Missoula in my heart

Twenty-two days ago, I was in charge of writing the first blog for the SUSI Program, and I felt like I did not have much to write about because I had just been here for one day only. Now I feel the opposite because I have so much to write about that I cannot choose.

As our stay in Missoula is coming to an end, it is for me difficult to say good bye to this beautiful city that has opened its doors to welcome all twenty strangers from different parts of the world with perhaps nothing in common but the language and their passion to share and build knowledge with others. Probably this same passion brought all of us together here, to the heart of Montana so that we can share this great life experience with as many students, coleagues, friends, families as we can back home.

First, I will start with some of the incredible places I have visited while our stay in Montana. It was wonderful to be able to see all these places full of history of marvelous animals and corageous men and women who walked this land. Moreover, the landscapes were fascinating and I felt like I was living that part of history when I saw places such as Garnet Ghost Town, The Travelers’ Rest, Gates of the Mountains, Montana History Museum and Flathead Indian Reservation.

In addition, the visit to Yellowstone was just amazing, and I still can not believe I was there, in that place I heard so much of on TV since I was a child. All these breath-taking places have made me reflect on the importance of keeping a friendly relation with the land and the environment, and that little actions at our homes, schools and community count when it comes to enviromental protection so that we can live in harmony with the planet.

Second, I must admit that some of the activities we did as part of the program represented personal challenges for me because either I was not very athetic or was I too scared to even try new adventures. For this reason, some weeks ago I would have never thought of doing ziplining, wall climbing, riding a bike again, or even hiking. However, now I am glad that I took those challenges because they helped me overcome the fears I had and encouraged me to be more physically active and self-confident from now on.

Third, I would like to write about the projects we have had to work on while staying in Missoula. They have helped me explore other areas of my teaching practice that I had not explored in deep and that I would definitely like to integrate in my clases once I return to my country. Whether it is a Service Learning Project like the one we did this Wednesday at the Poverello Center, or an Environmental Project like the one I am planning to implement with my group of students, will for sure help people in vulnerable situations and the environment as well.

Last but not least, I would like to talk about the people I met in Montana. I have met so many kind and lovely people during these 3 weeks that I am sure I will miss them, starting from the program staff, speakers, school, my wonderful host family, and of course my dear SUSIs. Each one of them has been so important for the program and has contributed in their own particular way to making this a once in a lifetime experience. Besides, I have learnt so much from all of them, and they will always have a special place in my heart.

Finally, SUSI has been a once in a life time experience for me for the reasons mentioned above and many others that will always live in my memory. Thanks to all the ones who made this posible for all of us.

Blog post

Service Learning, African American Studies, Regionalism in America… Time for dinner

by Evangelia Triantafyllou, Greece

What if you were walking on a street and someone told you that the modern building on your right was a center for homeless people? I don’t think you would believe them. I bet you would like to find out whether they are telling you the truth. So, you would go inside and see that, indeed, homeless people have found a shelter in a nice and cozy environment, where many volunteers offer their help and many individuals and businesses donate money or items to the Poverello Center. In a seemingly chaotic and noisy atmosphere, you would be surprised to realize that everything works smoothly and makes people in need feel that a whole community is taking care of them without imposing on them.
An ancient Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, said that optimal democracy is the democracy where there are neither very rich nor very poor citizens. However, modern regimes are far from ideal democracies and, unfortunately, there are many poor people worldwide. The existence of such centers for homeless people might cause a controversial discussion. Do they really help homeless people integrate into the society? You might change your opinion when Dr Daisy Rooks explains that such centers, among others, compensate for the lack of general relief provision to homeless people or the time-consuming process people in need undergo before they are finally granted a general relief.
Our initiation into the American reality goes on with an overwhelming presentation on the issue of racism through the American history by Dr Robin Shearer. Being a biological myth and a historical reality, race has shaped the American reality from the time Europeans inhabited America in 1492 up to the present. The US seems to have been set up and structured to serve white people, without however purposefully aiming at harming black people. And although de jure racism was abolished in 1865, when slavery was abolished, and in 1954, when the Civil Rights movement in the US ended legal racial segregation, de facto racism is still evident in the remaining 62 years of the American history.
As Rosa Parks, an African American civil rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” said: “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and hopefully, we shall overcome”. History goes on and nations make decisions and shape the way the world evolves. I can’t help thinking about the results of the British referendum on the other part of the Atlantic, which were announced a few minutes ago and are bound to cause several changes within Europe and outside of it.

