We made it pretty clear that one of the things we were most excited about in moving to Minneapolis was the large African/International population based here. With over 70,000 Somali refugees there are plenty of opportunities to talk and learn about Africa.
We have tried really hard to connect with and engage this population. One way we did this was by connecting with a group that is teaching English to primarily Somali adult women. This has been a great way for us to learn about the culture while providing a valuable service. It has also given us, especially Christy, the opportunity to build friendships.
This resulted in us being invited, with some friends, to a student’s son’s wedding. She is actually Oromo, which is a distinctive Muslim culture within Ethiopia. On a side note, many of the local Oromo people have learned to speak and understand Somali. In part because they are often lumped together – even though traditionally there is an underlying conflict between the two people groups. So back to the story.
We were told to arrive at a banquet hall around noon for the wedding lunch which would go from 12-2. Knowing the culture we showed up at 12:30 and were still the first people there. We waited around for awhile and finally one of her son’s came to open the hall and he said we could come back at 6pm. We questioned that and then he said between 2 and 3. Long story short we ended up coming back to the banquet hall around 2:30. There were many women around finishing up the food preparation. They said, “She is coming, she is coming.” So we waited…
We tried to be patient and the banquet hall was filling up. We had almost given up (we did have other commitments) and were told that she was almost here, “maybe even in the parking lot.” A few minutes later we decided to leave and almost missed her. She came and was very excited to see us which was great – but she wanted us to sit and stay and eat.
Her English is very limited so we thanked her and tried to explain that we needed to leave soon. She kept insisting on us eating, but we didn’t want to be singled out to eat before everyone else. We finally had to leave at 3:45 and were able to say goodbye, but everyone kept insisting on eating! I finally realized that this was a HUGE deal for them and said we would go into the back room and eat. We had some great food. Injera, rice, chicken, and other special sauces. Yummy.
This was a great cross cultural learning experience. I think we all wished we could have spent the whole day and actually gotten to enjoy the wedding and take part in that experience. But it is so great to be able to have this experience within our city. We drove 10 minutes and got to experience a part of Africa.
While we were waiting we discovered the Holy Land grocery store. There is a small one at the Global Market, but this was much larger and included random things like lamb heart, goat’s feet, beef tongue, and much more!
Another quick story that makes me happy and reminds us of our great life happened at work the other day. You might recall that many of the students at the school I work at are East African (Somali, Oromo, and Ethiopian). We also have a significant African-American population.
Last week was the last day of after-school classes, so for the last 15 or so minutes I took my group of kids outside to have some fun. They mainly played basketball but there was also a girl’s soccer group outside playing soccer. While standing around watching the kids I felt like I was back in Africa. All of the kids (and other adults) were black, some wearing flowing multi-colored burqa’s or hijabs. It was a great feeling.
Another really random story! I was taking a group of students that I work with to work a banquet for the volunteer department of the school district. Again most of them were East African and inner-city students. We got on the bus and started driving when the kids asked for the driver to turn the radio on. They should have known better since the driver was wearing a cowboy hat. He turned on country music! The kids didn’t like it at all! They kept yelling at him to turn it off and he would give them the thumbs up and turn it up! It was really funny to me since I grew up on a lot of country.
So there you go, a few stories about the great life we lead here in Minneapolis.