Intercultural Events

As part of the course requirement, we were asked to participate in 5 intercultural events.   We were given quite a bit of liberty as to what these events were, but could only do each of them once.  The events I chose to do are as follows.

Speak to a student for whom English is not a first language.

Eat Ethnic Food (x2)

Watch a movie with intercultural significance (x2)

Speak to an ESL Student:

My friend Sina is an inspiration.  Sina is a struggling professional mountain biker from Tehran, Iran.  At one point Sina was the fastest rider in Iran and was selected at the number one rider on the Iranian National Mountain Bike Team.  I have had many opportunities to discuss the similarities and differences in our religions with Sina.  When presented with this assignment, I asked Sina for an overview of his situation.

When filling out travel paperwork for the Asian Continental Championships there were limited pens so a teammate ended scribbling through Sina’s paperwork for him.  On the paperwork, there was a box for the riders to state their religion.  The teammate wrote “Muslim Shia” in the box.  Sina corrected him and said, “You know I’m Bahá’í right?” But Sina didn’t immediately correct the paperwork.  Finding himself unable to think of much else other than this inaccuracy Sina found himself back at the travel office the next day to fix the error.  Little did he know that this moment of honesty and religious loyalty would change the course of his entire life. 

Within  a few hours Sina got a call telling him he was no longer a member of the Iranian Team.  To make a long story short, officials would not permit anyone to ride if they were not part of the national religion.  This wasn’t the beginning of religious persecution for Sina, but it definitely had the greatest impact on his life.

Unable to race in Iran, Sina went to Turkey to race in 2011.  He still proudly wore his Iranian jersey and frequently posted pictures to social media.  When he returned to Iran he was slapped with the equivalent of a cease and desist from the Iranian Cycling Association.  They told him to stop racing and posting pictures in his jersey or leave.  Sina left.  

Sina came to america after filing for asylum through the United Nations.  He is here now but is required to keep a full time job in order to maintain his visa.  This makes training extremely difficult.  Sina works hard to make enough money to support his riding and trains when he’s not working with officials to try and obtain citizenship or taking classes to help better his situation.

Ethnic Food:

I love to eat.  When I travel most of my plans are centered on where the best meal can be found.  So, naturally, since food was an option for this assignment I made sure to do it and do it twice.  For each of my ethnic food experiences I went to restaurants that I frequently eat at, but I tried something new. 

The first place I went was La Carretta just east of UVU.  My family  has eaten at this Peruvian restaurant for years.  My father served an LDS mission to Peru and knows some of the owner’s relatives.  Usually when we eat here I get the Lomo Saltado, or the Tallarin Saltado.  This is a mixture of beef strips, rice or noodles, a damn good sauce, tomatoes, and onions.  Specifically for this assignment I ordered Pescado a Lo Macho.  This was a spicy tomato and rocoto pepper stew loaded with white fish, calamari, tomatoes, and onions. This was served over white rice garnished with green peas.  It was awesome!  I love spicy food and this made me sweat!  It was a fun, exotic, and delicious experience.

The next place I went was Pho 33 on state street in Midvale.  I had the opportunity to serve an LDS mission in Northern California.  While I was there I spent a lot of time serving Hmong people.  These people can do amazing things with food.  The closest thing I have found to the food prepared for me years ago in California is authentic Vietnamese food.  For that, I go to Pho 33.  The good folks of Pho 33 make a variety of Asian dishes, but their Vietnamese noodle dishes and pho are the best.  I eat at Pho 33 at least once a week, and usually stick to 2-3 dishes,  but for this assignment  i decided to try something new: the Char-sil Clay Pot.  This dish came out piping hot and filled the area with steam and the fragrance of seasoned pork and chili pepper.  It was a simple dish with a vegetable medley heavy with onion and bok choy, glass noodles, char-sil (Cantonese barbecued pork), served in the clay pot it was still cooking in.  This dish was the perfect balance of sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky.  I will definitely add this into my regular ordering routine from now on.

 

Movies:

The movies I watched were very much of intercultural significance, and very different from one another.

