Saturday, January 30, 2010

Your people do what?

**Disclaimer:  I have started and restarted and restarted this blog.  It has been hard for me to choose only one group of "my people" with which to identify.  I pride myself in not being condensed to one box, lifestyle, or way of thinking.  For that reason, I have finally decided to not pick just one.  Each paragraph will briefly and critically summarize cultures that make me who I am for those who may have never experienced them for themselves.  This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but it would definitely provide a good introduction for someone trying to understand or live my life for awhile.**

I am an IDEALIST.  Idealists believe that perfection is possible.  They believe that with everyone working together, the world can be improved to become a place where everyone has equal opportunities to live healthy, productive lives.  Idealists don't like others pointing out their tendencies to have idealistic (and sometimes unrealistic) perspectives on issues, so this should be avoided if possible.  Simply acknowledging that it could happen in a perfect world is the best way to handle an idealist's positive, and somewhat wishful, thinking.

I am a CHRISTIAN.  Christians come in many varieties.  The group with which I identify are reformed Christians.  They believe that the Bible was written for certain people in a certain situation at a certain time, but that it has lessons and overarching themes that are still relevant for living one's life today.  Acceptance and service are key themes within their theology.  They should be approached with an open mind and heart.  Don't worry about being judged by your actions or called upon to instantaneously become religious.  For them, faith is a journey with highs and lows, so come as you are.

I am a FEMINIST.  Feminists believe that all people, no matter their gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or level of education.  They believe that until everyone has the opportunity to use their whole persona and talents, then everyone else is missing out.  One should use caution in dealing with a feminist, particularly if you are a male dealing with a member of the female sex, as they tend to point out exactly what you are doing to assert your patriarchal dominance over them at any given opportunity.  There is absolutely no way to convince them that power hierarchies are acceptable, so trying is fruitless.

I am LIBERAL.  Liberals believe that government exists to improve the lives of its people.  Therefore the government should help to provide for those who find themselves in situations for which they did not plan or from which they cannot pull themselves out.  They also believe that people are inherently good.  To keep from upsetting a liberal, one should avoid topics such as economic realities and the benefits of having rich and poor people in a society.

I am a HONORS STUDENT.  Honors students are very driven to achieve the highest possible grades and spend as much time as necessary on school.  School and classes are the most important parts of honors students' lives.  DO NOT interrupt their productivity or you will potentially find your life of a shorter length than previously.  Engage them in intellectual debate or conversation and they will adore you, and possibly will never end the conversation.  Don't worry about their often type-A personalities and off-beat senses of humor, as you'll soon learn how to handle it.  Also, honors students are great people to have around when one needs help studying or with an assignment--they absolutely adore the opportunity to learn and help others find their same, somewhat nerdy, passion for education.

I am SOUTHERN.  Southern people are stranger than strange to understand.  They live in a world where problems do not exist on the outside and where every problem can be solved with a home-cooked meal.  Manners come before cleanliness which is, of course, next to conservative values and Godliness.  They are some of the most friendly people you will ever encounter.  Don't be afraid when they smile, wave, and begin conversations before having ever met you.  Simply return the greetings or risk offending them.  While in the presence of Southerners, avoid discussing politics, religion, or money.  Sticking to conversations regarding football (which is just as important as religion, sometimes more) or the food one is undoubtedly consuming is your safest bet.     

I am part Yucatacan (in culture, not in blood).  People of the Yucatan rival Southerners for being the most hospitable people ever to be met.  They do not concern themselves with time, everything will happen eventually (and, for the record, they do not like to be pushed to complete a task by the aforementioned type-A honors student).  They believe that family and community come before all else.  They can take an hour to walk 100 feet up the street because they stop at every single house along the way to have a conversation.  When in the Yucatan, one must eat everything they are given (even if you have absolutely no idea what the "interesting" meal before you is).  You must also say goodbye to every single person around before you take your leave with a single side-kiss.  Just put on a smile and be ready to converse and you will be fine in dealing with people of the Yucatan.  

I am soon to be part-Argentine. I have absolutely no idea yet what this truly means, as I have not yet arrived.  So far, I can tell you that the eat a lot of red meat, make some of the best red wine in the world, and host some of the most beautiful landscapes one will ever see.  Hopefully I won't spend too long here being "the other" (though with my soon-to-be short, very blonde hair this could be a different story!) and will be able to fully embrace and become part of this culture as well.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Finding Family Worldwide

When living in another place, finding a family of sorts has been my comfort and the easiest way for me to become culturally literate.  Even in my "real" home, my family was my main source of cultural development and knowledge.  They taught me English, manners, and every other little thing that helped me to fit into the world around me.  

