Lotta Pasta. Lotta Conversation.

A Short Novel by Connor

The following gathering takes place at Sunset Apartments in Manhattan, KS.

The date is April 26, 2018. Stomachs continue to growl as the eyes of five hungry college students gaze upon a massive pan filled to the brim with tasty fettuccine Alfredo.…

Each one of the questions asked by the supervisor (me) are the same for each of the four other participants (Nate, Erin, Teresa, John,). Aside from the required “citizenship” question, the remaining discussions are chosen based on character depth, or the capability to reveal and learn more about other participants on a personal level. Rather than bouncing off each other’s ideas, every participant in the room takes a turn talking in a circle. As time progresses, it is apparent each person becomes more comfortable discussing sensitive topics which reveal their beliefs, morals and values (it might have been the alcohol, too).

Nate – Nate is a sophomore from Moline, Illinois majoring in statistics, with a minor in theater and performing arts. If you were walking through campus, it would be close to impossible to miss him, whether by sound or sight. He is very tall, measuring in at a whopping 6 foot, 6 inches, with a personality that fits his appearance. He is extremely outgoing, well spoken, and has a heart the size of Texas. Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, Nate believes there is more to being a citizen of this country than simply “keeping it legal.” He believes that citizenship is being a part of a society, having an identity and staying active in helping his community. Nate’s motto in life comes his grandfather (used to be an NFL player). “You win some, lose some and some are rained out.” This applies to Nate in times of triumph, despair and unfairness.

Erin – Erin is freshman from Overland Park, Kansas, majoring in hospitality management. She enjoys long naps, watching Riverdale and visiting the Varsity Truck on the weekends. When she grows up, she wants to own a five star beach resort. Her greatest fear is not getting married, but I think she will turn out fine. Erin firmly believes her job at Smoothie King serves a greater purpose than just making some extra bucks. She recalls to a time on the job when she experienced an act of selflessness. “There was this one time when a woman came into Smoothie King and explained to me how she was suffering from thyroid cancer. She wanted to know which one of our products was most suitable for her condition. I suggested for her to order the vegan smoothie because it had the most health benefits we had to offer. I felt like I walked a little taller that day after helping that lady.”

Teresa – Teresa is a junior from Olathe, Kansas, majoring in interior architecture and product design. She appears small and petite, but is extra, extra sweet- an absolute firecracker. She is not afraid to speak her mind, and is demonstrated when sharing her “two cents” to the group. Although Teresa is of Italian descent, she identifies as a patriot of this country. “I identify as a citizen of the United States, therefore it gives me a sense of social identity and belonging. I take pride in that.” She describes herself as a creature of habit. “I like to follow a set schedule for my day. When my schedule doesn’t go as planned, it creates an avalanche effect and everything seems off.” Despite her short height, Teresa has big aspirations for her future. She hopes to hold a position that exhibits leadership and power, all while sticking true to her morals and values- treat everyone equally, generate a hostile-free environment and work hard all while having fun.

John – John is a senior from Salina, KS majoring in business. He’s a big Cats guy, so Manhattan holds a special place in his heart, especially Aggieville. After spending four years here at K-State, he values the sense of diversity the most. “For the most part, we’re all one big purple family. There is something about the close-quarters atmosphere of this town. It is not just the students, but he natives as well. It’s a special atmosphere that you sure as hell can’t find in Lawrence.” John’s personality is laid back, but there are certain issues that make him tick. One in particular is the planet’s pollution crisis. It bothers him knowing that humans are responsible for destroying the environment they live in. Going forward, he ties this in with his concluding life motto- don’t be a douche, be open minded.

After discussion time progress, two more participants walk in, sit down and join the discussion. I decided to exclude them from the description due to them not fully participating…

Overall, the Kansas Kitchen Table experience has made me realize how something as simple as a dinner gathering can bring a group of people together. Being college students, we often do not have time in our hectic schedules to spend time and have genuine conversations with others over a home-cooked meal. This experience reminded me much of what it felt like to have dinner back home with my family.

KKT

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A Weekend in Hell, Where the Sergeants are Demons, and Everyone Else is a Damned Soul

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Pictured Above: Candidates at OCS getting yelled at. This picture is not of us but it still encapsulates everything that we went through this weekend. Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. John Kennicutt

By Kendall

On the weekend of August 27-30, I along with 10 other Marine Corps OCS candidate prospects traveled from Manhattan to Camp Dodge, Iowa. The Marine Corps Officer Candidate School is a grueling 10-week program designed to train college graduates into United States Marine Corps officers. The 2 and ½ day weekend “mini OCS prep-weekend” would give those of us currently in college a little taste of what the real OCS would be like. This was my first exposure to the program, so I knew no one coming into it. This was supposed to simulate the real OCS; we would be sleeping in squad bays, there were actual OCS Sergeant Instructors, and much of what we would do at this weekend event would be done at the real OCS.

