Strangers No More

By Dalton.

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I was asked by one of my professors, as everyone in the class was, to do an assignment that involved having dinner with (for lack of a better word) strangers. To make matters worse, I actually had to talk to them about important issues. I really wasn’t looking forward to this, and so I put it off until the last minute. Because of the chronic procrastination, the only option was to have dinner with the neighbors, Brenda and Hank. To give some context, I have lived near this family with my parents for nearly ten years.

Throughout those ten years, I had seen them outside here and then, and talked to them a bit. However, the conversations we had were stereotypical small talk – “Hey how’s it going? Beautiful weather we’re having huh?” and nothing more. I’d never even seen the inside of their house. So when I knocked on their door asking if they wanted to have a potluck with my daughter, Ava (who’s five) and I, you can imagine that they were quite perplexed. I explained to them that it was for a class assignment, and that I had a couple of specific questions I needed to ask them throughout the meal. They agreed and we decided to have dinner later that weekend, since I was in town for the weekend.

It is now the evening of the potluck, and in a few short hours I would be eating dinner with my neighbors for the first time. It was decided that they were going to make lasagna and green beans and that I was going to bring a pumpkin pie cake. Thankfully my mom (and to a lesser extent, my daughter) helped make it. Thanks Mom! After the cake was finished, we “sampled” just a bit. You know, to ensure that it was of satisfactory quality. The cake passed the test with flying colors. Next we both got dressed for the occasion, and I explained to Ava that she needed to be on her best behavior.

Ava and I made the short walk next door and rang the bell. Brenda answered the door and invited us inside. As soon as we walked in, the delicious aroma of German Lasagna made its way to our noses. The table was set, and everything was ready to go. Hank was already sitting at the table, reading the newspaper. After exchanging pleasantries, Brenda, Ava, and I sat down to join him.

Right as we were about to start eating, Ava reminded us all that we hadn’t said a prayer yet. Queue awkward moment number one. Or so I thought. It actually wasn’t awkward at all, but since we didn’t know them that well, I wasn’t sure about their thoughts/opinions on religion. Thankfully they thought it was cute and gladly obliged. We then began to eat, talking here and there about various things.

In the beginning, the conversation was mostly about getting to know each other. They asked what I was majoring in at KSU (Software Engineering) and what year I was (Senior). I asked them about what they did for a living. Brenda works as a Pharmacy Tech at Dillons Stores and Hank works at the SRCA Drag Strip. Ava and I both found this interesting because I had taken her out there multiple times to see races, and she really enjoyed it. It also gave us something to talk about, and kept Ava involved in the conversation so she didn’t get too bored.

I was glad to talk about non-polarizing issues for the first half of the evening. It helped to break the ice before I had to ask a couple of questions that could turn potentially political. Typically I don’t mind political conversations, but a dinner with acquaintances isn’t really the ideal place for it. Especially because political conversations tend to go one of two ways with most people – Team A is bad/unintelligent and Team B is great and always has the right answers. Or vice versa. This trend deeply bothers me because nothing is that simple. It’s much more nuanced than that, which is why I tend to fall in the middle of political spectrum, and find myself disagreeing with both Republicans and Democrats (depending on the issue).

After a while the conversation naturally drifted to issues within the Great Bend City Council. We discussed it a bit, and I decided it was a good time to segue into my first required question – “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you”? We discussed this for quite a while, and the best way I can sum it up is that they think Citizenship means doing your part. Contributing to our shared community, and country. Brenda made a good point about how it’s easy to complain about taxes, without seeing the value in it. If we, as citizens, want infrastructure, defense, schools, etc., then we need taxes. They’re a necessary “evil”, if you will. Hank then made a good point about Social Security taxes specifically. He brought up the fact that I will have to pay S.S. taxes but likely get nothing out of it. We talked about that for a while and explained my feelings on the matter.

Almost two hours had now passed and it was about time to go. Brenda cleaned the dishes as we wrapped up the evening and it was then that I realized that I had forgotten to take a picture of us at the table. They were nice enough to re-set the table with food so we could “fake” a picture of our dinner. We took the pictures, which Hank was quite reluctant to be in, and then said our goodbyes.

I’m very pleased with how the evening turned out, and I think even Ava had a good time (largely thanks to their cat – Cinder). Going into this, I was very nervous and apprehensive. But afterwards, I’m glad that I did it. I got to know the neighbors fairly well, and it really made me think about trying to get out of my comfort zone more often. Sometimes, you just need a little boost – like the penalty of getting a zero on an assignment!

