Saturday, March 29, 2008

Americans and Baby Photos

I never realized how important baby photos were to Americans until a couple of years ago when one of our instructors - a wonderful man from Somalia - had an addition to his family. At our next staff meeting, “Ibrahim” was very surprised at the number of American colleagues who demanded to see a picture of the baby. It simply had never occurred to him to carry a picture of his infant. This was the first time I’d encountered such a thing - after all, American new parents usually have plenty of baby pictures they are more than willing to share - but I’ve since learned there are many people around the world to whom it has never occurred to show off photos of their babies.
Ibrahim never did show me a photo of his baby; however, he did make a special effort to bring in the little one herself for me to see and hold, which was infinitely more satisfying.

Personality types in the classroom

How do you deal with different personality types in the classroom?
We’ve all seen it - some days your more extroverted students seem to run all over the quieter ones. What do you do to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate, to speak, to ask, to answer?
Here’s just one idea provided by an instructor I know. I’d be interested in knowing your ideas and opinions.
This instructor uses a rubber ball as a “talking stone.” When a student has the ball, it’s his turn to speak and no one else may. If you see that a quiet student seems interested in answering a question or participating in the discussion, he instructor throws the ball to that student to give him exclusive right to speak. Of course, when the instructor is holding the ball, then the instructor is the only one speaking.

The Assumption of Computer Use

“Everyone uses computers these days.”

“Everyone has access to the Internet.”

Not true! Not true!

Among our students - who represent a pretty diverse cross-section of ages, backgrounds and abilities - the use of computers and the Internet is definitely increasing, but it’s not universal yet. Part of this is related to level of literacy - literacy, mind you, not knowledge of English.
Another factor is the financial one. Not all people can afford a computer at home - and they may not have available transportation to go to a local library.
This is particularly concerning when one thinks about the number of resources that are available only online. Many organizations are moving away from printed information in order to save money and to disseminate information more widely. However, this well-intentioned attempt may, ironically, leave out those who don’t have computer access.
This includes online-only job applications. How many great potential employees miss out on great opportunities because they can’t see the job posting or fill out the application?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"I am a Ghost"

I wrote this poem last fall after a co-worker's daughter lost her uncle and her best friend in Somalia within a span of only a few weeks. Her uncle had a heart attack; her best friend was murdered. 


I am a ghost.

I breathe. Blood goes through my veins.
I see. I hear. I speak — but still …
I am a ghost.

The land I walk now is not the land of my people —
my father’s father’s father’s home.
My clan and my family are scattered
to places I do not know.
So many of them are dead. More die every day.
Yet I am here —
a ghost.

Why do I still live?
Why me and not …
… Halimo, whose laughter made us all smile?
… Khadijo, who died in childbirth in a refugee camp?
… Abdulkadir, who was shot for defending his home?

I cook the food I loved back home, but the taste is not the same,
and I no longer recall just why.
I speak my language, but strange new words invade my speech
and come from my mouth unexpected.

I have met many people in this new place.
They help me. They hope I will feel “at home”.
This is a good place and they are kind people.
But it is not home.
I see the news each day.
I get the calls at night by cellphone.
Home keeps dying day by day.

Home is still the place I belonged, so long ago.
I want to belong somewhere.
I ache to belong again.

But I float like a fog, a plant with no roots —
A ghost
on the bridge
between old dreams and new hopes.

     -- Miss Tara
    Nov. 18, 2007


Sunday, March 9, 2008

A few notes on Somali names

Most Somali names come from one of two sources: The Qur'an (such as Mohamed, Khadija, and Fadumo) or Somali tradition (such as Beydan, Burale). I have seen a few nontraditional names, and my guess is there will be more of these in the children and the grandchildren of the Somali Diaspora.

Somali women traditionally do not change their names when they get married.

Somalis do not have family surnames in the European sense of the word -- that is, a single family name that follows the male line(s) of the family down through generations. Instead, there is a system of naming that is more of a chain.

There are usually three names, and with each generation, the last of the three drops off and a new "first name" is given.

The best way to explain is through an example.