The drive from Manhattan to Iowa was about five hours. Upon arriving Camp Dodge we were told what to expect: lots of yelling and quick moving. We got off the bus and formed up in platoon formation, that is essentially three parallel rows of about 20 people each. We laid out our packs in front of us and awaited orders. The next several hours were spent responding to the Sergeant Instructors’ commands by screaming at the top of our lungs, “AYE AYE STAFF SERGEANT!!!”, coupled with running everywhere and stopping to play the “games” that the Sergeant Instructors love to conduct. These “games” essentially boil down to making you do a menial task in a very short amount of time while screaming at you. One “game” we played was where we had to carry seven MRE’s, those are Meals Ready to Eat, which weigh about two pounds each and are about the size of a popped bag of popcorn, so it is very cumbersome to carry seven of these, and when paired with the plastic M-16 and water bottle we were all carrying, the task was basically impossible. Candidates would scuffle 10 feet and drop something. When they bent down to pick it up they inevitably dropped everything else as well. It was hectic and chaotic because the Sergeants were sure to be there when you dropped something and yelled at you for it. We scuttled foot-by-foot for what seemed over a mile. The point of this was meaningless and existed solely to mess with us.

There wasn’t much time to talk to your fellow candidates at first. We would be running from place to place and were not allowed to speak unless it was to sound off. Eventually towards the end of our time there however we were given the opportunity to sit down and eat a meal the way a normal human being would. They allowed us to speak to each other this time because we had just gotten back from a four mile hike that knocked the wind out of my sails. It was during this 1 and ½ hours that we got to know each other fairly well.

As we were opening our MRE’s we were introducing ourselves to each other. We sat in circles of about five people each. We learned that we had come from all over. Some people I talked to were from Kansas City, others were from Mississippi, one person was from Kentucky, and another was from Maine! No one was expecting that amount of diversity. As far as race goes, no one really cared. We all understood that we were there because we had an interest in serving in the military. That singular common bond was enough to throw out any biases on race, class, social status, etc. There’s a saying in the Marine Corps: everyone is green, and to the Sergeants, we were all equally disgusting garbage.  Before we all started talking about the Kansas Kitchen Table’s subject matters, we were all curious as to what each other got in their MRE. I had gotten tuna with crackers, lemonade drink mix, peanut butter, and a cookie. Kramer got spaghetti with meat sauce, Hernandez got some sort of tomato tortellini, Jackson got “pork meat patty”, which looked like compressed pink goop, and Alvarez got beef taco.

None of us really knew each other. We had met only two days ago, but it felt like we really knew each other due to the fact that we had endured all that hard work together. It was cool to be in an environment where everyone felt truly equal to each other. No one cared about who was going to what college, how much money they had, what their social status was, all that mattered to us was that we chose to be there and suffer together. I think that was the coolest part of the weekend; finding out that in that military environment all that mattered was the effort you put out. If you had someone’s back, they had yours, regardless of what our lives were like “on the outside”.

The first question I asked our group was, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”

Alvarez answered this one. He said, “To me, citizenship means buying into the American spirit. It doesn’t matter what race or what background you have, as long as you believe you are an American first, you are alright. As far as citizenship, I think that all people should have some military experience if possible. It works for Israel and so it would work for us.”

I agreed with his sentiments. I think that an American first mentality will help all of us see past our differences and unite us under one common theme, Americanism.

Since all of our goals are to serve in the military I asked them, “What is it about America that makes you feel compelled to potentially risk your life to serve it?”

Hernandez said, “America is a great place. My family is from Mexico. I will be a second generation American and second generation military member in my family. My dad served in Desert Storm. I think that what makes this country worth fighting for is the fact that America stands for all that is right in this world. America doesn’t tolerate dictators to stay in control, governments to starve their people, or atrocities to go unatoned for. When you fight for American freedom you are also fighting for what is right, just, and honorable. That’s how I feel anyway”.

Kramer chimed in. “I agree. America has a lot of great things about it that make it worth defending. My personal reason for wanting to serve is this, if I don’t do it, then who will? I’d rather risk my life than have someone else in my shoes risking their life. I’d rather go to war than my neighbors. It’s my duty, not theirs. Hopefully they feel the same way.”

I thought it was interesting how Kramer said that it is his duty, not his neighbors. I don’t think he meant that he doesn’t want them to serve. I think what he meant was that if everyone had the mentality that it is your individual responsibility to serve, that means everyone would serve selflessly. I agree with this sentiment.