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Communities and Citizenship

By Danny

This meal took place in Manhattan Kansas with Myself, Maria, Matt, Albert and Derek. Maria is a lower-class Mexican student at K-State. Matt is a young man who is unrelated to K-State and spends most of his time on the internet. Albert is a middle-class American student at K-State. Derek is a non-traditional student with a few decades of work experience who is currently working towards a masters at K-State and is an active member of the Manhattan community. We had pizza, brownies, spaghetti with my mother’s family sauce, chips, soda and Hildebrand egg-nog and chocolate milk.

At the beginning of the dinner I asked everyone what their definition of citizenship, outside of paying taxes and similar requirements. Derek was the first to answer, he explained how he thought that citizenship was about helping your community altruistically. He distinguished this from doing it for your job, like a janitor cleaning garbage at the city park. I decided to ask about the difference between being a citizen of Manhattan, being a citizen of Kansas, and being a citizen of the United States of America. He explained that citizenship is transitive and gave said that if you were to help a neighbor carry some groceries, you would be expressing your citizenship for your neighborhood and all larger groups that include said neighborhood.

I asked if anybody had anything they would to disagree or add anything to Derek’s answer but nobody had anything to say about Derek’s response. I then asked a hypothetical question about whether a person who moves to a town but only goes to work and spends the rest of their time indoors would be a citizen in their town. After I asked this question I noted that the conversation steered towards the legal definition and I had to activity remind people every now and then about our more social concerns. Also, from this point on, the conversation focused on inclusion and what it would take to be included in a community.

One idea that we considered is that being similar to a group grants a kind of citizenship. One example might be a shared religion in a small town or a particular cultural thing like a special recipe.

Another response Albert offered was that to be a US citizen you needed to be born there and so this would automatically grant citizenship to the person. I clarified that I was more interested in the social definition of citizenship. We did note that there was something that felt proper about once birthplace granting citizenship.

At this point Maria spoke up about how in Mexico, citizenship can be inherited from the mother. We then went on a collective tangent for a few minutes about similar laws and US military bases relationships to citizenship, both Matt and I had experience with the military so we were able to elaborate on US bases. In these discussions, we found an interesting tension in the idea of citizenship prompted by the legal definition.

Blood inheritance of citizenship like what Maria mentioned suggests that citizenship can be passed down in a family and this has a certain appeal when one thinks about a family that has been in a region for generations. We did think that it can lead to the strange idea that a person could be a citizen even if they have never been near or interacted with the community they are a citizen of. Birthplaces also were strange because one can be born in a location but not grow up there. These two definitions conflicted with Derek’s and the idea that somebody can apply for citizenship.

We found the idea of citizenship applications interesting because of its tension with inclusion. We thought that in the same way that democratic small groups must be able to show that they have defined boundaries while also being inclusive, this applied to communities. We felt that it would be strange if a country allowed freedom to take an unpopular view but wouldn’t allow people to join if they had one of these minority views. We ended up settling on the idea that certain core values like valuing other people’s freedom were the most acceptable ways to determine if someone should be allowed to join a community.

One other theme that was popular with Matt was the concept of being a citizen of online communities. These have no physical ties but the cooperation and bonding you see in a town can be seen in an online forum. One interesting issue with online communities is determining when you might call yourself a citizen of one. You and your best friend is clearly not a (typical) community. You and a group of 10 people who you play games with regularly might be one and a four-thousand person group probably is a community even if they rarely meet in person.

After discussing some of the differences between physical and online citizenship our conversation I felt that we were getting tired and so we moved onto discussing random news and the food. At the end we all said goodbye, gave my dog some treats and everyone left to go to bed for the next day of classes.kitchen_table_pic