Time to go back to our SUSI program! Let’s get ready for our trip to Charleston on Saturday. Don’t you think we should focus on the South in consideration of our upcoming trip to Charleston? That’s exactly what Dr Rob Saldin helped us with during his presentation, outlining the differences in the level of economy and culture between the American North and South. I remember being absorbed in watching my beloved series “North and South” about 15 years ago and I cannot but feel excited about our visit to the place were part of the series was filmed. Don’t you look forward to visiting the South, tasting its cuisine, listening to country music and drawing your own conclusions on the diversity between the North and the South?

Our imaginary journey to time and space in the US ends with a lovely farewell dinner in Lolo Creek Stakehouse. Take my advice and visit the restaurant. Montana steak is really big, but I’m absolutely certain you won’t be willing to share it with anyone!

Respect the land, and the land will respect you

A Visit to the Flathead Indian Reservation

By Karina Carrasco Henriquez

 

Definitely, the Flathead Indian Reservation was quite different from the idea I had in my mind before visiting it. This place, which is managed by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, is more than just an extended area. It is in fact, a reservation that has land in four counties of Montana, and which is inhabited by more than 28,000 people.

Considering this, in addition to the experiences lived in the reservation during the visit, I could confirm that the difference between this reality and the one that is perceived in the ‘Mapuche’ communities of my country is astonishing. Not only because of the contrast in terms of land extension, but also due to the lack of resources Latin American Native Tribes are exposed to.

However, the idea is to let you know something about the different stops we had during our visit to the Flathead Reservation. And the first one was at the ‘Two Eagle River school’, a place where the students are supported and provided with different kinds of tools so as to form them as lifelong learners, who can grow and succeed in different aspects of life.

The superintendent, Mr. Rodney Bird and the teacher Kathy Tapia provided us with accurate information about the school and their students. The first of them made emphasis on the idea of strengthen the students’ identity in order to be active participants of society considering land end environment as main issues in life, but as the scholars do not always have certainty about their roots or origins, it was a hard and long term task for them to integrate these kids into the academic routine. Likewise, he also stablished that there is a continuous struggle with the problems of behavior and non-attendance, since the students cannot always accomplish with the simple task of going to school, due to matters of distance; due to the state of abandonment some of the students confront, or because girls get pregnant and they don’t have no one to take care of their kids.

But all these aspects can be overcome with the care and support the school and its representatives provide to the students, helping them to regain what they have lost in terms of cultural identity and providing them with different kinds of facilities including hands-on activities or even curricular adaptation of certain contents that could be more difficult for them. Actually, the teacher Kathy Tapia mentioned that she is always guiding the students according to the activities they have to develop, so she is usually working hand in hand with them in the diverse lessons they must do. And as the students mainly work with practical activities, Ms. Tapia invited us to see some of the products the scholars have done within her class, including quilts; shoes; a dress; women accessories and different designs that could evidence part of the Native American craftsmanship beauty.

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And not only the vision of ‘Two Eagle School’ was based on an environmental friendly message, but this impression also could be seen at the ‘Tribal Governance’, where the Communications Director, Mr. Rob McDonald was in charge of letting us know about different aspects regarding the Salish and Kootenai tribe’s history and relation with state and federal government, emphasizing on how important natural resources are for them, confirming they are considered as sacred elements and referring to them as their ‘church’. Coinciding with the version of ‘Salish Kootenai College Health Department’, whose ideals were associated with keeping a healthy lifestyle by practicing sports and having a good nutrition. Added to the significance of cultural preservation through Native games that were taught and practiced by the coordinator of this project, Mr. Paul Phillips. Who – the same as the other two institutions’ representatives – highlighted how relevant the land and its care is for him and his fellows citizens, and the relation they have with wildlife and natural resources.

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To complete the constructive day we had, on our way back to Missoula, we were very fortunate to stay for a while in the ‘Garden of 1000 Buddhas’ and appreciate a little bit of the history of this place as well as the purpose and eventual contributions it can provide to society by being an area where people can trespass problematic issues of life and feel save and quiet inside its mystic and sacred atmosphere.

Personally, I can say that it fulfilled all my expectations, considering it as a place full of peace, wisdom, positivity, and an impressive beauty of its statues and architectural disposition. Contributing to end the day full of optimistic energies and obviously loving and respecting the land more than ever.

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Father’s Day

By Elena Gorshkova, Russia

 

A dad is someone who
wants to keep you from making mistakes
but instead lets you find your own way,
even though his heart breaks in silence
when you get hurt.

