October 17, 2007
Murray Decker from Biola's Intercultural Studies Department at Village This Weekend
I was excited to see in Village's e-mail newsletter that Murray Decker, a professor at Biola University (my alma mater) is speaking this weekend. Murray was just starting out as a professor in the Intercultural Studies (my major) department when I was a student there. I'm in Southern Oregon now, but I just might need to make a trip up to Portland this weekend to hear him speak. I'm very interested in what he has to say and also how the Intercultural Studies department has grown and changed over the past decade.
So go and see Murray this weekend (and maybe I will see you there too)!
January 20, 2006
Two years ago, when the Abdi family prepared to immigrate to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Kenya, they were each given birthdates, "January 1" attached to a hopefully accurate year of birth. I can only speculate that birthdays were not traditionally celebrated or that birth certificates were irretrievable or that they were simply not provided in the first place.
Siting in the living room of the Abdi's suburban apartment, the matriarch of the family, Medina, handed me a letter which notified her that her son would be losing his food stamp benefits as their records show he is turning the ripe old age of 5. (Apparently 5-year-olds in the state of Oregon are old enough to be hungry. God knows hundreds of them are. Fortunately she can reapply for benefits and I directed her to call her caseworker, whose name she knew, thank goodness.)
The question of age now up for discussion, Medina fished out her medical benefits summary, which lists all in her household, and yes, their date-of-birth. Having remembered how old the children told me they were, I immediately noticed a discrepancy between the Abdi family's perception of their age and the so-called reality.
One by one I asked each child how old they were and one by one I told them they were in fact two years older than they thought! One boy was ecstatic to learn he was 11, Famo seemed sobered by the fact that she was all of a sudden a teenager, Mahadho laughed to learn she was 24. Having not celebrated birthdays in 2 years, they had been simply reciting the ages they were taught in their first English lessons, over two years ago.
Another delightful lesson in language and culture learned by both the teacher and the students!
January 13, 2006
A Four Banana Night
Add "First Aid Kit" to my bag of tutoring supplies.
I arrived at the apartment earlier than my usual seven-ish arrival. An hour earlier to be exact. I had visions of arriving home around eight with two whole hours to work on web projects for friends. I climbed the stairs to the third floor apartment and rang the bell. I was greeted by approximately three of six children, the mother of those children, and where was Mahadho?1 Oh yes, in the back; here she comes.
After greeting Famo and checking over her knee in a completely non-helpful way and after being given all of the donated food that they thought was weird or icky (a jar of pimentos, blueberry jam, multiple bags of Tim's Cascade Style potato chips) I was confronted with Isha, or rather Isha's foot. I've kept a supply of bandages in my bag for a while now, which means that every week a child or two comes to me with a cut, blister, or some other "owie" needing that all-important BandAid and more-important sympathy. But Isha's foot was a different matter all together. The cut was deep enough to bleed plenty (the dried blood around the wound testified to that). But it was too big for a regular BandAid and not deep enough for stitches. I asked if the alchohol and cotton I left for Famo's and Mahadho's infected ears was still around. "No," was their reply, "I'll be back in twenty minutes," was mine. And off to Rite-Aid I went, just across the street on the corner of Murray & Allen.
I returned twenty minutes later with extra-large BandAids, a firstaid tape dispenser, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a small tube of Neosporin. Twenty minutes after I bandaged Isha, the tape started to fall off. (I can't imagine why. It's not like she attached her feet to big plastic cups with socks and started walking around on them as if on stilts. Oh wait. She did do that.) In any case, before I left I made sure the bandage was secure and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped with firstaid tape. I'm sure they lasted at least 45 minutes. I told them to call me if the cut got worse.
Mahadho and I did manage to work on calendar terms a bit. "Thank-you" to my new insurance agent for sending out the 2006 calendar of Scenic America. But really the theme of the night was the wedding videos sent from a Bantu group in Atlanta, Georgia. The dancing and music inspired even the smallest child in this tiny suburban ghetto apartment to shake her hips like I've never seen hips shaken before. The only way I can describe it is Electric-Hula-Belly Dancing. We watch these tapes almost every week but they finally decided that I should have a copy too and so they commissioned me to make three copies of the two VHS tapes, "One for me, (Teacher), one for Mahadho, and one for 'Mahadho mom sister'". I'll bring my VCR up north this weekend and use Seth's VCR to dub the copies. And laugh. A lot. I'm not sure how I would feel if my nieces learned to shake their hips like that.
Regarding Famo, I'm thinking crutches might help. So I broke out the Spanish-English Picture Dictionary and showed her what crutches were. She said, "Teacher, you get for me."
Finally, Mahadho's cell phone account needed tending. A fellow Bantu in Idaho had added a second line to his T-Mobile account and given it to Mahadho. For months her number has had an Idaho area code and we have been unable to change it, not having the account owner's last four SSN. Last week, I made it as clear as I could to Mahadho that we needed this information before continuing. And apparently the message got through. This week she had a 503 number. One problem: it was a number from McMinnville and long distance from Beaverton. So armed with the account owners last four SSN, I called T-Mobile (T-Mobile: "Who are you?" Me: "I'm the English-Speaker") to get her a local, really local number. I also sorted out the billing situation, took off a $10/month TXT-messaging add-on, and made sure a copy of the bill got sent to her address. And it worked. I actually got all of those things. Mahadho and Medina were thrilled.
As I rose to leave, Mahadho went for the bag of bananas on top of the fridge and pulled off four. Four bananas for teacher. A way of saying thanks and reciprocating for the bandaids and video tapes and the phone issue and perhaps the English lessons too. Usually I get two. But tonight was different. Tonight was a Four Banana Night.
So. Anyone know how to procure crutches?