Taco-Bout Good Conversation

By Rachel,

On December seventh, I held a potluck at my house in Manhattan, Kansas. I cooked Mexican food and everyone brought something to add to the feast. Among the people who attended was my roommate Kendell, my friend Amanda, one of my students, Toni, and a perfect stranger, Matt. My roommate, Kendell, graduated this fall with a degree in Horticulture and is a super down to earth person. Also at the dinner was one of my friends named Amanda whom I met my freshman year here at K-State. She provided a good perspective by speaking from the viewpoint of a minority in our country. The third dinner guest is another K-State student named Toni. Toni is one of my students in the Greenhouse Management lab that I teach. The fourth and final dinner guest is a guy named Matt. Matt is a member of the U.S. army therefore he also brought a unique perspective to the table.
Not everyone knew each other at the beginning of the night so we began the meal with brief introductions and small talk. Once everyone was familiar with each other I asked the first and only required question we were to ask our group that night: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Following the question was a fairly long pause as we all tried to come up with some sort of an answer. Finally, Matt chimed in and claimed that for him it simply meant being a good person and being there for others. He said that helping others and making sure that they are okay is what he feels like citizenship means to him. Everyone at the table nodded in agreeance with his statement. Amanda then added that citizenship for her, is a responsibility to give back to her community and the people within it. Everyone agreed with this and no one else offered up any other ideas so I moved on to asking other questions.
One of the next topics that we discussed was what we thought the best things in our world were today. This was an interesting topic because we all noted that we felt like the media and people in general tend to focus more on the negative things happening throughout the world rather than the positive things. One of the main things that the table agreed upon as being one of the best things in our world today was all of the people in it and diversity being such an important aspect of our humanity.
Another question asked was: “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people? Does it relate to how you see yourself as a citizen?” To this question everyone had a little bit different answers at first. Matt and Amanda claimed that religion can shape the ideals and values that an individual upholds, however one can be religious and still be a bad person. I came at the question from a different perspective because I am not a religious person. I argued that one can be an atheist and still be a really good person because of their own moral character. In the end, we agreed that religion does not necessarily play a role in whether or not someone is a good person. It more so has to do with how they personally treat people and expect to be treated in return.
One of the next questions we discussed was what kind of person we wanted to be. Matt was the first to answer this one and responded that he wanted to be remembered. When asked how he would do that he responded that he just wanted to be remembered as someone who would go out of their way to do something for someone in need. Whether that is paying for someone’s groceries who did not have enough money or helping someone who is stranded on the side of the road. He just wanted to be remembered as a good person. Amanda’s response was that she just wanted to be wholesome. She said that what she meant by that was simply to surround herself with good people and do good deeds.
The last question that we discussed was what social issue was closest to our hearts. This of course took the conversation down a political road. We discussed how divided our country seems, especially since the election of our current President. We went on to discuss the importance of racial, sexual orientation, and gender equality and its importance. We also discussed sexual harassment and the rape culture that we live in today. Overall, this question sparked the most meaningful discussion throughout our dinner.
Overall, I really enjoyed this assignment and it was very eye opening to hear about everyone’s different personal experiences. I found that you can learn a lot about people by asking some of these more personal questions and it can be a lot more meaningful than surface level conversations. We all agreed that it is important to have these types of conversations and that we need to get used to having sometimes uncomfortable conversations with the people around us in order to grow as individuals and grow intellectually. I think that the main thing from class that we talked about that related to our discussions was listening. We can learn a lot about the people around us by simply just taking the time to listen to them.

Kansas Kitchen Table

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The city my Thanksgiving meal took place in Hutchinson, Kansas at the residence of my father and mother. It took place in the house I grew up in, with the people who have the most influence in my life. There were ten people, including myself, who attended the dinner.

At the dinner I attended there was my beautiful mother Robbie who is a wonderful cook, my father Jim who loves to eat and always seems to show up right as the food is ready, my brother JC and his wife Kristy who both love Thanksgiving and the time we get to spend with family, my mom’s “friend” Nancy and her daughter Mattie who are super fun and are crazy competitive when games are involved. Nancy is a lovely woman with a great personality. I truly look at Nancy as more of a mother than a friend. In 2011 my mother was diagnosed with liver failure. She spent the better part of year on dialysis and wasn’t sure what she was going to do because the treatments were beginning to cause more harm than good. After months of testing Nancy became my family’s saving grace. While my mother was struggling to survive, Nancy had been undergoing testing to become a living organ donor for my mother. In the summer of 2012 my mother was able to receive a kidney transplant from her best friend, saving her life and changing my entire family’s life. Without Nancy and her family, I might not have my mother Nancy’s son-in-law Matt and his grandparents Jerry and Enid, who were born and spent most of their life in South Africa, were all at the dinner. Jerry, Matt’s grandfather, came to America with his wife Enid when they were 19 to go to school at Kansas State University. He became an engineer and took a job in Garden City. After some time they applied for citizenship and became American citizens in 1960. He spent the majority of his working life in Garden City and just recently they moved to Hutchinson to be closer to their grandchildren. They were very kind and we enjoyed having there company. The dinner was delightful and the company enjoyable. Thanksgiving was a delightful day full of joy.

We talked about many different things including sports, food, and about our favorite foods from the meal. We all enjoyed conversing about the ups and downs of K-State sports and the up and coming basketball season. Jerry is a diehard KSU fan, especially basketball. Once you get him going on KSU sports you better be prepared for all the stats and information to come with it. Another thing we talked about was our favorite players and how we think they will do in this year’s basketball season. We talked about the many different types of delicious food my mom and the other ladies cooked. Another topic of conversation was our favorite dishes, and the many different types of pies we ate. We talked for a long time about which pie is better and the ones we thought were delicious. Obviously pecan is the true winner.

I learned a lot about the value of family and the great things that come when family comes together. I learned more about the way people look at holidays and the many different traditions they have. I learned about the many different types of holiday foods there are and the cultural meaning behind them. I was surprised to hear that Jerry and Enid had never really celebrated a holiday until they came to America. They both come from poor families in South Africa, so finding the money for big meals or presents was never really an option for them. Jerry made it very clear that the best decision he ever made was coming to America. He said he never looked back and believes he is better because of it.

