Tag Archives: France

Eat the World – Food in Europe versus America – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Eat the World – Food in Europe versus America – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Most of us have fond memories of our childhood. Growing up, few things sticks to us as strong as food did. Whether it was your mom’s homemade key lime pie, or a gross mixture you did not even know what was in it, food has always been key to transporting and evolving our senses in time. Growing up in Colombia I was exposed to, of course, the typical Colombian food. It was later on when I started trying different foods. Clearly, it has been a process of getting to know what you like and what you do not. Nevertheless, what I think is the most amazing thing about food is all that it implies.

I personally think food itself is a whole culture onto itself.

Everything revolves around food. It is amazing to see how food reflects a whole geographical, historical and cultural background. Latin American food, for instance, is characterized by the use of corn. There are multiple maize-based dishes all over the region, such as tortillas, tamales, tacos, pupusas, arepas, and elote asado. Precisely, this is the reflection of the historical and geographical background of the region. In this case, Latin American indigenous groups thought of corn as the greatest gift from the Gods. It was the most valued good, even more than gold.

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After traveling outside my country, I have noticed how the culture around food changes dramatically depending on the region. Even in the same country, food is significantly different depending on the geography. In Colombia, for instance, breakfast is an important meal. However, there’s plenty of options to choose from. In the central zone, the traditional breakfast is called “changua”. This is basically a milk soup with eggs. I know, it sounds interesting. This dish comes from one of Colombia’s indigenous groups: the Muisca people. In this region you can also find tamales, which are usually eaten for breakfast on Sundays; and “almojábana” with hot chocolate. Here, it is important to clarify that Latin American hot chocolate is completely different to American hot chocolate, which was one of my biggest food-frustrations when I first moved to the U.S. If you go to the “Eje Cafetero” you will find different breakfasts. One of them is the typical “calentao”, which literally means “heated”. This is usually the night before’s leftovers, reheated and mixed. There’s also the “arepa paisa”, which is a flatbread made of cooked corn flour, and commonly is served with toppings such as butter, cheese, scrambled eggs or meat. In the Colombian coast, clearly, the food is different. The Caribbean region breakfasts include “arepa de huevo”, which is a deep fried arepa made from yellow corn dough with an egg inside that is cooked by the frying process. It is also common for people to have fried plantain with cheese for breakfast. The list could go on, but I think I’ve proven my point.

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This is how, during my European adventure, I decided to look deeper into its food culture.

Firstly, breakfast is smaller. From what I was able to experience in London, Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Munich, Santorini and Athens, it is more customary to eat smaller meals for breakfast. It was interesting to see that probably the biggest breakfast I found was in London, which was pretty similar to the typical American breakfast. Once again, I was able to make the connection to the historical background and relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Other than that, most people tend to have either a biscuit, croissant or toast, accompanied by coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

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Putting this in perspective, I was able to confirm that American portions are indeed bigger than average. When I came to the United States, the only thing I could compare them with was with Latin American portions, which are indeed bigger than European, but way smaller than American.

Secondly, ingredients are different. Yes, this seems like a logical statement. Nonetheless, it is impressive to see the actual difference between the ingredients used in every place. The freshness and the way food is prepared absolutely changes the way people enjoy food. Pizza is the perfect example for this. European pizza is, in general, served individually, characterized by its thin crust, simple ingredients, sauces made from scratch and a not as cheesy/greasy consistency. On the other hand, American pizza is, in general, thick -even stuffed- crust, extra cheesy, and made from frozen dough. Both of them are delicious, but they are not the same in any way. It is not a surprise for anyone that American pizza is considered to be fast food. European pizza is not. Again, this reflects the culture.

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Thirdly, it caught my attention the way in which meals are distributed. For instance, in Latin America, breakfast tends to be significant, lunch tends to be the biggest meal in the day, and dinner tends to be lighter. This is not the case in the U.S.. From my experience, I have seen that breakfast is usually significant, lunch lighter, and dinner tends to be the biggest meal of the day. Along this, there is a lot of snacking in the United States. Snacks are a huge part of the market and of every day’s routine. This is not the case in Europe. Farmer’s markets are much more common in Europe and Latin America than in the U.S.. Clearly, this makes a difference at the time of analyzing the different food cultures.