I asked the question “Do you see this as just a job, or serving a greater purpose”. Everyone in my group all said that it was definitely for a greater purpose. Jackson said, “If it was just a job and about the money, I sure as hell wouldn’t be doing it for 30 grand a year. With my degree that I’ll be getting I can start out at about $70,000. If it was for the money I would just be a civilian. But it isn’t about the money. There are things that you can’t put a monetary value on. One of those things is the duty to serve. I’d rather serve my duty and risk my life than be a selfish person who contributes nothing to society and is concerned only with myself.”

The common theme I was getting from these people was that the duty to serve was paramount to anything else. Whatever compelled these people to want to go into the military, it was more powerful than a comfortable life as a civilian. The want to be beneficial to society, even if it meant risking their lives, was more important than making money or living in lavishness. Another aspect I got from these men was that they did not want to be selfish. They wanted their actions to benefit others. I thought they were very noble, like modern day knights, except these knights have sailor mouths and are hard to the bone.

The final question I asked was, “What kind of person do you want to be?”. Alvarez said, “I want to be a good person. By that I mean that I want to be a person of outstanding moral character. I wish to exemplify the values passed down to me by my father who served. I want to live by the core values of honor, courage, commitment, and never stray from these values. The ideal last days of my life would be me, standing on my mowed lawn in the cool summer night, thinking back on my life knowing that I did my best to be a good person. I want to be able to look back on my life knowing I never cheated anyone, lied to get ahead, or any other dishonorable act that would make me feel like a fraud. I hope to have a family that loves me, and that’s about it.”

Kramer said, “I want to be the kind of person that you can look at and know that they are a decent person. I don’t want any controversy surrounding my name, and I want to leave behind a clean legacy.”

I then asked as a follow up question, “Why is it so important to you that people perceive you as honorable?”.

“Honor is everything. I don’t care if you are dirt broke and living under a bridge. If you live by your honor, I will respect you more than a person who may be really rich, but if they compromised on their morals to get where they are, they are worthless. Honor is the measure of a man. You can’t fake it, you can’t buy it, you can only earn it, and anyone can do it.”

By this point it was time to pack up and head out. I learned a lot from talking to these people. My biggest takeaway was that, amongst these men, the paramount values of what made a good citizen were, honor, selflessness, and integrity. I wholeheartedly agree with these values and I too wish to live as close to these as possible.

A Great CORNversation!

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By Wesley

This meal took place in a now less distant friends house, Mrs. Timkins!  She insisted the whole group over to her house in the Wamego area for dinner, she also really wanted to make the whole meal for all of us younger guys. She made corn casserole and potatoes and Roast! The other people in the picture came from my church (Jim and Mrs. Timkins), my new friend Michael had a class with me this semester and Tabor was a super nice guy that I played basketball with all the time. And finally, was myself to round out the five new companions.

Before this dinner I had surface level conversations with all these folks such as “how’s your day going?” or “how do you even do this homework assignment?”  or “do you want to be our fifth man for this game?”. But afterwards and during this fantastic meal we had such great conversation flowing and every person got involved and said what they wanted, and nobody was offended by the different opinions we had on political views. After this conversation and meal, we shared it was something that everybody agreed we wanted to do again sometime or at least keep in tough through emailing or texting. This was something that I thought was super cool because we had a wide variety of ages and reasons to be at the dinner.

The first thing that we all talked about was the weather and how it had been all over the place, then we thanked Mrs. Timkins for the awesome meal that she had prepared for us and thanked her for offering her home. Once we sat down to eat the meal, Jim opened with a prayer and the conversation began to flow we talked about K-state sports, we talked about our coolest stories and family dynamics, but then, I dropped in the question of what does citizenship mean to you?

The conversation took a brief pause and then we broke the silence with a few different thoughts but still similar. Michael believed that citizenship meant we were an individual that was involved in society and dedicated to serving our communities. After he said that the conversation became a little bit more strategic, while Mrs. Timkins said that she believed the same thing but that all individuals had to have paperwork or proof of citizenship to go along with what Michael had said. Nobody was offended or mad, but we all pretty much agreed on those two points and came to a complete census that all people needed to work hard and do their best to contribute to all of society. One of the other things we realized was that all of us are from different cities and areas of Kansas, so the smaller town people knew every person in their area, while Michael and Jim were from bigger cities they hardly knew their neighbor’s names. I was somewhere in between, knowing some of my neighbors but not all of them. This was the other split we had where Tabor and Mrs. Timkins had known all their neighbors meant that they were upstanding citizens whereas Michael and Jim didn’t, so they may have looked down on them a little bit in this specific conversation.

