Remembering the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work toward equity and justice, makes me think of family, so my featured image today is one of a memorable sisters’ trip. We visited the U.S. Airforce Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As I remember, the chapel, pictured behind us, closed for five years for restorations. We took this shot in 2017, so those repairs should be finished in another few years.
Today, I offer my reflection offered before a wreath laying ceremony, done virtually, at the bust on Dr. King on the campus of Kansas State University. Dr. King spoke at the university shortly before his untimely death at the hands of an assassin. I share this with you.
Please reflect with me.
As we prepare to lay wreaths at the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember his words, “The ultimate measure of persons is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.”
One can hardly acknowledge King’s work toward social Justice and equity without remembering his words of our past and thinking, “Why does this struggle continue today?” Or asking, “Have we learned nothing?”
However, we see hope when, as Amanda Gorman put it, “a skinny little Black girl” steps to the Inauguration podium, and, as Dr. King did, tugs at the conscience of a Nation by telling us that, “the norms and notions of what Just Is, is not always Jus-tice!”
Let us reflect on those eloquent words while we remember Dr. King’s letters from the Birmingham Jail: Lodged, there for “parading without a permit.” For it was not legal for Black Folk to participate in public demonstrations, an exercise NOT for a people deemed “unworthy” or “un-deserving.”
He said, “Injustice is here in Birmingham, if the Negro man cannot exercise his first amendment rights in acts of peaceful assembly demonstrating for change with non-violence.”
Dr. King noted, “They protested for the Negro brothers and sisters smothering in airtight cages of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.” They demonstrated for equity and justice. They were not insurrectionists, putting their feet on desks in hallowed halls and placing their knees upon the throat of democracy where, We. Could. No Longer. Breathe.
Dr. King emphasized, “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must transcend our, so-called, race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. This means we must develop a world perspective and tear down the walls of separation and hatred to seek common ground and to dissolve hierarchies.”
Further he encouraged for us to, “Rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the hills of creative protest!” “Humans are put on this earth to serve one another, and it must transcend class and privilege.”
Dr. King possessed a deep hope that the world could be a better place for his children and for our children.
May Kansas State University as a community defined by pluralism find the common ground to stand together against darkness and hate to find light and love.
As we close our gathering today, I ask that you greet, even virtually, those around you with your own word or action that communicate peace. “Every effort we make to connect is meaningful.”
So be it…
Thank you for reading my blog. Enjoy this piece of art painted by my talented friend, Carole Geier.
Before I get into this very deep subject, I share with you one of the blooms of my hibiscus shrub. I have it pruned into a topiary shape, and it gives us two to three blooms a day. We eat our breakfast on the front patio with the blooms in the morning in order to begin the day with its joyous brightness.
I work in education, and have done for nearly 30 years. My focus continues to be advocating for underrepresented populations in education. At one time, I worked in adult education. Then I worked in community education and research. Today, my title is director of intercultural learning. That means I teach around a variety of topics to “normalize” human difference. I offer these concepts to get them out into the world:
Language Used That Further Separates Us
Preface: It is not about “saying the right thing.” Rather we must understand the meaning (etymology) or the semantics (formal, lexical, and conceptual) in the words we use. We tend to think that language is fluid. Meaning of words takes on different meanings in different eras. Systemic words tend to carry historical influences. When certain words become part of the lexicon, they tend to be “normalized” to the larger society, whether or not they have negative connotations.
Not an exhaustive list, I present the concepts of the following words to give us pause and to allow us to think of their historical meanings in our work to increase representative demographics in our students, faculty, staff, and administration at KSU. After all, the intended outcome of our work focuses on erasing the barriers to acquiring college degrees and thriving in global economies who have historically excluded identities.
We are not here to “deal with diversity and inclusion.” We are here to build relationships with one another to support students for maximal academic and social experiences.
“Minority” – The term further minoritizes historically excluded populations. Could we use the term, “historically excluded populations?” The word, “minority” suggests “lesser than.” No one wants to be referred as a psychologically pejorative term, “lesser than.” It sets a life of low self-esteem and low social expectations of those in a majority.
“Marginalized” – A dominant power minoritizes groups by setting a standard for social, financial and governing expectations from an individualistic cultural pattern vantage point. Groups from individualistic societies tend to marginalize groups from collective societies because of different approaches to social and economic “norms.” See Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s Values Orientations. As we know, majority powers set the cultural and behavioral norms for all the people living in such a society, with the exception of Apartheid era South Africa. In that case, the non-majority White power worked to set a social standard for the majority demographic.
