threads of our fabric

Reflections on navigating between two cultures and understanding the self-awareness process

Evolve October 10, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration,Reflections — Sharon Asonganyi @ 10:55 pm

I slayed you,

not by machete, or using tools of military warfare,

nor as a brazen warrior stealthily chasing a pray for slaughter,  

nor by forcefully launching into an ongoing sustained raging epic battle determined to defeat a self-proclaimed nemesis,

I slayed you,

by allowing you to be,… watching you,… sensing you,…

 and recognizing that you just are a small piece of my being,

Nothing More -nothing less.

I slayed you,

Because I refused to allow you cause me cease to be,

I slayed you,

By experiencing your unsuccessful repetitive efforts seeking to dictate my reality,

And in the process transforming and elevating me to full awareness.

I am awake!

You are primordial to the divine me.

In total surrender,

I stripped you of your power over me.

Thus I change,

You are of past, and I am fully present. Now I know,… now I LIVE!

 

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Welcome to America – Themes in the life of an African Immigrant August 11, 2011

The American Psychological Association recently held its 119th Annual Convention in Washington D.C. As an African immigrant woman, I am also very excited because one of APA’s new directives this year includes an Immigration Taskforce charged to examine the intersect of psychology and immigration on a number of levels ranging from individual mental wellness to policy implications. I was privileged to attend one of the APA Convention sessions: “Humanizing the Dehumanized: Psychological Implications of the Immigration Experience”. Yes, I was thrilled to be in the midst of others who were passionate about this subject. Dr. Suarez-Orozco (Immigration Taskforce team  lead) opened up the plenary session with a quote that reminded me of the paradox of our times when it comes to the contention around immigration in America:

“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest – lost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Statue of Liberty – USA)

What are your thoughts about this statement? How does this compare to your initial or present experience in America?… Sounds quite like an open invitation with a promise of freedom and refuge doesn’t it?…

To most, however, the warmth of such an invitation is rarely a reality. The immigrant experience in the United States is filled with isolation, language barriers/communication issues, loneliness, culture shock, limited access to resources, and loss of identity. The experience is often ripe with psychological distress and sociocultural barriers which can last for years. 

Relocating to and navigating a new environment/new world is never easy. My personal story is uniquely mine but it has universal themes that reflect the common immigrant’s experience. Immigrants are one of the fastest growing populations in America. In 1990, 8 million children had 1 immigrant parent compared to 16.6 million in 2006. Further, 1 in 4 school-aged children are predominantly second generation, english as a primary language learners, and have foreign-born parent(s). With this shift in the demographic fabric of America, there are increasing myths, stigma, and misperceptions about immigrants. My goal is to write from a personal perspective as I discuss various topics related to the immigrant girl and woman’s experience. I invite you to also comment or share your experiences. My posts will pull from interviews and surveys that I have conducted over the past year as well as personal anecdotes.

I have identified some themes that I will touch upon in a number of upcoming posts (just for starters):

  1. Impact on Family
  2. Education/Academia
  3. Employment
  4. Mental Wellness/Resilience
  5. Culture/Ethnic Identity Categorization

Do you have any other suggestions of topics that I should tackle? Please comment and I will be sure to discuss them. Thanks!

 

Welcome to America…Now What? July 31, 2011

Filed under: Education,Reflections — Sharon Asonganyi @ 9:59 pm
Tags: ,

I have had some interesting conversations and speechless moments this past week with friends and families about “Making it in America”. All of which have inspired me to begin a new series posting on the first experiences typically encountered by immigrants in new environments like unintentional jaywalking or attempts to bargain every price in stores.  I always laugh as I recall my early experiences of adjusting to life in America. I often wonder if such experiences are comparable to those of little children when they are exploring the world for the first time. Staring, curious, inquisitive, and experimenting…It is difficult having to fully function in a new country and making timely decisions with no frame of reference or any prior encounters with situations that would have given you wisdom for the future. Imagine moving from a rural villages in Fontem to New York City. One would have to learn all new rules of social interaction based on a different culture, which can be intimidating and scary. I hope that as you read some of my postings, that you will post your thoughts and comments, sharing your unique experience adjusting to life in a new country. Enjoy!

 

 

Value of words July 25, 2011

I just got off a phone call that has me thinking how easily words are used, written, and exchanged without any concrete value or meaning or intent. Especially conversations with service providers that often feel scripted especially when I have an issue with a product.