Following this conversation, we started to take things into the kitchen and washing plates and loading the dishwasher while still holding a good conversation and telling jokes to fill the time. What nobody knew though was that I had brought some ice cream for dessert. Everybody was excited and saying how great the food was but of course there is always room for ice cream, so we all ate and finished the night with a sweet conversation about how to keep in touch and making sure we all had the correct platforms to do so.

I learned a few highly valuable things in this project and I am glad that I went all in with it and enjoyed myself. Most people have a generally similar view on citizenship or at least these folks. It is always a good thing to try new things and create new experiences, I love meeting new people. But at the end of the day I loved having a conversation with different people from different areas and I certainly can’t wait to do it all over again sometime.  A few of my favorite quotes from the evening, “how do I take a picture on my phone? I can’t find the camera.” “can you please pass me the guacamole, I mean potatoes…” and “life is like a roast, it’s always good especially when home-cooked fresh” but certainly not least “Thank you for doing this Wesley I can’t wait to see you all again.” That last one made me feel great and made the whole experience so much more worth it.

Chicken Alfredo With A Side Of “Citizenship”

By John KKT

For the Kansas Kitchen Table project I decided to do this project with a fellow classmate, Connor. We then decided that we would have this potluck at Connors apartment here in Manhattan, Kansas where we would have five college students stuff their faces with some chicken alfredo. Connor provided the chicken alfredo and I went a little south of the border and brought some chips and salsa….as well as a 24pck of Boulevard Wheat. It was through some of Connors connections that he was able gather some of his friends and let me be part of this experience. I saw this as a great opportunity to get a true experience of having dinner with people I didn’t really know at all. The dinner consisted of Connor, Nate, Erin, Teresa, and myself and I will go further into detail about what I learned about them.

Nate is a sophomore from Illinois majoring in statistics, with a minor in theater performing arts. He seemed like a very outgoing guy as he was not hesitant at all to voice his thoughts and opinions about the topics we discussed. Erin is a freshman from Overland Park, Kansas that is studying hospitality management. Erin mentioned that she works at a local Smoothie King and takes a lot of pride in what she does and how she believes she can help people in a positive way. Teresa is a junior form Olathe, Kansas and is studying interior architecture and product design. I believed that Teresa was not afraid to speak her mind and give thoughtful/mindful opinions about what it means to be a citizen. Last but not least was the host of the dinner, Connor. Connor served as kind of a “moderator” of this dinner. He ensured that we all gave honest and thoughtful opinions about what we believed citizenship meant to us while making it an enjoyable experience for everyone in the room. I believed this was a good group of people due to the fact that we were all different ages and in different majors. It allowed to see how younger people view citizenship as compared to people of older age, as well as someone from a different state or community.

After our feast, we all gathered in the living room to start the discussion about what citizenship meant to us. It was a very organized conversation as we went in a circle and allowed everyone to state their opinion. After hearing everyone’s thoughts I was able to quickly identify the common theme that we all shared. That theme was being part of something, whether in a community or even as a society of the United States. Nate had a very interesting perspective that I had never really given much thought before as he believed that being a citizen is “staying active and helping within your community as we are all citizens and we should help each other when needed”. This common theme allowed us to go more in depth with our conversations as we than began to ask follow up questions that really allowed us to get to know each other and how we view social issues that are in our country. The original question really was a door opener that really made it more comfortable for everyone to not be afraid to state their beliefs. Everyone listened to one another and gave feedback or sometimes even follow up questions that allowed us to think in different perspectives. I would say that Connor and myself made sure to keep the conversations going and made sure that if an opinion was a broad answer, to elaborate more to ensure the effectiveness of the conversation. The conversations slowly progressed from political to more personal as the evening went by. We all began to discuss what kind of people we want to be and how we want to help others. It became very in depth conversations as no one was afraid to speak their voice.

Overall, I thought this dinner was a strong learning experience. I never thought something as simple as dinner and having one question to discuss could allow people to open up and talk about themselves and their beliefs. I was almost shocked how towards the end of the evening how engaging and comfortable everyone was with expressing themselves to basically a complete stranger. What this really reminded me of is how when you first start a new job and it’s the first day and your nervous to meet new people and express yourself but then time goes by and you get comfortable with one another as you being to find common interest and beliefs that you can share with coworkers. This is how this project really connected with this class as in small groups you need to include everyone and see how listening to others can bring people together and what I believe to be more productive.

Friends, Family and Food

For the Kansas Kitchen Table assignment, I went to my friend Annika’s house for dinner. This was the perfect opportunity to have a family dinner, and probably haven’t eaten with a friends family since I was in high school!

