Sunday, November 20, 2016

Arcadia University Talk

The first week back from the Philippines as rough. I had a constant headache and my insides were in disorder. I went to bed with my son at 8 pm every night. My husband had to travel for work so I didn’t have help.

I got a text that week from my neighbor across the street. She was in Italy with a class she was co-leading. She asked if I would come speak to the class.

This all came about when we were having wine one night. We got into talking about our backgrounds. I surmised she had always been in contact in one way or another with undocumented immigrants. Me ending up as her neighbor was no exception. She showed me the book she was reading and I talked about Lives in Limbo, reviewed earlier in this blog. I don’t know how it even came up but I got brave with my wine. I told her I would be happy to talk to her class. The class was called “This Sea is Not My Home: Immigration, Migration and Social Justice in the Sicilian Context".  The instructor’s goal in inviting me was to help students realize that “even those who came willingly experience a sea of change in their lives". 

The class went to Sicily. They were visited by Gambian refugees from the camp. My friend was there the week I returned from the Philippines. She must have connected with Michelle while on the trip.

I agreed to come on Good Friday to speak at their last class. I mention the day since everything fell into place for me to be able to talk to this class, including work being closed and having childcare despite my son's school being closed. 

I prepared for it like I would host a meeting at work. I threw my agenda on a Power Point with my discussion points. I didn’t expect Michelle would throw it up on a projector but I didn’t want to lose my train of thought. I used them as cue cards. 

The class was at Arcadia’s library. After a brief introduction I was up. I never got deodorant commercials that talk about responding to your body chemistry. I broke out into a cold sweat while waiting. I finally got the deodorant commercial. 

First I talked about my educational background, my job, my hobbies and finally told them I had been undocumented for 20 years. I talked about the history of the Philippines and the economic factors that drove my family's migration.

I talked about what being undocumented allowed and didn't allow in my youth. I talked about my transition into illegality and what it had meant. There were educational, career and emotional costs. I finally talked about a writing hobby that materialized into me talking to them that day.

Looking that effaces of those students (freshman) the tension was all mine. There was a Q&A session after my discussion points. Some students were curious. Other students were probably happy to get on with the end of their semester. They probably looked like that because I had discussion points.

It was the most public I had come to discussing my former status and my writing.  The instructor was a knowledgeable and compassionate moderator.   I couldn't have asked for a better situation for such a disclosure.
selfie with the castle

Earlier this summer I wrote a post about my experience at Highland Presbyterian Church. It felt like another situation of things falling into place having talked with this class earlier this year. 

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