Spanglish: 

This movie is a silly comedy about a stereo-typically  Anglo family who end up welcoming a couple of Mexican immigrants into their home.   Even for 2004, It is super cheesy.  It did, however, illustrate some of the difficulties associated with intimately sharing your life with someone from a different culture.  Full of mispronounced words in both English and Spanish, misunderstood cognates, and foreign customs, Adam Sandler and Paz Vega have to tiptoe through jealousy, sexual tension, misunderstandings, and prejudice. 

Hidden Figures:

Hidden Figures was a much more enlightening experience than Spanglish.  This movie is an attempt to acknowledge the contributions made to NASA’s air and space program in the 50’s and 60’s by Black Women.  This movie was inspirational on so many levels.  It showed the resiliency of the human spirit in a way that touched me personally.  The three main characters portrayed were brilliant women who, at a time of blatant racism and sexism were able to press forward and make significant contributions to NASA and their communities.  I know that the movie is dramatized, but these ladies really did do many things outside of what was expected of them.  I am glad to see these ladies retroactively receive credit for the work they did and I hope that we can continue to progress as a society and recognize people like these women when they make great leaps in science and technology.

Service Learning

Over the course of the semester the students in my class were required to participate and serve the local refugee community for 20 hours.  Although I didn’t quite get the full 20, I had wonderful experiences working for organizations that serve the refugee population of the Salt Lake area, as well as working directly with refugees. 

The bulk of my hours came from 3 service events that I attended.  The first was an inclusion/anti-bullying activity organized by one of my classmates.  The second was a free Thanksgiving lunch put on by a Christian church in Midvale, Ut.  The third event was put on by the refugee support group Because He First Loved Us, it was their annual Christmas for the Kids.

The inclusion/Anti-bullying activity was planned and executed primarily by one of my classmates.  The activity included many different “stations” for the refugee children to participate in.  As the children rotated from station to station they were given the opportunity to interact with each other and were prompted to share their feelings.  In one station the children listened to a short story about bullying.  In another they made friendship bracelets.  In the station I was responsible for, the children had their picture taken and then decorated paper frames to put their pictures in.  The children were prompted to decorate the frames with positive characteristics they had.  Each of the frames said “I am…” on the top then they children added adjectives to the bottom that described themselves such as: smart, athletic, funny, etc.  This experience was humbling to me because I had the opportunity to help the children come up with things they liked about themselves.  I love working with children because they communicate their thoughts in a way that is honest and raw.  I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve these children.

 

The second activity I was part of was quite different.  Danielle, the leader of Because He First Loved Us, attends the Cornerstone Evangelical Christian Church in Midvale, Ut.  As part of their holiday celebrations they provide a free community lunch a few days prior to Thanksgiving.  My wife and I had the opportunity to taking some time to go and volunteer our time.  At the beginning of the day we spent most of our time helping set up and making “to-go” containers to be staged and kept warm in a cooler.  We then went outside to invite passersby to come and partake in the free lunch.  There were a lot of volunteers there so my wife and I later ended up walking through the neighborhoods and inviting everyone we saw.  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon so we were able to talk to a lot of people.  I was surprised by the diversity of the neighborhood we waked through.  We encountered many people from varying ethnic backgrounds and perceived social class.  Serving in this way was a unique opportunity to share with my wife and something we plan to incorporate into our routine in the future.

The third service opportunity I was a part of this semester was setting up for a massive event put on by Because He First Loved Us; Christmas for the Kids.  This event is a massive fundraiser that helps Because He First Loved Us operate and provide for the refugee children.  A lot of this service was hanging banners and setting up tables.  It was fulfilling because I knew we were helping a good organization.  Unfortunately I was unable to attend the event so I didn’t get to see a lot of the fruits of my labor.

 

I am so grateful for the privilege and position in my community that I am blessed with.  Even though the little service I did over this semester didn’t require a lot of effort on my part, I know that it made a difference in the lives of people who don’t have the same privileges that I do.  I look forward to continuing to serve in my community and hope to branch out and do more service in the future.