“Inclusion” – In order to advance the concept of “inclusion,” we must understand the history of exclusion with its laws, policies, and practices that exclude one population in favor of another as an active part of societal and institutional cultures. Some of those historical and present laws include Extreme Climate Theory, Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, Indian Removal Act of 1830, Homestead Act of 1862 (You must be Christian in order to receive and own land), Japanese Relocation Act, Redlining in housing, and the 21st Century Muslim ban, etc.
When we speak of being a Land Grant Institution, think of what we say. From a historical point of view, the Land Grant Act of July 1862 promoted that it was “Education for the common man.” Who was the “common man?” Natives were not labeled “human” until 1873 and not allowed to be citizens until 1924. President Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation six months later, January 1, 1863. In both cases, the majority referred to men as “bucks.” Women had equally dismissive labels, such as “squaws and apes.”
When we say, equitable representation across human identities, we do not assign a majority power. Instead, we demonstrate an authentic desire to assure that all voices and identities contribute to institutional and cultural structures.
When we use the word, “inclusion,” it denotes a dominant or majority power or culture allowing others to participate in power, cultural, and social structures. Perhaps we can strive for building a culture of “belonging” for our students and other.
As school psychologist, Bengu Erguner-Takinalp, says, Belonging is more than ‘tolerance,’ accepting,’ or ‘inclusion.’ Belonging means we feel connected, important, valued, part of a group, which we call, ‘our group,’ ‘our program,’ ‘our community!’”
“Diversity” – This term tends to be synonymous with people of color and leaves out other historically marginalized groups (LGBTQ, physical and mental disability, etc.). May we discuss simple human difference, and the thought that, “I am not different from you. I am different like you” (Octavius Black).
In her article about educational and retail institutions, Jennifer Rittner writes, “Diversity itself is a numbers game, easily addressed through clever, conspicuous hiring practices and even more clever promotional photography. Representation means that because we may not always be physically present, but our pedagogies, industry spaces, and frameworks are activated in our interests.” Rittner reiterates, “Inclusion is about more than just those of us who have achieved the platform for speaking out. Representation requires that we all stay vigilant and attentive to all of those not represented in our own work”.
“Culture” – Those practices, beliefs, behaviors, and ways-of-knowing of each human being. Every human possesses cultural identities. Culture is not something to denote ethnicity or people from another country. We develop as human beings, and that development comes from family, community, state, national, and world cultures.
“Multi-cultural” – Since the word, “culture” has come into the lexicon meaning, students of color, this term tends to feed the notion that people of color are the only people who have a culture! Since every human has many cultural identities, we could say that everyone is multi-cultural. Using this term, also, can exclude others with historically excluded or under-represented identities, i.e., LGBTQIA, those with different physical and learning abilities, and others with whom we do not include when we say, “multi-cultural.”
Race In everyday discourse, the word race invokes phenotypical features such as skin color, eye shape, hair texture, facial features, and so on. However, scientists generally agree that race is not a concept determined by biological evidence. In other words, categorization of different races cannot be verified by biological constructs such as genetic characteristics. Arguing that any differentiation of races, if they exist at all, depends on relative, rather than absolute, constancy of genes and raising a problem of classifying the human species in racial terms, Goldberg (1993) states: Human beings possess a far larger proportion of genes in common than they do genes that are supposed to differentiate them racially. Not surprisingly, we are much more like each other than we are different. It has been estimated that, genetically speaking, the difference in difference — the percentage of our genes that determines our purportedly racial or primarily morphological difference — is 0.5 percent. (p. 67)
More recently, the Human Genome Project has shown that human beings share 99.9% of their genes, leaving only 0.1% for potential racial difference in a biological sense (Hutchinson, 2005).
Allan, B. & Smylie, J. (2015). First Peoples, second class treatment: The role of racism in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Toronto, ON: the Wellesley Institute.
Ergüner-Tekinalp, B., Ilieva, V., Williams, K. (2011). Refugee Students in Public Schools: Guidelines for Developing Inclusive School Counseling Programs. Journal of Counseling Research and Practice, 28, 2.
Kubota, R. and Angel Lin. (2006). Race and TESOL: Introduction to Concepts and Theories.
TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 40, No. 3.
