Yesterday was my first day tutoring through Spero Project. Each day varies so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. In the end we had over 25 kids from at least 6 different countries and I definitely learned a lot on the job! Here are my lessons learned so far:
1. Not being able to speak the language is really tough when you just want the grown-up to help you make Power Ranger cuffs.
2. A roll of tape, markers, and a stack of paper can keep kids occupied for a minimum of three hours.
3. Explaining how to do mathematical estimation is not easy, but when you see the spark in the child’s eye because she gets it, it is definitely worth all the effort.
4. Every kid is obsessed with using the computers.
5. To little ones, attention and love and much more important than language barriers and cultural differences.
6. It’s hard to work in an apartment complex at dinner time with all the delicious smells from around the world and not get hungry.
7. All of the hand games I played as a kid are still popular.
8. And finally, I’m pretty lucky to be able to hang out with such a great group of kids through an incredible organization.
When we moved to OKC, I knew I had to get involved. I’m too social of a person to sit at home all day. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading a good book and writing this blog, but a whole day without talking to someone is a long day for me. Taking the advice of my friend who did a guest post for me on volunteering with the refugee community, I started researching different organizations in Oklahoma City that assist refugees. And that’s when I found Spero Project. The Spero Project is a local non-profit organization that partners with local churches to serve under-resources communities. Their programming extends to single mothers, children in the foster care system, and families who are refugees in OKC.
I will be serving in their Learning Center where children from the refugee community can come and get help with homework, English, and just play. Adults can also come work on English and study for the TOEFL, their GED, or the citizenship exam. I had my first training on Tuesday and will have my first hours in the Learning Center this evening. Most of the children that I’ll be working with come from either Iraq or Myanmar. While I feel ready to help with fractions, I realized that I am not very familiar with the Iraqi or Burmese cultures. I know I will learn a lot while I’m with the kids, but I thought it might be good to know some basic etiquette to get me started.
Burmese Basic Etiquette:
- As a female, a smile or nod is the most appropriate ways to greet men.
- Never touch a person’s hair, head or cheek, even if you consider it as a friendly gesture.
- The upper part is considered sacred while lower part is considered inferior to the upper part, even considered dirty. Never mix the things you use for your upper part with that of the lower part.
- Do not use your feet to point at anything or anyone.
- Don’t cough, sneeze or blow your nose in the dining table.
- Present gifts (even a business card) with both hands.
Iraqi Basic Etiquette:
- The most common greeting is the handshake coupled with eye contact and a smile.
- Use your right hand to make contact with others and to eat.
- Do not point with a finger but rather with the entire hand.
- Always keep your word. Do not make a promise or guarantee unless you can keep it. If you want to show a commitment to something but do not want to make caste iron assurances then employ terms such as “I will do my best,” or “We will see.”
- Do not make the thumbs up or “ok” sign. They are considered obscene.
- Present gifts (even a business card) with both hands.
Have you ever traveled with little ones? Then you will love this Abroad Blog of the Week. Jesse and Liz of Mauled by Europe have taken on the adventure of moving to Italy for three months for Jesse to do a design internship. What makes this adventure even more fun is that they are doing it with their two little boys who are both under the age of three. So far the couple has survived several flights, car rides, and after a stop in Denmark for a wedding, they are just now getting settled in Italy. If you are planning travels with toddlers you should definitely check out their post on sleeping with a baby on vacation and flying with kids. In addition to great posts on kid travel, you’ll also enjoy Mauled by Europe’s daily thoughts on culture, food, and living abroad. I was lucky enough to catch up with Liz via email and get some great advice on how to plan a three-month international move. Be sure to read our interview!
How did you go about setting up your life (housing, transportation, etc) in Italy while you were still in the States?
We searched all over the internet for furnished rental by owner and we came across one on airbnb.com
that we thought felt cozy. It wasn’t the cheapest housing option but with two kids coming along too we wanted it to be comfortable and have everything we would need. Jesse is going to see about using a bike to get to work. It’s only 3 miles away on the map but we’re going to play it by ear when we get there and maybe he’ll need to rent a scooter? I guess we’ll see.
After your recent cross-continental flight with your two little ones, do you have any tips for success you’d give to traveling parents?
