threads of our fabric

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

Get connected and get married all via Skype? August 22, 2011

Filed under: Community — Sharon Asonganyi @ 11:04 pm
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I recently came across an interesting article through my usual random web browsing.  This situation occurred earlier this year and totally tugged my heart strings. Due to an unfortunate incident, a groom found himself in an intensive care unit at the hospital the day before his wedding. This is definitely on the list of the top ten worst nightmares for any bride. Families had flown in from different countries, contractors had been paid, everything was set for a magical experience and the only, but most important missing element was the groom. After considering the financial cost of delaying or canceling the event, both families decided to rely on an innovative use of technology – Skype. “Skype is for doing things together, whenever you’re apart” (Skype.com).  Well why not get married in time though separated in space? Imagine a stunning bride gracefully walking down the aisle and up the alter to meet her soon to be husband who is lying on his hospital bed in front of a webcam. Both bride and groom are connected via Skype. As for the rest of the wedding festivities…well…you know how the plot usually goes…

So I got to thinking…If I was marrying an African man who respects the values and traditions of culture but all our families are spread across continents. “Would Skype be an option?, What would it be like if I had my traditional wedding ceremony with the aid of technology?, Has an African ever done this before?” I know a number of friends who have flown to Africa to perform their marriage ceremony duties. The costs often associated with these proceedings are typically astronomical especially when the accompanying entourage is factored into the traveling equation. The alternative is a marriage by proxies, whereby representatives from both sides of the families perform the traditional marriage rites in Africa on behalf of the couple who reside perhaps in America.

How would the use of technology impact or redefine how marriages are conducted? Does it devalue the intimacy and weight of the formalities involved? In the case of African traditional weddings, will the elders, some of whom have never been exposed to video chat platforms, be comfortable with its use or feel that tradition was being disrespected?

For most Africans, the union between a man and woman is typically conducted in a unique fashion. Usually couples will perform a combination of traditional, religious, and legal weddings. The traditional ceremony often centers on the formal recognition by both families that their children have pledged to live and grow old with one another. This involves a series of rituals between both the families and couples. Each African tribe has its distinctive nuances but overall the traditional ceremony is quintessential in most African countries and is a ceremony wherein the union is blessed by elders. Additionally, both families pledge to support the new couple as they transition into a new stage in their lives.

Personally, when I think about “I do” occurring virtually, as exciting as the ease of using technology to bring families together regardless of geographical location may be, I am still flooded by personal questions… Does it take away from the intimacy of holding your special someone’s hand, lovingly gazing into her/his eye,  eagerly awaiting to hear the final bonding words -I now pronounce you husband and wife?

Technology has indeed infiltrated many aspects of our daily lives. Sometimes circumstances as the instance in the introduction may necessitate the use of technology to facilitate the bonding of two lives. We rely on various gadgets and gizmos to live such as monitoring security systems in our homes via phone, conducting day-to-day banking transactions, grocery shopping, automatic car starters, gps navigation, online courses etc…So why should marriage be an exemption? The world is always coming up with new and creative ways to use existing technologies. Sometimes these innovative uses have societal changing implications that may be a blessing or a curse.

What are your thoughts? Does the use of technology violate the sanctity and uniqueness of a marriage ceremony?

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Welcome to America…Now What? July 31, 2011

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

 

 

Me?!?!…Proud to be African?!?!…Abeg!! June 22, 2011

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Pride – Dictionary definition: “A feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”

I always wonder where this deep affinity and sense of connectedness with anything African developed. Quite a puzzle… I cannot pinpoint the date, time, month, season, or event that was the catalyst for my African Pride. 

During my early immigrant years, I tried extremely hard to be not-African. The wardrobe change was the first effort to assimilate and become identified as an American. Matching was a big faux-pas. This was followed by working on rolling my R’s by watching all-American TV shows to absorb the culture, thought processes, and lifestyle. Over the course of high school, parts of me slowly faded into shadows, hidden from my peers not out of shame, but because it was much easier than having to explain me. Transitioning from a society and culture where I did not have to explain who I was or how we as a people do what we do, was very hard. The norms were drastically different. I found myself constantly answering many trivial questions such as “No, we do not live on trees” or “Africa is a continent and not a country” or “Yes, I learned english in Africa”…It was easier to develop a whole new persona and live a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy when interacting with the outside world. Ajong was kept for the home and family.