There is no doubt that depending on the country, city, or even region, food will be different. Most importantly, food will reflect the differences between the cultures. After traveling around different cities, different countries and different continents, one of the biggest lessons I learned is to simply go out there and eat the world!

Ana Maria serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Europe – Five countries, Three weeks – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Europe – Five countries, Three weeks – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Travel. Travel a lot.

Before living in the United States, I had the idea of a certain reality that merely involved my culture. It meant driving a car for a couple of hours to experience a completely different climate, music and infrastructure. It meant enjoying delicious foods, without necessarily trying new things. It meant not worrying about how to greet people. It meant being in my comfort zone.

Little did I know how far from reality I was.

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Living in an interconnected world as we do today means more than living all your life in your comfort zone. Reality requires stepping out from there. And that’s what I did. It is not new for anyone to know that Duluth, Minnesota might be a little bit different from Bogota, Colombia. Yet, I wanted more. I wanted to see more. I wanted to truly experience my surroundings. The travel bug had hit me. This is why I decided to travel solo.

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Something I had never done before, in a place I had never been before, with people I did not know at all. I booked my trip to Europe without thinking much about it, just pushed by the desire of experiencing something different. It was only until the moment I stepped out of the plane that I truly realized I was actually going by myself to the other side of the world for the first time.

I was able to step in in five different countries, which meant experiencing five different cultures in just three weeks. If something is true is that three weeks are not enough time. Cultures are infinite and constantly evolving. This is what makes it so hard to truly get to know a certain culture, as time will always be limited. I tried to make the most out of my time in Europe. London, Paris, Barcelona, Sitges, Frankfurt, Munich, Santorini and Athens. Every city, every landscape, every single second had its own magic. It is impossible to say I did not experience any sort of culture shock. I was, indeed, homesick.

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London is a magnificent city. I was not expecting much about this city, so I was gratefully surprised by it. Its architecture and urban organization are impressive. I tried to bike around the city one day, and almost got hit multiple times because I was used to driving on the right side of the road. Even though there were multiple differences, I was able to recognize the historic connection between the United Kingdom and the United States. From the most simple thing, the language; going through their food, their costumes and their organization: I was able to see the roots of the culture I have been exposed to in the last couple of years.

As a kid, I always dreamed about going to Paris. I remember watching movies, reading books, and listening songs about the charms of Paris. Paris is internationally portrayed as the romantic city. This was not my first impression, not at all. I got to Paris on a grey, rainy Thursday. As the bus was driving around the city, I remember thinking: is this it? Here, I was able to realize once again that media is always changing reality. It is very easy to forget this. Nonetheless, being able to explore this city was a dream come true. I tried foods I never thought I would, such as frog legs and snails. The music, the environment, the architecture and all the gastronomy made it an unforgettable experience. I was able to visit Versailles, which opened my eyes to the historic part of our world. Being able to see how people lived hundreds of years ago was a marvelous experience, and made me realize how important it is for humanity to understand where we come from; which ultimately explains why we act the way we do nowadays. On the other side, visiting the catacombs was eye-opening. There is so much to learn, so much to understand.

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Barcelona. Just the city’s name makes you feel its magic. Barcelona was a very interesting experience due to multiple reasons. First off, even though it is located in Spain, their main language is Catalan. This made me feel weird when speaking Spanish, as I knew native people did not like it. Barcelona’s atmosphere is indescribable. I fell in love with the city’s weather, people, architecture, gastronomy, landscapes and music. For the couple of days I was able to be there, I was amazed by every single detail. Paella, sangria and gelato made long days of walking definitely worth it.

Germany is one of the most (if not the most) organized countries I know. Everything is practical and planned accordingly to the needs of the people. From visiting Munich and Frankfurt, I was able to see the huge German culture around beer. Yes, I knew about some of it before getting there. Yet, I had no clue of how important it actually is. Beer is probably the cheapest and most bought good in the market. The thing about this, is that it is high quality beer. By this time of the trip, I was already homesick. I had too much to digest in such few days, I was certainly overwhelmed by everything. Not only this. I wasn’t able to communicate in Germany. I had never felt this way in my whole life. Even in France, I was able to communicate with my basic French skills. It was a different story in Germany, as I felt truly frustrated by not being able to ask for a bottle of water. However, I was gratefully amazed about German lifestyle.

