Thursday, April 28, 2011


So tonight I went to a small, rural Nebraska town to speak to a group of Anglo, Lutheran women. I ate lots of delicious Anglo, Lutheran women salads, main ingredients for the salads being mayo and pasta. The women at my table discussed how Obama released his birth certificate today, and it was clear that they were skeptical and didn't like him one bit. I did my best to point out the facts and may have been mildly successful, but I know there wouldn't be any significant changing the minds.

One woman had the most hideous hair, straight out of the 80s; bad perm, big bangs and all. She kept talking about her teenage son, Jose. Apparently, he just had a birthday that he invited half the town to, and he really likes deviled eggs. She made 2 dozen for his party.

They were very friendly and maybe a little awkward, because almost no one asked me any questions about myself or my job. I felt like a foreigner. While sitting there, I thought to myself, "I'd probably be more at home in a refugee camp than I am here." Though I used the same tactics there as I use in cross-cultural settings, mainly keeping a close eye on how every one else behaves so I know I should also behave; patiently waiting until someone does what I would like to do, so I can do it like they do, as not to stick out or offend. They were VERY attentive during my presentation, though, and their initial feedback indicated they found it very interesting and learned a lot, which I always like to hear.

Either way, I got to thinking about stereotypes. I wonder if they were looking at me and thinking, "Oh, it's one of those city types. I bet she goes to the gym and listens to NPR and indie bands with funny names and buys those funny light bulbs for her house." And they would be pretty much spot on in their assessment, except I don't always buy those funny lightbulbs because they have mercury in them and I don't know how to properly dispose of them.

It's easy for us to think we're special and unique and get stuck in our little rut with our narrow perspective that what we think is correct. It's easy for us to think we can answer the questions of the world, because we can probably best answer the big questions of our own little narrow world. I felt that when I stepped into their little world and stepped out of mine. I forgot how easy it can be to stereotyped myself. I forgot how easily I can fall into a category. Yes, to some extent I am special and unique, and to some extent, I'm not. To some extent, I fall into a particular category where the TV stations and Facebook know how to target advertising to me and I buy what they expect me to (Arcade Fire tickets, pants from New York & Company, Taco Bell's $5 meals, membership to Snap Fitness) (except I typically watch shows out of my demographic...Law & Order is totally targeted to people who need Lipitor, Viagra, and Depends, Family Guy is targeted to people who play violent video games, use Old Spice, and eat fast food). Anyway, I think it's good to remember sometimes that we do fall into a category and that it's okay. It's also important to remember that we are more than the category we fall into.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Arcade Fire

Yesterday was Kurt's birthday and we went to see Arcade Fire in Kansas City, MO. I had been wanting to see Arcade Fire for years. I'm not joking! Years! They made Neon Bible, then they just kinda stopped touring. So I was excited. I took off work for the afternoon and we made the 3 1/2 hour drive down to KC, found the Starlight Theatre with no problems, and stood in line for a little over 45 minutes until the doors opened. We were early enough that there weren't too many people in front of us. We were bound to get a good seat, which we did. It was quite a large outdoor venue, which we were concerned about because of weather, but it was a beautiful, sunny day with temps in the low 60s. We people-watched until the opener, The National, went on. I kinda like them, but I was pretty bored with their show. The guy's voice is mellow and quiet and hard to understand, and that certainly includes live music. He just seemed unenthusiastic. Also, he had this strange story about how earlier that day he had shot his foot was some gun. He limped all over the stage. It was odd. During that performance, I ate a discolored brat with ketchup and Kurt at a hotdog with ketchup and mustard.

At about 8:45pm, Arcade Fire came on. They started with Month of May. Once they got going, I let go and enjoyed myself. I like to be able to jump around and dance my ass off and sing at the top of my lungs at shows like this, so I did just that for the whole show. It makes me feel like I'm experiencing the music far more than just listening on headphones or in the car. It was extremely enjoyable, and I wish I could have such a wonderful, fun, joyful experience with music more often. I will see Arcade Fire in concert as often as I possibly can for the rest of my life. Part of me wants to try to make it to Chicago to see them there.

