Thursday, September 3, 2009

Burma in Houston

Well, I did go back to the refugee camp and cook up a Burmese Tomato and Peanut dish which the kids loved! We recited ingredient vocab in both English and Burmese. (Correction: I recited in English and the kids recited in both languages). Looks like I will be going back soon with two friends who want to help out too! Next culinary/vocab highlight?? I think we're going to cook up a Burundi dish! PLUS - check out this awesome article about the Burmese and the refugee camp in the Houston Chronicles:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome to Thailand

Went back to the refugee children program yesterday. This time we highlighted the glorious country of Thailand. So last time I went, we had about 60-70% children from Thailand. This time....I had like 20% from Thailand. They spoke Burmese instead of Thai though. The turn over rate here is quite high (families are moving often from complex to complex plus school is out so many more kids were present). The project we did was creating a Thai fruit salad together using fruits from Thailand. Mixed exotic fruits covered in coconut milk and raw sugar....awwww yeah. What kid wouldn't like that?! Try 4 kids. The first group was great since 2 of them were from Thailand. We went over how to say the fruit names in English and in Burmese. They helped me cut the fruit with plastic knives as I tried my best to convey facts about the country. Too bad words like "million," "ocean" and "weather" haven't been introduced to their vocab just yet. So basically it was multi tasking at its best with me using a very animated face, talking with that ever-so-unique accent I use with non- American English speaking people (read previous post), and cutting fruit with a knife. I felt like Giada. ....OK I felt like a version of Giada who cooks for children and basically saying things that no one really understands :). You won't believe how hard I wanted to say (in my Itialian accent) "prosciutto" or "mozerrella" during this time. Anyways, the first group of kids were really attentive as we kept practicing the words in English and in Burmese. They seemed reallye excited to learn their new fruit vocab! At the end, we finished with smiling faces and happy tummies. Next, group 2. Now this group had one very rowdy kid who spoke great English and the others who were really really shy or not comfortable with speaking just yet. None were from Thailand so there was some difficulty in gaining interest here. We proceeded to "cook" though it was less interactive. At the end, 4 kids dumped their fruit bowls in the trash with one exclaiming "this is not good!" Failure. Argh. But its ok, I think at the end, it will just take some time and persistence in figuring out (at least with this group) how to engage them a bit more. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to talk to the kids in much detail but I will be back this coming week. In any case, these kiddos are lovely - so full of life, so thirsty for knowledge.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kids...... I like.

So I failed to mention in my previous post WHAT I am doing with the refugee kids.....trying to do. Essentially the few times I've been, I noticed that most of these kids are still struggling to fully grasp the English language and American culture much less the 7-8 other different cultures represented in that tiny classroom. I thought it would be really neat if they started sharing with each other about their own cultures. I mean they are in a cultural jackpot, if you will. I'm sure they all have amazing stories to share. Hence, I want to initiate a regular 'program' where we would highlight one country where some of these kids are from. The first one we did was Malaysia. I had traveled there before so I brought some pics and props from my travel. I tried to make it as fun as possible.... I think it was received ok but I can't really tell. I just know at the end of the class one of the girls came up to me and shared with me her treasured family photos from Malaysia. This moment was.. well priceless. These pics may have been the only pics she had of her home and some family members (her immediate family fled here with her). I asked her why she came here. She began to tell me about how her father worked for the police, something politically bad happened (possibly a shift in power or something) and her father and family were in danger so they had to flee. Now, please excuse the completely terrible retelling of her story but this was done in broken English between us (for those of you who don't know me, I tend to....'adapt' to my environments. In that I mean, if someone speaks a certain way, I try to speak the same way too, thinking that I sound just like them and it makes them feel more comfortable. However, Haley and Jamila will be the first to tell you....I can't sound Irish, Kenyan, British or Aussie no matter how hard I try. In fact, I sound like a confused idiot). Anyways, point being that in this little run down apartment complex in Chinatown, Houston, TX held a completely different world where a group of kids from all over the world have these stories that need be shared and heard. Even if thats among themselves, its powerful. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to go back yet but I plan to highlight Thailand next (where the majority of the kids are from). If you're in Houston and interested in joining.... lemme know!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Soooo what now?

Well I've officially been back in Houston for about 6 months now! Uhhh, wow. I doubt anyone will read this since I haven't been posting for...well 6 months. Life post-Kenya? To be quite honest, I feel rather lost at this time. Call it a pre-mid life crisis but essentially I have no idea what I want to pursue next. Stability in the whole white picket fence, kids, family, job, house thing seem more appealing than before, but then again... I don't think I'll ever shake my travel/culture bug. Maybe I can have my cake and eat it too. Anyways, my time in Kenya definitely reaffirmed my love of working with kids (thanks to my time at the child welfare center in Embu - I still think about what would have happened if I adopted my dear boy, Francis, there) but I'm not sure how I will go about it now. I have volunteered a couple times with an after-school program for refugee kids in Houston and it has been fabulous! Absolutely amazing how many refugees are here in Houston! I love the diversity here. These kids are... well.... also amazing. I have met some who have picked up English (can hold a decent conversation) within a couple months. Can you imagine going to a public school and sitting in class the first day not understanding a lick of what people are saying?! I am continually amazed at the resiliency of children wherever I go. They encourage me to bounce back and press on. Anyways, I guess my posts here on out will be more of how I progress on my career/life path and well, anything else random that comes into mind. My dearest friend Haley will be going to Kenya (ironically enough). Blessing and prayers to her!
My next trip??? Aiming for Morroco or Turkey. :) Inshallah...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dopplegangers and stuff

Well, I'm back in Houston now. Sometimes I feel that nothing has changed but other times I feel so out of place. Its good to be back though. Anyways, I had mentioned before in an email blast that we had met our doppelgangers while in Lamu. Just a recap, we were in a random hut-like restaurant in a semi-remote island when we came upon these girls who looked pretty spot on to Haley, Jeannie and myself. In fact, my twin also had a nose ring on the left side. We did a double-take and immediately (like nerds) asked for a pic with them. I think this magical island has special powers attracting or creating doppelgangers. Well, whatev. I just thought it was freakishly awesome.