May 15, 2007

International Complications Conversations

Friday night we joined Jrex’s labmates for dinner at an Italian restaurant. I sat next to N, I knew he was from Turkey but was delighted to find out he’s Kurdish. One of my best friends just spent 6 months in Iraqi Kurdistan, which meant I knew intelligent questions to ask (rather than my previous knowledge base—they got bombed by Sadaam and now one of their people is president of Iraq). It turns out his father had been a member of Parliament as a moderate in the Kurdish party. Unfortunately for his father, the government cracked down on the Kurds during his term. Many of his colleagues fled the country. He was threatened with the death penalty but ended up with a suspended one-year prison sentence. N told me that he experienced more culture shock moving from Kurdistan to a major city in Turkey than he had when he moved to the US for graduate school.

Another man in the lab is Mormon. We caught bits of a recent PBS special on the history of Mormonism. When asked, he said he’d found the presentation to be fairly well balanced. I would love a chance to really dig into a conversation with this guy. It’s hard for many of my friends to deal with my Christian faith—too many far-fetched notions and too many social issues. I know part of their struggle is how an intelligent person can believe any of it. Obviously I can give you a thorough defense of my faith, but Mormonism seems like a real challenge. Here’s a scientist believing in a faith with no archeological evidence to support it. A faith with a history of difficult ‘revelations’ like polygamy and perfect obedience. I don’t want to try to dismantle or convert him or anything, I just want to understand how he holds it all together in his head. So far we haven’t had that chance, but it was fun to at least get his perspective on the series.

I also had a wonderful conversation with an Indian woman, S, about The Namesake. I’d enjoyed the movie but she’d been aggravated by it. She is Bengali and the actors in the movie are supposed to be Bengali but are Hindi and spoke with a bad accent. I jumped in with, “Oh, it sounds like the same reason most Koreans hated M.A.S.H.” She looked inquisitive and I was about to launch into the explanation when I realized the Japanese student next to her was also listening. I fumbled around with, “Well, they had a lot of non-Koreans play Korean parts,” without getting into the reality that they had Japanese actors as Koreans—which was very insulting to the Koreans of Jrex’s parents generation.


Aimee said...

I saw the Mormon presentation, too. I wondered how someone of that faith might feel about it.

BTW, things are good here. I'm just so busy, I have no time to blog or surf iVillage. I'm hoping to be able to post a new blog later today. Thanks for checking in! :-)

Mama Nabi said...

:-) I've known to launch into the whole Japanese invasion and comfort women thing (it was part of my thesis work, really) in front of this Japanese student in my program. But then, she did start it by telling me I wouldn't know how to make sushi rolls because I'm "Just a Korean". Grr.
One of our scientists who dealt mostly with euthanizing mice was a Korean Catholic nun. I mean, she was still a nun - not a recovering Catholic or anything, a real nun. I always thought that was an interesting 'compromise'.