I think one of the places people should definitely visit is Greece. Greece was the birth of our civilization in multiple ways. Philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers and doctors were basically born there. Accordingly, I decided to extend my trip to visit Santorini and Athens. When I landed in Santorini, I was shocked. I was shocked with everything around me. Of course, again, I was expecting to see all that media shows to the world. It was not like that. Santorini is an island composed by different little towns. What I had seen in pictures was just one town, called Oia. In order to get to Oia, people need to take public buses, which go packed and sweaty all the way to Oia. Undeniably, it is one of the prettiest and breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. Like a children’s tale scene, I was in the middle of little white and blue arched houses, with the Mediterranean Sea in front of me. It was impactful to see the way in which early civilizations used their resources to build cities in the middle of nowhere. After that calm and peace, I was able to experience the agitation and chaos of a city such as Athens. Greece’s economy is very volatile right now, which means the political environment is going in the same direction. While I was in Athens, I was able to experience a live student protest. Things that are easy to see back in Colombia happening all over the world was very imposing to my eye.

Five countries in three weeks. That’s all it took to shake my reality one more time. That’s all I needed to reconnect with myself at different levels, to get to know myself at different stages and to truly understand that there is so much out there to learn from. Life was never meant to be lived in one single place.

Ana Maria serves as assistant editor for The North Star Reports.

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Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Farewell sign in Montenegro translated to English]

This past May, my family and I traveled the Mediterranean on a cruise for three weeks. We explored six countries, including Greece, Montenegro, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, and France. We would hop off the ship and find ourselves immersed in a completely different culture, language, and place than we were the previous day. Through exploring so many cities and cultures in just three weeks, I started to notice the differences amongst multiple countries and compare them to American culture.

What I seemed to pick up and make note of was the language being spoken. My family and I could be eating lunch at a small café in Montenegro, and the waiters would be speaking English. It was so surprising that no matter where we were, no matter how big or small the city was, everyone spoke some English. I was never handed a menu that didn’t have English translations under the nation’s official language. Through my whole three-week vacation, I never encountered a time when I couldn’t see or hear English. Sometimes, I didn’t even feel like I was out of the US because English seemed to be everywhere I looked.

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[A sign in a Greek park that was translated to English]

I especially noticed that English seemed to be the common language for tourists in Greece. The Greek language has few characters that resemble letters found in English or European languages. Therefore, all road signs and monument markings were translated to English. What was shocking is that they weren’t translated to Italian or another language within close proximity to Greece. It was all in English.

English is also commonly spoken in Greece. While walking down the street in Athens, I heard a Chinese woman ask a local for directions in English. This really opened my eyes and allowed me to see how many people in this world are bilingual or even greater. Tour guides we had in the Vatican spoke a minimum of three languages, and locals would switch from speaking Italian to English mid sentence. While in Europe, I felt as if my three years of high school Spanish were simply inadequate and pretty much embarrassing. Looking at most countries in the world, they are taught multiple languages from a young age, while in America, the majority of us just know a few Spanish, French, or German words from high school classes. The rest of the world seems to know that Americans can’t speak many other languages so we were often talked about right in front of our faces without having a clue what was said. In one case, we were standing in an elevator and two German women were snickering and talking about mine and my sister’s outfit. The only way we could tell they were talking about us was because they were foreword enough to point at us and stare while laughing. It was really embarrassing that we had no idea what they were saying and that they could talk freely about us while we didn’t have a clue.