Martinez, E. (1998). De colores means all of us: Latina views for a multi-colored century. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.
Middleton, R.A., Ergüner-Tekinalp., B., Williams, N., Stadler, H., & Dow, J . (2011). Racial Identity Development and Multicultural Counseling Competencies of White Mental Health Practitioner. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 11, 2, 201-218.
Hills, M. D. (2002). Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s Values Orientation Theory. General Psychological Issues in Cultural Perspectives. 3.
Wilcox, Jill. (2016). The hijacking of the words, diversity and inclusion. ( I am not able to insert the URL here)
Millennials have a different definition of diversity and inclusion
I work at a university as a teacher of intercultural learning and development. That means I work with students to learn about their own cultures so that they are better prepared to understand other cultures. You see, we want to graduate students who are globally marketable and are able to think past their own identities.
I have developed many workshops over the years to address such learning outcomes. One of the developmental workshops/classes is called Safe Zone. It was developed by Anthropologist, Dr. Susan Allen, among others, originally to address sexual minorities, and then began to include intersectional identities deemed, “Not in the mainstream.” That was back in the 1970s, and we continue this important work of building allies today.
With the recent focus on inequities across all social constructs, there remains a focus to help institutions build community, foster a sense of belonging for all, and address emotional well-being. As I continue to say, it’s a life-long journey. When one asks me, “How long with this take?” My favorite answer is, “A life time.”
I have a class called, History of Exclusion, Implicit Bias, Aggression, and Language. I present this here as a way for us to think about the environments that we build in order to exclude, which is the opposite of building community. Here is a quick primer:
As with any intercultural learning processes, all students , no matter who you are, must understand and internalize the benefits of being globally aware, confident and competent. This learning is not a “check box,” nor is it a “once and done” process.
The goal is for a us to move toward “allyship,” with historically excluded groups with “Authentic Allyship.” For example:
“Performance Allyship,” i.e. extrinsically motivated and tends not to be sustainable. Rather is tends to be “a means to an end.”
“Authentic Allyship,” intrinsically motivated and tends to promote positive and sustainable change in systemic exclusion.
If we are asking ourselves and teaching our children to function in a global society, we must model that same “self and other” awareness. Here’s a way to begin:
Learn about your own identity and the characteristics that make up your culture.
Learn about the identities of others and what about those identities that make up their cultures.
Internalize how this understanding contributes to cohesion and the equitable representation of multiple identities in the class (room), in community, and in societal settings.
Intended Outcomes: Participants in this practice internalize their personal journey in Authentic Allyship with persons who identify with populations not part of a dominant. Practitioners of allyship understand how their own stories influence how they view the “other.” Practitioners of allyship find common ground to learn the stories of “others” and build relationships. Ultimately, practitioners of allyship advance the concepts of “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being” for all.
As you look for readings, look for key words in the following topics.
History of the exclusionary acts that contribute to racism and other “-ism” constructs
Understanding Implicit biases and its effects in building relationships
Understanding different types of aggressions: how do they affect the relationship between the aggressor and their “targets,” including:
Understanding the language that further “minoritizes” and separates one group from another.
Again, we promote: “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being”
One would have to live under a rock in order not to acknowledge the global pain and suffering at the moment. Since early March we hear the daily COVID-19 reports from countless sources. Some we believe and send us into the realms of disbelief.
My featured image, this week, shows the baby bunny, a kit, living in my backyard. His favorite nourishment appears to be crisp, dandelion greens and dandelion stalks. Since both our dogs died last year, I am delighted that this little creature stays in our yard. Watching him (I really cannot identify his gender) gorge himself on clover and dandelions while viewing the world around him, reminds me to engage in a quiet pace, enjoy my surroundings, eat my food contemplatively (Okay, I’m anthropomorphizing said bunny!), and be aware of my surroundings with its joys and its, possible, dangers. Good advice from the bunny, considering world events of late.
My goal, here, does not center on my judgement of the current world and U.S. events. I assure you, I have the full range of emotions around the effect of COVID-19 and senseless killings. You don’t need to read those. Rather, I hope to offer comments regarding self care and how we may focus on ourselves in a healthful way. I’m sure you’ve read lots of information on mindfulness. Here, I offer another resource. A couple of friends wrote an Extension publication called, Everyday Mindfulness. It comes complete with the “Fact Sheet,” which the actual publication, and with a leader’s guide, in case you want to teach it. If you want more information on how to gain free access to the publication, just let me know in a comment.