Her family consisted of her sister Sarah, brother Jansen, Grandma Julia, Grandpa Bill, her mom Cathy, her dad Steven, and her sister’s friend Tess. Clearly this was a diverse group because of the wide generation span. I asked what citizenship meant to everyone. This was a little awkward since it was a large crowd and kind of random, but I think the conversation that it lead to was worth it. Sarah said that it was about being kind to others and just being a good person. Her parents stepped in to teach her that it meant a little bit more than that. They explained how voting, watching the news actively, and being a contributing member of society are all parts of citizenship. Her grandparents agreed, saying that the ironic thing is that it is made so easy to be a good citizen with technology, but that people just trust everything they see on Facebook and think that they are being activists. I told her this was actually a phenomenon that I learned about in one of my Communication Studies courses, called Slacktivism, where people engage in political discussion online thinking they are a part of a movement, but they are not actually contributing to the cause.

I reminded them that the prompt asked for answers that weren’t about the ones I had listed above. They thought about it and decided that it just came down to people actually caring about the world they live in. They talked about how it would involve people communicating and making compromises. I told them my favorite quote, by our dean of arts and sciences, “you can’t hate the person who’s story you know”. We talked about how when a civil conversation begins about an issue, both sides seem to understand each other and change is really made.

hannah's family dinner

Everybody was late

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By David Hazelwood

I had the meal in my apartment in Manhattan Kansas with my roommate, Nathaniel, and two of his friends in his study group, Avery and Corine. They are all geography majors and third year students. I am a computer science major and a third year student. Nathaniel is from Wichita Kansas while Avery and Corine are from Topeka Kansas. I am from a military family so I have moved around lot, but I would consider Manhattan Kansas my hometown since it was the last town my family moved to. Avery and Corine were an hour late since they had gotten the times wrong and since I wasn’t sure if they would show up or not I took a photo with my roommate and me so I would have a photo of the meal just in case. We ordered domino’s and ate a lot of the pizza until the guests arrived. I forgot to take another photo when they got there. The pizza delivery driver was also late since he had trouble finding my apartment. When Avery and Corine got to my place, they brought a tub of chocolate ice cream for dessert.

We started the conversation using the suggested conversation starters posted on the assignment. Everyone wanted to start with the question “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” Nathaniel said “Pizza” which everyone agreed on. We then talked about why everyone choose their majors. Nathaniel said he choose geography since he was going into a niche program in it and he would have no trouble fining a job in it since its so unique. Avery said that she choose geography since she loves the community of the major. Corine said she wanted to go into teaching, but she still needs to look into whether or not she will need her masters for that. I am a computer science major and I love programming, which makes up a large part of the major. I said it makes sense for me to go into this major. I also said that I really love the people and community in the major.

After dinner we ate the ice cream Avery and Corine brought over and continued with a new conversation. I asked “What does it mean citizenship mean to you?”. Everyone didn’t have much to say to that one until Corine said “If you want to be and believe you are a citizen, you are a citizen here.” Avery and Nathaniel said that after you go through the proper paperwork and assimilate you are a citizen. Corine and I said that you don’t need to assimilate in order to be a citizen and this is when we got decided on the topic. The dinner conversation didn’t get heated, but there was a divided in opinions in the conversation. The conversation for the rest of the dinner was back and forth with counter remarks on what makes someone a citizen in the United States and what kind of process should people go through to become a citizen. The biggest point we disagreed on about the topic was whether or not someone who someone should learn English before coming to America. Nathaniel and Avery said that they should definitely learn the language or at the very least there should a be a program for new immigrants coming in to help them learn English. Corine said she would need to think about that a little longer and I stated that new immigrants should not have to learn English before coming to America. While everyone had conflicting opinions during the dinner, everyone managed to keep civil while talking to each other.

I learned that everyone has different ideas about what they want out of their majors. Nathaniel said he wanted to go into his major for job security since the program he is going into in his major has a lot of job openings, but not a lot of new people studying that sub field he is going in. Corine loves her major, but has not looked into the job market for after graduation and hasn’t decided if she is going to grad school or not. I think I learned that the differences people go into their majors for after graduation can differ a lot to person to person.

The conversation that happened at the dinner reminded me a lot of the talk about immigration we had in class. Everyone in class and the people at the dinner I hosted had different opinions on how immigration should be handled. Some people thought there should be less immigration, others thought there should make it easier for people to become citizens. Overall I am glad the conversation in class and at the dinner did not get to personal or heated.

