Events 1 & 2: “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza
This book was amazing to read and was my favorite event of this semester. Immaculee is Rwandan, and happily grew up there. She grew up not realizing the difference between being Tutsi and Hutu. She didn’t even realize she was Tutsi until she was in elementary school, and she was raised Hutu friends and classmates. Her family was blessed, and she was able to go to University. However, on her Easter break in 1994, the Rwandad genocide began.
The genoicde was between the Hutu and the Tutsi. Even her friends and classmates were out on the street killing any Tutsi they saw. She talks about the terror that was happening all around her and her father, a well-known religious Tutsi, was soon targeted. Her and her three brothers had to escape in the night, and she was able to find refuge at the Pastor’s house. As time went on, the Hutu begas searching every home for Tutsi refugees. Immaculee and seven other women were locked in a small bathroom for 91 days in their attempt to be saved.
She describes the crammed bathroom, so small that not all of them could sit at the same time. They rotated through where they sat, including the toilet. Their bodies began to shrivel, as the Pastor could only bring them the scraps from their own meal. Even the Pastor’s family didn’t know they were hidden there, and any extra food would have drawn suspiscion. She said as time went on the bathroom seemed to get roomier because of their shrinking bodies. Immaculee’s time in the bathroom is where she found God. She would pray for hours each day to keep her mind and sanity. She would pray to forgive the Hutu’s roaming the streets chanting “kill the Tutsi’s kill them all, kill the Tutsi’s big and small.” Ishe would spend the day praying and strivig to be closer to God.
During this time of prayer she found herself inspired. She was inspired to tell the Pastor to move a large bookcase in front of the bathroom door, so that when the Hutu’s came to search the house they wouldn’t know the bathroom was there. She was inspired to learn English, and requested two books and a dictionary from the Pastor to be able to teach herself. They spent 91 days cramped in this bathroom. They couldn’t flush the toilet until they heard another toilet flush and they were just left in their own mess a lot of the time.
Evnetually, her and the seven other women leave for a French camp which she heard over the radio was accepting refugees. In their escape they had to pretend to be Hutu women, and Immaculee knows that her prayers were answered when the Hutu men roaming the street let them go believing that they were. At the camp she meets someone who knew that all of her family had been killed except for one of her brothers. She continued to pray and found relief and forgiveness through her relationship with God.
She ends up working for the UN, which is the job she knew she should have and why she felt inspired to learn English when she was trapped in the bathroom. She bacame an author and inspirational speaker, and her main message is that anyone can learn to forgive even through the hardest wrongs.
This book was fascinating to read, and hard to believe that it was happening not that long ago.
I never knew that a genocide happened while I was alive, when we heart that word it always jhust seems like a thing of the past. It was shocking that much of the world knew about this crisis and genocide and that it took months for help to be sent.
Event 3: Three Wise Cousins
This movie is an excellent portrayal of Polynesian culture. It is about a man named Adam in New Zealand, who desires to learn about life in Samoa because his crush claims that she only likes “real” Pacific Island Men. He decides to go visit his cousins, Mose and Tavita, and asks for the real island experience. From the first day he doesn’t seem like he can handle the task. They wake him up early and start teaching him the chores of the day. From climbing palm trees, husking the coconut, gathering cocoa and selling it, using a machete to cut the grass and a small broom to sweep the dirt, Adam does not seem to be adapting well. He was used to playing his Playstation, going to school, and having his every meal prepared for him by his mother. When he gets to Samoa, however, he learns that things happen quite different. On the islands the children take care of the parents. The children work and cook and clean for their parents.
Adam attempts to become a “real” Island man, but he just can’t seem to cut it. He gets very frustrate and gets told off by his cousin Mose. He tells him how lazy and entitled he is. He aks how he can feel like any kind of man if the mother who gave birth to him is the one doing all the cooking and cleaning and providing for him and the family. Mose shames him for his behavior, and in his guilt and embarrassment Adam takes the next flight back to New Zealand. When he gets there, he realizes Mose was right all along. He notices his mom and dad waking up early to take the bus to go work for the day, and actually appreciates the effort they have put into giving him a better life.
