Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cartoon 24: Cultural Competency

Granada, Nicaragua.  Working with kids down here is a different story coming from working with the tough cookies in L.A., the Bronx and Atlanta.  I remember when Joaquín (from México) came to work with me in New York and was almost knocked flat by the force of the attitudes of those ten year olds.  They knew how to strategize around getting anything they wanted and they were more decisive than I will probably ever be.  They tested the inner strength of every single person who walked through the doors of their community center.  You had to earn the right to teach them. 

Down here, although kids often start working and doing 'grown up things' at a young age, somehow it seems like their childish, playful, open spirit remains intact.

This cartoon is of a first acrobatics lesson I did with a group. It was a lesson in cultural competency for me. I left them alone for free human pyramid building time and I almost had a heart attack when I saw the positions they had gotten themselves into. Three boys were doing a three-high (one standing on another's shoulders and then another on top of him!!)!! It was like they had no fear and they trusted each other right off the bat. I ran up freaked out like "Okay um okay that's great!! How creative you all are!!! Umm okay let's just get down now." To myself I'm thinking, 'How the health are they gonna get down????!'  And they proceeded to calmly and easily help each other down to the ground. After this I was like, 'Light bulb! We do not need to practice teamwork and trust building here! Working as a team is much more often part of everyday life here. I imagine that all types of cultural factors play into this: bigger families, less resources, tighter knit communities, less value placed on individual achievement...  Here we needed to focus on stuff like individual expression and forming and sharing personal opinions. Taking leadership!
I flashed back to my class of super vocal, willful individuals in the Bronx... How amazing would it be if these two groups could work together! I wish I could just smash the two classes together and, with good facilitation, watch the learning sparks fly...

Don't you just love how teaching is an endless source of education? Yeek!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cartoon 23: Recycled House

San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  This was the first place I ever saw a home made of things scavenged from the dump.  It's inside of a whole neighborhood of houses like this.  When we asked, this woman told us that her neighborhood is special because it is more peaceful than others.  She does not lock her door against possible intruders, in fact she doesn't have a door. 

The dump was just at the entrance to this community.  I guess the neighborhood was formed close to avoid having to lug building materials and other useful things too far?  People scavenged not only to build their homes but also to meet day to day needs.  The first thing I saw as we pulled off of the main road was the little girl on the top left of the drawing bound through the piles of trash in a bright turquoise princess dress.  I immediately flashed back to when I was a girl and wanted to wear my princess costume everywhere.   I fought my mom to wear it out anywhere we went- to the grocery store, to school, to the park.  I watched her and her friend play with a small cardboard box, filling it up and then dumping it out. 

Mmmm I'm trying to think of what reflections I can share.  The thing I thought most about after this experience is the odd fact that while I've never seen such poverty, I've also never experienced such generosity.  During the whole trip, people with way less resources than I'm used to have opened up their homes to us strangers and trusted us entirely.  They have fed us and opened up everything they have to us.  I have never invited strangers into my house and shared not only my space but fed and given the keys to a stranger, much less nine strangers!  I almost can't even imagine asking that where I'm from.  It kinda seems like when people have more (including myself), they are less open with what they have.  And people who have less are often much more generous and open.  So I'm thinking about how I define the limits of my generosity.  I'm asking myself, how often do I give something when it means that I will have to go without?