Thursday, September 27, 2007

cross cultures: the outcome

the actual reaction: the new girl replies, "i don't have anything to say to you," then turns and walks away.

at home, the new girl relates the events of the day. her insightful mother gently suggests that perhaps something else was going on in that interaction. maybe they were trying to figure out something about you -- specifically, do you identify yourself as black? together with that, perhaps they were (as some of you commenters suggested) trying to start a conversation, albeit in a clumsy and unpleasant way. if the theory were true, the new girl had inadvertently confirmed their worst fears. might it be worth going back to ask them about their intention?

not surprisingly, the new girl is not so sure. she's been through a lot of transitions lately, and it seems like everything is difficult. why set yourself up for rejection? but the next day, she confronts the other girls and asks: is shoving me your way of trying to get to know me? answer: no. and yet somehow, the conversation is able to flow in a more positive direction, and everyone ends up friendly (not quite friends, yet) towards one another.

what do i learn from all of this?
  • the cw about transitions (especially in high school) is true -- they can be hard and painful, and i'm not sure if there's a way around that.
  • understanding one another across cultures can be a treacherous business. my own interpretation of the first event was that they were trying to see if the new girl was an easy mark, or if, instead, she'd stand up for herself. i probably would've gotten into a fight that day. good thing the new girl's mom is sharper than that!
  • engaging in relationships across cultures takes courage and determination. misunderstandings are a given. can we recover? are we willing to risk rejection (and maybe our physical safety) to build bridges of trust and rapport?
the new girl has had much to deal with in her new surroundings. it makes her sad a lot of the time. hopefully, the joy is on the way.

hear, o Lord, and be gracious to me;
o Lord, be my helper

you have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness
that my soul may sing praise to you and not be silent
psalm 30:10-12

Thursday, September 20, 2007

cross cultures

imagine: you're the new girl, a tenth grader at an unfamiliar high school. it's a difficult first couple of weeks -- a wrong bus assignment, a class schedule mistake, and predictably, no friends. you dread lunch; you're always eating around lots of people, but always alone.

the school is predominantly white, but you're not. in fact, people can't quite figure out what you are ethnically. i guess being chilack (half chinese, half black) isn't a category for a lot of people.

about three weeks into the school year, someone shoves you in the back. you turn around to find two black girls, one of whom says, "sorry i bumped into you -- it was an accident." her friend quickly interjects, "no, it wasn't." after hemming and hawing, the first girl admits that it wasn't an accident, then asks rather crossly, "why don't you ever talk to us?"

how do you react? why? if you're willing, post your response as a comment.

the real life reaction and resolution -- in the next blog entry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

my girls

i've got sunshine on a cloudy day
when it's cold outside, i've got the month of may
i guess you'd say
what can make me feel this way?
my girls

some of you have been asking how b and n are faring in the pnw. the short answer is that they're doing fine, though the adjustments to life here have not always been pleasant or easy. challenges abound.

early on, they were just happy to be back in the u.s., but they pretty quickly discovered that life here would be different than what they had grown used to in montreal. a key difference they face every day is that public transit here just isn't very good. that means a lot of waiting around to be ferried from place to place by mom and dad -- and sometimes, getting trapped at home. in montreal, that monthly bus/metro pass meant almost unlimited freedom for them; they could get to anywhere on the island without us. the loss of independence has been painful.

they've also found that friendships develop slowly in a new location, especially at their age and stage, and perhaps because of the accumulation of these difficult situations, i sometimes wonder if they are a bit more withdrawn and less willing to take risks in meeting new people.

n's first couple of weeks at kentridge high have been pretty lonely and sad. the experience was not helped by a couple of mistakes that the school made -- assigning her to the wrong bus (resulting in a missed bus and a 2.5 mile walk home on day one) and putting the wrong lunch period on her schedule (which led to her being late to french twice on that same day!). academically, she is in a wait-and-see mode; she ended up in the honors pod, but she doesn't know if she really likes it yet. there are lots of assignments, but i don't know that she finds many of them interesting or challenging. they're just a lot of work. she is still trying to find friends in class, and seems to get along better with the students who are a year or two older. on friday of this past week, she finally met a lunch buddy, which made all of us happy.

b has not yet started classes at bellevue community college, but there has been a lot of anxiety about registering for classes (she had to register last, leaving her with few options and creating the need to 'crash' some classes she wants) and about transportation. bcc is about 30 minutes from our house without traffic (more like 45-60 minutes during most times of the day), and public transit is a cumbersome option (3-4 bus transfers and a 90-120 minute trip each way). the plan is that i will drive her, then head to the office (conveniently in bellevue). between classes, she'll study, complete assignments, and maybe volunteer at jubilee reach, a christian non-profit aimed at empowering the 'underserved' communities in bellevue. i think it'll work, but it's going to make for some long days for both of us. hopefully, she'll be learning to drive soon. in the meantime, she's working on university applications and studying for her sat subject tests.

lest all of the news seem hard and negative, b and n have been finding some new joys here. one of the more surprising and delightful to me is that they've become really wonderful babysitters. they genuinely enjoy small children, and i think that's part of the reason that so many of the little ones love to spend time with them. it's fun to watch them care for and entertain their small friends -- and it's hard not to be proud of them.

i've got so much honey the bees envy me
i've got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees
well, i guess you'd say
what can make me feel this way?
my girls

they've also found plenty of new interests since we got here, including, but not limited to:
there's more, but that's enough to give you the flavor of their lives these days. i pray for them often, and would appreciate if you did the same.

