Memories of Awe Episode 6

One thing about her interviews with Professor McKown amazed Liz. His stories were all different. They involved an incredible range of experiences. She could imagine a reality TV show being filmed in his office. It wouldn’t need to be scripted like so many of the unreal reality shows.

LJ: I’m excited to hear your next story. Who are you going to tell me about today?

KMcK:  I’d like to share with you the story of Lena. Lena was a child of Vietnamese immigrants. Her parents wanted her to assimilate into American culture as soon as possible so only English was spoken in their home. Unfortunately, I’ve seen that too often. Children of immigrant parents or grandparents may not get to know their heritage. What happens is that they somehow become ashamed of their personal background when they should be proud of it. Certainly, our national political climate doesn’t help.

LJ: I’ve seen the same things with my friends. Was her cultural identity a challenge for her in college?

KMcK:  Not so much. We are a very multicultural program. Because of that she began to embrace her heritage probably for the first time in her life. The challenge she faced was a different one.

LJLet me guess, financial?

KMcK:  Good guess. Her parents had little money and Lena had to work 8hrs/day at a local brew pub just to afford college. She couldn’t take many hours each semester which just extended her time to graduate. But her biggest problem was her grades. I had to intervene several times to help her stay in school.

LJIt must have been very rewarding to see her graduate.

KMcK:  It was. But the real awe for me came after she graduated. Let me explain. I give students a self-learning assignment to encourage them to be lifelong learners. They pick the topic. Lena chose to learn Vietnamese. I was delighted that she was going to recapture her heritage.

LJThat must have been very satisfying for you.

KMcK:  It was. Several weeks after graduation, I received an email from her. Her parents had been saving for years to take Lena back to Vietnam. As she was learning Vietnamese for my class, her parents were helping her develop the tonal quality of their native dialect. It was very musical and actually beautiful to hear. I saved the email to share with you.

“Today I am in Vietnam visiting my parents’ birth village. I met my grandmother for the first time. I’m so proud that I could talk with her in Vietnamese, using the dialect of her village. Thank you so much for allowing me to do this and helping me survive college. I’m fulfilling a dream that my family had for me.”

LJ: You’ve done it again. Every time we finish an interview, I have goosebumps. I can only imagine how you feel reliving these memories of awe.

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“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey (political activist)

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