Let's take the name Abdi Ali Hassan.
Abdi is the individual's personal name -- his "first name", to use U.S. terminology.
Ali is his father's "first name" and Hassan is his grandfather's "first name".

If Abdi marries Fadumo Issak Hersi, her name will be unchanged. (Note: the children they have together will be considered to belong to Abdi's clan and tribe.)

In time, Abdi and Fadumo have children -- let's say a boy and a girl.

Traditionally, the first male child is named Mohamed, and this is still often the case. We'll call the girl Hawo.
So Mohamed and Hawo are the "first names".
Then the father's first name -- Abdi.
Then the grandfather's first name -- Ali.

So the children are Mohamed Abdi Ali and Hawo Abdi Ali.

And when little Mohamed grows up and has children? His daughter would be, for example, Khadijo Mohamed Abdi.

And so on.

This explains why a Somali woman's children don't have the same last name as she does. Family relationships (or lack thereof) shouldn't be assumed just because people have the same last name.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What is all that clicking?

I was asked the other day what it means when a Somali makes clicking sounds at a person. The people asking the question were intake personnel at a clinic, and they were pretty sure that it expressed some degree of annoyance, but they weren't sure if it was just an expression of irritation or if they were being insulted in some way. Usually it was Somali women who made the noise at them.

I said I couldn't recall having heard it a lot myself, but the women who were asking me the question said, "Oh, we get clicked at a lot around here."

The way they described it was not exactly a clicking, but it was harsher and sharper than just "tsk-tsk-tsk".

So I asked around, and came up with a range of meaning, from "Oh, sh*t, why me??" (I'm quoting here) to "No no no no no no no. That is *not* going to happen."

And even though I didn't think I had heard it much, I caught myself doing it later that day when my computer misbehaved.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Somali names - Males

Continuing from previous post ...

MALES

Abdalla
Abdi
Abdul
Abdullahi, Abdulahi
Abdulle
Abdikadir, Abdulkadir, Abdiqadir
Abdikarani
Abdinur
Abdirahim
Abdirahman, Abdurahman, Abdulrahman
Abdirisak, Abdirisaq
Adaan, Adam, Adan
Aden
Ahmed
Ali
Barre
Bashir
Burale
Dahir
Diriye, Dirie
Edow
Egal
Elmi
Farah
Gani
Garad
Gas
Gelle
Guled
Hagi, Haji
Hashi
Hassan
Hersi, Hirsi
Hussein
Ibrahim
Ismail
Issaq
Isse, Issa
Jama
Jamad
Jeele
Jumal, Jumale
Kowsar
Mahad
Mire
Mohamed, Maxamed, Mahamed, Mohammad, Mohamoud
Muhiyadin
Muse, Musse, Mussa
Nur, Noor
Olad, Colad
Omar
Osman
Qali
Raghe, Rage
Roble
Salad
Samatar
Sheikh
Shire
Siad, Siyad
Suldan
Sulub
Warsame
Warsan
Yusuf

Somali names - Females

Last week, I was asked to create a list of common names for Somali males and females. This is a start. This list includes names I have actually seen. I'll add more names as I encounter them.

FEMALES

Adar
Amino, Amina
Anab
Anisa
Asho, Asha
Asli
Astur
Beydan
Bosteyo, Bosteio
Dama
Deqo, Deqa
Dounia
Fadumo, Faduma, Fatumo, Fatuma
Fahima
Farhiyo, Farhiya
Fartun
Fawzia
Foos
Idil
Ilham
Habibo, Habiba
Halimo, Halima
Haweyo, Haweya
Hawo, Hawa, Haawo, Haawa
Hibo, Hiba
Jijo
Khadro, Khadra, Kadro, Kadra, Qadra
Khadijo, Khadija
Jamila
Lul
Manafatma
Maimun, Maimuno
Marian, Maryan
Muna
Nafiso, Nafisa
Najma
Nasro
Nasteh, Nasteho
Nimo
Rahmo, Rahma
Rowda
Ruqia
Safiyo, Safiya
Sahro, Sahra
Seynab
Shamso
Shukri
Suad
Suhur
Suleikho, Suleikha
Ubah, Ubax
Ugaaso
Zahra
Zeynab