December 08, 2005
Adventures in Cross-Cultural Children's Ministry
I'm a AWANA Club leader in the TNT (Truth 'n' Training) club (3-5th graders) at Village. My two primary responsibilities are to the Red Team at during the girls' game time and to a group of 4th grade girls at handbook time. Our church has about 250 Korean families and consequently there are quite a few Korean kids at club. Most of the Korean girls have ended up with me. On the Red Team I have 4 Korean girls, 1 (East) Indian and 2-3 white girls. Last night one of the other teams needed another person so the game leader came over and asked me for a volunteer defector. Eujene, Claudia, Erica, and Megan all huddled together and said, "You can't break us up! We're the Koreans!" I sent Esther instead, (the Indian girl), but even she wouldn't go without a bribe. ;)
Most of the Korean girls speak Korean and English fluently but this year we have one girl, Erica, who is just learning English. She is learning quickly and recites Bible verses with amazing precision, but often I employ one of the other Korean girls (usually Debbie or Claudia) to help explain a word or a concept.
Case in point: In a handbook section Erica was completing, in addition to reciting verses, there are questions designed to clarify words and concepts contained in the section's memory verse(s). Inevitably one of the answers is simply/profoundly "Jesus" but the other question usually tests a vocab word. In this case question was "What does it mean to be punished?" referring to the Biblical concept of Jesus taking the punishment of our sins upon himself. So I implored Debbie to explain the concept of punishment to Erica. A tall order for a 4th grader indeed.
Debbie did some explaining in Korean but Erica still had a blank look on her face. Debbie said she was using the word for "getting in trouble" for punishment and asked if that was right. I thought for a moment. I considered my audience. I considered skills of my 10 year old translator. I considered the meaning of the concept and I replied, "Yes. Say, 'We get in trouble for our sins but Jesus got in trouble for our sins instead.'" I reflected for a moment on my instruction as Debbie translated what I said and Erica's head began bobbing up and down in understanding. Yeah, I would say getting flogged, beaten, and crucified "trouble." I'd call it Trouble with a capital "T"!
December 07, 2005
I've (finally) started using Bloglines to read/scan/skim updated blogs, zines, newspapers, etc. and one of the features is "Save to Clippings Folder". I've been meaning to post these as I go, but what a surprise, this task has been neglected. So here goes:
- 43folders: Three OS X Timers— alarm clocks and timers that run on a Mac
- del.icio.us'd by vj (my office mate), PDX Super Crafty: Getting your creative business off the ground—applies to crafty-creatives not necessarily movie-making-creatives, interesting ideas though
- Posted on Macromedia Consulting Weblogs, a mashup of Yahoo! Maps Beta and some Webcams of the programmer's favorite skiing spots—mashup is the buzzword for creating something unique out of two or more existing (usually) digital things.
- Here's another Yahoo! Maps Beta Video mashup [Macromedia Weblog entry]
- Yet another Yahoo Maps! Beta mashup: Ivan Todorov of BLITZ | Blog: My Daily Traffic Report (as of this post, site took a while to load)
- If you want to dive in to developing a Flash app using the Yahoo! Maps Beta API, here's a simple example of how to do so. (Saving this for a snowy day...)
- Discussion of Safari CPU hogging issue, via MacInTouch
- Discussion of router problems, via MacInTouch
- Beta: Interrogate 0.7—a visual MySQL database manager for OS X, freeware. I'm using CocoaMySQL and I like it, but it seldom hurts to try something new
- For the iTunes glutton in all of us: Switch between two iTunes Libraries, via Mac OS X Hints dot com
- Via LifeHacker.com: Micro Persuasion: Ten ways to use Bloglines
- Also via LifeHacker, a nod to Atomic Learning's free online video tutorials for Tiger (OS X 10.4), Taming the Tiger: An Orientation to Mac OS X 10.4—mmmm video tutorials. I'm going to start producing these after the New Year. I've got my Snapz Pro, I'm wishing for a Logitech Desktop Microphone, and I've got Movable Type and Mac tutorial ideas aplenty to share...
- "Computer, What Day Is It?" Just discovered Tiger's voice command utility Speech. Very entertaining. Oh. And useful. Probably. ;-)
- Geek to Live: How to fix Mom and Dad's computer
- try ruby in your browser—ruby is a programming language I'm highly desirous to learn
Around the world
- BBC: Women resist 'honour' marriages—Five women from the same family in Pakistan's Punjab province have refused to be "united" with their prospective husbands as ordered by tribal elders.
- BBC: Girls Still Miss Out on Schooling—New figures show the UN has fallen well short of its target of getting as many girls educated as boys. (Maybe that's because it's a ginormous problem that needs widespread attention and coordinated strategy.)
- BBC: US firm to fight Somali pirates— I just thought it was somewhat ironic that there seems to be a comedic renaissance of pirate culture afoot in Internet-Land and here on the BBC is a story of US firm who's managed to score a contract for fighting pirates off the coast of Somalia. Who knew?
- Homestar Runner: Download All Our Playsets and Toys! ("cheap as free")—what will they think of next? I've only recently claimed victory over my random.bat Button Addiction
...and a side of eye-candy (re: film/trailers/animation/photography)
- Flickr Pool: MLK Blvd's around the world—who'll add photos of P-town's MLK Blvd.? (more about the project here)
- via Drawn!: animated shorts done in watercolor! La Papillon
- Of course you already knew that the third installment of X-Men is coming May 06: X3 Announcement Teaser, X3 Official Website
Thus endeth the linking extravaganza. Until next time, adieu and farewell.
