November 16, 2012
The past few weeks I have been overwhelmed with work for my photography business (Tara Clark Photography). Most days I have World in My Backyard thoughts streaming through my mind and I wish I could put down in writing but they would be fleeting and I plowed through my work, unable to find time to focus on this project. Today, as we head into the weekend, my work load has lightened and I did not want another day to pass without blogging a few thoughts.
November 6th was a momentous day for our country. For some Americans, it was a day that ended with disappointment and for others, it ended in celebration. But we should all celebrate November 6th as a day that our country allows its citizens to vote and have a peaceful outcome. Regardless of our differences, we have the freedom to openly debate and disagree with our government without fear for our safety. My conversations with immigrants continually remind me not to take these freedoms for granted.
Although I have not had time for interviewing the past few weeks, I have had some inspiring connections just in my day to day life. A week ago, while attending my son’s school potluck, I met Grasila (sp) from Eritrea. Sitting across from her, we exchanged smiles and a brief hello. Her voice was quiet and a bit shy. As I asked a question beyond the standard, “What is your name? Is your son or daughter in school here? What grade?” she was a little surprised but immediately opened up and the ensuing 20 minute conversation became the highlight of my night.
The majority of Eritreans you meet in Seattle speak Tigrinya (and many speak Arabic), so I made an assumption Tigrinya was Grasella’s native language. I was wrong and I learned of a language I had never heard, Kunama. It is the mother tongue of the ethnic minority group, Nilotic Kunama that live in the north and northwestern part of Eritrea. She arrived in the United States seven years ago without any English. I asked her what her level of education in Eritrea had been, in the back of my mind assuming it was high school because I had learned from Kibreab that education is free for all Eritreans. Once again, her response surprised me. She did not have any education. She said her parents were older and believed it was more important for their children to learn how to farm and take care of the home. If Grasila or her siblings mentioned school they were beaten. When Grasila was 16 or 17 she taught herself to read and write. As I am sitting in the school cafeteria with children running all around us, I find myself staring at this woman in amazement. She came to the United States, learned English, learned how to drive and passed the driving tests, is very involved in her daughters’ education and she did not have any formal education herself. We continue our conversation and she shares other tidbits that astound me until my youngest pulls me away. Although our meeting was brief, I learned new things and I walked away inspired, sharing what I had learned about Grasila’s life with my boys on our ride home.
To avoid getting overwhelmed by my work and the long road I have ahead to get this project off the ground, I relish in the fact that each and every person I meet continues to inspire me. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that every single individual on this earth has the ability to inspire. You do not need to look to our media or the headlines for inspiration. You just need to talk to the person next to you.