Post 10

I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to be part of the Intercultural Communication course this semester.  I gained so much from the experiences and people I have encountered in this class.  I have learned how to think critically when it comes to learning from others in different cultures and not make assumptions.  I have learned the importance of the support a majority can provide for a minority.  Most importantly I have learned to go outside my comfort zone and think differently. 

It is important not to make assumptions  about a group of people.  Some generalizations about groups of people may be true.  It is important, however not to make assumptions about others when beginning communication with them.  Rarely does assuming something about someone else increase the quality of communication.   

I have learned the importance of privilege.  In the past I have often found myself trying to distance myself from my privilege.  I understand as part of a majority I can use my position to help others gain traction in their lives.  If members of a majority work to form relationships with minorities, then entire community will thrive.

When people learn to conscientiously step out of their comfort zones they become vulnerable and open to learning.  The more we can learn about other people, from those people, we are more likely to form meaningful relationships and learn important lessons.  My group did a presentation on the Chinese perspective on peace and harmony.  This way of thinking had never even occurred to me. 

I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to study different schools of thought this semester.  I hope to apply the lessons I have learned in my communication with others from now on. 

Post 9 Media and Culture

In our modern society culture and media are almost synonymous.  I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast and try to remove myself from my tech gadgets as often as possible, and I still find myself in front of a screen for several hours each day.   The other day I noticed that I was sitting in front of my television, with my laptop open, checking social media on my phone.  That is 3 media sources at once!  With this massive amount of exposure, it is no wonder why our culture is so closely related to media.

Media allows the silent majority to feel ostracized by the vocal minority.  A perfect example of this was the most recent presidential election.  I personally knew of 4 people who said they were going to vote for Donald Trump.  It seemed like everybody I knew was voting for someone else.  This seemed to be the trend across the country.  People were shocked and appalled by the results, or at least that is what the media showed.  

Popular ideas are promoted by the media.  Popular ideas are not always the truth.  The media shows what will get attention. I think the primary reason that our country is so divided is because the media only shows what will gain airtime.  

Look at our guest speaker.  Meeting him face to face I found him quite pleasant and understanding of African culture.  He was respectful and thoughtful of the traditions of the people of Ghana.  Discovery Channel showed what was going to get the most viewers.  If I were to only see what Discovery Channel showed I would not think very highly of “those white guys picking on people in Ghana.”

Post 8

Discussion with an interracial couple:

My friend Jon is Jewish. He isn’t super religious, but a lot of the cultural practices in his childhood home were kept.  He is married to Cecilia, an Argentinian immigrant  who recently became a Citizen of the United States.  Cecilia is super fun to talk to when it comes to intercultural issues.  Her English is better than mine, but her accent and blunt, “tell it like it is” attitude often leaves me laughing.  Cecilia is a minority in many different ways, she is an immigrant, a female manager of a sporting goods store, and a professional mountain biker (a sport that is male dominated).

Some of the issues we talked about are the fact that although many of the people this couple interacts with have more in common with Cecilia than Jon, since she has an accent most people direct complicated questions Jon’s way.  She says, “its like people think I’m stupid.”  Upon further discussion she told me that often time customers at her store often ask to speak to a manager and she can tell that when she engages them they sometimes are taken aback or even ask to speak to someone else.  

Neither Jon or Cecilia’s families live close to them so their families interacting is rarely an issue.  They did have some issues when Cecilia met Jon’s grandmother, she was not happy he was dating someone who wasn’t Jewish.  

