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home : readerswrite : yourthoughts October 23, 2017

YourThoughts April 2017
Coming Up:

May's theme is "Generations" How would you like your generation of women to be remembered? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: April 10, 2017

June's theme is "Choices and Risks" What is a choice you made or risk you took that you feel proud about? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: May 10, 2017


Each month we ask our readers to respond to a question. For April: we asked: What's your global story?

Worldview career
My three brothers and I were born in Germany, as my father was stationed there after WWII. This altered our family's trajectory. I saw photos and heard stories of life after the war, and after college I spent two years travelling, working and backpacking around the world. This included a year in Kenya working on the United Nations Decade for Women conference.

The Women's conference and travel in Africa and Asia ignited a passion in me to work to decrease gender and health inequities. I attended Columbia University and pursued a joint Master's degree in International Affairs and Public Health, and for the past 16 years have served as the executive director of WellShare International. Each day our diverse staff and I work to reduce health disparities in the refugee and immigrant communities in Minnesota and also work in East Africa on family planning and women's empowerment programming.
Diana DuBois, Minneapolis

Women gathering
Many years ago I spent time in Guatemala. Every morning I was drawn to the public place where the Mayan women were washing clothes. Babies were everywhere - on hips, backs, crawling and as yet unborn. The women were scrubbing, talking and laughing. I watched them set up their looms around a tree and around their waist and begin weaving. Again, I would hear them chattering and laughing. One day I watched one woman combing out the long, black, thick hair of another woman. I knew not to romanticize their tough lives of poverty. Yet I still envied them together, talking, weaving, washing, laughing.
Barbara R. Mishler, Minneapolis

Tutoring my heroes
As a Minnesotan Midwest gal through and through, I envied the adventurous tales of my graduate school friend as she went overseas to teach English as a second language. I summoned the courage to enroll locally for the certificate and follow her lead. Little did I know that the Universe had other plans.

Answering an ad for a personal tutor two years ago led me to a close relationship with a female Kuwaiti graduate student pursuing her Ph.D. in education. With this small start, I've snowballed into tutoring four Ph.D. students in composition. All these amazingly humble and courageous women are preparing to return to their Middle East countries as leaders and social change agents in countries our government is seeking to cut off.

As a retired educator, not only am I restored in work I love, I am learning far more about culture, faith and values, which are transforming every facet of my life. These global women are my heroes.
Geri Lewis, Roseville

Worldview expansion
The 1960s in western Pennsylvania didn't provide much opportunity for anything global until my high school Spanish teacher suggested a summer exchange program in a Spanish-speaking country. Astonishingly, at 17 years old, I flew off to Quito, Ecuador, became a member of a family that spoke a different language than I did, ate different foods, had a different lifestyle and observed customs. My worldview changed forever.

Since then, my life's journey has included becoming a Spanish teacher, marrying someone with similar wanderlust, traveling to many countries over the years, adopting a baby from El Salvador, working in international programs at the University of Minnesota, and meeting wonderful people from all over the world who have enriched my life in ways I could have never imagined in the 1960s growing up in western Pennsylvania.

I'd say, if given the chance, grasp the opportunity. You won't regret it.
Diane C. Young, Falcon Heights

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Cultural integration
Growing up in New Jersey, I never imagined I'd live in Japan. In graduate school, I lived with a house full of women. I became closest to Yoko, a funny, addictive matchmaker who studied ESL (English as a Second Language) and led me to my future husband, a Japanese physicist.

Yoko went back to Tokyo, and years later I followed with two small sons. I lived first with my husband's parents, then two years at Tsukuba University, where I taught and learned more Japanese. Rearing children wove me deeply into the culture and I grew another side - a "Japanese" Susan that knows instantly how to bow, sit still, and bond through shared experience, not just talk.

I learned that quiet manners and kind speech don't mean weakness; behind them can live a fierce will, deep love and radical dreams. This vision inspires me still, as I work with women from all over the globe.
Susan Armington, Minneapolis

Sharing space
I'm a native Minnesotan who lived overseas in Asia and Eastern Europe for close to ten years. I moved back to Minnesota a few years ago. What's been on my mind lately is how cultures have completely different concepts of private and public space.

I remember one time I was riding on a crowded train in Japan and the man next to me fell asleep. Within a minute, his head slid sideways to rest on my shoulder. My first instinct was to elbow him awake - this was an extreme invasion of my personal space! But as I looked around the train, I saw many Japanese passengers in similar predicaments and there was no elbowing going on, so I gritted my teeth and supported his head for the duration of the trip.

Now that I'm back in Minnesota, I find that one of the aspects I most miss about my overseas life is the human contact. I miss plazas and town squares and efficient public transport. I miss sharing my space with others.
Ginny Contreras Sawyer, St. Paul

Volunteer experience in Cameroon
A Minnesota volunteer group arrived in Cameroon on different days, on different flights, from different countries. On Monday morning, we gathered at the Catholic Center, with a VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) eye care team, ready to serve 3,500 people over the next five days at an eye clinic, Noah's Ark (a local NGO working to eliminate HIV/AIDS, child trafficking and child marriages).

During our stay, we were concerned about a strike and protest marches by public school teachers and lawyers. Just days before we arrived, four people were killed at a protest. Our concern was that people would not leave their homes to come to the eye clinic. But they came, they waited and they were served.

A colleague and I did most of the preliminary eye checks on old eye charts that had letters, numbers or directions. We greeted people and ensured them that their hours of waiting would be well served. Inside, the doctors and support people checked for eye disease, blood pressure, diabetes and wrote prescriptions. People left with reading glasses, distance glasses, sunglasses or medication drops.

One person told us she just wanted to be able to read her Bible again. Making a difference in one person's life is rewarding.
Mary Tjosvold, Coon Rapids

French immersion
I completed my B.S. degree in French education in 1964, and then participated in the University of Minnesota Classrooms Abroad program at the University of Grenoble, France. Learning abroad not only increased my fluency, it was culturally educational. After completion of my MA degree in French literature in 1967, I began two decades of teaching French in Minnetonka schools. In retirement, I've taught French regional cooking and done translation work for a local company.

Every spring, in the 1980s, our family hosted a social service professional from abroad who participated in the University's International Program. I was a France delegation host in the summer of 1991, when the International Special Olympics were held in the Twin Cities. I am an active member of the Alliance Francaise and the French-speaking group "Francofilles."

Learning in Grenoble was enriching for me. Bonding with those who live in a culture that is foreign to me is life-changing. And, it certainly opened doors for me.
Carole Dodds Hynes, Minnetonka





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