Mothers play an important role as the heart of any home, but this in no way lessens the equally important role fathers should play, as head of the home, in nurturing, training, and loving their children. My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said: “You never know what you can accomplish until you try”. Thanks to these words I am a participant of SUSI 2016, thanks to my father I am enjoying getting new experience here, in the United States of America, with you, my dear readers!
It was the third Sunday of June yesterday, so Father’s Day was celebrated all over the USA. Having interviewed several people from different countries who observe the day to honor their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and father figures for their contribution I have come to the conclusion that the role of a father in the American family can’t be overestimated, the tradition is being inherited through many generations. These values make an American family a real strong union.
Here are some interviews that made me – a daughter and a mother of a boy, who will be a dad one day – realize and redefine some family values.

Deena Monsour (the USA): Our Father’s Day is spent, as a family enjoying the things my husband likes best. We prepare his favorite foods, which often start with breakfast tacos in bed, and ends with crab cakes and a special dessert. The kids make cards and buy him small presents like licorice, his favorite candy. This year for the third year we will give him a hammock for a present. The first one was stolen, the second one tore.

Hauna Hochstetler (the USA): Generally as a family we do whatever it is that my dad wants to do for the day, which in the past has been anything from going on a raft trip, going to a movie, watching a soccer game, or planting flowers in the garden, etc… My sister generally takes him out for a huckleberry milkshake since her birthday has been on Father’s Day a number of different years and that is something that they do together. I usually get him a little something like a coffee mug with me and my siblings on it, or a bag of good coffee that he likes, or a bottle of wine…

Sean McQuillan (the USA): In the town where I grew up there was always a father’s day car show on Main Street that my dad and I would go to because we both love cars. After that we would go to a small volunteer fire department that had a father’s day breakfast fundraiser. I believe that the most memorable present I gave my dad was last year. His father, my grandfather, had just passed away and I wrote in my dad’s card it was now his job to carry on role of his father in our family.

Brooke Olivia Beighle (the USA): My dad is an avid outdoors man so my family and I do whatever he wants to do! Tomorrow we are getting up early to do some fencing and land maintenance for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a nonprofit in Missoula that preserves land for elk and wildlife. We always do a dinner or lunch too and just spend time with each other. I usually get him a card because i think spending quality time together is better than a material gift. One year I got him concert tickets so we could go together so that’s probably the biggest gift I’ve gotten him.

Anna Slown (the USA) : When my dad was a boy he and his father would go on the annual Boy Scout Father’s Day Canoe Race. Today we went for a hike but I do like to canoe with him too! As for gifts I usually make a baked good for desert that night and make him his favorite dinner. This year I made him a pie, but we also got him tools for his grill outside. When all of us girls were smaller we would make him cards and tell him all the things we liked about him. It’s really cute because he still has all those cards!

Kristina Urboniene (Lithuania): In Lithuania Father’s day is celebrated on the first Sunday of June. Children congratulate their father with different gifts: cups, caps, t-shirts, fishing rods, books or other things a father could get pleased with. I usually bake a cake for my father, as I know what cake he likes most. I also write some wishes on the cake with cream or icing.

Karina Alejandra (Chile): As children get gifts for their fathers, they also spend time with them, share lunchtime and stay together enjoying the much as it is possible for them to do it. When fathers are not here anymore (my case) it’s very common to visit cemeteries and take flowers for them as a father’s day gift.

Ana Ligia Martin (Panama): In Panama we have a breakfast together. We buy something for the family members that are fathers. And kids make father day cards as gifts.

CHRISTMAS IN THE USA!

By Maikutlo Khannie Sikuku, Botswana

 

I don’t even know how to start after such an overwhelming experience of kindness from Deena and Brian Mansour as well as their children Jason and Alex! Well, before I I go on to share about this, it is worth explaining that Christmas where I come from is celebrated in mid summer! This is usually a hot day characterized by choir festivals, football tournaments and slaughtering of goats! So when Deena announced that one of us has expressed the wish to experience Christmas in the U.S. I thought “I hope she’s not a mind reader and reading mine!” But when she announced that her daughter Alex has in response to the participants wish, suggested they cook Christmas dinner and invite all the participants, I just couldn’t believe it! Well, this confirmed my overall impressions of Americans! They are just too kind! Just last week we had families hosting us for a whole weekend! All the participants loved it! Paul and Mikel’s family were just marvelous! People on the street are always kind, they are always willing to help! Now this! A family willing to let us have a feel of Christmas in the US, in June!