We talked a lot in class about diversity and how you never really know what someone is going through. I was surprised when Enid told us they were from South Africa. They spoke better English than I do and had no hint of an accent. They told a lot of stories about the hardships they went through when first coming to America.

This relates to what we learned in class in the sense that each country has a different sense of family and the value of the holidays. It also relates again to the many traditions people have in different countries and even different states. This relates to what we learned in class because of the many different cultural foods and many different foods in general that are cooked and eaten during the holidays in different countries.

 

 

 

Cereal Dinner at home by Austin McKenna

On a very nice evening over thanksgiving break a couple of friends and many strangers gather together in Wichita, Kansas for a wedding but also for a special dinner. The guys involved would be Jacob Sims, 22, a Christian from Nashville, TN, Cameron Langston a 24 year old from a very small town in Kansas who is not religious at all, the last guy involved is a guy named Matt Logan a 23-year-old. He is also from small town Kansas but not the same town as Cameron. The ladies involved are, Elaina who is 23 and lives in Columbus, Ohio, Haley who is 23 and lives in India, Courtney who is 24 and lives in Memphis, and Katie who is 21 and lives in Manhattan, Kansas. This group of people are all very similar in age but not in religious affiliation (the people who spoke of it) and not similar in life circumstances. We all gathered together in my house for a dinner full of conversation and enjoying each other’s company. None of us have the biggest budget and none of us are really that great at cooking so we all decided we would have a cereal dinner and each person would bring their desired cereal (we had a lot left over).

At first everyone was a little quiet and not sure what to think about me inviting all of them over for a dinner that involved cereal. After some very quiet and awkward moments to start the conversation began to shift. You could tell that as we spent more time around each other the more comfortable we all were with each other. Most every person in the group were total strangers but given time it did not feel like this at all. This is when I saw that it would be appropriate to ask the one question that I needed to ask, what does citizenship mean to them? This is when the conversation started to die down. I had all of the power in the room and nobody wanted to talk. There were plenty of opportunities for someone to speak up but nobody would. I probably did not ask the question at the best time, in my opinion it seemed kind of forced. Then Haley started to talk, because she lives in India she saw this question as kind of difficult to answer. Her idea of citizenship is one where you feel welcomed into a certain part of the world or a different country. Haley is not a citizen of India (obviously) but she did feel like she was a citizen. She said that because of how nice the Indian people are and how welcoming that they have been she loves living there and getting to know the people of India. Jacob then spoke up next and said that he sees citizenship as legally being part of a country or state. Jacob saw this as more of a black and white type of situation. While he respected Haley’s view, he did not agree with her. Jacob felt that you should have to be born in a certain place to be a citizen or earn your citizenship in a different type of way. For the most part after that all the other people at the table agreed with Jacob and then the conversation moved on because it was painfully awkward. Besides this question we talked about things like what Haley enjoys about India, how Katie is getting married this summer, how Cameron enjoys his construction work after graduating from college and just in general getting to know each other better.

The biggest thing I learned from this dinner was how willing people are to open up after a few awkward minutes. I often default to thinking that people around my age do not want to actually talk to each other and get to know new people. I could not be more wrong. I now believe that college aged students really enjoy getting to meet new people. This showed me that just because I think something does not mean it is actually how it is. The thing that I kept noticing throughout our dinner was how much perceived power I had. I think that because I was the one who put this together and it was held at my house everyone looked at me as the leader. I did not expect this to happen but they all looked to me at every point of the night. Whether it was time for us to actually eat or there was a lull in the conversation all the power went to me. It was a great responsibility but one that I greatly enjoyed. This assignment allowed me to meet some new people and learn something as well.IMG_1974

A Gathering of New and Old Friends

By: Cait

After helping cook various dishes together for or Thanksmas event, the upstairs meeting room/kitchen of Hy-Vee in Manhattan was like coming home for holiday not having to worry about anything for the next few hours. A small group from a crafting group I am part of got together, and I took the opportunity to meet a few of the newer people with this project. As the group trickled in for the get-together a smaller group of us sat around getting to know each other.

