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