Well we definitely experienced Christmas in the US! The house was decorated in Christmas decorations! The food was delicious! What can Christmas be without turkey? Well, at least I know that part from TV! Chili, ham, pumpkin pie and of course turkey added to the splendid decorations! This was real Christmas! A Christmas tree right there in the middle of the house melted my heart and made me feel that indeed I’m in America! The participants also had a chance to decorate ginger biscuits! Each us even got a present in the form of Santa’s socks full of goodies! However, we were made aware that the real Christmas for Americans means snow and indoor activities, which made me even more grateful that I had my Christmas in summer,

To Deena and Brian we are thankful! Thank you Alex and your friends Ada! personally would like to bring US Christmas back to Botswana and promise to send you pictures of my decorated home, which will be the first for me!

The pictures will tell a better story than I did!

Today’s activities

By Myat Su Thin, Myanmar

Thanks to the SUSI program provided by US government , i had a chance to learn curriculum building given by Dr. Lawrence. This session targeted on the individual curriculum idea we have been inspired to pursue. In this workshop, we were encouraged to do collaborative learning.

After lunch break, Dr Beverly Ann Chin, a chair of English Department and Director of English Teaching Program at the University of Montana, talked about reading strategies that improve students’critical thinking .The seven strategies given by Dr Beverly were very useful for my profession . Moreover, it encouraged critical ,creative thinking and reading that address the diverse interests,needs and abilities of students.

After finishing these interesting sections, we were free to work on our academic research project. I think that most of the scholars went to the library for their projects.

Last but no least, i learned a great deal of knowledge on curriculum building and reading strategies that i have to bring back to my native land and share to my colleagues who did not have a change to study in USA.

Wyoming, Idaho, Montana

Perttu Järvenpää

Finland

After a succesful, if rainy, 15 ½ hour day in Yellowstone in the company of cutthroat trouts, the cuddliest black-and-white wolf cub, a two to three-year-old (I did make up the age) black bear (who are brown in Finland, where I hail from) and many other wonderful creatures, we set off, at 6.30 a.m. I might add, for another day in the world’s first national park.

Having seen the mind-blowing lower falls of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, the Lamar Valley and the Norris Geyser Basin the day before we had to find comfort in the eye-candy provided by the overdone-meringue-like Mammoth Hot Springs, the Grand Prismatic Spring as well as the, in Yellowstonian standards, tiny trickle of boiling water erupted by Old Faithful that gently flows into the Firehole River.

Obsidian Cliffs and its see-through black glass formations were, unfortunately, closed to the public due to illegal scraping off of the wonderful rhyolite formed by sizzling hot silica and magma a 180,000 years ago. Ninety percent, we were told, of the 4.3 million visitors to one of the greatest wonders on Earth never leave the roads to wander deeper into the wonders of the national park yet some barbarians try to benefit out of what is on display for the amazement of humankind. [insert vulgar insult of your choice]

The adventure, however, does not end here. In fact, it commences, as our ever-patient chauffeur, Dr Saldin, took us through a short and beautiful stretch of Idaho back into Montana’s Madison Valley and its ranches.

For a split-second I believed we were passing by O.K. Corral but at second glance it turned out to be Carrol Ranch. So much for ”true” Americana I thought, yet pasture after pasture followed under the protection of the Tobacco Root Mountains while Bruce Springsteen was playing Tougher Than The Rest, the greatest love song ever, on the car stereo.

A stop at Ennis, Madison County, gave us an opportunity to see an old Western, gold-rush town with boardwalks in front of genuine Wild West buildings, one of which still sported horse-troughs-cum-flower-beds on the front. And they say Euro-Americans ain’t got no history, little do they know.

On the way towards Butte we also discovered that it is a global phenomenon for people who normally drive under the speed limit to speed up over the limit as they are being over-taken on a passing lane. The psychology of these people was briefly discussed as was safety belt law ignorance around the world.

The final, and one of the most memorable moments, took place not long before returning to Missoula as we passed a two-truck convoy of pre-fabricated homes on Interstate 90. ”The dinner’s ready in the oven,” quipped our most-hospitable chauffeur.

Oh, oh, oh, I nearly forgot! We also passed by, in Yellowstone, a herd of at least a hundred head of bison, after which the tail-end of the cows and bulls assisted their young across the road by non-chalantly blocking off human traffic whilst lovably grunting orders to the calves.

We are now nearly halfway through our S.U.S.I. (I must inform you that ‘susi,’ in Finnish, is ‘wolf’ in English.) programme and here’s hoping to the rest of it being as half as great as it has been so far.

We have been hosted by a wonderful crew of intelligent and kind people and I hope the rest of the gang appreciates their work as much as I do. Thank you, you know who you are!