Monday, November 10, 2014

Contemplating Cultural and Linguistic Identity

I've spent all day attempting to work on an essay about a surgery, but my thoughts keep moving elsewhere. Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the symbolic beginning of the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Recently, as I prepared for an oral report on the literary journal, Agni, I came across two essays written by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough that I have not been able to stop thinking about. Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough grew up in Soviet-controlled Poland and later immigrated to the United States. In one essay she talks about going home and the changes she saw. In the other she discusses ethnic identity and how it has changed for her and her friends over the years. Since the inception of the European Union she says a shift occurred, among some, away from national identity such as German or Polish to a more generic European though she heard it from friends long before. She described the inferiority her and others in the East felt in comparison to their neighbors to in the West. Rather apropos given the impending anniversary of one of the most important dates in modern history. Intrigued, I looked for more of her work and found another essay in which she describes her experiences as an immigrant to a new country in terms of what it has done to her identity and her perception of home and the differences of writing in her native language and English. So much of what she writes about are the very things I have spent time contemplating, albeit on a different level.

This led me to my own life and the people in it. I've talked recently with my first French teacher, herself an immigrant from France. French was not my first foreign language, that was Spanish, but it was the first language and culture I fell in love with (the second would be Polish). I had a French professor who was born in Rwanda and shared her experiences of growing up under colonial rule. Then there is my grandpa. Despite being born in the US, his first language was German. Though the family had been here for a couple generations, their retained much of their culture, including the language. English in public, German at home. He knew both the high and the low German though the low was what his family actually spoke. Because he learned only English in school his fluency in German was only verbal. He could never read or write in German.

It all comes back to identity. Who we are, who we want to be, and how others see us. How important it is and what aspect, ethnic, religious, gender, etc. takes primary significance will vary from person to person. History and current events have shown how strong a motivator identity can be for good and for bad. How do you identify yourself?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Water Day

Fourteen hundred water balloons, thirteen water cannons, a dozen water guns, and buckets of water provided the ammo. Forty-five students, twelve American teachers, and twelve Polish counselors provided the targets. Water day is always one of the students favorite activities. No one stays dry on water day. This year we went beyond our traditional water balloon fight and added water guns that the American staff brought to camp. This addition enabled everyone to get wetter even faster.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hike Day

Hike Day is best told through pictures, though even pictures cannot do justice to the beauty of this place.

Little Frankenstein

He's the troublemaker, the clown, the one who just won't calm down, but mess up his hair, dress him up, put him in front of a camera and he becomes the perfect Frankenstein for his class movie. We have such wonderful group of students. All of them are so talented in different ways and they never cease to surprise us with their capabilities. Each day here is truly a blessing.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Power Restored

After a few days without internet connection at camp we are finally back online. During the time we've been off we have been to Wisła, had campers arrive, and started English lessons, and many other fun activities. This year's lessons are on pop culture. They are learning about music, literature, movies, and food. Class time is divided into rotations of English lessons, Bible lessons, and time spent making movies. Each class will make their own short movie which will be shown at the end of camp.

Yesterday in addition to all the camp activities I started my morning with a walk in the drizzly weather with Bianca, a Polish counselor from Germany, played 2 on 2 basketball with Pastor James, Shane, and Filip (another Polish counselor) after workshops were over, and then soccer with Katie and some of the campers after supper. I had some sore legs by the end of the day, but it was well worth it. Still up at 5 am to start it all over again today.

Happy belated birthday to my dad!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

All the Comforts of Home

I have found a home away from home. It is 5,000+ miles away, across an ocean, with a language I don't speak, but for thirteen days each summer for then now third year in a row it is a place I can't imagine my life without. New friendships have been made, new foods tried, and unforgettable experiences had. My first two years I had nerves about the trip for a variety of reasons, now in my third year, I have no worries about coming here. I feel safe here. There is so much love and laughter each day. While I may not have everything here that I have at home, I have all that I need. Looking forward to seeing what this year's camp will bring.

Early risers club


Monday, August 5, 2013

Never Ending Stairs

There are 60 steps from my room at camp to the attic where my classroom is. On the last day of class I went up those steps at least a dozen times. That's 720 steps without counting trips down the stairs or all the trips I made just to the second floor. Sixty steps to drop off camera and water bottle. Sixty steps to come back up with a towel for feet washing. Sixty more to bring up the bucket of water. Another trip to get the lesson from my room. And another to get a spoon for food day. There was a trip for taking the food up to the classroom. One to get paper towels. Then later trips to put away sports equipment. After two weeks of hiking every morning I could feel each step in my legs. Exhausting, but so worth it. Food day is one of the best days of camp. It is great to watch the expressions of the campers and counselors as they try new foods, especially anything slightly spicy. Hot Tamales usually get the best reaction.

The Bible lesson for the day was Jesus washing his disciples' feet. To help reinforce this we washed the feet of our students. None of the boys would do it, but most of the girls allowed us to wash their feet.

Not enjoying the food

So hot!