Training – Field Study: In a world of differences, we are all just the same

Our May Field Study is currently being held on SIFAT’s campus May 12-25. Sarah Murphree, SIFAT co-founder Sarah Corson’s great-niece, is a participant this year. She will be blogging about her experience and giving readers a glimpse of what types of appropriate technologies and community development topics are being presented, as well as a look into who some of the participants are.  A 2012 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Sarah recently directed and produced two short films, one taking first place in the 2013 Nashville Film Festival. She is currently working on her third film, a documentary about Camp Koinonia.

One night during our first week of training, all the participants travel down the red dirt road to Ken and Sarah Corson’s house. SIFAT co-founders Ken and Sarah open their home to the students at SIFAT to enjoy a meal together and allow time to share stories and good company. After dinner, the students have the chance to get up and perform their talents and share cultural stories.

Ken and Sarah Corson opened their home to the Field Study students for dinner and an evening of cultural exchange. Singing, stories and laughter ensued!

Ken and Sarah’s house is unlike any other I have ever visited. It was originally an old warehouse, and one of the first buildings used by SIFAT. As a result, the house is laid out similarly, a huge spacious room with no dividing walls. The home is a giant room divided into a kitchen, living room, study and a mini library. The first time I went to their house, I was in awe. I had never been into a home which consisted of one giant room. It was so open, so spacious, so cozy. It was unique, but wonderfully comforting, just like the Corsons.

Ken and Sarah’s open-roomed home represents one of the greatest qualities the couple exudes – their open attitude toward people. The Corsons open their home to those in need; they open their kitchen to those who are hungry.  They open their beds to those who need rest; they open their books to share with eager listeners, and they open their hearts to so many. Just like my love for their open home, it was immediate everyone else felt the same way. As I looked around the room, I saw warm smiles spread across my peers faces as the arrived. I saw people who had never spoken to one another gather around a table together. I saw older people siting with younger people, laughing wholeheartedly. I wasn’t looking at an open room anymore. I was admiring an open space filled with love.

This evening gave us a chance to get to know one another outside of the classroom, as well as a chance to get to know our teachers better. You can see Martin Price of ECHO tuning his guitar in the background.

After dinner, we gathered around the room to share stories and talents with each other. At first people were a little apprehensive to get in front of such a large audience, but slowly people found the courage to stand up in front of others. Throughout the night, we heard, listened and watched so many culturally talented people speak and perform. Lillian, from the Congo, sang, danced and performed a brief skit. Marie, from Haiti, showed us a fun song her culture does, similar to the Hokey Pokey. Becca, a native to Alabama, amazed us all with her beautiful opera-like voice.

There were wonderful stories told too about cross-cultural differences. Rosco, an Auburn University student, shared a humorous story about the time his German friend referred to Turkish people as Turkeys. While the Americans were concerned these “Turkeys” were not being killed for food, the German friend was quite alarmed at this thought, only to realize later they meant the bird, and he meant the people. Sunil, a SIFAT graduate from India, also shared with us a brief story about the first time he heard Americans ate “hotdogs.” Let’s just say he took this saying literally.

Although we are from different countries, states and cultures, we have learned there are many similarities among the Field Study students.

Throughout the evening, there were many laughs shared. On the way home, people could not stop raving about how much they enjoyed the evening. It’s amazing how close a group of people can get when they take the time to listen and interact with one another. In a world where the center of our attention is directed toward the latest text message, our desperate need for internet connection and what new film Netflix has just released, I encourage you to put these “needs” aside and take the time for others. It’s amazing what you can learn from other cultures, people and customs when you take the time to do so. In only a few hours, I learned more about my peers and their cultural lifestyles than anything my phone, computer or television screen could attempt to exude. Get out there, this world awaits you.