New names and new ideas

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It was an evening filled with new names, unfamiliar faces, expressed ideas, yummy food, and lots of laughter. On April 26, we all gathered around the table with fresh salad, garlic bread, and pasta, we also exchanged ideas and perspectives with one another. The dinner was held at my house in Manhattan, Kansas. My dinner guests included: Emily (moved around her entire life and has experienced and interacted with various lifestyles and cultures), Laken (passionate about providing a voice for others who do not have the opportunity to do so), Meg (loves storytelling and capturing moments through photography), Quan (student-athlete at Washburn University) , and Damarus (going into the Air Force in the near future). Overall, the evening provided an enlightening experience for all of us.

After conversating with one another for the first 10-15 minutes of the dinner, we began to transition into the topic of citizenship. For the most part, the major foundation of this topic centered around the idea of helping one another, ranging from a neighborly fashion to reaching others through efforts of activism. Overall, we discussed how citizenship is about contributing to society, but also making something of yourself. Laken expressed the fact that she feels she must live up to certain obligations as a citizen. More specifically, she felt an obligation to stand up for social issues and listen to those who may not have the opportunity to express their voice/opinions in society. Furthermore, this led to other topics discussed throughout the evening and provided more depth and insight to issues I did not necessarily consider beforehand.

We were all close in age and resonated with living in Kansas, however, we all shared different perspectives. It was interesting to see how everyone approached and validated their point of views. For instance, I thought Emily’s history of moving around the country, especially big cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, Colorado Springs. Even so, she has also lived in small towns in Missouri and Kansas. She shared how living in different places exposed her to all kinds of cultures, experiences, and how people treat one another, which has greatly influenced her outlook on society. She has also become more conscious of her own behavior and more courteous toward others. I thought this was interesting because I’ve only been exposed to the culture of Kansas, along with the country of Mexico, including its customs and traditions. I also realize that there are some who do not even get that opportunity. I thought it was fascinating to hear Emily’s stories because it was interesting to discover major distinctions of states and communities in one country.

As I had the opportunity to hear about their experiences, the more I realized the influence of our roles as citizens. Specifically, citizens influence decision-making and the way situations are handled/regulated in society. During and after the dinner, we discussed several social issues and laws in the United States. Some of the major topics included Black Lives Matter, police brutality, gun control, and the variation between federal and state laws/regulation. During this discussion, I was surprised at the fact that I never gave much thought about some of the issues we discussed. For example, Damarus, who is about to serve in the Air Force, revealed the fact that he believes police officers should undergo physical training on a daily basis, not just in the police academy. I never gave much thought about that until he mentioned it. I agree with this point of view, along with others around the table, because I believe it could potentially improve the physical aspect of being a police officer, therefore, improving safety matters for others in society. With each topic we discussed, I observed how people were more focused on the humanizing aspects, rather than political elements.

Some were more passionate and involved in the conversation depending on certain topics. This reflects the concept that not everyone is always equally involved, however, that does not necessarily mean they don’t care. Part of our discussions focused on intentions vs. actions, and how they play a huge part in all aspects of society; whether it is lawmaking, building relationships, or addressing/resolving issues. Despite our different perspectives and involvement in the conversations, it was a very unified setting.  Ultimately, this dinner reinforced the fact that small group discussions are more personal and allow people to have a voice and share their opinions, regardless of what others around them think. Also, small group discussions provide a comfortable space for those who are not always comfortable with speaking up and sharing their opinions.

Kitchen Table: What’s your Beef?

By: Andrew

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My experience with the Kansas Kitchen Table project happened in Manhattan, Kansas at my friend Nathan’s house, who so graciously offered to host when I mentioned this assignment. Those who participated in the conversation were Nathan, one of my friends from high school, his girlfriend Mindy, Nathan’s roommates Jeremy and Jordan, Jeremy’s girlfriend Anna and Mindy’s friend Maria.

Nathan and his roommate’s have an interesting system for dinners, where they alternate who makes dinner for everyone throughout the week, and he didn’t think we needed to change that up or spend extra money on a large dinner, so we ate a simple meal of beef stroganoff and biscuits to go with it. Sadly, Jeremy and Jordan had prior obligations, so weren’t going to be able to make it to dinner, but they were going to be back soon after dinner, so we decided to spend dinner getting to know everyone and have our discussion once Jeremy and Jordan got there, since everyone who knew them agreed that they would probably have some very good insight into the questions.

The biggest thing that made us distinct was our socio-economic situation and also what size town we grew up in. Jeremy and Nathan grew up average-middle class, Maria, Mindy and I grew up lower-middle class and Anna grew up upper-middle class. Then, Jeremy, Nathan, Anna and I all grew up in an average sized suburb, Maria grew up in a smaller town, and Mindy grew up in a larger city.