Wes, Nick, Tim, Jeana, Ben and I all gathered around the table talking before we went to get our food once others arrived.  Conversation started out lightly before deciding it was time to find out was this project I had was about. Once asked what it meant for them to be a citizen, it became time to get more of a sense of where people really stood in the sense of community. Jeana and Wes were the two I had known going into the group, and they are also some of my roommates. Ben had also been around long enough that I am comfortable talking to him randomly, but I didn’t know much about him before the night. Jeana is a master’s student in immunology and came from a different background with her parents not being the best influence or healthiest. To her, being a citizen meant furthering her research and helping others with theirs to be able to help the community while improving our ability to handle diseases that we come across. I agreed with her as well, but she and I are going in the same career direction. Nick, who I learned is an EMT and will soon be pursuing a massage therapist certification, was in agreement that citizenship meant finding a way to give back to your local and surrounding communities. His way is by being an EMT and further pursing other certifications along the lines of health and wellness. Tim, whom I thought would provide the most different answer out of everyone, surprised me by not being that different from us. He tries to give back when he can by helping coach at a bowling alley around Topeka with his wife when they are not too busy with their son and work. He also thought it was important to carry on his family so that they keep their traditions around. Everyone except Tim, who did not mention much about his job, seemed to believe that the jobs they chose or were working towards would help benefit the community as well as play a part in them contributing as a citizen. Wes is a nontraditional computer engineering student who was raised with a more prominent religious background than the rest of us. He also coaches a high school team as well as a college club team on top of having a part time job with computers. He stepped in saying that jury duty, taking care of public grounds like parks after using them and being there for other members of your community when they need your help.

Ben, who is active duty in the army, thought that those who are able to, or have no other way in their opinion to help out should serve in the military. There were several comments from various people joking about how they would never be able to for reasons like not wanting to be told what to do or have to get up at 0500 every morning. Ben also mentioned that being able to express you difference in opinions by either protesting, creating petitions or just getting your voice out there. I brought up that we can meet with, write or call government officials to spark change when needed as being another meaning to citizenship. It’s our job to keep the government in check, not the government barking orders to the citizens. Tim brought up that with how many people are dissatisfied with the government right now that as people we do not seem to be going to or representatives or senators to make a difference.

Several of us were different in our sexual identities, upbringings, education levels and backgrounds. Wes grew up going to religious private schools and did not really mind it, but I grew up going to church and weekly school or religion while dreading it the entire time. Nick and I were both raised Catholic whereas Wes was Christian, different but similar. Tim, Jeana and Ben were all raised without religion and have no regrets or inclination to change religion in their lives. Nick and Ben didn’t attend college but instead found jobs as opposed to Tim, Jeana, Wes and I. Overall once the conversation started it was not as bad as I thought it would be. People were happy to talk about something that had not given much thought to prior to that night. Going in to this conversation I was not really sure what else it meant to be a citizen, so I was genuinely curios what some people would say. Ben had some insightful points about getting our voices heard and reminded me that we are able to contact our government officials if we need to bring something up to them. I learned a lot of interesting things about people that I see every day and about some new friends. Even outside a classroom setting there are people that will take up a lot more speaking opportunities than others will. It seems that in every group there is someone who fluctuates between talking a lot and sitting back to just hear what others have to say. Some of us seemed to be listening to find another place to speak while others sat back waiting to hear what everyone had to say and reflecting on it before trying to give their input.

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Airbnb Vegan Dinner

 

 

By Adriana,

At first, when we were handed this assignment I felt anxious and unconformable. I am a very easy-going person but with the people I know, not with random people I never interacted with, so I knew at that moment it was going to be a challenge. I chose to do this assignment during the Thanksgiving break because I knew there was going to be a moment I wouldn’t know most of the people.

We planned to go to Chicago as a final destination but pass through main cities first, like Kansas City. We planned to do Airbnb, those who don’t know, Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service, enabling people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms. The company does not own any lodging; it is merely the person who lives in the house or apartment. They can be sharing only a room or list the entire house. When we were looking for a house to rent for two days we found this pretty interesting couple able to host more than 3 people, who suited perfectly for us. It was me, Adriana, my roommate Domenica and two of her male friends I never met before until the day we were leaving for to Chicago, Luis, 22 years and Augusto 24. We were all Hispanics but from different countries. They were from Ecuador and I was from Paraguay/Brazil.

The day came, and we were heading to KC Saturday afternoon, we got there went to downtown and had a little bit of sightseeing of the city. Around 7:30 p.m. we went to Nathan and Kelly’s house, the owners of the apartment. They told us before, to come hungry because they were making dinner for us. When they said that this assignment was the first thing that came to mind, I wasn’t planning to do it until the weekend with totally different people, so this was a perfect opportunity. We got there we introduced ourselves, Nathan who was raised in Kansas City and travels around the world, visited 24 countries and he was only 28, Kelly his girlfriend was an artist, also from Kansas City, a cancer survivor and an amazing mother, of Elliot 6 years.

When we got there Nathan was going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room making sure that we were getting comfortable. Imagine three people meeting a couple they have never met before. It was pretty epic. As we started sitting down while Nathan was still cooking, we started off a conversation with Kelly and telling her a little bit of our background, what were we going and what I wanted to do with them that night. Nathan told us the dinner was going to be a surprise, and when he brought the food it really was. I was hungry, and the dinner was vegan noodles with a lot of vegetables, Pad Thai noodles. We were all still hungry after, and we went to eat Mc Donald’s. But that’s another story.