Good Idea: Community Center in Apartment Complex
Spotted this excellent notion in today's Oregonian, (Dec. 7, 2005, page B3):
(click picture to enlarge if you have a fast Internet connection or a lot of patience; if not, captioned text is typed out below)
Hawo Ali builds a tower of Legos on Tuesday in a community room at Beaverton's Fir Crest Manor Apartments. The staff from Firm Grove Elementary School donated videos, games, toys, and books to the recently refurbished community room. The apartment complex, across the street from the school, is home to roughly 75 children under the age of 12, most of whom are recent Somali immigrants. Companies including Intel, Comcast, and Fred Meyer donated computers, Internet service and playground equipment to the project.Olivia Bucks, The Oregonian
I have a similar idea, but on a smaller scale for the apartment complex where I tutor Ruth (not her real name), who is also an immigrant from Somalia on refugee status. The complex is only 2 buildings, so my thought is to convert one of the apartment units into a community center for the 10-20 kids who live there. But where to get the money...
November 18, 2005
Writing Dixon Ticonderoga
Ruth's mom's apartment is in the building across the complex's asphalt "courtyard." A species of vermin of which I am thankfully unfamiliar has invaded Ruth's apartment and apparently her mom is amenable to Ruth and her daughter staying there and stay there she does.
This has complicated our one-on-one literacy tutoring sessions considerably. (Have I mentioned Ruth's six young siblings that live in that apartment? No? There are six kids living in that apartment and an unknown number of adults.) My solution? Bring picture books at a level and with content consisitent to what I am teaching Ruth. It works fairly well.
So last night I arrived at the apartment armed with picture books and some scrap notebook cards. (Need to bring more of those next time. They were unexpectedly popular.) I sat down on the couch and the first thing that happened was each of the kids one-by-one showed me their scapes, cuts, blisters and bruises they had endured the past week. I handed out the few bandaids I happened to have in my purse and proceeded with story time. Oh yes, Lemons Are Not Red was at the top of the list. That book is awesome.
After story time was over, I sent the kids off to their corners with various books so I could work with Ruth individually. A couple of the kids plugged in a Dora video into the VCR and watched that. It's so interesting and fun to watch these kids from Somalia learn English and Spanish at the same time!
During this time, one of the boys was writing down letters on scrap pieces of notebook paper. Every few minutes, one of the other boys would take the piece of paper and bring it to me, asking what it said. Most of the time it was just random letters which didn't make any sense or any words for that matter. This kept on for several iterations. Finally, he brings me a piece of paper with two long lines of letters, all in caps. It reads, "DIXON TICONDEROGA." Oh I laughed. I about fell off the couch I laughed so hard. I explained to the others in the room that he had copied the letters from his pencil, a Dixon Ticonderoga 1388-2, which I had given to him weeks before. I asked for the piece of paper (as a blog-worthy souvenier) and gave him a picture book on Months to copy instead.
November 01, 2005
Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as a violation of Gwich�in human rights
From a press release from Cultural Survival:
The Gwich'in Steering Committee announced on October 25 the release of a new report outlining the implications of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as a violation of Gwich'in human rights under international law.
A Moral Choice for the United States—The Human Rights Implications for the Gwich'in of Drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge was prepared by the public interest law firm Trustees for Alaska, on behalf of and under the auspices of the Episcopal Church, the Gwich'in Nation, and Professor Richard J. Wilson, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University.
- Gwich'in Steering Committee
- A Moral Choice for the United States—The Human Rights Implications for the Gwich'in of Drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge [PDF]
September 30, 2005
Thomas Friedman speaks at MIT on The World is Flat
Thomas Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist at the New York Times, just came out with a new book, The World is Flat. Leah just started it and likes it so far. I hope to pick it up soon myself. The lecture in itself is interesting as Friedman explains how he came upon the thesis for the book during the filming of a documentary in India.
You'll need RealPlayer to view the lecture. Further instructions are on MIT's site. But if you're still having trouble with it, let me know in the comments or via e-mail and I'll try and help you out.
Here's The Link: The World is Flat lecture at MIT. Click the "Play Now" button on that page to download the video.
September 26, 2005
Cross-Cultural Extermination Ministry?
Our tutoring session last Thursday was cut short by Ruth's increasing bug anxiety. In her apartment, strange, creepy bugs take residence on the walls, ceiling, and floor. (Yes, it is gross. Nothing like cockroaches, thank God, but still very eww-gross-eww.) Decorative sheets that had been hung from the walls had been stripped away as had the multiple layers of woven rugs in her bedroom. Apparently the manager had come by (understandably dismayed) and sprayed something in a few areas but was unwilling to make any further effort. I don't blame him.
What did I do about it? Nothing, at that moment except reassure Ruth that I would try and think of a solution. Usually I don't shy away from minor bug extermination. But there are too many symptoms here. Layers of rugs on the floor provide myriad bug havens. Sheets on the wall do the same. A lack of a vacuum makes it very difficult to keep the floors clean (a broom can only do so much on a carpet).
I want to figure out a short-term solution for the bugs as well as a maintainable cleaning/debugging system (complete with supplies) for Ruth and her roommate. You know how the cleaning supply aisle is one of the most convoluted confusing aisles at the supermarket? Well try navigating it by only looking at the pictures and colors--don't read any of the words. (Of course when it comes to cleaning supplies, sometimes reading the label doesn't clarify the product at all!)
So the apartment cleaning part sounds like a ministry opportunity to me and I've got a potential offer of help, which is great: my plate runneth over. (Isn't my cup supposed to be runneth-ing over? Hmmmm.)
Another ministry opp for a graphic designer (or a good Internet researcher) is to create clear, cross-cultural, graphical stickers to place on household products. They could have simple one or two word English labels as well as a picture. Speaking of stickers, anyone remember Mr. Yuk stickers from the Oregon Poison Control center? I wonder if they're still around. I worry about those curious kids and the pretty bright colors on typical cleaning supply containers. "Yuk."