It was interesting to hear some of the stories from these two.  For the most part their experiences were similar to my experience with my wife, but race and culture has definitely played more of a role in their union.  I am grateful for the opportunity I had to have this conversation with Cecilia and Jon. Continue reading “Post 8”

Post 5

Privilege

I am extremely privileged.  I am an upper middle class, white male who has the opportunity to obtain a college education in a state school in the United States of America where I was born and raised.  I think all people should be given equal opportunity, but I can’t argue with the fact that some of the things about myself that I cannot control have indeed given me privileges that many of my friends were not.  I was raised in a household with two steady incomes.  My father obtained an advanced degree in Biochemistry when I was very young.  He has worked at the same job ever since and (with the assistance of my mother) was able to provide for my family.  I had a roof over my head and food on the table everyday of my childhood.  I shared a car with my sister in my late teen years.  I was able to work as a teenager and use that money for fun and to pay for a LDS mission.  I have been able to afford schooling at UVU with the assistance of my parents.  My wife and I can rely on our parents successes to help us in our life together.  I am so grateful for my opportunities, but I am harrowed by the fact that I have so many more than others in this world.

My privilege has lead to some cultural barriers.  One of my best friends was raised in the Navajo Nation in the Southwestern region of the United States.  It is insane to think of how different our childhoods were when we were born so close together.  When I was hiking and exploring the outdoors with my family as a 5 year old, she was playing on a dirty floor with her mom passed out drunk in the corner in a home where she never knew her father.  This friend has overcome adversity and has a much more impressive college transcript than I do.  Looking at our lives now, they look similar.  I know that she has had to work so much harder than I have to get to this point in her life.  I don’t know if I would have the strength to accomplish many of the things I have if I came from a similar background.

I am grateful for my privilege.  It is not fair.  I wish more people could have the privileges I have had in my life.  

Cultural Self Assement

This assignment has been really hard for me to find the motivation to get started on.  When it comes to my culture I feel like I am super boring. I am always trying to find new ways to add a little bit of diversity to my cultural self-identity.  Changing one’s culture is an amusing concept.  Culture is who you are, your beliefs and practices mixed with things you cannot control like race and gender. The following post is where I think I am at.  Hopefully I can keep this as objective as possible and report about the person I am, not necessarily the person I want to be.

I am Caucasian.  I am a man. I am straight. I am very fortunate to be middle class.  I am privileged. I sometimes feel guilty about it.  Growing up, I thought my family was impoverished, but I now realize that my family has it better than most of the world.  Racism was never a real issue in my life until late adolescence and adulthood, and I’ve been on the privileged side of most of the gender discrimination I have witnessed in my life.  I know I am fortunate, however, in the immortal words of Cat Stevens, “I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do, and it’s breaking my heart in two…”  I know where there is privilege, there is usually discrimination.

As a child, I was never allowed to get toys at the grocery store and it seemed money was all my parents talked/argued about.  To the credit of my child self, my parents were definitely strapped for cash for the majority of my early childhood. This was due mainly to the fact that my father was working on a PhD until I was about 7.  The fact that such education was even an option means that we were financially better off than most.  Not until I was a teenager did I really come to appreciate the fact that my family always had food in the refrigerator/pantry, a sturdy roof over our head, money for utilities, and even multiple vehicles.

As a straight boy, active in the predominant religion (Latter-Day Saint/Mormon), growing up in a suburb in Utah County, I was perfectly normal.  I grew up in the then small town of Cedar Hills, Utah.   For many years town hall was in my Aunt’s basement.  Everybody knew everything about everybody else in town.  Although the majority of my ancestors came to the United States from countries like Spain, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and France just two or three generations prior to my existence, most of the cultural differences between these European countries and Utah County had been diluted in my parents’ generation.  This being said, we still celebrated a very German Christmas, and my mom occasionally carried on conversations with friends in French. 

Although Cedar Hills, Utah is no cultural “melting pot” like big U.S. cities like New York or Los Angeles, I remember being exposed to a couple of unique cultures growing up.  We had a couple of sets of Latino neighbors, one family from Brazil, and another from Argentina.  We had a special relationship with these neighbors because my father speaks Spanish fluently, something he learned as a missionary for the LDS church in Peru.  Most of the cultural differences I observed with these families were the fantastic dishes they would serve when we shared meals. 