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[Even though McDonald’s is an American restaurant, I still expected the menu to be written in the local language instead of English]

In some ways, I felt inferior on my vacation to Europe. I couldn’t understand what people were saying as they walked by, and the only thing I could say is “hello” or “thank you” in the local language. It was strange to me that even though I was a tourist coming to their homeland to experience their culture and language, locals had to conform to the English language and American culture. I felt that if I could speak the local language, I would be respected. I believe that locals would think much more highly of tourists if they took the time to learn about the local culture instead of them having to change to fit the lifestyle of tourists.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Molly Enich, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

When in France, Greet with a Kiss — The North Star Reports – by Rachel Rees. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

When in France, Greet with a Kiss — The North Star Reports – by Rachel Rees. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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In the United States, a common greeting typically consists of a “hello” and a wave. Although many Americans believe this is the only way to greet a person, not all countries have this custom. In France, a common greeting with a person you know consists of les bisous, kisses, on one’s cheek. Many Americans view this as a violation of personal space and an odd greeting, but to the French it is just as common as a wave.
When I visited France, I traveled around to different cities for one week and was assigned a host family for another week. Quite frankly, one of the things I was most nervous about was the bisous. We had learned about how to greet people in France during class, but learning is different than participating. Luckily, the bisous is the greeting used for people whom you know, so I did not have to worry about being kissed by strangers. My first experience receiving and giving les bisous was when I met my host family. For those of you interested in experiencing France, it was not as bad as I thought it would be– don’t let it dissuade you from visiting.

Americans may find les bisous a violation of personal space, which makes them view the greeting as odd and abnormal. The French and American cultures vary in the way personal space is thought of and used. The French do not have the “bubble rule” and are much more intimate, close in proximity, with one another. From an outside perspective, culturally, it is easy to get caught up in how odd this difference is because of its unfamiliarity. This may lead many to believe les bisous is an inappropriate greeting and that their own greeting is the correct one. If you stand back and look at the differences in greetings, there is no right or wrong way. The differences in culture play a large role in the specific greetings of cultures. In my experience, Americans in particular have trouble seeing cultural differences as equal, a prime example of sociocentrism. Simply put, Americans have a tendency to think their way is superior to those of other cultures when it comes to differences such as greetings.

Whether it be acknowledging a person with wave or with a kiss, a greeting is a greeting. Although other cultures’ greetings may seem abnormal, one must always look at the cultural differences and realize there is no right or wrong way to greet a person. Each culture is unique, which makes traveling such a great tool for learning.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Tanzania, Kenya, United States, Europe — on being quadrilingual — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Eli Megahan

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Tanzania, Kenya, United States, Europe — on being quadrilingual — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Eli Megahan

Being quadrilingual means that much of my education in language has come from being self-motivated and self-taught. A common misconception is that I’ve learned to speak English, Kiswahili, Setswana and Kalanga in attempts to appear more worldly or cultured. I don’t speak four languages out of a desire to be worldly, but out of necessity. At one stage in my life I was quite envious of those for whom one language is enough. Now, however, I embrace my need to speak four languages.

To this very day I can vaguely remember the orphanage. At seventeen months and sixteen pounds I did not like the look or feel of the world; I found it too visually unappealing for my liking, too upright, twisted and evil for me to invest any hopes in it. Thus, my initial enthusiasm for literature stemmed from a desire to see the world, not as it was, but rather as I believed it ought to have been.

My first seven years were spent in Mwanza, Tanzania, my motherland. The first language I learned to speak was, naturally, Kiswahili. It was the only language spoken both at home and at school. I found that academia, particularly literature, came naturally to me. My peers wrote words, I wrote sentences. While they read paragraphs, I read books. My teacher was so impressed with my progress that she suggested I be promoted to Standard Three to which my mother agreed. Although I did exceptionally well academically, socially I struggled. Being in a classroom with classmates who were three to five years my senior proved challenging. They interacted in a way I was not accustomed to and used a vernacular completely foreign to me. It was a miserable existence.

