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Rocio Vera Lopez

Dance 1010
July 17, 2014
Life History Interview
Sometimes our difficult experiences is the best teacher that helps us see our best route towards
success. And being able to share these experiences through educating other, sharing your new
knowledge with those back home helps be a little more successful not only with in you career but a
person. When the civil war began in Africa with the fighting of different tribes one of the places that was
highly affected was Somalia. Many innocent people had to leave because of a fear of being hurt and had
to leave their belongings behind. Others were forced to give up their land, crops or other properties,
causing most families to lose their wealth or source of income. This is what happened to Mahmoud Abas
Abdi and his family. Mahmoud was born in Somalia in 1992 and because on this war his family had to
move into Kenya when he was at the age of six.
His father was a shepherds man and had also been a general in the army while his mother was
an elementary teacher. Both of his parents were from Somalia from different ends (south & north) when
they got married she was 15 and he was 25. Mahmoud explained to me that in Africa it is the norm is
that girls get married young. At 13 years old if a young girl knows how to cook and care for a home they
are ready to get married, usually with a man much older than her. Seeing a couple that has ten years or
more in age difference is completely normal for them. Also marriages are arranged by the parents. I
found it interesting when he said that if you go against what your parent decide they become offended
and will feel as the failed as a parent. That you are saying they are not good enough. When a partner is
chosen, a gift is given to the family of the girls from the guys family. Just as his parents his marriage was
arranged and now was a 3 year old boy that lives in Kenya with his wife.
This has always been strange for me. I understand why arranged marriages would happen so
often but I still have my own biases on this view. I know that a lot of my friend have married and had
kids at a very young age but it is still not under the norm in our culture. In the belief that my paternal
grandmother's has this happens to be a little more normal. I am 19 soon to be 20 years old and in the
view of some family members I should be married and have 2 kids by now. I think that this is because
that just her view. She married at 14 and soon after had her first child. According to her parents this was
not considered much too young.
Being born and raised here in the US I have seen that teenage pregnancies are not the norm but
most families are going to support you. Marriages are looked at a little different they are almost
encourage but after you have finished your education. My parent wouldn't play a role in how I choose to
marry but if I were to be with someone the did not agree with they would not feel as a am disrespecting
them. I don't think they would feel like the failed as a parent. They would just let me be and let me
resolve my own life and try to comment on it as least as possible.
When he was a high school junior in Kenya Mahmoud and some of his family members had to
join a refugee camp. Before this happened he had been in school and had learned some English from
reading and watch some documentaries. His parents were very supporting of their childrens education
and when they lost their belonging, his parents looked for every single way possible so that Mahmoud
would not have to drop out of school. They had opened a small family business with the savings his
mother had so that the school fees were paid on time.
Education has become a very important part in Mahmoud's life. In Africa you are a very lucky
person is you get the opportunity to go to school. Obtaining an education can be really expensive and
most families cannot afford it. Since his mother was a kindergarten teacher it was a lot easier for him to
obtain this knowledge and many of the fees were waived for his family. When the came here to the
United States one of the first things he decided to do was to finish his education. When he arrived in
2011 he enrolled in the high school courses at Horizonte Instruction and training center.
I feel like many of us take education for granted. Mahmoud has seen how his family has worked
hard so he could have an education. Here in the US, public education is free until you hit college and
even then there is a lot a financial aid options available. Yet, for many of us that were born here will
complain at time about going to school and could care less about skipping class. I know I have done it
many time. He said that it upsets him when he hears these kinds of comments and it makes perfect
sense to me when he says he wishes he had the power to give a poor African child the opportunity that
a lot of Americans waste. It is sad how common this is a lot of the people I went to high school have said
college is just going to be a waste of their time.
Gender roles are very strong but they are usually respected when a family decides to change
their routines with these roles. Usually the woman is the housemaid and is in charge of teaching values
and morals to her children while men do the hard labor work to bring income to the home. Unlike here
in our western culture if this were to be the other way around people usually do not discriminate or
judge them. This is because they view it has helping each other and it is just a way in keeping the home
in harmony.
Yet, they are not accepting of homosexuality. In fact, showing any form of affection toward the
same sex is band. So when Mahmoud arrived to the United States shortly after being in the refugee
camp, he was baffled to see a gay couple in a grocery store for the first time. He did not understand why
that would happen and questioned American views of morality. It was also shocking to see how in New
York most people were accepting of homosexuality. The gender roles are also expressed not only in the
clothing that they use in day to day but in the ceremonies that are held. Men usually wear long white
shirts with long shirts that reach their ankles or a dress that is the same length, with long sleeves and a
V-cut neck line. Woman also wear very long dresses and wrap their upper bodies with robes or scarfs
and both genders like to use just white or very colorful clothing.