Later in life as I made more friends I was introduced to greater cultural diversity.  I met friends from different sects of Christianity, atheists, and even Buddhist.  I also met friends who came from single parent households, and relied on government support for their meals and other needs.  I even met friends from neighborhoods where the homes were the size of my church building and the families had employees who lived with them.  As I reflect on my own impressions upon meeting some of these people, I am ashamed to admit that I thought that something must have been wrong with those people who were less-fortunate

For this assignment I will spend a little time focusing on my exposure to people of differing socioeconomic class from my own and different views on Gender. 

Socioeconomic Status

As a child, I always assumed that rich people must be smart and beggars must be dumb. The more of the world I have seen I understand that this is not the case.  It is true that the majority of the wealthy people that I have met have had significant education and are, for all intents and purposes, smart; but as I have met more people in my travels (mostly in the United States), I have come to realize that there are so many more factors that determine the socioeconomic status than just intelligence. 

One individual in particular comes to mind.  For this assignment I’m just going to refer to this person as Sam.  Sam has a degree in mechanical engineering from a respected university in California.  Sam has designed, built, and patented many complicated inventions both for the military, and recreational use. Sam should have the “American Dream” sort of lifestyle.  He is extremely intelligent and at one point a hardworking and diligent employee, and a loving husband and father.  Last time I saw Sam he was living in a tent, guarding a crop of marijuana the middle of a patch of land off of Highway 70 near Quincy, California.  Sam has made some poor choices when it comes to drug use and his finances.  Patent disputes, heroin use, and failed lawsuits left Sam nearly destitute and angry.  Does intelligence equate socioeconomic status, not in Sam’s case. My experience with Sam is definitely not the norm for someone with his background.  It is normal, however, for a smart young African American student from the intercity to be dirt poor regardless of how smart they are.  I don’t have personal experience with this sort of situation, but I know that overcoming these hurdles can be nearly impossible.

Gender

Growing up in a rather conservative, Latter-Day Saint household I was exposed to very traditional gender roles.  The man of the house is responsible for earning money and providing for the family.  The woman’s responsibility was primarily for the children and the home.  Women are to be submissive and sympathetic of the man as he fought hard for his earnings. Although there is some merit to this family model, I am so incredibly grateful for the exposure to cultural differences when it comes to gender.  As a child I assumed that if someone didn’t fit my stereotype for their gender, they must be homosexual.  I have had several examples of strong, independent women in my life.  I have also witnessed men who do a better job of taking care of children and maintaining a warm and loving household.  I know now that these personality traits don’t reflect their sexual orientation, it is just who they are.  Three individuals, in particular helped open my mind to a broader gender reality; one was my favorite teacher from high school, the other a close friend, and the third, my wife. 

The teacher.  Sally is an incredible influence on my life.  She is a middle-aged single mother who many assume is a lesbian because she is fierce, strong, and does not back down from anything or anyone.  Sally entered my life at a very critical time in my life, junior year of high school.  Not only did I learn from her curriculum, I learned from her example of what a woman could be.  She rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle when weather permits, she now instructs and coordinates other teachers, and still fills the role of loving mother.  Sally is truly an inspiration of what it can mean to be a woman.\

A close friend.  I have lots of friends, but none quite like Don.  Don is the man!  Don is a loving husband and father of 4.  Don’s wife is the primary “breadwinner” in the house.  Don can often be found cooking, cleaning, gardening, or taking care of his grandchildren.  I met Don when I was 19 years old.  When I first met him I instantly felt his warm and compassion for others.  We share a common love for music, in particular 60’s and 70’s folk/rock music.  Don has spent the majority of his adulthood being the primary caregiver to his 4 children and multiple grandchildren.  Don helped me understand that men don’t have to be macho to be straight.  This has helped me with my personal identity because I have been able to embrace my own personality traits that are more feminine.

My wife.  My wife is amazing.  I am so grateful for the people in my life that have helped prepare me to be with my wife Jessi.  Jessi is a strong independent and successful woman.  She is currently supporting me financially so I can finish my degree at UVU.  When we started dating a huge topic of discussion was feminism.  Until I met my wife I only really had one friend who I considered a feminist and it always sort of had a negative connotation in my mind.  After spending the majority of the past 5 years with my wife I now consider myself a feminist and understand the ins and outs of what feminism means to me. 