The last song they played during the encore was Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is tied for second place for my favorite song on The Suburbs. By this time, we were in the aisle and dancing around with a bunch of other people and it smelled strongly of weed (seeing it was 4/20). Since it's one of my favorite tracks, I enjoyed  myself as much as humanly possible. Then, as soon as they left the stage (at about 10:15pm), Kurt and I bolted for the door. We had a 3 1/2 hour drive back to Omaha, and we wanted to try to beat the parking lot traffic as much as possible. We literally ran through the grass field to my car. It totally paid off, because we were out of there instantly. No waiting. No traffic. We were pretty thrilled. We got back to my place a little after 2am.

I'm glad I have a job that is flexible. I went in at 10:15am this morning, so I got a fair amount of sleep. I would have had a rough day if I had to go in at a normal time, that's for sure. When I got into work, someone wished me a happy birthday. Someone had looked online and saw that it was Renae's birthday this weekend, except it was a different Renae at LFS. They had planned a small get together around lunch and bought a card for me and everything! The whole thing was called off when I informed them that it wasn't my birthday until next month.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, which is a paid holiday for LFS. I like that. The only plans I have is bringing my car to the shop to have them check/fix my rear brakes. Whoopie.

Here's a link for a review for the show.

Here's a YouTube link for Mountains Beyond Mountains. (From their August performance at Madison Square Garden)

Friday, April 15, 2011

How do you explain...

This morning I was at UNO for Global Youth Service Day (which really has nothing to do with actual service, oddly). I was there to give information about refugees. It got off to a really slow start, but then all of a sudden there were waves and waves of students coming by and I was talking and talking and talking about refugees over and over and over again. I rode the energy until it slowed down, then I crashed, and I was in a bad mood. For whatever reason, it just drained me.

The kids were pretty cute. They asked a lot of funny questions, one was, "Are the refugees like the people in Avatar?" There were some good questions about Mexican immigrants, too. When I explained about how the Burmese military doesn't like the Karen people and is trying to kill them, I got a lot of questions to the effect of "Why does the Burmese military hate the Karen people?" And I was at a complete loss of what to say. I made a few comments about how the Karen were different, and Burma government was afraid of them because of that, and that we should all try not to hate each other, but it felt a little flat to me. Why do people hate each other? I don't know.

I worked until 2:15, and then I bolted. That was about the soonest I could get out of there. I was very exhausted, especially since I logged 12.25 hours yesterday working. Yes, I love my job. Yes, what I did today I consider extremely important and rewarding, but it wore me out. Since I got out of work, though, I've had lots of time to relax and I feel much better and I'm looking forward to the weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Today was so busy! It has been slow around the office for a while due to the Department of Homeland Security. They created an additional security check for refugees to go through, which threw a wrench into the whole process. Refugee resettlement was halted around the entire country for about a month. It was comparable to how things shut down after 9/11. No arrivals = less work for me, since my job is very much tied to people coming. Thankfully, we are getting arrival notices again, and we'll probably get a 'bulge' of arrivals later this fiscal year sometime, so I have that to look forward to.

It has been slow, and today was my first really busy day in a while. It ended pleasantly, bringing a mom and her 2 year old boy to meet a Burmese (not Karen) family with some young children. It was really fun to see the kids interact, like it always is. I also was given a Thai energy drink. I might save it for tomorrow when I'm in a long seminar about housing for immigrants with the feds. I think this refugee family/volunteer match will go particularly well. I'm excited to see how it progresses. It's a young couple with young daughters. They know enough English to communicate a little, and they don't seem to shy. That goes a long way.

I'm going to read a bit before I go to bed. I just finished The Alchemist, which I enjoyed. Now I'm reading Condeleeza Rice's autobiography, Extraordinary, Ordinary People.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sometimes I forget I have this

But I'm diving right back in....

I'm going to 2 really great concerts in the next few months: Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire. I've been wanting to see Arcade Fire for years and years and years. Kurt and I are going as a sort of birthday celebration, because the concert happens to be on his birthday, April 20. It's in Kansas City, where I have never been. It shall be quite the adventure. I took off the afternoon and a few hours the morning after, because that's going to be one bitch of a ride home late at night.

Also, I do believe that I am teething. I think my 7th wisdom tooth is coming in in the way back, bottom, right side of my mouth. It's pretty miserable because it has been sore for over a week. Also, now there is this flap of skin back there that is very uncomfortable. I chew almost entirely on the left side of my mouth.

Work is going well. We have about 19 people who have/will come in this month. It's a low number, and I'm nervous as to when the next deluge will be in arrivals. I have been feeling quite inspired about my work as of late, though. I have been reading some great books, which has helped me stay motivated.