Lecram gave the opportunity for readers to submit a question for him to answer in a post. My question and his answer were...
What do you wish the average American, who has very little clue of life outside these United States, understood about migrating to this country and life in other places?
Lime… of course you would ask the esoteric question. The short answer is… Americans, get over yourself! lol! The more diplomatic (and longer) answer is to first become aware of how and from where your own family got here. We all have a “root” homeland rich with history, culture and tradition. I think exposing oneself to one’s root culture is paramount and a wonderful first step to appreciating the world outside our comfort zone. For instance, you may be an Irish decedent and celebrate St.Paddy’s Day… but the hamlet in County Desmond will still be a foreign experience. I guess what I’m trying to say is… understanding begins at home… and where home once was is a great place to start.
Like I said in this Friday 55, I've always been fascinated by all the novelty that exists out in the wide world. the blogosphere has been an amazing way to get little tastes of places I might have missed otherwise and I have always wanted to be a part of the cultural sharing that goes on (Hence the year and a half of Trini Tuesday posts, which will still occur, just not every week.)
At the same time I think Lecram has a good point about learning one's own heritage. Mine is a bit confused since I am Greek by birth but Pennsylvania Dutch, which is really German, by upbringing. I was adopted at birth but I was always rather aware that I didn't look like the people around me. I can remember having to do some project at school about my heritage when I was young. I asked my mom what our family ethnicity was and what my personal ethnicity was. I don't know if there is something that the millennia of history imprints upon Greeks regardless of whether or not we grow up in the culture, but even without knowing much of anything about it I felt a little swell of pride about being half Greek, hehehe, maybe it was just the excitement about finally knowing. As a child the only way I knew to embrace that was digging into the mythology. I read every Greek myth I could find. I have found out, however, that unless you are Orthodox, speak the language, and have some relative back in Greece, a lot of the 'real' ones consider you rather suspect and not worthy of identifying yourself as such. I had one Greek exchange student tell me I probably didn't really have any Greek blood at all but was more likely Turkish. Erm...I may not have grown up in the culture but I do know enough to recognize that shy of being extremely vulgar that is about the worst insult a Greek can think of. Regardless of what the 'authentic Greeks' think it's a part of my heritage and a part I'd like to explore to a much greater degree than I have had opportunity.
The Pennsylvania Dutch part of my heritage is the part I identify with most strongly. I was soaked in it like bread and butter pickles or chow chow in brine. There was no escaping the German sensibilities along with the farming culture I was surrounded by. Most people think of the Amish and Mennonites when they think of the PA Dutch but that is only one small subgroup of the larger culture that encompasses modern people as well. There was also the spoken dialect that I heard while growing up and if not the dialect, the thick accent that almost always elicited the comment about being 'a dumb dutchie.'
The sad thing is how prevalent this notion is not only among those who come in contact with Dutchies but among the Dutchies themselves. My parents both came from families with a strong PA Dutch background, in fact my grandfather spoke the dialect. However, the older generation often did not want the younger generation to learn the language so as to avoid being called 'dumb dutchies' and so they could speak secrets amongst themselves. These days it is extremely rare to find a person outside the Amish and Mennonite community and under the age of 50 who can speak the dialect at all. My parents were extremely strict about our language usage and if my brother or I dared use local slang, pronounced something with an obvious accent, or lapsed into the ferhoodled (Yes, that's a PA Dutch word for confused and I love it.) syntax of a dutchman we were immediately corrected in no uncertain terms.
Now I agree that it is important to be able to function in standard English, but there are certain times when poetic license and cultural expression just beg for expression. When my young daughter came in from playing and her uncombed hair stood out from her head in all directions and gleamed with a sheen that could only come from having protested during regular hair washings such that their effectiveness was negligible it was much shorter to exclaim, 'What a stroobly mess!' than to go through the extended description I just provided. Stroobly is more than merely being uncombed but it doesn't cross over quite to complete filth and total negligence. There is no English equivalent for it. It is a very good word. Feel free to adopt it for your own usage. Honestly, I think it took going to Trinidad and learning to function in their slang to be able to get past a lot of the negativity about my own linguistic culture that had been beaten into my head as a child.
So, all this rambling just to say in the coming weeks there will still be some Trini Tuesday posts. You can also expect some Pennsylvania Dutch posts now and again because I do think there are a lot of misconceptions about the culture if there is knowledge at all. It will be a little way for me to get back to some of my roots.
Now feel free to ask about things you'd like to learn about or tell me something interesting about your own heritage.