On our trip from Chicago to Copenhagen we packed a small rolling suitcase with diapers and toys and food. But we had to put it in the overhead compartment which you really don’t want to fumble around and grab it down a billion times. Now on our trip yesterday from Copenhagen to Bologna we only brought our small carry on backpack/diaper bag which fit under the seat in front of you. Sooo much nicer when you wanted to keep going in for food and milk and such. Also, even with the liquid restrictions you can bring in stuff for your kids like milk and such.
Also, about an hour into the trip, Crosby (our youngest) was so cranky and I started freaking out inside. I was standing by the bathrooms then in the bathroom while he cried and whined. I was thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh, I am going to have to hold a squirming crying baby in the bathroom for 7 more hours.” But if you just wait it out he’ll soon get tired.
How is your Italian?
We know zero Italian! We both took spanish in school but are nowhere near fluent, but we can pick up a few words. We’re hoping that this trip will give us, and more than anything our kids, a chance to pick up the language. We are going to try to get our almost 3-year-old into a Carpi preschool. Hopefully when we get back home in November we can keep Italian lessons going to give him an edge with learning a language.
Do you have any must-dos while you are living in Carpi?
My husband is going to be focusing on working which will be interesting going into a new job across the world. Interesting and very stressful! We both want to really learn how to eat and relax like an Italian. It also would be interesting to see child rearing differences between America and Italy/Europe. A few weeks before we left I quit my job so my husband could take this opportunity. So, I am looking forward to learning how to be a stay-at-home mom for the first time but also a stay-at-home mom in Italy!
What advice would you give someone considering internships abroad?
When Jesse was looking for an internship abroad we literally googled “design firms abroad” and then applied to a ton of internships in really cool places and some not so interesting places all over Europe. Our first hope was to get one in Italy and then somehow he got this amazing internship in Italy. We’ll have to tell you more advice once he starts working. I know a lot of places in Europe have strict working restrictions and laws. Some where they can’t hire outside of citizens or ones where they can’t offer internships. We are also going into this whole adventure with the mindset that we’re not really sure what we’ll get out of the living/working in Italy. But as long as we just remember that this our chance to do something different and change the way we think on a daily basis, then the trip will be worth it in the end.
Last night I did my first Meet Up event in OKC. If you’re not familiar with Meet Up, it is probably one of the easiest ways to meet new people who share your interests. Looking for a language group in your city? Go on Meet Up. Want a group of women to go to the theater with you? Meet Up is where you can find them. And if a group doesn’t already exist, you can always make one yourself. Now I will admit that some cities have more vibrant Meet Ups than others but it is fairly wide-spread. I just found Meet Ups in Rome, Buenos Aires, and Shanghai. Any poker players in Shanghai? They have a Meet Up.
For my first OKC Meet Up, I joined a lovely group of women for the Girly Book Club. The Girly Book Club was actually started in London by a woman named Erin. The London Club now has over 1400 members and regularly packs out. Erin decided to spread her vision and as friends moved to new places she asked them to bring the club with them. In addition to the OKC Girly Book Club, groups have also started in Denver, Melbourne, Nashville, New York City, San Francisco, Toronto, and Wellington. Each club reads the same book every month with recommendations coming from all the clubs.
I have to say that last night was one of the most enjoyable experiences as a new person to OKC. It first started with an email from Laura, the OKC host of the group. She welcomed me personally, introduced herself, and told me exactly what to expect. When I arrived at Full Circle Bookstore (an incredible local bookstore), I got my name tag and bought a drink from the little cafe. When I sat down, I was immediately engaged in conversation. The group of 32 was a great mix of women between the ages of 20-60. It was split between locals and transplants from around the country. After everyone introduced themselves, we talked about the book The Night Circus (one of my favorites). Various people asked questions and almost everyone chimed in. There was no talking over each other and everyone seemed genuinely interested in what others had to say. By the end of the evening, I felt sure that this was a group I’d like to return to. And while I didn’t leave with a new best friend, I think it is a place I can connect.