First, let us look at what mindfulness can be:
» Living in the present moment/awareness of the present moment — paying close attention to thoughts, physical sensations, and our surroundings (Like the bunny in my backyard!).
» Observing personal experiences of mindfulness, being completely focused on a project
reading a book, doing a hobby, or playing a sport. This heightened awareness is mindfulness.
» Taking a few deep breaths — becoming fully aware of the present moment.
» Having nonjudgmental awareness in which each thought, feeling, and sensation is acknowledged and accepted in their present state. This steady and non-reactive attention usually differs from the way we routinely operate in the world.
» Paying attention, precisely, to the present moment without judgment
Sometimes, delighting in the little things can help us to be more focused, though we can benefit from setting aside specific time for expressing anger and other emotions. When we “schedule” such time for judgement, anger, sadness, and guilt, we can focus our energies for the difficult times. The next step would be to schedule time for joy, celebration, and the plan-of-action for addressing the events that bring on anger, sadness, guilt, and judgement. When we call ourselves to action, we address the helplessness that often accompanies injustices and inequities.
This photo is meant to help us imagine a peaceful scene to promote mindfulness. It’s three of my four grandchildren enjoying Canada geese swimming while an elder feeds them.
Back to mindfulness. We follow seven principles. They take practice, but it’s worth the effort in your journey toward self-care:
Non-judging: Be a neutral observer to each experience.
Patience: Allow each experience to emerge at its own pace.
Beginner’s mind: Avoid bringing in what you know to the current moment and try
experiencing it as if it is the first time.
Trust: Believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way.
Non-striving: Avoid the need for winning or losing or striving for a purpose — it is about “being” and “non-doing.”
Acceptance: See things as they are in the present moment.
Letting go: Take the time to detach from your usual feelings and thoughts.
You may ask, “How can we do this when the world is hurting and in crisis? My answer: We can better serve others and be the best for the world once we have addressed our own physical and emotional needs.” It is not selfish. It is good practice.
I snapped this shot on one of my walks not far from my house. In a world of pain, suffering, and ugliness, somedays, I have to focus on beauty. Thank you for reading.
Every year, around the second or third week in November, National Geographic Society celebrates Geography Awareness Week (GAW). As a National Geographic Society Explorer, I have made it one of my missions to promote the study of geography in the class room. In the U.S., the study of geography is not mandatory. This sad reality means that many young people, mostly our Anglo students in the U.S. have no idea that they possess culture or are part of the human continuum that we call, “diversity.” Geography teaches us that our respective cultures become part of us as we mature from infants to adulthood, gathering preferences, inter-sectional identities, belief systems, and ways-of-knowing, depending on what part of the world we call home.
It’s a great honor to be part of National Geographic Society as an explorer. While I don’t get to travel to the far reaches of the globe, I help students look at the world with geo-spatial lenses. I teach them to ask questions, which we call, “geo-inquiry.” I have an example:
Ask: Framed question from a location-based perspective so that you understand the challenge
Acquire: the resources needed to study the question further, such as research data
Examine your data, and watch for patterns that begin to emerge
Analyze the data to see which factors influence other factors
Act on your knowledge to determine a problem-solving approach
–Develop your message for your intended audience to create visuals to communicate information
Let me break this down even further. Suppose I parachute out of a plane, and I don’t know where I am.
Where is this place? (Ask)
What is the topography? What is the climate? Am I surrounded by mountains? Can I see snow on those mountains? Why am I surrounded by a treeless sandy plain but I can see mountains about 25 miles (40.2 km) in every direction? What else can my surrounding tell me? Have I been to a place like this previously? (Acquire data)
After I take in all this data, I can begin to examine it to create a hypothesis on my location. (Examine)
Analyzing my data, I begin to realize that I am somewhat familiar with the surroundings. About 25 years ago, I remember that I climbed Blanca Peak, a 14,000 Feet (4267.2 meters) peak at my 11:00 o’clock as I face south.
I can now act on my knowledge to find my way to the nearest town in this valley. Where am I? I am at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, United States.
Geography asks us to consider all our surroundings and to recognize how we humans interact with our environments. It asks us to consider place and what makes place important to us. Here are some other questions we ask through geography:
“What is? or Which is?
“What has changed?” “Since when”?
“How has it changed?”
“Which spatial patterns exist?”
Here are some other geography “tid-bits.”