Here in America our gender role are cast upon us even before we are born. Parent will buy pink
clothing for girls and blue for boys. Most girl toys consist of teaching her how to care for a child and a
home while boy toys are about fixing cars, appliances and racing each other. I think this is why we find is
strange when a man does all the housework and the female is the source of income. We make fun of
this every time we see it. On the other hand, we are more accepting of gays. Still, I believe we all have
some level of homophobia or have created biases and stereotypes because we have been greatly
influenced by those around us it is hard wired to how we are.
Clothing is pretty neutral here In America. We don't use very colorful pieces and it usually
revolves around comfort. Both man and woman wear pant, short, and T-Shirts. But we still have the
traditional formal clothing that consist of dresses and heel for women and suits shoes for man. In Special
occasions we will almost always for our formal clothing that defines our gender roles and I think thats it
something we have in common with those from Somalia; even though the pieces are very different from
each other.
The holidays and religious views are also very different from what I am used to seeing. Religion
is a huge part of everyday life. Mahmoud is Muslim and with his religion they have to pray five times a
day and each prayer has a different meaning plus he must always have time to read the holy book/
scriptures. Just like here in the United States, their independence day is a huge celebration. The will use
their cultural clothing in their gatherings, have music, a lot of food and have parties that usually last
days. It just depends on whether it is a wedding, birthday, or any religious holiday.
The way we celebrate was surprising similar to the way me and my family celebrate. The
holidays are different but the way we gather with family and friends is similar. We make large gathering
where we bring our best traditional meals and music together. I hadn't realized that even when you
come from different cultures, celebrate for different reasons, we all still a similar process we follow. I
almost found this funny because I had never actually to the time to think about it
Some foods are meant to be only ate during these special occasions and other are just meant for
the day to day basis. He described food as a taboo and said that many for Kenya's dishes are meant to
be collected. Most of the meals that are meant for large gatherings are hardly eaten solo and when they
are people tend to think that you are almost selfish if you do. One of the examples of traditional food
that he gave me was Ugali. It is a dish of maize flour cooked with water to a porridge or dough-like
consistency. He believes that these dishes have been around almost unchanged because people
absolutely love it and thats why they pass it down to their children. Plus, he described some meals as
softer and stronger meals meaning that some have better nutritional value than others. The stronger
meals are usually the ones that are usually collective.
I think that this is the same form my culture. We love food and have such a large variety of it.
Just like Mohamed mentioned we also had foods that are very nutritious while the majority we eat just
because I taste good. For a person like me whos parents come from two different countries it is kind of
hard to know all the choices we have. My mom is from Honduras and my dad is from Mexico so I have
difficulties in knowing what certain food are. But at home we make the best of it by bringing the best
from both world.
The elderly are highly respected and the way you greet them says a lot about you. This was by
far the most interesting difference between our cultures because I had never thought about how the
elderly view our gestures. When we were talking about celebration he said that every age group takes
turns when they dance. The elderly were to always go first. They are to dance until the get tired or feel
like giving the younger ones a turn. If a young person is to get up and dance while it is the turn of the
elderly, it is a huge sign of disrespect. Also the way that you greet an older person is much different. You
are to grab the elderly persons handshake and kiss the top of it. With the older family members it is a
kiss on both cheeks and the forehead. Most people consider the elderly as second parents. They are
older and have had more experience in life so therefor they have earned this respect. This is one of the
things that a mother is in charge of teaching
I have always been told to respect my elders but in a sense that I should never say anything
inappropriate to them or around them. If we really think about if in western culture the elderly are not
as respected once they cant take care of themselves most families send them away to nursing homes
and will hardly visit them. In parties were all ages are included, we all get up and dance at the same time
and it is not a concern if you can or can't get a turn you just get up find a partner or dance solo if you
wish. No one will say anything. What I do remember my dad used to always tell us that when the older
people are talking children are never supposed to get in the same conversation and would send us away
to another room, but that is as far as it got.
In doing this interview with Mohamed in learned how his cultures view things and I thought
about how other cultures may view the same situations can be so different from what I'm used to
seeing. Also, how I view situations that I didn't realize were around. This activity made me realized that I
don't really know as much about my own (Meaning parent influence) culture as I thought I did since I
have so many that influence me. Having my mother being from Honduras and my father from Mexico
two different belief systems have been taught to me and my brothers who were born here in Utah.