Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Culture in Unexpected Places

Everyday I drive by this cute little florist shop called A Date with Iris. Their store window is creatively decorated for Halloween with skulls and spider webs and has an atmosphere which draws you in. At least it drew me in a few weeks ago. The owners are lovely and welcoming and the shop is full of gorgeous flowers and unique gifts. It is also now my go-to for Oklahoma postcards for my Postcrossing correspondence.

But not only is A Date with Iris overflowing in local hospitality, but currently they are serving as hostesses with the mostest to an international guest. As part of an entrepreneurial exchange through the University of Oklahoma, A Date with Iris is hosting a florist shop owner from Taka, Bangladesh named Tanya. Upon finding out about their exchange, they graciously invited me to meet her. So yesterday I sat in the back of their florist shop and we talked culture, food, politics, and education.

One of the most fascinating parts of our conversation was to hear Tanya’s views on wealth and her questions on why Americans send their jobs to Bangladesh and China. She expressed her great frustration on how America places stipulations on regulations on other countries while not paying any more for the goods or being knowledgable of the economic and social structures of the countries it is dealing with. One of the most challenging aspects of our conversation was about child labor. Tanya’s explained that many factories in Bangladesh have large signs across them that say, “We do not use child labor.” However, she explained, if a child doesn’t work, it does not mean he is in school or will be taken care of by the government like here in the U.S. Instead the child will be on the street begging and hoping someone will feed him. She asked me the question, “So is it better for the child to work or for the child to starve?”

Sitting a florist shop in the middle of a neighborhood in Oklahoma City, I had a conversation that I doubt I will ever forget. I  learned so much in that 90 minutes and found culture in an unexpected place.

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How the World Views Us

I’ll never forget standing in the Metro in Paris and being horribly embarrassed by the college kids who were a few cars down. They could be heard by every passenger as they swore and rough housed with each other. With their college t-shirts, flip-flops, and southern accents, there was no denying they were Americans. It made my friend and I start speaking in Italian just so we wouldn’t be associated with their bad manners. That experience has made me stress to my own students just how important it is to be aware of how we as a culture and people are viewed by others.

I came upon the Listening Project trailer just this week and it was reminiscent of my Metro experience. As I engage in the American Presidential Debate on foreign policy, this film has reminded me that we are not a nation that functions in a bubble, but one who is dependent and depended on by the world.