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July 24th, 2012

The World in My Backyard is in its infancy.  I continue to struggle with the best way to share the stories I am learning from the immigrants I am meeting. From each interview and connection, my world and perspectives expand. Yesterday, I completed my 21st interview. I still have a very long way to go, but 170+ interviews is not at all daunting for me. Instead, I worry about how I can best distill each interview down to a clear overview of an individual’s life journey and what I learn from them. I am working on what to share from each and if I have the ability to manage the writing or if I hand that responsibility over to a “real” writer. Hopefully I will have this big question resolved in the near future.
For now, I want to share how my family is being impacted by this project. It is truly a part of our daily life and each day I am left sitting in wonder. The conversations we are having, the level of interest my boys are showing in learning about the immigrants and the world is astounding. Through our experiences, I hope you can draw inspiration to create new conversations with strangers and see where it will lead you.

A week ago, I was fortunate to sit down with the Senegalese soccer player we met at the park on the Fourth of July. After our interview, he agreed to meet up with my boys later in the week at the soccer field. Cooper was beside himself with excitement as he looked forward to that day. We met up on Sunday and had hours of fun with our new friend. During rest breaks we looked at the iPad and Ibrahima shared little geography and historical tidbits about Senegal with them. Then the playing would resume.

10x20  6 pics copy copy copy

A great day of soccer…S is for Senegal (upper left picture).

We all left the park on cloud nine because it was such a fun experience together.

Cooper, my 9 yr old, had asked if he could come to an interview. I was a little unsure if he would be able to sit through 2-3 hours but decided I should let him join me and see what his take away would be from the experience. He joined me on Friday for my meeting with Peruvian Roberto. He listened intently and was wide eyed when he learned that the large metal “sculpture” on Roberto’s mantel was an Olympic torch. After the interview, Roberto let Cooper hold the torch.

IMG_0067Cooper was awestruck as we walked away to our car. I asked him what he learned from the interview and I LOVED his response, “From every negative you can always find a positive.” This was something Roberto stated during our conversation and I was surprised Cooper had picked up on it and filed it away. It is an important message that I think will now be ingrained in him and hopefully he will carry it with him through his life.

Our learning from The WMB continued. On Saturday, we made a quick stop at a Starbucks just off the highway heading out of town. As we were waiting for our coffee, two men next to us were speaking a foreign language. Oscar and Cooper wanted to find out what language they were speaking and where they were from. With their urging, I leaned over and said “Hello, where are you from?” One man was from Romania and the other from Moldova. They shared with us that the two countries share the same language, Romanian. We talked a little more and I was excited when they agreed to participate in The WMB. As the Romanian man, Dragos, was leaving he said, “I do have a good story, I escaped from Romania…” Our brief connection had my family buzzing in the car. We quickly opened the iPad to read about Romania and Moldova. Within minutes, we were deep in a discussion about the former USSR, Europe, history…and everyone was excited to learn Dragos’ life journey.

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