We had wine, a couple of craft beers from Kansas City, really good by the way, and a great conversation. I started off explaining to them after we were done eating what was the assignment about and they were really into it. I picked two questions besides the required one.

  1. Required question: Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?
  2. Have you ever had a conversation with someone from a different background than yourself?
  3. What kind of person do you want to be?

I recited the three questions in general so each of them could think about it a little bit and the first person who took the lead was Kelly. She had a pretty good insight about being a citizen, she expressed that being a citizen is to have political, civil and social rights. To be a citizen refers to social and cultural practices that give us a sense of belonging, implies coexistence and not doing things that you won’t want done to you. We all agreed and talked about experiences of what made us feel a citizen, a citizen of the world because all of us somewhat been moving around and traveling, so adjusting to a different culture teaches you a lot about being with everyone without losing your identity. For the second question, it was pretty obvious when I asked because they’ve been all over the world. They had experienced conversations from different backgrounds multiple times including this one. When I asked for the third question we agreed that it is search for a sense of belonging, for example, what I try to do is always do the right thing and not contradict myself with what I think of the things in my surroundings and that for me is a way to define myself as a real thing, I am not one to judge, the only judge is really our consciousness. They all wanted to be someone who can change someone’s life by their actions and try to teach their children and next generations that the best way of becoming someone with values was to appreciate what you have and live each day like it is the last because you will never know when is your time to leave the physical life. I learned a lot from each perspective, even though we all agreed with each other’s answers they all had their own way to explain it differently. It was a unique experience that it went smoother than I thought it would be, they were really open minded, they made me put aside the stereotypes I had built in my head before the dinner. I think that from the readings and slides we had in class listening was the biggest player in this conversation. We all respected each other opinions and there wasn’t a moment were somebody raised their voice or interrupted someone speaking. They were really respectful and now I have a family who told me I was welcome to their house anytime I want it. So, I can conclude it was a very fun, healthy and resourceful assignment that I will carry in my experiences from my college life.

 

The Kearney Kitchen Table

By Chase,

The smell of barbecue chicken wafted into my home here in Manhattan, KS as guests began to arrive and place their dishes on the bar. My dog Buddy took it upon himself to greet each of them with a wiggly butt and barks of excitement, as he does with all new people. Those that gathered around my makeshift dining room table hailed from different parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. The only thing that connected each of us was our shared hobby of climbing which most of us were first introduced to during our freshman years at K-State. Gathered around the table was Tabitha, Ella, Garrett, Katie, Taylor, and Ellie.

Tabitha is 27 from Phillipsburg, a small town in Kansas where she grew up on her family farm. Tabitha graduated last Spring from K-State with a degree in Geology and currently works in town with Aldi groceries. Tabitha recently announced her engagement to her partner as well so this project provided a perfect opportunity to celebrate her engagement and potential move to Portland. Ella is 22, from Lawrence, KS. She graduated from K-State this past Spring with a degree in Parks Management & Conservation and is currently a manager at The Pathfinder on Poyntz. Ella also teaches the two UFM sponsored climbing classes at the University. Garrett is 24 from Yukon, Oklahoma he completed his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in Natural Resource Ecology and Management, he is currently working to complete his PhD in biology from K-State. Katie is 22 from Wichita, KS. Katie teaches second grade students at Fort Riley elementary school and is married to Taylor. Taylor is 21 and is also from Wichita, KS which is actually where Katie and him first met. Taylor is a mechanical engineering student here at K-State. Lastly, at the table was Ellie Boring, an apparel marketing major who is also minoring in women’s studies. Ellie is 21 years old from Overland Park, KS. While I didn’t meet Ellie from climbing like I did the others, we first met as next door neighbors in the dorms our freshman year and it turns out we are neighbors again as seniors.

As we filled our plates and gathered around the table, I let the conversation build for a bit so as not to rush and force the topics I wanted to bring up. When I noticed the conversation begin to die down, I asked the first question; “Besides paying taxes, voting, and abiding by laws, what does being a citizen mean to you?” Everyone exchanged nervous glances and you could tell they weren’t quite prepared for such a tough question. Garrett spoke up first and talked about how as a citizen you inherently earn a level of expectation unto others. Those expectations relate more to respecting each others differences even in instances where you may not always agree. After that, things got interesting as everyone was then unsure of who was “supposed” to speak up. I hadn’t laid out any formal method for how we were supposed to all share our input and answer the questions. I was excited to sit back and watch it play out as this was a very definitive take away from what we had learned in class. Without even prompting her, Tabitha took power over the conversation and made it clear that we shouldn’t take turns going around answering as she felt it would stifle the conversation and it would lead us to a dead-end. Instead, we let the conversation flow freely. This led into questions such as “If you aren’t a citizen and are here illegally are you then not expected to have that same level of responsibility to the community around you?” It was interesting to hear the differing responses and it even ended up leading to finding out that Tabitha’s great grandmother had immigrated to the U.S. during WWII and had passed through Ellis Island. I never expected that asking these types of questions would lead to learning so much about the individuals at my table.