i don't need no money, fortune, or fame
i've got all the riches baby one man can claim
i guess you'd say
what can make me feel this way?
my girls

Thursday, September 13, 2007

reflections on dawson

exactly a year ago today, an angry, alienated young man entered dawson college in downtown montreal and started shooting. before the gunman took his own life, 20 were injured and one student was dead. it was a grim reminder that evil is real, that life is fragile, and that security cannot be guaranteed by human effort.

it was a horrible day. many students escaped and ran from the campus in all directions , spreading terrifying, confusing, and sometimes contradictory accounts of what was happening. some of them ran down to our girls' high school, just blocks away; the school was immediately locked down as a result. the cell phone network was overloaded, so it was impossible to know if loved ones were safe or trapped, dead or alive. downtown was completely shutdown and the area blocked off. students had a hard time getting home, as the chaos wreaked havoc with the public transportation system.

the incident was similar enough to a previous school shooting rampage in montreal to evoke the pain, fear, and anger of that experience all over again. and it raised the same difficult questions for those who believe in God: can God really be good if he doesn't stop evil? or is he not able to stop it?

oh that my head were waters
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that i might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
jeremiah 9:1

and yet in the midst of the horror and carnage, events here and there revealed the best in humanity. one young man risked his own life to confront the shooter and intercede for the life of a young woman who had been shot and eventually died. a mother physically covered her injured daughter during the shooting, literally offering to take the bullet for her. thousands of students grieved together, comforted one another, and determined to live their lives with purpose and courage. is this not the image of God, if only as a cloud the size of a man's hand?

sin has thoroughly marred the imprint of God on this world; there is no created thing it has not touched and distorted in some way. but the imprint remains. and all around us, even in the most distressing and evil situations, he is yet revealing himself -- and will until that final day.

then i saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. and i saw the holy city, new jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. and i heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be among them. and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain...."
revelation 21:1-4

Monday, September 10, 2007

a difficult adjustment

a lot of people have asked about the transition from montreal to the seattle area, and i always tell them that it's been slow and bumpy. it's a big change moving from the urban, french-styled, public transit world of montreal to the mountainous, heavily-forested, car-based culture of the seattle area. from n's first day at school (difficult) to keeping up with all of the required paperwork for our house to repainting and furnishing our home, it seems that every task is a challenge.

but the really difficult adjustment for me personally is switching to a windows xp laptop after over a decade as a mac user. i know that the two user interfaces probably have more in common than they ever have and that with all of the cross-platform applications available, it might be easier than in years past to make such a move. but i've found it's still not a simple task. my admiration for my friend and computer genius j, who made this switch several years ago, grows with each passing day. i already knew he was smarter than i am; i'm just being reminded how much smarter he is!

one task that's been particularly annoying has been transferring e-mail, calendar, and contact data. on the mac, i was using microsoft entourage. i've never been terribly partial to microsoft, but a church friend gave me a copy of office (which includes entourage) as a gift, and given the fact that palm desktop is an aging program with little support and that i'd probably be switching to windows for my new job, i figured it would make the transition easier. so even though it was a pain, i converted all of my data from palm desktop to entourage. after all, migrating from one microsoft program to another (outlook on the windows side) should be simple enough. at least, that's what i figured.

that has turned out to be a heinous miscalculation. entourage does export all of my data in one easy command -- but into a format that outlook can't import. i was incredulous. wouldn't microsoft want users to switch from the mac to windows? i'm guessing the answer must be 'yes,' but they sure aren't making it easy! for now, i'm considering alternative personal information managers.

i'm also looking for replacements for other frequently used programs -- a usenet news reader, an rss aggregator, a personal finance application, Bible software. if any of you windows users/advocates have suggestions, i'm all ears. please, please, PLEASE help!

i'm bound and determined to learn windows, but the experience isn't converting my heart or my mind. :-(

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

family news

with the passing of labor day, summer is officially over and we are into the fall. the days are growing shorter -- seattle is at roughly the same latitude as montreal, yielding the same long days in the summer and long nights in the winter -- and the workdays are getting longer, with meetings in the morning with church staff and meetings in the evenings with church volunteers! it'll be nice when our church launches and we're able to have an office closer to our home.

in other news, n has started at kentridge high, and the jury is still out. her first day was a difficult one. her printed schedule was wrong, causing her to be late to the same class twice in one day (!), and her bus assignment was wrong. by the time she made her way through the long line to get it fixed, she had missed her bus and ended up walking 2 1/2 miles home. at least it was a beautiful day weather-wise. subsequent days have been better, though you can continue to pray for her. i don't know if she's really made any friends yet.

because bellevue community college starts in late september, b doesn't even have her schedule yet. in the meantime, she's been working an odd job with friend and real estate agent b, who has her prepping homes for sale by cleaning and staging them. pretty cool.

m has been helping vision and plan for the new church and handling most of the settling in at our house. she recently had some of the carpets cleaned, and she's been coordinating the delivery of the furniture she purchased. hopefully by today, most of the public areas will be furnished. we're still looking for replacement bedroom furniture for ourselves and a desk chair for n. we're also beginning to return a lot of borrowed items and to give away furniture and other things that just don't fit.

other stuff is on-going: resolving issues with the canadian revenue agency and our moving company, getting cars registered, getting licenses changed, figuring out how to get things in our home repaired, and more. but things are getting settled a step at a time. your prayers are appreciated.