From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Jan 07 2009 - 18:30:49 EST
The Challenges Faced by Living in a Different Culture
January 07, 2009 by Alganesh Embaye
It was cold, gloomy and the sidewalks were covered with snow. You could
hardly see people walking, but in supermarket parking lots, shopping
carts were scattered everywhere and people were getting in and out of
their cars bundled in heavy clothing.
I had the audacity to walk around and familiarize myself with the new
environment, which I was in, tried to learn and cram every new detail
into my head, but my wish did not go as planned so, I returned home
frustrated and stressed.
I turned on the TV in sort of getting some entertainment, navigated
through all the channels but nothing caught my attention, as I had no
clues of the culture, nothing seemed to sink in so, I turned it off.
I opened my living room window in hopes of watching something
interesting, but what I was viewing was a lot of snow heaped on the side
walks, cars lined up to cross, and traffic lights turning red, yellow
and green. Once again, that did not cheer up my soul, so I slammed the
window shut, and headed to my kitchen table.
Then I picked up the phone receiver with the intention of calling my
aunt. Before I dialed the number, I debated with myself whether to call
her or not. What I was wishing to happen was to have a friend comes over
to my place and drink our so-called traditional coffee boiled in a clay
pot (jebena), and chit chat, but this phone receiver wouldn't provide me
with such kind of entertainment, so I put it down. I dragged myself to
my bedroom and slept depressed.
I was born and risen in a warm country, Eritrea where people dressed in
fine clothing and walk freely, and a place where "it takes a village to
raise a child" - a child would be taken care of, or disciplined not only
by parents, but by any adult in the neighborhood as well, so blessed to
grow up bathed with love and attention of parents and community as a
My childhood was full of fun. I remember, trying to make a beehive by
making holes in a small tin, and filling it with bees which I captured
from our back yard garden. I used to get stung by bees and my face and
fingers got swollen, but I never paid attention to the pain as I was
having fun. Playingmarbles, capturing birds and climbing trees were also
my favorite activities.
In my entire life, my entertainment was based on interacting with
friends and nature rather than watching TV or playing video games, and
that nurtured my capacity to internalize love, courage and diligence.
I was always fascinated by how our cultural backgrounds, social values,
and environment shape our beings. Sometimes, it may even blind us from
seeing, if there is any other different way of living, which may lead us
into misunderstanding each other in many cases.
One summer afternoon, I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom when I heard
my 12-year-old daughter, Dinah screaming as if a time bomb had exploded.
I rushed down and found out that a bee was flying in the living room, as
Dinah kept running from one corner to another in the effort of dodging
its attack. I scanned around for a possible horrific condition, but
never imagined that she was running away from a bee until she told me
I shooed out the bee of the room and helped my daughter calm down,
bewildered by how Dinah feared this little creature. That a moment
brought back many memories, when I was capturing bees from our backyard
garden, and most important, I realized that some courage was woven into
my character during my early childhood, when I was interacting with
I was trying to maintain my cultural background and social values by
passing them to my children, but I never paid much attention to how this
would play out in a multicultural society, until I ran into a clash.
One day, my son invited his friend, Joe to come home and play, somehow,
Joe broke my son's fire truck, and he promised my son that he was going
to buy him a new toy. I told my son not to accept the offer, but be
grateful, as I explained to him to value friendship rather than things.
On a separate occasion, my son and his friend were play fighting in a
schoolyard. Accidentally, my son broke his friend's wrist watch, and his
friend cried. Their teacher intervened and asked my son to pay for the
damage to the watch, and explained to him that, he should learn to be
responsible of his actions, but my son refused to pay.
I taught him something, and his teacher teaches him another thing. A
poor son, got confused. Finally, I got a call from the school principal
to come and discuss the matter.
I went to the school, as the teacher started explaining the problem, I
couldn't believe the situation which I was in?! What I taught my son
conflicted with, what his teacher taught him. I felt as if I was driving
in the opposite direction on the highway facing oncoming traffic. I took
a deep breath,and clinched my fist under my chin with my head down. Then
I cleared my voice, and explained the teacher, the reason why my son
refused to pay. The teacher nodded his head, and told me that during his
childhood, he went through the same confusion as my son did, as his
parents embraced their traditional heritage beliefs.
It is necessary to teach our children our cultural values, and it is
also important to understand the cultural background of the society that
we are living in, analyze both, and make the best of it. It may sound
easy, but it's harder than it seems.
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