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At the age of eight, I left Mwanza and relocated to rural Kenya where I remained for several years. It did not take long for me to become proficient in the local language, Samburu. Although unaware of the fact prior to relocating, we found that Samburu was far from an ideal place to spend one’s childhood. The quality of education was poor as a majority of teachers were uneducated themselves. Furthermore, Samburu was in the midst of a violent war against several neighbors. It was not uncommon to dodge bullets and explosives to and from school. Rather than being anxiety-ridden, my friends and I turned it into a game; whoever could run home the fastest and remain unscathed was crowned victor. Whilst living in Samburu, I was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in the United States of America. I entered a government-sponsored program meant to improve fluency in the English language, a language of which I spoke only three words: ‘hello’ and ‘thank you.’ Prior to this opportunity I had never had a reason to learn English. Whilst my parents were English-speaking Americans, they spoke both Kiswahili and Samburu fluently; the reasons to learn English had simply never presented themselves. Motivated, however, I continued to attend the local village school during the day and made an effort to study in the evenings. Like running water and motor vehicles, electricity was a nonentity in the community of Ngilai. I spent much of my time by a kerosene lantern reading books and newspaper articles I had purchased on bimonthly excursions to Nairobi. Slowly but surely, I saw my hard work and determination come to fruition.

I found works written in English to be of a more fantastical nature. Unlike the dry textbooks and news articles available to me in Kiswahili and Samburu, English literature transported me to lands of which I knew nothing. Favorites ranged from the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are to Lois Lowry’s The Giver. These works provided a means of envisioning an alternate reality for myself, one in which I did not fear for my life.

Nine years ago, I first set foot in the United States of America. I remember very clearly the day the airplane tickets arrived. My mother and I sat at the foot of my bed staring at the bits of paper in joyous disbelief. That night I slept in an empty bedroom knowing that my next sleep would be in a different country. This feeling is one that remains as clear to me as if it happened last night. Knowing that with my hands, eyes, and heart I possessed the power to not only open a book, but the ability to make sense of the letters on any given page brought me more joy than I had ever imagined. I fancied myself something bulletproof, something that could not and would not be broken.

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I found the schooling environment in Duncanville, Texas to be starkly different from what I had grown accustomed to. In both Tanzania and Kenya, pupils did not speak until spoken to, we did not take our seats until invited to do so. This meant that should the stars have not aligned for an instructor on any given day, there was the chance we would remain standing for a two-hour class period. When a member of the staff, prefect body, or janitorial department approached in the corridors, students were expected to stop walking, align themselves with the left side of the wall and wait for the higher-up to pass, only going about their business once the superior was no longer in sight. We were not rewarded for achieving an A grade; it was expected that we did so. Three consecutive B grades in any given subject would result in suspension. It took me all of the two years I spent in Duncanville, Texas to become accustomed to this example of the American educational system. A system in which the pupils seemed to be handed free rein, in which they barked back at teachers, lashed out at fellow classmates, and openly displayed little to no concern or desire for academic excellence.

Although I had perfected the American accent, I had not learned conversational sentence structure or colloquial vocabulary. Much of my speech sounded derived from a textbook. At the time this frustrated me to no end, but in hindsight, this was quite humorous. While peers were perplexed, teachers and other figures of authority were impressed more often than not.

Following a year in Duncanville, now thirteen years old, I found myself in Francistown, Botswana. As with Kiswahili, I became fluent in both Setswana and Kalanga in little time. I attended a school which was one of two high schools and the only private institution in the country. At John Mackenzie Secondary School I specialized in Accounting, Art, Business Studies, English Literature, English Language and History. Although these courses developed my analytical and theoretical skills while simultaneously challenging my more creative side, I struggled to think of an occupation that would marry all these loves.

Although I finished high school in two years, at fifteen years I was deemed too young to attend university. Uncertain as to what it was I wanted to study, I traveled for three years with Botswana as a base. I studied in France, Italy, Australia, and Hawaii. Through these travels I discovered that media communications was my calling. The very prospect of exploring the field in-depth excited me. Ultimately, I reasoned that pursuing higher education would provide me with the experience and knowledge I needed to become employed in the Advertising and Marketing industry, which remains my goal. I applied to Webster University, a university well known for its Advertising program, and am currently enrolled in the School of Communications as an Advertising and Marketing Communications major.

To this day I am not completely confident in my ability to articulate thoughts and emotions in the English language. I choose words wisely, all the while in silent prayer, terrified my words will be misunderstood or misconstrued. It is a feeling likely to stay with me for the remainder of my existence. I remind myself I am far better off than I was and that somehow my dreams have already broken the boundaries of my fears.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Reports, see http://NorthStarReports.org

The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports will share brief dispatches from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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