But once I arrived the university, I found myself living with a mini-UN. Women with varied ethnic and racial heritages – Albanian, Native American, Lebanese, Trinidad, Italian, Cameroonian – all in two-neigboring rooms. That was an amazing college experience and we are all still good friends today, celebrating marriages and births. Maybe it takes encountering others who are different to appreciate and value one’s cultural inheritance. It certainly did for me.

I continuously find myself in the mix of diverse cultures. Perhaps the pull and appeal to connect stems from the mutual understanding and similarities of our immigrant’s experience. Learning to create a home in a new world by integrating African origins with present surroundings. I entered the United States through D.C., as a scared, homesick, quiet little girl and have now cycled back to D.C. as a purposeful, driven, and confident woman. Just thinking about my social connection to many different parts of the world always brings a smile to my heart. Life truly is evolution and change. I feel very international with a strong tie to a global community, which is why I am thrilled to be part of the DC Mayor’s 2nd Annual African Festival…”One City: Many Voices” on July 16th (Takoma Recreation Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW, Washington, DC)…if you are around…stop by, I would love to connect!

There’s a blogger’s village too for fellow insightful thought-provoking word junkies comme moi! So to close, I love my African heritage. Cameroon gave me values, family, and a foundation upon which to grow as a person. America dared me to explore and soar.

 

Enjoy one of my favorite clips about Africa

 

Visit Africa for FREE!!! June 12, 2011

Filed under: Community — Sharon Asonganyi @ 5:49 pm
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One does not necessarily have to travel to Africa in order to experience the myriad of cultures, ethnicities, vernacular, and cuisines. If you are in/around Washington D.C., JULY16th 2011 from 12-6pm at Takoma Recreation Center, the Mayor of DC’s Office on African Affairs will be hosting its 2ndAnnual African Festival!!! Come and enjoy the many rhythms and soul of Africa. Do not forget to bring your flag for the unforgettable “Parade of the Flag”.

The Threads of Our Fabric (TOF) Project is one of the event organizers (Check out the flyer). Please come out and show your support for showcasing the cultural and economic contributions of Africans in D.C.\

 

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

 

World Pulse

 

CAMEROON: Lessons from the Kitchen | World Pulse

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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?

 

What about the youth?… May 30, 2011

Never have I been more certain of the critical importance of the voices of young people in society than yesterday…I had the privilege of presenting the Threads of Our Fabric Project at the annual Lebialem Cultural Development Association (LECDA). The theme “3C Convention” (Culture, Committment, and Construction) complemented my project quite nicely. My project focuses on examining the unique attributes of the African Woman and showcasing all her wonderful qualities with world. Along the way changing the representation of her image and encouraging young emerging African women to *Dream*Create*Live*Inspire*

In many parts of the world, the voices of youth, particularly girls, are continually silenced. To most being young is often associated with rebelliousness, inexperience, and simply a happy-go-lucky carefree unreliable character. I believe that all these supposedly negative attributions are the trademark beauty and blessing of being a young person. For example, rebelliousness can endow a person with a daring spirit and a creative outside of the box thinking. Such qualities are useful in situations where the status quo is a false substitute for the desire to be part of a great story… The longing to be part of something grander than self…

I remember quite vividly my teenage years; rollercoaster emotions, casual attitude towards everything, and trapped in a perpetual war with a good number of adults who I believed were always meddling in my affairs. As a teen the yearning to be an adult was an all consuming maybe borderline obsessed wish…I saw freedom from the influence of parents, independence and employment. To me being an adult was like heaven. Now as I reflect on those years, there was a critical element that significantly provided a buffer against many negative influences…a few adults who believed in my potential and always saw the best in me.

Throughout the 3C convention, I kept thinking “What about the youth?“…I hope that some of the information I provided during my presentation will offer some guidance as LECDA develops more youth-friendly and youth-involved programs. From focus groups with African Immigrant Youth, most of them thrive in an environment that encourages creativity and utilizes interactive engagement. Many adults shy from working with young people, I don’t blame them…it’s a thankless, challenging, nerve-wrecking, frustrating, unpredictable, intense task…but the most rewarding experience in one’s lifetime ! The more adults invest time, energy, and love in the lives of young people…the higher likelihood that the reward will be phenomenal…It’s been proven true countless times over…How do I know?…I am walking proof.    

Reflection: How can one nurture a love for culture, tradition, and heritage in youth aside from creative arts?