Adam steps up and gets a job to help pay the bills, starts cooking and cleaning fo rhis family, and even sells his Playstation. He begins to treat his parents with the Samoan respect that he learned on the Island, and turns into a hard worker. After time goes by, he saves up enough money to fly back to Samoa to revist Mose and Tavita. He brings them gifts, as well as gifts for others he came to know on the island, and tells him that they were bought with his own money and his own hard work and efforts. His cousins are proud, even though they still haze and tease him a bit in good Polynesian fashion.
He returns to New Zealand, with his grass woven satchel, where he catches the attention of his crush. He became the real Island man he set out to be, but was completely humbled by the experience.
This movie showed a lot about Samoan culture. I always thought it was interesting how much my in-laws expect from my husband. They ask for money and are constantly asking him tocook and clean right when we get to the house. In our culture, this seems odd. I can’t even imagine my parentws ever asking me for money. However, after seeing this movie, it became very clear that this was the Samoan culture and their custom. The children are taught disc ipline and respect, especially toward their elders. Their work starts at sunrise and ends after dinner is cooked and cleaned up. Sometimes it is hard ot look outside of our own lives or situations, especially in the U.S., and see how simple some lives still continue to be. They live in huts and do their wash outside, the cooking is done over a fire or in a pit in the ground, and they weave baskets out of palm leaves.
Event 4: Speaking with an ESL student
The student I spoke with was Maria de Lourdes Flores. She is from a small town in Mexico, and is here in utah studying. Along with being a student, she is also working. We ended up talking mostly about her work. She told met hat she works as a receptionist in an office. Her parents were fortunate enough to have her learn English while she was still in Mexico, so she said the language wasn’t that much of a transition for her other than keeping up with all the slang talk. She said at work is where she found the most frustration. She still speaks with an accent but her English is fluent. She said at school people seem to be more patient and accepting of her accent; they are willing to listen even if she doesn’t speak exactly how they expect her to. However, she said at her work, she is in shock about how rude people can be. She said something along the lines of the people coming into her work are adults but don’t act like it. “I’ve had people call and ask to speak with someone who actually spoke English,” she said. “Even though I speak fluently, sometimes right when people hear my accent they refuse to listen.” She told me one day she was talking to a customer who was getting frustrated with what she was saying. Another co-worker stepped in and explained using word-for-word what Maria had said. The customer understood, nodded, and walked away politely. “Even though we said the same things,” she said, “he was immediately frustrated with what I was saying. As soon as people hear my accent its almost like they already think I’m less intelligent.” She also told me how coworkers at her job make jokes about going back to mexico or about her accent. “these are grown women making fun at me. Even kids in my classes don’t do that.” It was really interesting to hear what she had to say about the way she was treated at work vs. the way she was treated in her classes and studies. It was clear she felt much more accepted at school. I think it is important for us to be willing to accept other cultures and avoid stereotypes. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to be immediately regarded as less intelligent just because of an accent. It is really important for us to understand, accept, and eliminate prejudice of different cultures.
Event 5: Cultural Event
The cultural event I went to was a Tongan-Mexican wedding. It was so different than any other wedding I had experienced. I know in Utah weddings are often different than elsewhere (like no open bar), but this one was even more different. There was a giant feast for everyone at the reception, which was probably around 400-500 people. It had chicken and brisket and tongan dishes like poke (a tuna meal), bread fruit, tarot, shredded cabbage and coconut milk. There were many types of meat and the family of the bride spent most of the wedding in the kitchen. The bride and groom sat up front, and the guest sat at tables facing them. After everyone had their food, the show began. It was almost like a talent show. Members of the wedding party had different numbers prepared. There was dancing and the hula and traditionally Tongan attire. Group after group came up and performed for the bride and groom as well as the wedding guests, until it was the brides turn. At this point she performs the Taualunga, which is also known as the “money dance.” The bride and groom walk to the center while the bride performs a traditional dance. The guests surround her and throw money on her while she is dancing. The women often go and slip some of the bigger bills in her dress. There is a lot of whooping and hollering as the bride performs.
The most interesting part to me wasn’t even that it seemed to be a giant talent show. It was the fact that once the wedding was over, the bride and groom didn’t rush off to their honeymoon. there was no grand exit. The couple stayed and helped clean everything up with the family. Immediate family spent the time in the kitchen, cooking and preparing the plates of food to be continuously brought out through the event. In their culture the “food makes the wedding.”
- Service Learning
- post 10