September 15, 2005
Cross-Cultural Ear Piercing: 101
It wasn't too surprising to find Ruth over at her mom's apartment in the building adjacent to her own place. It wasn't surprising at all to find six kids, two teenagers and four adults hanging out in the living room when I arrived. But I was a little surprised to be summoned upon to help with pierced infected ears.
A package had arrived from Africa (home sweet home). Besides some new colorful outfits and wraps, jewelry had arrived, specifically earrings. And the earrings were going straight from the package to the ear—with or without an existing hole. (Ouch is right.)
The teenage girls were taking turns with the simple (painful) procedure and I was content to let them handle things. But finally they gave up and Ruth turned to me, "Teacher, help." I took a closer look. While it wasn't as bad as Jenn's staph infection in high school, there were definite signs of an infection: puffy, oozing, bloody ears on both Ruth (who I was supposed to be teaching English) and Famo (who's about 12, I think). I told them I'd be back in "15" with some supplies.
On the way to my house, I called my mom. She suggested rubbing alcohol and Neosporin and ice. I swung by Freddy's for that plus some cotton balls, swung by my house for latex gloves and an extra empty ice tray (and dealing with another issue: an unused winter hooded jacket and black work shoes for Ruth). I only had a couple of cubes of ice in my freezer, so on my way back to Ruth's mom's apartment, I swung by the Taco Time on Allen and filled a cup with ice.
Back at the apartment, I cleaned up Ruth and Famo's ears and they demonstrated for me that they could treat their ears with rubbing alchohol, cotton, and Neosporin (and ice) that I left with them. After giving explicit instructions to keep the alcohol out of reach of the kids ("It's NOT water!") and to use the Neosporin every day until next week, I left with a gift of a banana. (Whenever I do a favor for them or give them something, they give me a banana. When I brought the kids school supplies, I got two. =)
So, the lesson I learned tonight was once again flexibility. And how to deal with pierced ears among Somali Bantu in Beaverton.
Now to eat my banana. ;-)
August 17, 2005
Update on furnishings for refugee friends
I have neglected to post an update to the "Bunk Beds for Famo and Isha" campaign. Allow me to do so now. Through the wonders and many times "delayed clarity" of cross-cultural communication, I discovered the actual sleeping arrangment of the 6 refugee kids living in this apartment near Ruth (the Somali Bantu refugee I tutor every week). Famo and Isha do have their own bedroom and did have beds. The beds however were not assembled properly and thus had been deemed "broken". Several twists of a screwdriver later, that problem was rectified.
There was a bit of a mattress spectacle, however, as I had understood (not entirely accurately) that the mattresses were "broken" and in need of replacement. (In actuality, the bed frame was the problem, not the mattresses—although they were old and a little, ok, quite, stained.) Due to my misunderstanding of the mattress/bed situation, I had procured mattresses from a family from church whose daughter is in my 4s class. When I brought the mattresses and boxspring over to the apartment to replace the "broken" ones (which weren't really broken, just kinda gross), they decided they wanted to keep them and actually I only ended up with one icky mattress to take away. This produced another problem: what was I going to do with this icky mattress? I ended up taking the icky mattress to the dump out in Hillsboro where they graciously allowed me to dump it for free. (Usually, the minimum charge there is $29!)
So, bunk beds would have been nice, but that would have produced another problem, what to do with the existing beds? So it all worked out in the end.
Now to deal with some other little things...filing a complaint to DHS for the interpreter they provided who didn't speak Ruth's dialect and caused the discontinuation of desparately needed TANF grant money; getting a $10 plastic toilet set at Lowe's to replace the cracked one in Ruth's apartment (the manager wants to charge $50!). (Thanks for the tip, Drew, property manager extraordinaire.) And, finally, the tedious task of getting the phone wiring repaired in Ruth's apartment, the failing of which has deprived Ruth of a phone line. (Oy. What next?)
Thus I continue my foray into the tangled webs of social services, public utilities, and landlord-tenant agreements...for single illiterate moms recently relocated to a new continent with refugee status.
July 21, 2005
Rights for Dalit Christians?
In my very limited education on the human rights situation in India, I have been told that Dalit Christians are severely disadvantaged because they are ineligible for some of the social affirmative action programs that are designed and targeted for Dalits. So this news today is very interesting because it seems to be a major political milestone for Dalits, especially Dalits who are Christian because:
- it is a recognition by the judiciary of the widespread caste-based discrimination that persists despite its illegality;
- it recognizes and recommends political action to address the inequalities and discriminatory practices affecting these people;
- it recognizes that past political action to end caste-based discrimination has utterly failed.
I pulled a few interesting quotes from the article:
"It is also unfortunately the sad reality the converts from Hindu religion to other religions have carried their caste marks with them whether they belong to higher caste or lower caste.
"The result today is all the religious communities in India except Parsis, have an ingrained caste system prevalent in all spheres of life. We had assembled here to consider the special case of Dalit Christians who were similarly converted from Hindu religion to Christianity and carried with them the same disadvantages and disabilities and they are carrying them even today. They will disappear if at all, only when similar disabilities suffered by Dalits of other religions, namely Hindu, Sikhs and Neo Buddhist, will disappear."
"It is therefore necessary that the Christian Dalits are given the same benefits aids and advantages, facilities and opportunities as are given to Dalits of Hindus, Sikhs and Neo Buddhists on the basis of caste to which they belong before conversion and which they are carrying even today," Justice Sawant, Barrister Sona Khan and the Jury said.
Read the whole article if you have a few minutes. It's very interesting. Leah, chime in if you can with some insight on this. Link: Dalit Christians must get Scheduled Caste rights says the tribunal.