Did you know that Geography is considered the “Mother of Sciences”? Geography’s study field embraced the entire universe and later bore many children, among them astronomy, botany, geology, and anthropology.
Did you know that Climatology is the study of how climates are created and what they do the environment? Climatology is a long-term study of the geographic world.
Did you know that Human Ecology, the study of humans in their environments, is a unique field of Geography? This form of geographic inquiry aims to clarify the relationships between natural environments and varying activities of humans.
Did you know that geography explores human systems, which include culture, economics, migration, and politics?
Did you know that geography explores physical systems such as land forms, climate, and rivers?
Geography is wonderful! Some people think that technology, such as map programs, will do away with maps and atlases. I hope not. The joy of exploring the world through maps remains a great excitement for those of us who grew up with maps.
If you would like to hear geography linked with music, listen to High Plains Public Radio, online at hppr.org. Silver Rails: Music of the World in the Folk Tradition airs Saturday, November 9, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Central Time. Lynn Boitano and I will be your host for music, geography trivia call-in, and lots of geography information. We will be celebrating Geography Awareness!
In the past three months, I’ve attended a Diwali (The Hindi celebration of Light in the Darkness) in my rural Kansas town, thanks for my friends and colleagues from India. Two days later, I had a wonderful Filipino meal, which included Pancit, stews, and bread. There I watched as my friends, Karen and Jonathan, parents witnessed their first snowfall, back in November. All this while, I had the honor of interacting with a wide range of folks. I learned a little more about them by sharing in their cultural celebrations and the foods of their regions and countries. It’s my favorite thing to do! I walk away, a little fuller in my stomach, heart, and mind. I will chronicle some of the events, here. The food from the Diwali included curry spices, chick peas, basmati rice, potatoes, chicken, and, in the white bowl, Gulab Jamun, these wonderful little pastry-like rounds soaked in syrup. This food fed my soul!
Eating with my friends, who hail from the Philippines, we were treated to pancit, a clear noodle and vegetables dish with lovely flavors of garlic and savory flavors of pork (the preference of our host). We were also treated to a stew with beef and Lumpia, a spring roll of vegetables and meat. Yes! Also the first snow for Karen’s parents!
Well, it’s been a few weeks since this pleasant evening out on the porch, but I’ve wanted to tell you about it for a while. We call it, “Happy Hour”. We each bring food and drink to share. In addition to the homemade pizzas, cheese, and dessert that I offered, my friends brought cooked carrots, the best Leche de flan from my friend, Karen, who apparently learned to bake this velvety, smooth custard in her home country of the Philippines. She’s pictured above with her parents’ first snow fall while on a visit to the U.S. Another friend offered her sweet carrots, and another brought apple cobbler, and we had chicken pot pie. In such “happy hours”, I’d say the conversation stands as the most important aspect with food bringing up a close second. I found it interesting that, on this particular occasion, the men sat outside, and the women sat inside. Hmmmm….I wonder why this happened.
For an appetizer, I made my own type of Bourisin cheese by draining whole-milk, Greek style yogurt in a hanging cheese cloth. I added my own blend of dehydrated vegetables for a tangy cheese spread. One of my favorite things to do is make pizza dough and have all the trimmings of vegetables, meats, cheeses, sauces (marinara and pesto are my favorite sauces to have available), and attendees make their own pizzas. We have a great time. Here are some of the offerings for this lovely October evening: 1) My “Boursin” cheese nestled in a clay pot, 2) Baked pizza with pesto, and 3) Leche de Flan
A few years ago, I went on a study trip to Peru. I wrote about it previously. Of course, I’m always up for a new adventure in eating, though I love interacting with people with different backgrounds from my own. (Which is every day, really! I don’t have to go to another country to do that!). My study group and I took many trips in-country, so I will talk about those from time to time. This story begins in Cuzco, and it includes food, too!
The Cuzco church bells pealed at 4:00 a.m. We ate a lovely breakfast of ham, cheese, eggs, fruit, granola made with puffed millet in place of our traditional oatmeal, liquid yogurt, and hot espresso. Espresso is the only type of coffee served in Cuzco! Having only been a consumer of coffee for a few years, this was strong for me, but it proved to be beneficial in the high altitude. Cuzco is considered the Peruvian Andes and is 11,152’ altitude. Coming from a mountainous region in Colorado, I adjusted quite well. As for the espresso and any coffee in Peru, I must say that there was no such thing as a bad cup of coffee in Peru. After a lovely breakfast, we chewed on some coca leaves for good breathing, and then, we boarded the bus to Patabamba.