Although I’ve watched a good number of films lately from around the globe, I haven’t been inspired to blog about any in a while. But this past week I watched the Iron Lady, and actually found myself writing down quotes from the movie (BTW, that is not a regular occurrence). Margaret Thatcher may be a controversial character in Britain’s history, but she definitely said some quotable statements during her tenure in British politics. As a woman with a great deal of responsibility on her shoulders, I think there are some lessons we can all take from her. So with a cup of tea in hand, here is what I have learned from the longest-serving British Prime Minister.
Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.
These days without the structure of a full-time job, I think I find this advice from M.T. to be the most practical. At least I’ve made it practical and started making my checklist every morning. It’s made me contemplate my goals and write them down, even the little ones. (Today: learn 30 new words for the GRE.)
I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it should get you close.
I am on the cusp of being a Millennial, a generation known for their access and ease with technology, but also regularly criticized for its characteristics of entitlement. Margaret’s quote was a good reminder that I cannot rest on the shoulders of others to accomplish my goals. It will take my own hard work and perseverance.
To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.
As an emotional thinker, I can certainly benefit from this lesson. If I can allow my heart and mind to function in unison, rather that allow my heart to run the show, my decisions and probably my outcomes would all be better.
Thank you, Margaret, for the tea and for the good advice.
I may not have students to cook for yet in Oklahoma, but I still have Hubby. We’ve made a pact to eat lunch together every Friday so I’m bringing back my Friday international lunch. This week I was cooking Irish. First I researched some Irish dishes and while doing so learned some interesting facts about traditional Irish cooking such as:
- Traditional Irish recipes are simple. Because of a less affluent past as a country, most traditional dishes require few ingredients to keep the cost down.
- Adding whiskey to a dish does not make it traditionally Irish. My guess is that if a dish is made with whiskey it is probably an American’s doing.
- The traditional Irish cook does not let any of the pig go to waste. Tripe (pig’s stomach) and crubeens (pig’s feet) are commonly used in traditional Irish dishes.
- One food has stayed a staple in Irish cooking for as long as they’ve been cooking – the potato.
On Friday, I decided to make an Irish dessert called Apple Amber a traditional sweet made from one of the few fruits that can survive the Irish climate. Unfortunately, my attempt at meringue was not too successful yesterday but I blame that on the lack of a mixer in my executive apartment. (Don’t worry, I’m going to buy one this weekend so I can try again.) However, the pie was pretty tasty and worth another go.
You can try your hand at Apple Amber by using this recipe on European Cuisine. If you’ve never made meringue before, I also highly suggest reading this tutorial by What’s Cooking America (super informative).
Ingredients for this pie are simple: 1 lbs apples, pie crust, eggs, lemon, and sugar
You have to grate the apples, a first for me, but kind of fun.
Ignore my miserable meringue but the pie was still pretty tasty!
In study abroad, the stages of cultural adjustment are normal. We try to prepare our students that there will be times when they will not like their host country. They will think Italian transportation strikes are ridiculous or will get frustrated that Japanese restaurants never have forks. Sometimes the hostility stage is more severe and they will want to go home. We try to give them the tools for coping with the stage but realize that we can’t eliminate it from happening.
When we moved to Oklahoma, I knew I had to be proactive to feel grounded here. I contacted the PhD program director to talk about applying. I got in touch with an organization that works with the refugee community to volunteer. We have consistently gone to a new church every Sunday trying to find the right one. But despite all of the effort, currently I find myself in the hostility stage. While many things are in the works (home, church, friends, and activities), in this moment I am lonely and lacking things to do. I miss my friends and my job and if we were offered the chance to move back to San Diego, I would probably take it.
My big brother called me last night and asked me, “So how is the transition going?” He knew the right question to ask as he has been in my shoes before. I told him about a post by Clearing Customs I read about a week ago about the grieving process. It quoted Ruth Van Reken who said, “Every time there’s transition, there is loss,” and “where there’s loss, there’s grief.” I said that I’m grieving what I left behind in San Diego. He told me that when he was living in Germany, every time someone left to go back home, he grieved as well. He made me feel normal, while reminding me that this is a stage and soon I will feel at home here too.
Although I am not very fond of the hostility stage and just wish I could fit in, feel useful, and find purpose in this new city, I know it’s part of the process. I also have to remember that you can’t grieve what you never had. I am thankful that I had so much in San Diego to grieve for and wonderful people like my big brother who understand.
This is me visiting my big brother in Germany in 1999.