Fighting Fragmentation and Building Unity: New Program Goals and Principles for Plan International | Mark McPeak

  18. Pingback: Cross-Culture Communication – Chaos Narrowly Averted! | Mark McPeak

  19. Pingback: Mt Isolation (25) – Pilot-Testing Bright Futures | Mark McPeak

  20. Pingback: Mt Tecumseh (23) – Researching CCF’s New Program Approach | Mark McPeak

  21. Pingback: Mt Jackson (24) – The Bright Futures Program Approach | Mark McPeak

  22. Pingback: Mt Washington (44) – Understanding Conflicts | Mark McPeak

  23. Pingback: Mt Hale (42) – A “Golden Age” for INGOs Has Passed. What Next? | Mark McPeak

  24. Pingback: South Twin (41) – Disaster Risk Reduction | Mark McPeak

  25. Pingback: North Twin (40) – Value for Money | Mark McPeak

  26. Pingback: South Kinsman (13) – A Growth Plan for Plan International | Mark McPeak

  27. Pingback: Mt Pierce (16) – Four Years At Plan’s International Headquarters | Mark McPeak

  28. Pingback: Mt Hancock (17) – Hanoi, 1998 | Mark McPeak

  29. Pingback: Wildcat “D” Peak (19) – Plan’s Work in Viet Nam | Mark McPeak

  30. Pingback: Wildcat Mountain (20) – The Large Grants Implementation Unit in Viet Nam | Mark McPeak

  31. Pingback: Middle Carter (21) – Things Had Changed | Mark McPeak

  32. Pingback: South Carter (22) – CCF’s Organizational Capacity Assessment and Child Poverty Study | Mark McPeak

  33. Pingback: Mt Lincoln (26) – Change, Strategy and Culture: Bright Futures 101. | Mark McPeak

  34. Pingback: Mt Lafayette (27) – Collective Action for Human Rights | Mark McPeak

  35. Pingback: Mt Willey (28) – Navigating Principle And Pragmatism, Working With UUSC’s Bargaining Unit | Mark McPeak

  36. Pingback: Galehead Mountain (31) – What We Think About When We Think About A Great INGO Program | Mark McPeak

  37. Pingback: Mt Garfield (32) – Building Strong INGO Teams: Clarity, Trust, Inspiration | Mark McPeak

  38. Pingback: Mt Moriah (33) – Putting It All Together (Part 1): the ChildFund Australia International Program Team | Mark McPeak

  39. Pingback: Owl’s Head (34) – Putting It All Together (Part 2): ChildFund Australia’s Theory of Change | Mark McPeak

  40. Pingback: Bondcliff (35) – ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness Framework | Mark McPeak

  41. Pingback: Mt Bond (36) – “Case Studies” In ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness Framework | Mark McPeak

  42. Pingback: Mt Waumbek (38) – “Building the Power of Poor People and Poor Children…” | Mark McPeak

  43. Pingback: South Hancock (18) – Plan’s Team in Viet Nam (1998-2002) | Mark McPeak

  44. Pingback: Carter Dome (30) – A (Failed) Merger In the INGO Sector (1997) | Mark McPeak

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