Patabamba, in Quechua, means “upper flat. Originally, it was Patapompa, but the Spanish colonizers changed it to Patabamba. From what I could gather regarding Quechua, it is a complex language, which was largely replaced with Spanish after Spain’s invasion in the 15th Century. Many of the remote villages around Cuzco are functionally monolingual speakers of Quechua. It is a beautiful language with only three vowels (i, a, u), and in some words the vowels are completely devoiced (silence, a stop, or a sort of throaty sound). I was able to observe the language in action when village members relayed instructions to one another as they prepared our most sumptuous and interesting meal of the whole trip. At first, I did not understand that the, aforementioned, stops, hisses, and throaty sounds were part of the language. Then after, I learned to listen for the “devoiced” part of the language that is Quechua (Ketch-wah).
Our menu of lamb, chicken, llama, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lima beans (cooked in their pods), plantain, and blocks of farmer cheese were baked in a rock “oven” especially built for the occasion. We watched as the hole was dug, and then lined with the rocks. The most impressive was the dome built by the large stones leaning against each other. The crowing touch came when the “keystone” was placed in the ground oven.
The domed rock oven was filled with wood fuel and burned until the rocks were hot. When the rocks reached the target temperature, the dome was deconstructed by first removing the cap stone which held all the stones in place. The rocks that made the dome were removed, and the raw foods were placed on the hot stones. The cheese was wrapped in brown paper before being place on the other ingredients. When all the food was in place, green branches with yellow flowers still in place, were spread on top of all the foods. Then large sheets of heavy plastic were laid out on the green branches. Then the moisture-rich soil dug to make the cooking pit was spread out on the plastic until nothing, but soil was visible. The food stayed in the “oven’ for 35 minutes, and voilà! We ate the most agreeable meal with cups of coca tea to wash it all down. The meats, plantain, and vegetables cooked to perfection. We ate with our hands. I ate my potatoes with the peelings still intact, and I noticed that the villagers peeled their potatoes. It was my favorite meal of the trip.
While the meal was cooking, my fellow travelers and I met the elders of the village. The elders, male and female, invited us to try on their beautifully dyed and woven dresses, ponchos, capes, and hats for photo opportunities. One of the featured photos in a past blog was me and one of the elders.
After interacting with the village elders, we went for a walk to gather plants and flowers. That was followed by a lesson on the plants used for dying wools for weaving. The flowers gathered that day became the dyes of brilliant reds, yellows, and blues from which all other colors were made. After spending a fine luncheon with the villagers, they set up a store for us to purchase handmade clothing, wraps, and hats.
What struck me most was the happiness of the people. They seemed to be quite contented. As they told us about their plans for promoting the village for tourism, which includes home-stays, I wondered if the influences that would inevitably follow would interfere with the peace they appeared to possess. I wonder how they are faring these few years later.
The goal today is not to be another foodie blogger, though I love to cook, bake, and, often, I get to do those things in a social settings with family, friends, and acquaintances. I do want to talk about an aspect of nourishing our bodies along with our spirits and our lives, as in “Joie de vivre” (joy of living).
As a word collector, one of my favorites is conviviality, the quality of being friendly and lively or friendliness. Merriam-Webster takes a different approach in its meaning by connecting conviviality, specifically, to food and feasting in “good company.” Whatever the definition of conviviality, I love the concept, and I love engaging in the act of being convivial.
A few years ago, I went to a food science conference at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The focus of the conference was the Mediterranean Diet: Eating fresh, non-processed, omega rich foods and having a small amount of red wine each day. What I found to be the most intriguing was the emphasis on convivial eating: sharing food with family or friends and taking your dear, sweet time to allow slow, digestible consumption of food while enjoying each other’s company. The food scientists at this conference emphasized that the food choices play an important role in healthful eating, but went on to say that the slow, deliberate sharing of food and conversation is equally as important. It made me wonder if there is a word in the Italian vocabulary for “fast food”. I hope not. I can’t help but connote the notion of fast food with un-healthful eating.