As I continue down the path of life I am constantly meeting new people from different cultures.  It is interesting, as I have considered this assignment and gotten some of my thoughts down, I don’t feel as boring as I did at the beginning.  I know I still have lots of room to learn and grow. As I have embraced several people that are close to me from the LGBTQ+ community I look forward to learning more about their perspective in life.  I hope to do some more travelling with my wife once I get my degree.  I know if I apply some of the principles I have already learned by bumping shoulders with people who are culturally different from myself, and this class, I can more easily communicate and hopefully adopt some more beneficial beliefs, practices, and ideas.

Post 4

When this class first began I thought we were just going to provide service for refugees and maybe learn a little about their countries.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the in depth look into different cultures and the many customs, values, and schools of thought that surround us.  I really enjoyed learning about the Chinese perspective of harmony.  It never occurred to me that many of the things that I get frustrated with in my own culture can be tied to the paradigm of peace.  Fully devoting my life to harmony probably is not the best course of action for me, but learning how to apply aspects of harmony to my existing paradigm of thought will definitely help me lead a happier life.  

“English Only” Laws & Service Learning Update

“English Only” Laws

Diversity and inclusion is vital to the American experiment.  Having an official language for an area is important.  I have been to several cities all across the the United States.  From what I have observed, the way that our country currently approaches language is pretty good.  I lived in an area in California for a while where the signs were both in English and Mandarin.   In areas where there is a high concentration of ESL folks or people who prefer to speak a language other than English it is appropriate for signs to be bilingual.  It is important, however to have an official language as well.   Some regions of the U.S. have attempted to pass “anti-bilingual” laws.  It is ignorant to expect all people to only speak the official language of a region, or even speak it at all.   When it comes to operating a business it is important to have signs or employees that are in/speak the language of the region.

 

Service Learning

I have not started my service learning yet.  I was hoping to talk to a couple of the folks in the class and jump in on one of the ideas that have been presented discussed. I really like Ella’s idea of self image boosting.  I hope to either work with her or do something similar.

Chapters 3 & 4

In chapter 3 we learn about cognitive complexity and knowledge.  This is a huge part of my life.  I often time feel like I am hyper-aware of how I am being perceived.  In chapter 3 we learn that it is just as important to understand how our strengths and weaknesses are perceived as it is to understand those same strengths and weaknesses in the first place.  When I communicate with people who may be from a different culture, I try to pay attention to how my lack of knowledge about them might affect our communication.  Sometimes I feel like I try too hard and the other person might feel like I am patronizing them.  I see this a lot in other people too.  One of my best friends is from Utah and a recently out gay man.  It is interesting to me that when we are hanging out and we meet new people together, almost the instant the new person finds out my friend is gay they try to “casually” work into the conversation someone they know that is gay.  My friend is nice and polite to the individuals, but when we are alone we sort of laugh together at the fact that that person wanted so badly to be perceived as an ally that they try to “gay drop” (a term my friend uses) a friend into the conversation.

 

In Chapter 4 the main thing that I kept thinking about was the lens through which I view the world.  I know that my experiences have shaped the way at which I perceive the things happening around me.  For example, If I had no idea what sporting events where.  If all I had ever seen in my life was hunting, war, and survival, watching a game of rugby would be super confusing.  If I had no concept of recreation, and I happened to see a giant man go sprinting full tilt and tackle another man, I would think that they were in some sort of battle to the death.  Since my lens includes experiences I have had cues such as uniforms, the ball, the pitch on which they were playing, and the crowd tell me that they are there to have fun and compete.  

I was unable to attend class on the day we watched Babakiueria.  I watched it online and thought it was a funny, but telling satire on some of the documentaries I have seen in the past.  It helps me, as a white, middle-class, male understand to some degree what some minorities might feel like.  I have always thought of myself as educated and inclusive, but I know I am naive in many places as well.  It is interesting to look at “my culture” through a different lens.   Many of the things that we think of as “normal” could be completely bizarre to an outsider.