Monday, September 26, 2005

Lessons Learned

I began grading freshman essays this weekend, and although I have no funnies to report yet, a couple of essays stood out to me. My students wrote about an event they experienced or witnessed that had some kind of impact on them. They could have learned a profound (or a not profound) lesson or gained some kind of insight or wisdom about their own selves or about life in general. The two essays that I noticed were written about trips to other countries.

One student went on a trip to Mexico where, when visiting some Aztec ruins, she noticed a young girl about six years old posing for photographs with tourists. Whenever a tourist would take a picture with her, she would then hold out her hand wanting some money. My student realized that the child's parents must have placed her there in order to earn money for the family. This experienced, coupled with the sights of Mexican families' houses made of scraps, made her realize the poverty that exists in the world and how very blessed she is to live the lifestyle she does. She came to realize that the people who are trying to cross the border to the U.S. are simply wanting better lives for their families.

The other student took a trip to Europe and, while he was there, took a side trip to an outdoor shopping mall aimed at attracting tourists. He noticed that the people running the shops were Asian, and he also noticed that their houses, located near the shops, were no bigger than his bedroom. He learned that the families who run the shops pay a lease in order for the priviledge of working there, and if they don't meet their sales quota, they are kicked out by the shop's owner. My student noticed how the tourists would haggle with the shop workers for a lower price and realized that the greed of the tourists was contributing to the poverty of the shop workers. He left the mall crying over the condition of the people there.

I was extremely touched by these two essays, but I was also glad that these students had experienced these events. I hope that these two students carry these images with them always, and I hope that the next time we have the opportunity to experience a different culture, whether it be a different country or just the part of our hometown that we usually drive quickly through, we take notice of the differences and maybe even cry over the differences.


Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I traveled to Paris earlier this year in my first trip to a non-English-speaking country. It certainly gave me a new perspective on what it's like to not speak the local language. Were it not for the kindness of a Parisian man who approached me in a Metro station and offered to help me find my way, I would probably still be trying to find the right subway train. Here in Dallas, there are many humans who struggle with the language barrier. Having been in their shoes for a couple of days in April, I can say that I will never disparage any human who can't bark.

jettybetty said...

I agree, experiencing a different culure can change us for the better--if we let it!