Thursday, March 01, 2007

ESL pictures

Our English as a Second Language Class
Dennis helps with picking up Internationals for ESL--he drives safely!

Our small group discussion class includes people from the Middle East and Asia--right now we are discussing the important difference between "scarf" and "shawl".

Snacks and a large group meeting with introducing the topic of the day.

Here, we conclude that "scarf" is the thing that goes around my shoulders and "shawl" is what Amni is wearing on her head.

No big thoughts or quotes, today. I'm all out.

An ice storm hit this morning. There's an icy sheen over the snow and the trees. I'm off from work, and Dennis is going in later this afternoon. A late breakfast of oatmeal and currants, coffee and toast and marmalade.
I lead a small group at our church's ESL program on Wednesday nights. Last night, our group was small--one guy from China and a young mom from Pakistan. We talked about diversity in America and diversity in their countries. They learned words from a vocabulary list that they've never heard before: sexism, racism, politically correct, target group, prejudice, discrimination, ableism, ageism, classism... We talked about the treatment they've received as foreigners, especially as foreigners who don't speak english well. Our Chinese friend had a bad experience at IHOP the other day, he and I discussed it even before we knew what the topic for discussion was (I forget which week is which). The Pakistani lady said that she had not encountered any problems. The Chinese guy said she hasn't been here long enough.

I shared stories from my own family's experience. Things that no one else remembers but burned a hole in my memory even from a young age. My family is especially resilient, they brush off insults and prejudice like it's nothing. Because, it is. My father had a talk with me once about people who are ignorant and unaware of the big world around them, that they are afraid and so that is why they are bigots and teach their kids (some of my playmates at the time) to be the same way. He told me to feel sorry for them, they miss out on so much and keep themselves ignorant.

We had no problems in our neighborhood until a family moved in two houses down the street. Later that summer, my brother, five years old at the time, was attacked by the older boy from that house and a couple of other boys around the same age, about 10. I was inside, horrified but not sure what to do or say, I was 6. My dad was doing yardwork a few feet away, with a frown on his face but staying calm. When my brother stopped crying and got mad and started to swing at the bullies, then my dad stepped in with a hose, spraying them until they ran away. My brother went after them, shaking his fist and yelling for them to stay out of our yard. A few minutes later, he was playing with them again like nothing happened. The new boy was the ring leader, because the other boys had never been mean before.

There was a few more incidents like that. I heard my dad getting called names I had never heard before. Neighbors coming over in tears apologizing for the mean behavior of their kids. We had been in the neighborhood for a long time and my dad had a reputation for being friendly and helpful. When he rescued a stray puppy that was stuck under a car, he became the neighborhood hero in my playmate's eyes. My playmates talked about how my dad was so nice and brave. The bigoted family eventually invited my siblings and me over to play in their yard and to have lunch. My parents accepted the invitation. The bigoted dad came over to our backyard and chatted quietly with my dad, fear still in his eyes. My dad made him laugh a little before he went back to his own yard. By winter time, the bigoted family were no longer afraid. We went skating in their backyard, and the dad helped me and my brother lace our skates tightly and encouraged me not to be afraid of falling down. My dad came over to watch us and laughed with the former enemy dad over our pathetic attempts to stay upright.

Their older son, however, remained a bully, often making threats against us when both our parents' backs were turned. But I remember the way he trembled and spoke softly when my dad talked to him gently once. I felt sorry for him because, like Papa said, he was afraid. This was all in the late 60's, when the Civil Rights movement was big news and we lived in North Dakota where most of my classmates were German and Scandanavian. The kids from the Indian reservation were getting bussed over to our school and it must have been really hard for them, it was no short trip.

The boys all played together with the white kids, but the girls kept to themselves, speaking quietly in Souix language or jumping rope. I would go over and sit near them, hoping that they would invite me to play with them or even talk to me. I think they just thought I was weird, so after awhile, I gave it up. After that, they asked me to hold the rope while they jumped rope, but I was a terrible jumper so I was too ashamed to jump when they invited me. I asked their names, expecting to hear "Little Tree" or "Bird-That-Flies-In-Circles" but instead they were Sally, Mary and some other names ending with "-ette" which I didn't know at the time were probably French. After awhile, I did bravely try to jump rope with them, my glasses jumping off and on my nose and let them laugh at me. The girls were older, so I never got to know them. I think they were feeling sorry for me! They might've been calling me "Little-Geek" or "Wannabe-Indian-Girl". I didn't mind, I learned a lot from trying and for a shy person like I was at the time, it was no small thing.

That's all the talk story I've got now. Time to go to the "Y" and swim.

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