After dinner and once Jeremy and Jordan got back, we settled into the living room and I asked the group the first question regarding their views on citizenship. Jeremy was quick to chime in, stating that he saw citizenship as the act of both embodying and perpetuating the beliefs carried down from the founding fathers, i.e. liberty, etc. Mindy agreed with Jeremy but added that she thinks the ideas behind the beliefs are important and not necessarily the actual ideals, citing examples such as slavery and segregation. I jumped in here and claimed that to me citizenship is the desire to uphold cultural/societal norms in a community that work towards strengthening said community. I told everyone that I believed people draw their sense of citizenship from their community and that their feelings about the community affect their desire to interact as citizens of the community. Anna and Nathan both agreed with me saying that community has a very strong tie into citizenship and Nathan specifically said that being a good citizen ties closely into being a good neighbor. Anna focused in on the idea of citizenship being tied into a community’s overall ability to achieve things, such as how a more connected and interactive community can hold events, etc. whereas a less connected or secluded community loses both that ability to accomplish things and the overall feeling of being an actual “community.” Jordan then said that he sees citizenship as the ability to accept others, differences and all, as being an important member of their community and that having an open mindset towards others is a very important mindset to have when being a good citizen.

We weren’t sure where to move the conversation from here, so we brainstormed and threw out some ideas for what to say next, and we eventually started discussing governments role in “managing” citizenship, more specifically the topics of compulsory voting. On the topic of voting, Nathan, Anna, and Mindy thought that it would be a good idea to get more people to vote, but I wasn’t so sure on the idea of making it required. Jeremy agreed with me but said that it would still be a good thing to get higher voter turnout rates to create a stronger democratic process. What we eventually came to as a group was that there should be a national holiday on voting day to make it more convenient for many people to be able to vote. We also considered the idea of online voting, but we were unsure if the extra vulnerability to voting fraud would be worth the convenience.

Having done this project, I found it interesting how despite our close range of ages, we had many different ideas behind citizenship and how democracy should work. It was interesting to see how the dynamic of power played out in the group. Despite not having anyone in charge, most of the people deferred to me in the discussion seeing as I knew the most about the assignment and it was being done for me anyways. In a similar vein, it was interesting to see how the conversation flowed when the two couples talked, each member of a pair tried not to disagree overly much with the other and would make minor amendments to their statements if it went to counter to their partner’s opinion.

Family Matters

While visiting my sister, Maggie, one afternoon in Overland Park, Kansas, I decided to see who she and I could round up for a meal together at her apartment. Invite number one would be Maggie’s boyfriend: Axel. He was born in Mexico, moving to Texas when he was eight years old. Both my sister and Axel attended Kansas State at one point, meeting there and continuing their relationship to the Kansas City area. My sister is my best friend, but I have not had as many chances to meet with Axel as I would like so this meal was a great opportunity. Next on the list: Maggie’s good friend Mika. Mika also met my sister and I at Kansas State where she became great friends with Maggie and I was usually a chauffeur for the two. Next, Maggie had the idea of inviting her and Axel’s friend, Jacob. Axel met Jacob through a mutual friend and is someone I had never met. Jacob was accompanied by his boyfriend, Ryan, whom I had not met previously as well. Last on the list for the afternoon was my friend Tyler. We had met in the dorms our freshman year at K-State and became good friends for the time, but he eventually transferred to the University of Missouri Kansas City. The obvious trend here being that I pretty much used my sister to get random people for me and then threw in an old friend of mine to round out the bunch.

While I am normally an overlapper in conversation as we discussed in class, I decided to take a pauser stance and more observe the others converse amongst themselves so that I could report on it for this piece. I arrived at the apartment late, so the conversation was well underway by the time I was able to join. Because Axel, Jacob, Maggie and Mika knew each other ahead of time they had no trouble talking to each other. Topics varied widely from the validity of our respective college degree choices to trivial things like Pokémon. The various speaking styles became apparent early on with most of the talking being done by Axel and Jacob. The two of them would shoot rapid-fire with their ideas, comments, etc. about the current topic, usually bouncing directly off each other for their inputs. Maggie mostly took a turn-taking approach, putting in her two cents when she found an open opportunity. Mika, Ryan and Tyler acted like myself with a pausing approach, which made sense because the three of them had the fewest connections between the other members and likely did not feel as open about adding to the conversation. Ryan was often included in the conversation by Jacob referring to him or asking follow-up questions directed at him more than the group as a whole. With the tacos my sister and I cooked disappearing quickly, I was pleasantly surprised with how well everyone was meshing and talking freely.