July 15, 2005
Last night was my tutoring appointment with "Ruth". We didn't do so much tutoring as go to Fred Meyer, she armed with two $25 gift cards and a need for two very large packages of pull-ups.
I sat in front of Ruth's apartment for about 10 minutes waiting for her to come. Finally her roommate came by and I asked her if she was at her mom's. She was, so I walked over. There were a lot (by that I mean, A LOT) of people in her mom's apartment, so I took the opportunity to check out Famo and Isha's bed situation. They are in beds in their own bedroom, but the mattresses are old and smell moldy, in their words, they're "broken". (Ah, the language barrier.) There is a box spring and two twin mattresses that need replacing.
Found out last week that a woman from church who's daughter is my 4s class wants to get rid of her twin boxspring and two mattresses.
So yeah, that'll work.
No bunk bed needed after all. What they do need is one or two chest of drawers. Right now clothes are folded on top of a one-drawer nightstand. Not too useful. Some help that I will need this Sunday evening when I go over there to deliver the mattresses (if everything comes together, that is) is some help removing the old mattresses and an old lame-o desk that they received. (I guess they tried to put it in the dumpster but the manager caught them doing it. Oops.) I don't know what to do with old mattresses that stink. They need to be dumped. The desk can go to Goodwill. Any ideas for mattress dumping? And, anyone got a pickup truck and some muscles I could borrow Sunday evening?
But overall, things are settling down with Ruth. I'm not nearly as worked-up and worried about her as I used to be and she is starting to get some real support (financially and guidance-wise) from her dad, which I didn't even realize was there until a couple weeks ago. And I don't know where she got those two $25 gift cards for Fred Meyer, but she knew from our previous field-trip there a couple weeks ago, that it was a good place to get stuff like diapers. She's off food stamps now because she's getting steady and consistent hours from the hotel she's working at. So there are still struggles, but things are settling down a bit. It's a good thing.
Connection, Culture, and Video
I've been amazed at the opportunities I've had to meet East Indians in the metro area just because I have a very small happenstance reputation for being able to shoot video in a cross-cultural setting.
This week, I was invited to be a part of a small gathering of families from the Indian state of West Bengal in a home in Wilsonville. I had the best Indian food I've ever had, enjoyed the company and conversation of women from Beaverton, and listened to Bengali music being played on a keyboard, sung into a microphone (...the most beautiful vocals I've ever heard!), and picked on a guitar. Oh, and captured the night on video.
Wednesday, I visited the new Hindu temple located on the HBC (Hall Blvd. Connection) just north of 99w in Tigard (behind the KinderCare, weird, huh?) Got a tour of all the deities they've acquired thus far (the temple only opened on July 6th, a couple weeks ago). In the old temple, which is still a worship place but also a sort of ashram for people in the region to stay when they visit the temple, I witnessed a small group of devotees perform their worship ceremony. And yeah, I was invited to capture the whole thing on video. And capture it I did.
Tonight I hit Lake Oswego to capture some of the wealth and if not tonight, tomorrow, will get to a restaurant and hopefully get to meet an East Indian dance and music instructor.
So I meet and connect with people in my area from India, glimpse into a very complex culture, and refine some technical skills I don't get to use everyday, all because my brother showed me how to take decent shots with a consumer-quality mini-DV camcorder. Thanks, tall brother!
June 30, 2005
What is probably needed...
My time with Ruth and the kids staying in her mother's apartment was meant to help me determine what some of the immediate needs might be. Here's a rough list of the needs so far.
As of today, Ruth will need has a monthly bus pass for July. She expressed this need to me last month as well and to be honest, I don't know how she managed to get one. So it seems like a very important immediate need to me, but I might be missing something and it might get taken care of by someone else. The idea I've had is to talk with Tri-Met or my employer about subsidizing the cost of a pass, in essence sponsoring an annual pass for Ruth. I think that might be a more sensible solution.
Twin bunk beds, of the non-bulky material variety. In the kids' bedroom is a 3-bed bunk bed where the boys sleep. Apparently the 2 girls' bed (beds?) broke. Since the room already has a 3-bed bunk and a kids bed (thanks to Stephanie and Traci), there is a little bit of room (and I mean a very little) left to squeeze in a twin bunk. I don't know if you guys know anyone with a twin bunk bed in their attic or garage that is ideally easy to assemble, but if you do, let me know. I'd like to have these girls off the floor.
Shoes shoes shoes. Kids grow fast. Even though I spent some time sizing the kids feet, they'll grow so fast, my mom mentioned, as any mom would know, that having a variety of sizes of shoes is the best way to go. So if you have boys and girls shoes fitting kids aged 1-10, that would be superb. I will also try and determine from my tracings what current sizes are needed; I'll post those soon as well.
That's a start. There's more, of course. But this is good for starters. I know some of you have been waiting for this list so I wanted to get it up. A huge thanks to those of you who have already donated items. You rock.
June 29, 2005
Straight Lines Are For Sissies
Before I went to Ruth's house on Monday to deliver the bed, distribute clothes and take a general assessment of the kids' needs as far as bedding, clothes, and shoes, I pictured myself, clipboard in hand, lined paper, methodically and neatly taking down the kids' measurements. What actually occurred was quite a different story, a glimpse of which I've captured in the images you see here: scans of my notes (with helpful contributions from the kids!), to be deciphered, databased, and developed for the use of the generous and compassionate in the near future.
Note: images are not at a true-to-life scale. Also, you may click on a thumbnail to pop up a larger image.
I've been getting some "who's Ruth?" questions from some of you lately, partly because I've created a little confusion by not using her real name, which some of you know.