The food writer, Michael Pollan said, “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling our bodies to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture”. To that I think of the holiday meal that takes a full day to prepare, and most eat it in a matter of moments. Perhaps a healthier thing would be to take at least half of the preparation time for consuming the meal. So, if it takes 8 hours to prepare the meal, take 3-4 hours to eat it. Okay, that may be excessive! What if we took 2 hours to consume our holiday meal? It would certainly honor the hands that prepared it. In addition, the slow consumption of the meal would keep us from overeating, because our brains would know when we’re full sooner.
Opposite of convivial meal times is observing our grandchildren eating in the school lunch room. The students must consumer their meals in as few as 15 minutes. The lunchroom “monitors” highly discourage conversation as well. I know children are highly adaptable, but I can’t help but think that the daily school lunches may add some unnecessary stress to the developing mind and body. From all appearances, the children don’t seem to enjoy the process.
The Danish have the word “Hygge” (pr. Ooga or hee-gah). Likely the word from which we get “hug”, hygge is the feeling of coziness, fun, or contentment. The intimate setting of a small dinner party or an impromptu gathering with family or friends makes me think of hygge. One of my favorite places for that feeling of hygge is around the camp fire in the mountains or sitting with family or friends near a body of water. The word, “delicious” comes to mind.
The featured photo in today’s blog is that of my sister’s in-laws in Italy. My Sis is at the far end and cannot be seen from this vantage point. Please notice that the family is gathered around a table that seats 18. My sister tells me that the hostess prepares fresh mozzarella and bread every day. When I gaze at this photo, I think I can smell the flavorful food, and I marvel at the wine being poured from pitchers. Sis tells me that the meals there take two to three hours to consume; even when everyone at table does not speak the same languages.
Some friends and I were discussing building financial opportunities for women. It made me think of the micro-loans that were championed by the Grameen Bank many years ago. One of my colleagues, a Bangladeshi engineer, was personal friends with Grameen founder, Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate. The concept of micro-credit and micro-finance has worked in many places to help people build financial security.
Our discussion centered on ways to help women, specifically, to build financial security. It made me think of a study trip to Mexico, a few years ago, when I was able to learn from people who were using micro-credit to run very small farms called, ejidos (Eh-hee-tho). Looking back at my journal notes, I will describe their process for growing tomatoes (tomates).
We visited several farms in the county (municipio) of Ayala. An ejido farm can be compared to a parking lot. When you go to a parking lot, you just know there will be a place for you to park. And as long as you do not abuse your parking privileges, you can continue to park in a spot in that lot. An ejido farmer does not own his/her “lot”, but as long as he or she wants to farm there, and as long as it is used properly, the farmer can be on the land indefinitely. Like paid parking lots, there are only small fees to be paid, or food can be supplied to municipios.
My colleagues and I visited a wonderful tomato farming operation, which had been in production for about five months. It took about one month to begin to produce significant quantities for sale. Before entering the facility, we had to step inside a sunken, concrete box holding chlorine bleach.
Situated on approximately one-fourth hectare, which is about 2,500 meters, which is about .62 acres, is a screen-enclosed structure holding about nine-thousand tomato plants. The plants’ soil and root systems sit inside heavy, pliable, black plastic bags, which are approximately 13 inches in diameter and 14 inches high. The stems of the plants are three to six inches in diameter. The plants vine up strings rising 12 feet above to horizontal wires running parallel to each row of plants. The tomatoes nearest the bucket-like bags, holding the dirt and root systems, ripen first. As tomatoes are harvested, the green tomatoes nearest the horizontal wires are lowered to run more parallel with the ground. Then the top of any given plant will be hanging over buckets 10 spaces away. Every 15 days, the strings are lowered, and the tomatoes nearest the ground ripen first. This Loreto-variety of tomatoes takes a lot of nitrogen, we were told. If you want to see pictures, please let me know. You would love seeing this operation.
The plants take 20-thousand liters of water a day, which is about 5,265 gallons. The farmer harvests 200 boxes of tomatoes per week. The boxes held about two bushels, which is about 106 pounds. There is not much exporting, but this operation supplies several grocery stores (tiendas) weekly. The picked fruits are sold to the stores, and the fallen fruits are sold in the barrios (neighborhoods).
The producer told us the next thing to be learned is composting so that something useful can be done with the organic waste, which is one other by-product of this operation.
All this was built from a micro-loan, and the farmers told us they thought they’d begin to see a profit just after the second round of purchases.
