cultural adjustment, stereotypes, attitudes and beyond

(Still not gotten my blogging fixed, so please bear with the emailed posts)!

Earlier this year, we were asked if we could host a blind muslim girl from Bosnea. The organization is called “PAX” and a program that Pax runs is the “YES” program which brings Muslim students to the USA for study for one year. It is kind of like a cultural exchange program. I can’t remember when it started, but apparently, it has been quite successful in helping others understand the two cultures. I really wanted to host her, but there were some challenges.
First, she would have to have her own room. The only room we had was in the basement, with no windows. This was not acceptable for the coordinator of the program. Dzeni was very difficult to place, due to her disability, but this was a hurdle that we just could not overcome. Then, there was my pregnancy. I admit that I was (am still a bit) afraid that I will deliver early. DH thought (and I had to conceid after serious thought) that it was just be too much stress on me, in particular. But, i was quite disappointed.
I still talk to the coordinator from time to time. There were six or seven students that she was trying to place. She got all but one placed. Osama, from Pakistan, was the most difficult to place. (surprise surprise!) But, he finally did find a host home in Minnesota. Anyway, even though i sent out countless emails to other State residents, i was not instrumental in helping her with any of the placements. yet, we still email often. I did give her resources for halal meat and try to keep her informed about what is happening here, culturally speaking. Most of the children are placed in other cities, other than the capital city. And, I also find that many of the host homes don’t actively seek out intercultural or interfaith events. I don’t know why, but they just don’t.
So, Ms. P calls recently and asks me and DH to help her understand a particularly challenging child that she has placed with a first time family. Acording to Ms. P, this boy is from the Sindh region of Pakistan, but doesn’t speak Sindhi. His family speaks another language. He came on scholarship, so his family is not wealthy and they have no servants. His mother does work outside the home as a school teacher. I can’t remember what his father does, but he is also employed. Ms. P reports that he doesn’t seem to have any understanding of consequences or empathy for others. He has already played hookie from school once and could not grasp how this might effect others around him. He tends to greatly embellish his mathematical skills and athletic abilities. He is doing well in school now, but is in the general math class (not the precalc or algebra class that he said that he belongs in). He said that he played approximately 30hours of soccer a month, but seemed not to know anything about soccer when he practiced with the local High School Soccer team. and his favorite thing is to do community service because he wants to get an award signed by Barack obama. the daughter of the host home, who is about two or three years younger than he is feels degraded in his presence. He orders her around lots and makes her feel like his servant. He will not learn to use the microwave. He also belittles her. she told him that she is “beginning to doubt and hate herself.” He says: “I can understand how that would happen,” while smiling. He does not make eye contact. He constantly interrupts without listening to what is being said. He will not obey the mother of the house. He does not say “please” and/or “thank you.” He has not made friends (not even from the foreign exchange/international students community). Oh, I almost forgot, he does want to start “dating.” (I gasped in surprise at this one). and, lastly, he tends to have a sense of entitlement and does not seem to be greatful for the things that he is given. Yet, he says that he wants to stay in America and stay with this particular host family. He thinks that there are no problems with the placement. The family is finding it hard to like this teenage boy.
Ms P wonders if any of this is “cultural.” My goodness, I hope not, otherwise, all of us goris would be married to narcissistic
cheauvinistic men! Actually, Dh says that the eye contact is difficult for some Pakistanis. We understand that the boy probably has never learned to cook anything, so it could be intimidating for him. Now, trying to be objective, the host father is a policeman and the host mother is a psychologist. Certainly, they could be exagerating. But, some of these accounts are from Ms. P, herself. DH has offered to talk with him to try and get an objective assessment of the situation. MS. P reports that she has also placed a teen girl from Pakistan, this year and she is doing quite well in her host home. There are also many others ranging from Russia, Bosnea, China and Indonesia who seem to be doing quite well. this is not MS. P’s first year in placing children. I asked if the boy could be reassigned to a Pakistani family. that would not fit the guidelines of the program, because the boy would have to live as an American child who speaks English. The program objectives are to make sure that the teen gets a typical American experience and they fear that this won’t happen if the boy is placed in a Pakistani home. This is understandable.
the host family is ready to throw in the towell and I don’t know what MS. P is going to do. We both have serious questions for the Pakistani agency who endorsed his application and was suppose to screen potential applicants. DH and I think that he has lots of stereotypes about America and thinks that he thought that he could come here just to goof off and have fun. But, we have not talked to the boy, yet. We will see. DH says that he will contact the boy and try to get a sense of what he is thinking/feeling, if it would help. While looking on the web, I found a list of books for young children and High School children alike about the immigration process and cultural adjustment. Here is the link, if anyone is interested. I do admit that most of these books deal with identity and permanently adapting to a new culture, but I am sure that they can be useful.
http://www.libraryjournal.com/slj/home/887998-312/immigration_coming_to_america.html.csp Here are some questions for the Goris and others in the group to ponder: 1. What adjustments in attitude did your DH (or the immigrant in your life) have to make when coming here? Which were hard and why? 2. what actions or attitudes does your DH (and others from his culture) hold that are misunderstood by most of the American Public? 3. If your DH/SO has assemilated, ARe their consequences for assemilating? What are they?
4. Does your DH/SO/etc feel that he/she can hold on to both
native/original culture while still embracing America? I think that the exact blend will be different for everyone. But, would love to hear your specifics.
5. Does your Dh/SO/etc feel disloyal if/when they embrace certain parts of American culture. I would love explanations.
When I get time, I’ll answer my own questions. But, these are good questions to ponder.

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