When I left Maryville and moved to Clemson, my new group of friends were the ones who taught me how the world of college works.  They helped me survive classes, learn the "lingo" of campus, and social foux pas.  They became my new family who helped me navigate the new world I found myself in.

Living in Mexico was another experience that brought the need for another family to help me learn the ways of the world in which I was to spend the next few months.  They introduced me to new foods, attitudes, and means of transportation (never before had it been normal for fifteen people to ride in the back of a truck!).  This family helped to keep me safe and successful by avoiding the creation of too many waves within the culture.

In short, family has been the major means of developing cultural literacy for me.  As I go to Argentina, my new host family will hopefully also be a vessel of education into the workings of the new situation I'll find myself in.  It has always been a great comfort for me to have a family around--even if not of the traditional sort.  They help you to fit into the world, as well as provide the necessary support as you learn and transition.  The added bonus of families around the world is always having somewhere to stay when you travel :) 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Facebook and Google and Twitter--OH MY!

It's looking as if this blog will be updated every Friday (unless my schedule changes once I arrive in Argentina) and I think I like it that way.  Not that it's last minute, as that's definitely not my style, but that it gives me an opportunity to have an entire week's worth of activities to pull from in posting.

For those of you that want more of a "here's my daily life and happenings within it" blog you can find that in my personal blog here.  I'd love people to follow and share their thoughts, insights, and anything else that comes to mind!  (Disclaimer-as of this very second in writing there is nothing posted in the aforementioned blog, but that should change as soon as this one is done!).

Back on topic (dear readers, you'll learn that I think very parenthetically and therefore blog the same way so I apologize for it in advance!).  It's very ironic that the topic for this week is online communities and collaboration. As my five months abroad inch closer and closer (19 days-eek!) I have been somewhat frantically working on ways to stay as actively involved as possible in the lives of my friends and family, as well as with the organizations and groups that I am passionate about.  The clear solution in how to handle this separation of distance, time, and wireless networks (Verizon's international plan believes that charging $4.99 a minute to use one's Global Blackberry in Argentina is completely reasonable--however much my bank account disagrees!) has become remedied by taking advantage of online communities and collaborative media.

Facebook, of course, has provided me a location to network and keep track of my friends across the United States and world.  It has also proven to be a great location to promote organizations that I am passionate about and events involving them.  It's also an easy way to share pictures with people who don't (or won't!) take the time to read my blog or look at my picassa website (to be here for those interested--like the other blog it exists but isn't quite in use yet!).

Twitter as well is becoming a wonderful online community that I had previously refused to join.  It's an easy one-stop location for me to follow news events and the goings-on of some of my friends.  As my internet time will potentially be limited in Argentina, I've found that this community will help me very quickly keep up with life in the United States.

Finally, Google is becoming yet another social medium to use.  With the existence of calendar event sharing, it's easy to set up Skype dates (or online calling for those of you not in the know--especially if you're abroad and haven't heard of it...check Skype out here--it's easy and somewhat free!).  Google documents is allowing me to stay involved in my creative inquiry (which is undergraduate research at Clemson--this particular one is on women's leadership).  We can all edit and add to our outlines and research whenever is convenient for our schedules.  Google wave is also appearing to be a different type of online community, though I am just learning how to use it.

In short, I'm becoming more and more dependent on online networking and media sharing locations.  At times it worries me because I know our generation is moving somewhat away from traditional face-to-face interaction and relationship building, however I am also extremely excited about the many doors it opens for us in this rapidly shrinking world.        

Friday, January 8, 2010


I am thoroughly excited be embarking on this new adventure of blogging.  Thanks to the CLAM program (Cultural Literacies Across Media for those of you not in the know) at Clemson, I will be both learning how to blog and to communicate through other forms of technology.  Those that know me understand that this is indeed a challenge for me--my technology skills stop somewhere very soon after sending emails and making PowerPoint presentations.

However, despite the frustrating challenge it might become, I cannot wait to begin.  I will be spending 5 months between February and June in Cordoba, Argentina to study abroad.  This blog will describe my experiences though means that I might not have created on my own.

Adventure awaits!