With my guests, I knew there would be a lot of varying passion for certain social issues, so I posed the question “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” While the resounding answer wasn’t necessarily a specific social issue it guided us down a path to touch on many issues. Everyone’s answer ultimately lead back to the current President of the United States, the rest of the administration and the actions that have been taken recently. We touched on the current rollback on importing trophy elephants, the lack of emphasis on public education, increase in the number of mass shootings, and gun control. much of the discussion focused on the rhetoric and climate the administration seems to be pushing. The entire time we touched over these sensitive topics you could see the respect for deliberative process at my table. As discussions got a little heated at times, people were always quick to catch themselves when they overstepped or interrupted one another. I noticed at one point Ellie had gotten a little quieter and hadn’t spoken for a bit. Tabitha made an effort to ask her opinion and actively included her in the conversation since she didn’t quite know everyone at the table as well.

Overall, this project provided an awesome way to engage in small group discussion with individuals who all have differing backgrounds and experiences but were able to come together, share a meal, and further friendships. The main connection I was able to make with the discussion and what we learned in class was the use of speaking opportunities within a small group.

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Derb with new friends

By Stephen

I participated in a meal with a group of eight K-State students at the Derby Dining Center in Manhattan, Kansas for about 45 minutes. I had the privilege of eating at a floor dinner with a collection of individuals I had no prior engagements with, except for one (Jude). It was interesting to begin the conversation with the floor because about 24 people showed up to the floor dinner, but about 8 people were truly involved in the conversation because of outside distractions like noise and side conversations. Since we live in the residence halls and eat in a dining center, no one brought any specific food of their own to the dinner. However, it was interesting to see this group of college students come from every walk of life and carry numerous different group identities to the table. Some are involved in different organizations on campus, some have different interests, and some have different family backgrounds. I had a nice diversity represented in the conversation, including mostly freshman in college, but some upperclassmen.

 

Tilston, James, Christian, and Jude were all men from bigger cities in Kansas who identify with the Christian faith. It was interesting talking with each of them because they were all uniquely different in their ideologies. Each person that identified as Christian had some difference in their doctrinal belief system, and some took their faith more seriously than others. Some of them had different social issues they cared about, some were more egotistic in their thinking, and some valued certain parts of Christian faith more than others. Down the table, Joe and Jackson were two men from different styles of living, but holding to very similar ideologies. Joe is from a really small town in Kansas, whereas Jackson is from a large city near Chicago. They were similar in their thinking on gun laws, but different in their reasoning for wanting the guns. For Joe, he wants the freedom to use his gun in any fashion he sees fit (when he wants, where he wants, how he wants). For Jackson, seeing the intense crime the city of Chicago faces all the time with strict gun laws, he wants less restrictions. Taylor and Jordan are sophomores from a larger city in Kansas who hold very similar views on minimum wage and gender gap in wage issues. They believe the equality and increase in wage could fix our country’s national debt problem. Finally, we had Thomas who was unique from the rest of the group. Thomas has a unique background from the rest of the group in family dynamic. Unlike the rest of the group, his family never ate meals together or talked with each other. He said he probably appreciates the floor dinners with his community more than anyone else in the group.

 

Our dinner table talked primarily about what it means to be a part of a community and how they see it play out at K-State. For most of the students, it was clearly important that they have someone they feel like they can talk to and have hard conversations with. People at our dinner strongly believed the “K-State Family” mentality was a real part of the K-State culture. They have all experienced the welcoming and embracing nature of their communities, and feel at home at K-State, despite each of their unique backgrounds with their biological families. The group, obviously, identified they have one common community they shared in with their dorm floor. Since this conversation was taking place right after Thanksgiving break, they were all eager to see each other again, and they were all energized to spend time together following eating dinner together. They mentioned they all enjoy living near each other and the freedom they have to interact with one another at any hour of the day. They also appreciate the vulnerability the people of their floor have. They feel like they can have hard, difficult conversations with people around them despite their differences in opinions. The group holds the belief that neighbors can have conversation and disagree with each other, yet still be good neighbors. It was interesting taking the conversation from the community they have on their dorm floor to their responsibility as citizens in the world. The general concensus among the floor was that while they feel it is their obligation to help others in their country, but often times they prioritize other things in their lives to be more important. Many people said they feel more inclined to help others in their communities, because if they can help their community then they are making the world a better place to live.