"Ruth" is an alias for the woman I'm tutoring in English. I am not using her real name in order to protect her privacy. She is part of a group of refugees from Africa and might be prone to exploitation. You never know who's reading, even though my blog has as very small audience. So I'm just trying to be a little careful.
She is "pre-literate", that is, not literate in her 1st language and so reading and writing has been an entirely new experience for her, at age 23. She was married at age 16 and is now a single mom of one daughter, age 4.
She is a refugee from Somalia, belonging to a people group known as Somali Bantu (or Bantu Somali—I've seen both), who have been enslaved by other dominant groups in Africa for generations. They have been given refugee status and were approved for relocation to the United States. (I'll have to check my documentation for the exact time period; I think around 2 years ago.) Once living in Kenya, now she lives about 7 minutes from my house on the west side of Portland, in Beaverton.
I met Ruth through a volunteer opportunity with a nonprofit community organization called IRCO, Immigration and Refugee Community Organization. I was interviewed by the volunteer coordinator, helped teach one pre-literacy class at their facility in Portland as part of training, and received a manual, a workbook of exercises, and some background articles on the Somali Bantu. I write up a report once a month to the volunteer coordinator. The whole ESL tutoring thing is brand new to me, but it's been a fun and supportive environment and I've enjoyed the challenges.
So that's "Ruth" in a nutshell. If I talk to you in person, I'll use her real name and you can be confused all over again.
June 21, 2005
When the good things happen...
Saturday was a lazy day. Very lazy. Sloth-like, even. Coming down from 24 marathon, not easy, in a very pathetic kind of way. Went to church to teach 4 and 5 year olds about Joseph storing grain for 7 years, an act of God's provision for the people for the 7 years of famine. The activity sheets had a picture of the grain storage units. Admittedly, I don't know what an ancient Egyptian grain storage unit looks like, but the kids in my class didn't think what was pictured on the activity sheet was even close. No, in their minds, it was a tornado, a bee hive, something to be shot down and blown up (not joking). It was funny but the thought did occur to me that I had been ineffective in my teaching of the grain storage unit, so on the suggestion of the girls in class, we built a giant fort out of kids' kitchen furniture and had snack on bean bags, behind rocking chairs, on a play picnic table, surrounded by play kitchen stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and ovens. Some disappointment was expressed at the lack of giant blankets (how are you supposed to make a fort without blankets???) but we managed.
From there, attended worship service for the first time in 6 or 7 weeks; it was really good. In the meantime missed 2 calls: Mom (are you coming over?) and Ruth (are you coming over?) To Mom: (no, tomorrow). To Ruth: (busy signal). I started down Murray Blvd. Ruth's apartment is only 5 minutes from the church.
I arrived at Ruth's apartment about 9:00 pm in the evening and finally got through to her on the phone ("I'm here; I'm knocking.") I got to meet her mom and 3 other women who live in the apartment complex. Ruth and I checked out her antenna-less TV and then we headed over to her mom's apartment to check out the crib situation. Sure enough, no screws for the crib. But I found out that the crib was going to be for a 4 year old (who looked 2 years old. I think some of these kids are underweight). Now, that crib would be nothing but a jungle gym for that kid (and the 10 others who hang out in that apartment). He needs a kids' bed. Last night I was over at my friend Stephanie's. She's gearing up for a yard sale and one of the items on her list is a toddler bed. Perfect. I just have to find a crib mattress and that kid will have a place to sleep of his own.
While I was over there, I started to informally find out who else needed a bed (a 6 year old girl) and if there were some kids who needed shoes (yes, a toddler). Focusing on the group of refugees living in this apartment complex, I've decided to get as concrete an idea as possible of what the clothing and bedding needs are of these kids. Armed with a notebook, a scale (fitting kids' clothes by weight is more accurate than by age), and some kind of foot measuring device, and Ruth to help me with names and ages and other particulars, I'm going to find out who needs a bed, who needs shoes, which boys need boy clothes and which girls need girl clothes (right now some of the boys are in dresses).
I also want to get my friend Nathan over there (who works with Public Health and has done Community Health Education in India) to see if he can do an assessment of the health and sanitary conditions in the apartment where all the kids hang out. Maybe then he can tailor the CHE material for them and start doing CHE classes in Ruth's living room for the women in this complex.
Eventually, I'd like to rent out an apartment in that complex and turn it into a community center for these women and their kids. Maybe I could write a grant for the lease. Hmmmm.....
The morale of this story is that I am not a morning person, or really even much of a day person, especially on a Saturday. Give me the night and let God light up the place. That's when the good things happen.
June 17, 2005
Short and sweet
Last night's meeting with Ruth was short and sweet. I couldn't quite tell why. We worked on initial consonant sounds and started in on double-consonant sounds (like "bl", "sl", "pl") when she started talking about finishing. I think (but I'm not sure) she was a little anxious about getting up at 4:30 am the next morning. But again, culturally, linguistically, I could pick up very few clues as to why she wanted to finish early. Hmm...but anyway, we checked out one piece of mail—a change in her social services agent—and she explained to me during "b is for bed" and "c is for crib" that her mom had a crib donated to her that didn't come with any screws (she didn't say "screws", she pointed to the screws on her 3 year olds kids' bed). So tomorrow I'll call over there and find out when I should come over and assemble the crib. There seem to be lots of babies in their community, so it'll definitely come in handy. (Things work pretty communally as far as child care goes.) How odd, though, that someone would donate an unassembled crib with no screws? Something's amiss. Maybe something will come to light on Saturday.
I also hope to find out that I do in fact have the capability of assembling a crib. Maybe I should bring some duct tape. Just kidding!
