A Small Piece of American Culture Understanding

By Kimsru, Cambodian

What goes around, comes around! I started the post and now it’s me again and I have so much to say, yet I don’t know how much I could express in words.

I remembered on our second day of the workshop provided by Dr. Tobin Shearer on “American Cultural Values” and he asked us to observe all the dimensions of American cultural values in both the collective identity and person choice. So far I enjoy to be a part of the culture and understanding things as below:

Education: Keep students interested in learning, even me wanting to go back to school! It’s very interactive. I think students at younger age are more passionate about school than older kids. School tries hard to connect students with different opportunities and supports. I believe that as long as individuals want to succeed in life, they could. But they need strong determination and work hard toward their goals. Here in the US, disadvantaged groups have far more opportunities for the ones in Cambodia or other parts of Asia. I visited two schools, Target Range School and Big Sky High School. Both are going great for the American future generation. I also believe that other schools also do great things; but I just have a chance to visit the two.

Family: Everyone in the family is busy either working, studying or supporting one another through different activities. I love the part that many things could happen at a short time period. As a Cambodian sometimes, I don’t realize that 20 minutes could take dog for a walk and visit a neighbor to strengthen social bond or to make breakfast and finished eating it. We could do many things within a short length of time, yet I as well as many other Cambodians always ask for me more time which now I think it’s wasting time.

Family gathering is a happy time, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, and planning to the next day or week. It’s the best time for me to get to understand individual member in the family because everyone has a chance to speak up based on their personal preferences and experiences. I love the fact that I don’t know many things about the US or daily life conversation of the family, but each of my host family helps explaining me to understand and be able to take part in the conversation. I am always happy regardless how cold it is the temperature. It goes back to the fact that Dr. Tobin statement saying that, “American cares about collective happiness.”

Self-Improvement: My host family son is a member of boy scouts. He learned survival skills and humanity at a very young age and planning to do project that could improve the life of disadvantaged group. I reflect back to myself when I was his age, I couldn’t even read or cross a busy road in Phnom Penh properly. He becomes another part of my inspiration to go for further self-improvement. I have learned some much, yet realizing many more to learn.

Food: Within this week, I ate rice twice and noodle once. The rest was a chance for me to go along the daily life of a typical American family in Missoula, but it’s not necessary American food. I tried tacos with my name printed on the receipt. How cool it is! I ate raspberry pancake and it tastes very good, especially in the morning when my Cambodian stomach is scrambling for dinner (breakfast in the US). Here cooking is fast because most of the things brought from the market makes life easier. Spending less time on the cutting or cleaning, more focus on the real cooking part. I haven’t done anything besides cooking rice! I’ve learned that rice should be cooked through a clear instruction on the package. It’s something I do it every day and I never realize that it needs so much instruction on it which is pretty much link back to the presentation from professor Udo talking about High and Low Contact Culture. Even though I am from a high contact culture, I still believe that instruction is useful. And today, we ate buffalo wings, basically it’s chicken wings with bones and it’s tastes a lot better than the chicken breast.

Entertainment: It’s one of the greatest part of my experience here in Missoula. I went on a girl night out to see a play. It lasts for two and a half hours. It’s a very good show even though some parts, I don’t understand, I could still laugh at the right time for the same things as many others were laughing. It’s always been first sight love regardless American or Cambodian play! The following day, five of us when to see 3D movie, Mars! It’s a mazing because I could feel the things falling down toward me and I could try to escape from it. It’s dark and it’s so closed to me, making me believe that I’m in space with the crew, while some other times, I feel like the room is moving as the camera move. Yes, Dr. Tobin is right! It’s a happy ending movie and it makes me feel good to come home with a big smile on my face that all the crews return to earth safely and it’s important to have that feeling in the first place before leaving the cinema.

My host family and I went to Fresh Market and we met a man who gave us free tickets to ride carousel at the Missoula park where I first see snow that people brought from somewhere to demonstrate skiing and advertise winter stuff.

Except catching a bit of cold, everything else has been great. And it wouldn’t happen without people behind. I would love to thanks everyone who makes this chapter of my life so meaningful, especially my coordinator, host family, Mansfield Center staff and everyone else who taking part in making this journey so wonderful.

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