 

I think the biggest thing I got to take away from this conversations were in the group dynamics. They all clearly enjoyed being together, however, there were some factors that inhibited their ability to function as a group. For one, speaking opportunities inhibited their ability to carry on conversation. Many group members were involved in the conversation and would often talk over one another. At times I would ask a person in the conversation to elaborate on their point and they would get interrupted. Additionally, outside distractions were a factor in the conversation. People in the group could not always hear my questions because of the setting or because they were too far away. I found myself frequently repeating the questions I would ask or clarifying the previous question.  In the future I plan to hold a conversation like this in a more intimate, quiet setting. Finally, I learned the importance of probing questions I ask. At times the conversation would come to a lull, but it was important for me to think on my feet and draw the questions together. Overall, I think this experience put me in a situation I wasn’t used to, and made me think of situations where I could have conversations like this in the future.

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Low quality picture, high quality new friends.

Kansas Kitchen Table: A lot to chew on

 

By Clayton

My Kitchen Table Discussion took place on the 25th of November in Manhattan, Kansas at my friend Ryan’s house. The dinner got pushed a little farther back than we had planned because I had to get my wisdom teeth removed on the Monday before Thanksgiving. We finally made our schedules realign to where I would be a functional member of the group and not just a swollen bystander to the conversation. My group lost two members due to the rescheduling, but we still ended up having four of us in attendance. Out of the group that was able to come to the dinner, there was me, Daniel, Ryan, and Chase. I met Daniel my first year here at Kansas State in my organismic biology class. He is initially from Iowa but transferred to Kansas State as a biology major because both of his parents had come to school here as well. Chase is a Geography major from Topeka, Kansas that I met in a GIS mapping class last year. Chase not only was a very talented debater in high school but also a great musician that can play five instruments. Last but not least is Ryan and I felt like he added a very different point of view to the group. Up until four years ago, he had been living with his parents in England until his parents found jobs here in the states. He took a year off of college and then felt like Kansas State was the place for him after he came and toured the campus.

When we first sat down at the table, I briefly went over what this dinner was about and got everyone introduced. We all had agreed that first, we should eat, that way we could have an uninterrupted conversation that wasn’t going to get clouded by a pan of sweet potatoes looking up at us. I am pleased that we had chosen to do that because it gave the group more time to have conversations and get to know one another. It was really neat getting to watch a group of strangers that had previously thought they all had just one thing in common (that they all knew me) start to find out that they were more alike than they would have thought. When everyone had finished their plates and was ready, we started with the first question which was “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what citizenship means to you?” I was meet with some awkward looks for a few seconds, but soon chatter started up. Chase was the first to speak up and stated that he felt that it was the feeling of belonging to a group. He said that even when people can’t agree on anything a lot of the time if they just stepped back and realized that we all belong to the same team a lot of situations would be handled differently. After we sat there and chatted some more about what Daniel had said Ryan joined the conversation with what he thought citizenship meant to him. He stated that citizenship meant to him that you are entitled to certain human rights and privileges granted to you from whatever country you happen to come from. One thing we all agreed on was that we felt like citizenship is one of the few things that can bring a country together even in times of great stress. It’s the one thing that no matter where you come from or what side of the aisle you sit on brings us all together.  The question I followed that on up with was “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” Daniel was the first to answer and said that he thought our ability to be connected to one another whether that’s through social media or just the through things like the TV. He said that it also allowed for events and ways of life from around the word to all of a sudden be accessible without ever traveling there. Both Ryan and chase agreed that they both thought that the fact that we have more access to data and knowledge than ever before is the best thing about the world today. They felt that with how easy it is to access the internet though things like phones it is allowing us as a society become more educated and make smarter choices because if you ever have any doubt about something you can research it, then make your thoughts about that topic.

One of the main things I noticed as we had this small dinner and conversations was how a lot of the themes from the class that we have talked about were used in this setting. Speaking opportunities were one of the themes that seemed to come out the most. I noticed chase was really good at making sure he gave everyone a chance to speak and hear what they had to say. Now I’m sure if he wanted to he could have debated with all of us over each point, but instead, he chooses to listen first to what we all had to say instead of jumping in without giving us a chance to speak. It showed me that when you have equal speaking opportunities for the whole group, it makes the dynamic conversation increase and allows the conversation to have better flow with more points of view contributing.

By the end of the night, it was amazing to see how the group had grown and become friends. At first, I was a little worried about how the group would mesh and communicate together because I had never really done anything like this before, but after the success, we had as a group I’m thrilled we ended up doing this. It showed all of us that no matter where you’re from and who you are that if you just take some time and talk to people, you’ll end up finding that strangers aren’t as different from you as you’d think.20171126_190240