With talking styles being the most recent thing we talked about in class I noticed those differences first, but it also helped me notice other small group distinctions we have talked about. Speaking opportunities in an open setting like this can be few and far between with conversation moving quickly, but no one has more right to speak than anyone else. As I mentioned before Mika and Tyler took a pausing approach, which I know is not how they always act in conversation. We change how we talk greatly based on who else is in our small groups and how comfortable we are. Jacob was very comfortable and engaged in the conversation, filling somewhat of a director role and answering any question or asking others directly to get more input. There were also plenty of side discussions, which would be much more common in a laid-back setting like a dinner as opposed to a formal business meeting. Tyler and I or any other pair of table members would have comments about the current topic or a related thought they felt were best told one-on-one instead of directed toward the group, not because the group did not need to know but as to avoid interrupting the main conversation.

Spending my time with these people was a wonderful experience and I got to know them all much better (Mika had limited time, however, and is not pictured for that reason). The main topic we talked about for the assignment specifically was the first question: what does citizenship mean to you? Jacob took an approach of immediately saying this meant a citizen of the United States of America specifically, while Tyler argued it was a general “being part of the team” attitude and Maggie defended Axel’s idea of membership to a society. Much of the answers to the question revolved around taxes—which I know was already stated in the question—because they saw contribution as a major point to citizenship.

Overall the food was great, but the people were even better. I understand much more about how—and why—people act in small group discussions and it was fun to contribute to a conversation made up of people I did not know well or had never even met.dinner

Chicken fried hooligans

IMG_0768On April 25th, my newlywed wife and I decided to host people in our 400 foot studio apartment for dinner. (It is super tiny) It was actually the first time that we had people over for a meal. We invited 3 other people, Nicole, Steven, and Margaret, so that there would be 5 of us, but Nicole ended up canceling last minute so it was just the 4 of us….which was probably good. Heres a little bit about each person, I worked with Steven over the summer but have only seen him twice this school year and have never talked about politics, or any social issue or topic, he is adopted from Russia which gives him a unique view on citizenship. Margaret shows horses and is very passionate about fighting for women, Rachel is a fashion designer with a huge heart for homeless people and despite her being my wife, we have never talked about politics, and well I…just kinda study communication. I have a tendency to brag about my homemade fried rice, but have never cooked it for anyone else, I decided this was the time, especially since they said they would only come if I provided the food. In a typical fashion, the first thing discussed was that Steven needed more pepper, crushing for a aspiring chef to hear the first time having people over for dinner. We first introduced each other because  we had not all met. I kinda just dove straight into it and asked everyone what they were most passionate about in life, thats when we found out that everyone was passionate about different things and we all got to share, from empowerment of women, to poverty, intercultural relations, and taking care of the environment. It was cool that no-one just gave a one word answer, but it allowed each person to talk about something that we normally would’ve never talked about while having dinner. That kinda led into the question of citizenship and what it means, we kinda realized that none of us had really thought about what it meant to be a citizen since elementary school. It was actually something that was hard for everyone to answer, our conversation shifted away from duties that we may have as citizens to the freedom or blessings that we have as citizens of this country. Steven talked about Russia and what it would’ve been like if he hadn’t been adopted and how thankful he was for the rights and opportunity in this country that he got just by being adopted. Margaret talked about the freedom of speech that we have and the ability for women to be able to speak their minds, but noted that we still had a lot of progress to be made in that area. I tended to be more pessimistic and talked about how in a lot of ways it makes me feel privileged in ways that I don’t deserve, and almost unfair to other people who had no choice but to be in a place with less opportunity and freedom. It is cool that their is no one definition of what it means to be a citizen, but the question opens up a lot of discussion. The conversation stopped flowing a little bit and I kinda just started asking rapid questions, one of the most interesting things was that none of us knew our neighbors, which we talked about is really sad. We also talked about how back home, we all did know our neighbors and in a lot of ways, it was a huge positive to have, and formed a good community. The conversation shifted to focus more on Manhattan rather than the United States as a whole and it also got very negative. We talked about the poor housing standards, lack of diversity, parking, and other random things that we didn’t like about Manhattan, but none of us actually were doing anything about it. I wish that we would’ve had a better approach to the problems rather than just complaining, but maybe that will be the next conversation. Overall, this assignment was really beneficial in a way that it showed us how little we talk about these things that we all have strong feelings about, but do not bring up in conversation. Maybe it is a generational thing as students that these conversations often take place in the classroom and feel more structured, but we realized that they don’t have to be. The thing that stuck out to me the most was that none of us knew our neighbors, I have actually been thinking about it for the few days after the dinner. It is really something so small that could explain so much of the division in our country today, maybe we just don’t know each other, maybe we just don’t sit and talk, and if we did, I wonder if we would realize that we really aren’t as against each other that we might think, and maybe it would lead to more understanding and then more unity from the ground up.