June 10, 2005
Lemons are not red
Ruth and I read Lemons Are Not Red last night. A great book with simple cut-outs to enhance the semantics of color. It also helps with the meaning of "is", "is not", "are", "are not"...that crazy verb "to be"; it's a troublesome creature for certain. Ruth's problem with reading the word "is" has been that she pronouces the word "in" instead...subtle but significant. By the end of our session, she was starting to recognize "is" roughly 50% more of the time than she did before. Go Ruth!
More good news for Ruth: she worked three days this week and was scheduled to work today as well. Unfortunately it's doing laundry for a hotel, but even though she was exhausted and headachey all day, she was grateful to be working. (I wish there was another way...)
And yes, Handy Teacher Amber was on hand again to fix the moody flourescent light bulb connection in the kitchen. (She was cooking in the dark for crying out loud, I had to fix it. She confirmed that her apartment manager is worthess and good-for-nothing. That makes me so mad. Arrrgh.)
June 03, 2005
This is a story of how being ready with prose is good but being ready for improptu can be even better, especially when entering the home of a young African refugee women living in the 'burbs of Washington County.
Yesterday evening I arrived at Ruth's front door for our tutoring appointment with...
- an OSCON bookbag filled with Lemons Are Not Red, Is A Worry Worrying You?, an early reader book (something about a picnic), a sketch pad, a drawing kit (containing pastels, colored pencils, watercolors), various office supplies (scissors, scotch tape, paper clips, etc...)
- my vacuum
- my purse, containing a checkbook, Debit card, and other miscellaneous items
Immediately upon my arrival, the vacuum1 became the focus of all in the room (including the 6 children, aged 1 through 8). I showed Ruth how it worked (one of the boys immediately took to figuring out the attachments) and soon she was vacuuming the living room floor.
Then, we entered her "apartment within an apartment": Ruth's bedroom, where she and her 3-year-old live. We sat down and I started pulling out books. As has become our weekly ritual, she pulled out the mail she had received the past week for me to look over and explain. The bank statement from B of A (her bank) was opened and upon my glance was determined to be for Frank Hernandez. Yeah, "Not at this address." Scotch tape was retrieved, envelope resealed, and put in bag to be returned to sender.
It being the day after the 1st of the month, Ruth pulled out her checkbook, the kind with the carbon copies, and asked me to write her rent check. Not having a register or a folder with the plastic flap to prevent all the carbon copies from getting an impression, I pulled out my checkbook, removed the folder (I can get another one at the bank today) and demonstrated how to use the plastic flap to create an effective carbon copy of the check. (Next week: addition and subtraction and balancing a checkbook. That should be interesting.) She could tell me the amount, but couldn't tell me who to make it out to. I asked if the manager lived onsite and told her that we could just walk over there and find out.
Next, Ruth indicated the overhead light and demonstrated at the bedroom light switch that it no longer functioned (a freestanding halogen lamp was currently in use). I hopped up on the bed and removed the light fixture's cover to determine what kind of bulb was in use. I explained that the bulb could be easily replaced.
Handy Teacher Amber, now fully identified as such, was then directed to the bathroom and the running toilet, which apparently had been continuously running for quite some time, possibly for several days. Tank cover was removed, bulb thingy lifted, handle jiggled, and toilet stopped running. (Observed toilet seat in pieces, literally. On my way out I wrote down the number that was on the "Now Renting" banner and later today I'll call them and ask them to replace the toilet seat. Good grief.)
Back in the bedroom, Ruth pointed to her eyes. They were red and irritated. I asked her if she had contacts. She said yes. I asked her if the 6 children in the house could be sent home so we could walk the 2 blocks over to the Safeway at the corner to get solution. She said yes. But first, there was more mail to deal with: food vouchers.
Ruth's son qualifies for food vouchers. The vouchers kinda look like blank checks and have a list of qualifying foods. In the envelope was a black and white table with a list of qualifying foods. Not so helpful. Also in the envelope was a full color brochure with pictures of qualifying foods and brands. Very helpful. Scissors and paper clips were retrieved from the depths of my bookbag, words were sounded out and whatever food was listed on the voucher, I cut out of the brochure and paperclipped to the voucher. Our errand run was clear: apartment manager (get name of property mangement company, deliver rent check) and Safeway, 2 blocks away (eye solution, light bulbs, food for Ruth's son).
I wasn't sure if she understood that a trip to Safeway and the apartment manager was in order. She did. Soon kids were putting on shoes (the ones who had shoes that fit). I packed up the books and we were off: a parade of Somalis and a white lady marching over to the other apartment building.
As I finished writing and delivering the check to the manager, the kids bounded up the stairs (I thought maybe they were just playing). But no, Ruth directed me up the stairs and opened the door to another apartment. Three Somali adults and maybe 10 kids were in the living room. The 6 we had with us were added to the number and the two of us headed to Safeway.
At the eye solution aisle, I asked Ruth if any of the boxes looked familiar. If she had contacts, I imagined that she would have a brand that she regularly purchased. When I asked her if she had hard or soft lenses and that that question could not possibly be understood by her, I looked into her eyes: no contacts. Picked up the $2.49 bottle of generic eye drops. Next, light bulbs were retrieved. Finally her son's food. I asked an employee how the vouchers worked. Just then Ruth realized that her Oregon Trail card was with her mom, (the card is needed as identification in order to use the vouchers). Oh well, we went around the aisles identifying qualifying foods. I found out Ruth doesn't like cheese, loves bananas, and usually buys nonfat milk. Her kid is so skinny, I suggested she buy 2% instead. I figured if my mom bought 2% for us as kids, maybe it was a good thing.
Back at the apartment, light bulb was replaced, and eye drops administered. And there was light (and it was good ;-) Redness vanished from Ruth's eyes (and it was good).
