Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Matema Beach, Here we Come

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about Matema Beach, a little village at the northern tip of Lake Nyasa, Tanzania. I have never visited it, but I am planning to, this summer, with students from the Lutheran Colleges Consortium for Tanzania.

I normally don't blog about places I have not yet visited. I write after I have been there. From all accounts, Matema Beach is different, nothing short of bewitching. Intrepid tourists who get to Matema Beach extol its charm. I find myself dreaming of the magic of the Lake, its sparkling clear water and its gorgeous, sand laden beaches, over which the waves break repeatedly with either a hushed or mighty roar I myself witnessed at Mbamba Bay, further south.

I have been reading about Matema Beach and consulting friends. I know, for example, where to stay. There is the Matema Beach Resort and the Lutheran Center.

I look forward to adding Matema Beach to my list of favourite spots on planet earth. It is going to be quite an adventure, as others have described it, and I hope to join the growing group of bloggers who have written about it, in English, German, Swahili, and perhaps other languages. Matema Beach, here we come.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Immigrants in Faribault

Today I attended a special event in Faribault, Minnesota. Political Science students from St. Olaf College presented research they have been doing under Professor Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak on issues facing immigrants and social service providers in Faribault.

These students had interviewed many individuals, and organizations, from representatives of immigrants, social service providers, religious leaders, law enforcement staff, and public officials. Two of them interviewed me, on the basis of my years of experience with the Faribault Diversity Coalition.

Apart from addressing their questions about challenges facing immigrants and the services available to them, I talked about the dynamics and ethics of field research involving human subjects. I shared with the students my own experience as well as my little paper, "Ethics in Folklore Research," published in Storied Inquiries, pp. 187-188.

It was wonderful to hear their presentations, covering a number of key areas, including the economic, social, cultural, and educational. The students knew what they were talking about, and this became particularly clear when they answered questions about their respective topics.

There are many challenges facing the immigrants, including language and cultural differences. The students highlighted these very well. From the side of social service providers, one of the main challenges is shortage of funds.

These students have gained valuable knowledge of real life issues facing a small town, which is, indeed, a microcosm of the world. I felt they have gained much more than they would have by merely doing research in a library.

I know that they have not only broadened their own horizons, but they have put together information that will be useful for various agencies, refugee organizations, and future researchers.

A report on the event appears in the Faribault Daily News.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Zambian Children Singing the American National Anthem

At least in my days, African kids in sixth grade had a good knowledge of world geography. We could locate countries, railways, ports, ocean currents, mountain ranges, climatic zones, rivers, lakes, and so on around the globe. These Zambian children singing the American National Anthem have taken this tradition to a whole new level. I am truly impressed, and I hope American kids will take note.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Faribault Somali Community Services

Today I attended a meeting in Faribault that brought together members of the Somali community, the City Administrator, and the Chief of Police. The meeting was organized and hosted by the Somali Community Services Center, a relatively new organization. It was an opportunity for city authorities to hear about the challenges facing the Somali community.

The Somali men and women talked about the challenges they face, including how to deal with social services providers, law enforcement, and landlords. They mentioned the need for translators, to facilitate communication. They stressed, however, that they do not want to be dependent on social services. They just want initial assistance in this new environment. After that, as hard working people who have known life in refugee camps, they will achieve success on their own.

This was a worthwhile meeting, and I hope there will be a tradition of such meetings in the future, not only with the police and city admistration but also the health services, school system, businesses, and so on.

I cherish any opportunity to participate in such gatherings and have been to Faribault a number of times, as I have written on this blog and on my Swahili blog.

For more information about the Faribault Somali Community Services Center, call (507)332-0707 or (507)210 7128; email somalixamar93@gmail.com