Monday, December 12, 2011

Cultural Identity

Today I worked with my first group. 
This isn't typical because I wasn't really hired to work with groups...I was hired to create resources and support for the people that work with groups.  However, today there was a shortage and so I got the rare opportunity to work with a group of high school students from the local school that came in to learn about identity.
Because that's what they do here when they're not working on world peace....they working on self-peace, self-respect, and loving things in general.
We started with a few ice-breakers.  I am a notorious hater of ice-breakers.  But that isn't allowed here.  Here I LOOOOOOVE me a good ice breaker.  I see the importance of them, and I've benefited from the effects of them, but I just can't be bothered with them in my normal everyday life.   GET OUT OF MY SEAT!?!?  You've gotta be kidding me.  FIND SOMEONE ELSE WHO LIKE SPAGHETTI AND CAN STAND ON ONE LEG WHILE RECITING THE ALPHABET BACKWARDS?!?!  No. Thanks.
But like I said.....that's not allowed here.  Because everyday is like a giant ice breaker.  Which has made me sort of love those things.  I think part of it is because a good ice breaker is about learning a bit about yourself, and a lot about the people standing around you. 
After our fair-share of ice breakers, the students were given a picture of a young man and asked to tell us what they can tell about him just from the picture.  What is his name? age? hobby? job? religion? nationality? etc.  Through the course of this and a variety of other games, it became clear that the students didn't know what their "cultural identity" was.
It sort of surprised me.  I mean, this is Northern Ireland.  They have SO MANY COOL THINGS to identify with.  People celebrate their culture that aren't even a part of it.  People are dying to be Irish or British - so much so that we walk around as children imitating their accents.  Let's face it, I come from America....where it often feels like I have no culture when I am surrounded by so much.  I'm surrounded by Mexicans, Asians, African-Americans, Irish, and Polish.  But I'm just hard-core plain jane midwestern misplaced farm girl.  And as I realized they had never taken the time to identify their surely rich cultural identity, I never had either. 
So today I watched 14-15 year olds figure out what their cultural identity is.  What their personal identity is.  And I watched as they took pride in the things that made them who they are - the things they had never before considered. 
It was a pretty cool day.