All throughout the evening, Ruth told me about all the good things that had happened that day. About how everyone was helping Ruth today. She was just overflowing with gratefulness and laughter. She explained that her social services person had called her to check in that afternoon and how she was able to answer the women's questions with ease. (I had spoken with the caseworker that afternoon as well.) When she checked in at the hotel, she saw my name and phone number on the board. She was so excited that her Teacher Amber was helping her. I was humbled and knew better. I was in awe of how Jesus went before me today and really served Ruth in a huge way. As I pulled out of the driveway, I was struck with how Ruth did know now that my name was Amber, but she still called me Teacher. I got a little choked up when I remembered how Jesus' followers called him Teacher as well. Filled with overwhelming joy, I laughed out loud at the amazing and mysterious works of God.
1. Why did I bring my vacuum? Several weeks ago, Ruth told me that her vacuum was broken and asked if she could borrow mine (in so many words). Every week since then, I've forgotten to bring it and been faced with a reminder from her of her need of it. I finally remembered to bring it.
May 27, 2005
To learn, to play
What with all the drama my tutee Ruth has been going through with her job and financial situation, I thought on a gorgeous pre-summer night like last night a game of Monopoly was in order. Of course my parents have a game at their house that I grew up playing, but I had an old battered game myself in my closet that I had purchased at Value Village way back when Alex and I first moved to the HBC (Hall Blvd. Connection). When I pulled it out on Ruth's bedroom floor, I realized there were no dice, so I used some pennies and a couple of nickels that I would as randomly as possible toss on the board for each of the players. Ruth's 8-yr-old niece was there when I arrived, so I asked her if she wanted to join us. So for the next two hours we played. I had brought my favorite thin paperback atlas which I opened up to the United States. Whenever anyone landed on a property that was named after a state, I pointed it out.
She started to get 3rd person pronouns a little better ("Me money?" "No, you pay her $25") and started to see that there was an important phonological difference between "eight" and "eighty" and even more important difference between "5", "50", and "500". By her second turn she counted spaces from where her "top hat" landed on her previous turn intead of from "GO" and by the end of the game, she could make change like nobody's business.
Her 8-yr-old niece understood and started using words like "your turn" and "my turn" and she and her friend counted her money zealously (yeah she whipped us both). She'll turn out to be a good little free market capitalist, I think. ;-)
What did I learn? To relax and let the process of learning happen in a fun and relaxed way. Yeah, she's under a lot of pressure and she knows it. (And I know it, too.) On June 1st, she'll have no monthly Tri-Met pass because her benefits from whoever was providing her with one have expired. She needs her welfare and social security benefits renewed (damn red tape) and her income verified (how do you verify $0?) for a Head Start application (don't even get me started on those people and their so-called "outreach"). I have ideas on how to help her, but with my own work schedule, getting over to social services is a bit of a challenge. This is one of those "it takes a village" moments, I think. But which village (or "Village") should I engage?
April 26, 2005
[Updated] Learning Spanish
I may have mentioned that I'm taking a beginning Spanish course through PCC. Our teacher (Henry) is from Ecuador and he sends us practice exercises every week from the Learn Spanish web site. E-mail is such a horrendous archival system, especially since I haven't started using my gmail account yet, so I thought I'd post the links here in a new category "language." Since languages are sort of a dormant interest of mine (slowly awakening, but still relatively dormant), I'll keep the category generic and perhaps other language related posts will make their way to my Awake subconscious.
So here's the links and stuff Henry's sent so far...maybe it'll be useful to someone besides me...who knows?
- Spanish Pronunciation Tutorial
- Exercise with "verb conjugations"
- http://www.studyspanish.com/practice/hay.htm (remember "hay" means there is, there are)
Grammar - Possessive Pronouns
[Henry wrote...] Like English, the Spanish possessive pronouns differ depending on the person they are referring to. Unlike English, the possessive article also changes depending on the number of items that one possesses (for example: mi libro = my book, mis libros = my books). It can also change depending on the gender of the item (for example: nuestro perro = our dog, nuestra casa = our house). The following table summarizes all Spanish possessive pronouns:
[Henry did this schweet table too, I just tweaked the html a little bit...]
|él||su, de él||sus||his||su lápiz, el lápiz de él|
|ella||su, de ella||sus, de ella||her||su lápiz, el lápiz de ella|
|usted||su, de usted||sus, de usted||your||su lápiz, el lápiz de usted|
|nosotros/nosotras||nuestro, nuestra, de nosotros||nuestros, nuestras||our||nuestro lápiz, el lápiz de nosotros|
|vosotros/vosotras||vuestro, vuestra||vuestros, vuestras||your||vuestro lápiz|
|ellos||su, de ellos||sus, de ellos||their||su lápiz, el lápiz de ellos|
|ellas||su, de ellas||sus, de ellas||their||su lápiz, el lápiz de ellas|
|ustedes||su, de ustedes||sus, de ustedes||your||su lápiz, el lápiz de ustedes|
Rellena los espacios en blanco (Fill in the blank)
- Manuel tiene una bicicleta. bicicleta es azul. (Manuel has a bike. His bike is blue.)
- clases son a las nueve por la mañana. (My classes are at 9:00 am.)
- Nosotros visitamos a abuelos. (We visit our grandparents.)
- Los Mexicanos tienen día de independencia al 16 de Septiembre. (The Mexicans have their independence day on September 16.)
- Tú juegas con amigos. (You play with your friends.)
- ¿Puesdes mostrarme casa? (Can you show me your house?)
Time and numbers
Por y Para
I also added Spanish word of the day and lesson of the day to the bottom another page of my on Awake home page. It's from a different site than the one that provides all these great lessons, but the coding was a little more flexible and generally more likable than the word of the day content "for your site" offered through Learn Spanish (IMHO).