Imagine the frustration and headache for new immigrants who must navigate the countless multi-tiered systems in America. There is no such thing as “simple”. For example, if you are a victim of fraud. Someone steals your bank card and goes on a shopping spree. Naturally, one would expect a phone call to the bank which would lead to a freeze on the account and begin an investigation. In a couple of weeks you would have your restored funds because they are FDIC insured and a new bank card… WRONG!!! After getting through navigating the 1-800 automated system, you may be fortunate to reach a life rep who will make promises only to appease you and get you off the phone. Followed by an email with forms and further instructions…and the headache continues…words…

Photo courtesy of AEGEE Alicante

Promise “make a declaration assuring that something will or will not be done” (Dictionary.com)…Words that create expectations.

My Grandparents often told me stories that demonstrated the power and value of one’s word. Land was bought and sold by verbal agreements. Even today traditional marriages reflect this custom, two families agree that two people are married.  One can imagine how coming from this way of thinking and acting, it is natural to believe and trust the words that are spoken.

My time here in America has taught me quite a number of things. I believe that one of the most important lessons has been to use my words wisely, speak up, ask questions. Silence is not golden, in America it is deadly. Sometimes you may encounter unfair situations that would make you want to …

Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson

And sometimes you have to be assertive and aggressive to get what you want…it may not be my nature, but I had to adapt to survive.

Have you encountered similar situations where you had to adapt to new ways because your beliefs and cultural expectations were a handicap for you? Please share your thoughts 🙂

 

CAMEROON: Lessons from the Kitchen | World Pulse June 10, 2011

 

World Pulse

 

CAMEROON: Lessons from the Kitchen | World Pulse

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I am an alien… June 7, 2011

Last night while walking briskly to my Pilates class, I pondered about the day’s tasks yet to be accomplished…whether I would have the energy to do laundry even though it entails just dumping the clothes in a washing machine. Then my thoughts quickly switched over to my newly acquired ingredients for a recommended acne therapy (if successful I will share the recipe in a later post)…All these thoughts buzzing through my head, bouncing from one random thought unto another. All of a sudden I hear…”Excuse me ma’am, would you like to sign a petition to stop illegal aliens from getting tuition at University of Maryland?”. All the thoughts in my mind abruptly stopped and all I could think was “Are you serious?!?!…” I stared unbelievably at the sign on the ground and looked at a serious face extending a tablet that already had some signatures on it. Oh, I would have loved to have some choice words with him but everyone has the right to free expression even if it conflicts with other’s ideals…So I pleasantly smiled, casually and slyly replied “I am an alien…” turned and coolly walked away, but not before noticing the blank, stunned expression on his face.

 

As I walked away to my Pilates class, I was saddened by the thought that the man carrying out this petition will never experience the beauty of interacting with others from different cultural backgrounds. I felt sorry that he was not aware of the circumstances surrounding the difficult choice of migrating to new countries. Or that most students on visas have to pay full tuition as well as living expenses without the authorization to work in America. I would have stayed in Cameroon, it was home as a little girl. Alas, leaving was not my choice. I am nonetheless grateful for the opportunities and new life afforded me in the United States. As I continue working on the Threads of Our Fabric (TOF) Project, I have met amazing, inspiring individuals who have exposed me to new African cultures: Congo, Mali, Uganda, Namibia, Kenya, just to name a few… My life has been made so much richer and fuller with friends across the continent who are wonderful individuals.

 

Just another random affirmation why the TOF Project is needed to raise awareness, educate, and connect others to the immigrant’s experience.

 

QUESTION: Have you had any similar experiences or encounters that made you pause and think?

 

What is on my mind today?… Women + Girls + Africa June 5, 2011

Blooming AfricaIs change truly change when it is the product of an organic growth process? When progressing through a transition is necessary, I am always puzzled by people who resist it. Is not part of life growth and change?  If one refuses to be part of the process, then I believe life becomes passive living. I think life would be quite boring. Life can be an evolution towards a greater self. We learn and integrate new experiences into our perceptions and understanding. My view of Africa’s potential parallels this same thought structure – a tabula rasa or blank slate – endless immense opportunities.

 Every time I have conversations with amazing African kinfolk I redouble my efforts on the Threads of Our Fabric Project. The TOF Project enables and empowers African women and girls to share their culture, identity, and unique selves through media. There has been an increase in the use of multimedia to present realistic solutions and raise awareness about various societal issues. USAID, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with an infographic on “Why invest in women?” a topic that is forever near and dear to my heart.  I really enjoyed the graphic representation of some of the hard truths in women and girl’s lives. It saddens my heart when I see others in more developed countries unconcerned about some of these issues affecting their peers worldwide.

Please take a moment, not more than 5-10mins to go through this infographic and may it stir you within to pick a cause greater than you that you can champion. There are many lives dependent on you to support them and ensure their future. Time, money, and skills…pick one and invest in a woman or girl. Bring a welcomed positive change in the lives of women and girls who are desperately in need of something different, something other than the status quo.

USAID 50th Anniversary: Why Invest in Women?