Don’t forget to roll the “Rs”. Okay, so I already introduced the ejido farm producer. The community or municipio owns the land. You stake a claim, of sorts, to some land, and you farm it. As long as you do not abuse the land or other farms around you, you can work that land as long as you like. There is a small usage fee to help the community. The county (municipio) government usually helps with initial seeding, reclamation, and improvements.
We visited the farm of two women near the minicipio of Ayala, state of Morelos. The señoras farmed their ground together. They produced corn, green beans, squash, and sugar cane. Their corn seed came from the U.S., and they grew both grain (maiz) and sweet corn (elote) – pronounced “my-eese” and “eh-lo-tay.”
Farming 3,000 feet above sea level, the ladies planted, irrigated, and harvested by hand and with the use of oxen and horses. Small irrigation ditches ran through the land. It is up to the farmer to flood her fields from the ditches with dams and canals. They farmed four hectares (about 10 acres) per year. It costs about 5,000 pesos per hectare (2.48 acres) including 200 pesos for fertilizer and 350 pesos for insecticide. They pay their water usage annually. The ladies gave us an estimate that it took about 29,000 pesos to get their produce to the market. That is about $2,900.
In the ejido system, producers help one another plant and harvest. For example, the sugar cane was harvested with a machete. It takes strong arms to swing a machete. The crops go to market in Mexico City. Visiting this particular farm held a few contradictions. Everything was done by hand, which took us back in time. The power lines above had electricity surging through them, audibly. That brought us back to reality.
In this text, I have borrowed from myself. I was attempting to write a white paper to help educators better understand the students in their classrooms. I think it’s always best to back up and start at the beginning to understand a journey.
Why do people emigrate? That is, what makes a family leave its own country and venture into an unknown land, in many cases, across oceans? In most cases, this movement is considered a “Forced Migration”, which is displacement because of persecution, armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations, natural or environmental disaster, famine, ineffectual government, or lack of financial opportunities (Baker, 2014; Goetz, & Rupasingha, 2007). Often times, the process of migrating is dangerous and may take up to 10 years with many stops along the way (Salgado de Snyder, 2007). Humans have always migrated, and it, likely, never will stop because of constant changes in governments and other political policies, food supplies, societal mainstream notions, and religious views.
For the past 25 years, immigrants of all statuses, have been part of my daily life living in Southwest, Kansas, both professionally and personally. I’ve worked with Southeast Asian and African refugees. I’ve worked with immigrants from all of the Americas (Meso, Central, South and North (I call them economic refugees), and with immigrants who come with professional careers from India, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, China, Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, Canada, and different parts of Europe. It is an enriching experience to learn from those who come from other backgrounds.
All the immigrants who have come to Kansas in the past 30 years have one thing in common. They’ve come to the United States to seek better ways of lives. Lives without conflict and strife. Lives filled with hopes for their futures. While their stories of how they arrived on the shores or across the borders into the U.S. vary, there are common denominators in the challenges of which they face. The greatest challenge, possibly, is that of acculturation. That is, fitting into a new land, learning the folkways and mores of the people, and understanding how their own cultures either blend or clash with the “mainstream”. They do all this while trying to learn a livelihood for their families’ survival and hoping to move to a place of thriving in their lives. There are many struggles and challenges of acculturating to new lives in new cultures. Granted, the Canadians with whom I’ve worked don’t have as many challenges because of a common language and European ancestry as the U.S. mainstream. However, the most obviously “different” immigrants do have challenges. For example, these are some of the question and comments that I hear along the way:
How and where do our children go to school?
Is there a place for me to learn English?
Where do we get an identification and address immigration status?
What are rules for driving a car?
Where do we get the foods of our traditions?
What are the rules for schools regarding age of entry, immunizations, school readiness?
Where do we find child care provider for our children?
Where do we find a doctor?
Is there public transportation?
Are we safe to walk to where we need to go?
“We are starting all over, and I need to purchase items for my home, again, and I don’t know anybody, so I have to make new friends, too.”
The United States is heading toward a demographic where there will be no one majority of population by the year 2040 (World Bank). My observation is that this notion strikes fear in people.
After nearly 30 years of living, working, and playing alongside the immigrants who have come these past three decades, my observation is that they have not come to colonize these lands and the mainstream. They (immigrants) have come for better lives for their children. Historically, most are the victims of colonization on their lands of origins. If you get the opportunity, hear their stories, share their foods, understand their laughter, and most importantly, empathize with the fears that pushed them out of their home soils.