Saturday, 19 March 2011

cross cultural connections

This week, we've had several cross-cultural connections that have lifted me out of my usual way of thinking and doing things.

#1: sugaring time at the farm

We always look forward to sugaring time - when the maple sap starts climbing, and then running, up the sugar maple trees. It is truly a magical time. This week has been "a good run", so I hear, with lots of sap running in the warm, almost-spring days.

My parents invited us to go to their neighbour's place to see the whole process of sap to syrup. It was an experience. My dad drove us over there in the back of a wagon, and picked up four of their kids who wanted to go to the sugar shack. We rode on the wagon, half full of firewood, bumping over the still-frozen land, through the icy, rushing creek (VERY exciting!) and though the woods to the shack. These neighbour children are Old Order Mennonites, so there was a lot of looking shyly at each other and giggling that happened between the children as we rode together.

The shack was steamy, vapour from the boiling sap rising into the top of the building. And I can't get enough of that smell -- brings me back to my childhood, when my parents boiled sap in the sugar shack on their farm.

The children ran around together, talking and laughing. The neighbours were fascinated with my camera and my daughters' colourful boots. My kids were fascinated with their different way of life, and had many questions on the way home, like: Why can't we live on a farm? Why do they wear dresses? How do they get to school? What chores do they do every day? Why do they speak German at home? What do they do after grade eight?

cross cultural boots

#2: we are all treaty people

I went to hear Dr. Roger Epp speak on this topic yesterday. He says that in Canada, we are all part of a treaty just because we have chosen to live here, and because there were people here before us. He stressed the importance of reaching out and building relationships, not necessarily as a solution to the problems between "settlers" and aboriginal peoples, but because it's the right thing to do.

Someone asked, "How do we get to know them? How do we build relationships?" And it seems like it will only happen if you take a risk. Befriend and listen - not to solve, but to be in solidarity with our neighbours who have generously shared this land with us.

#3: Laotian supper

Tonight we were treated to a wonderful Laotian meal. Our church sponsored Laotian refugees to come to Canada 30 years ago. We still have a partnership with their church, and try to find ways to connect with each other. Tonight's meal was called "Guess who's coming to supper." We knew an address, but no name, for the house we were going to. Our hosts knew numbers, but no names, for the people coming. 

We feasted. Wonderful food: curried chicken, breaded shrimp, egg drop soup, vegetable fried rice, noodles with chicken, and sticky rice and beans wrapped in banana leaves. Our kids gobbled it up!

We heard stories of their time in a refugee camp in Thailand before they migrated to Canada. Several times, they expressed their thanks to God that they were able to come to Canada. Their hospitality was overflowing. 

I need these connections. To help me see a different way of being. To value family, relationship building, and simple joys. So easily, I can complicate my life and see it only from my own limited perspective. I need these Canadian neighbours of mine to pull me out of this way of thinking. I need to take risks in building relationships outside of those that seem easy at first glance. Because you never know what gifts are waiting for you. 

So... how do you build connections and relationships beyond what's easy?

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