SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2009       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Eric Mia

L’Afrique Mon Afrique en Amerique


My adventures all started when my family and I landed in Phoenix, Az on September 22nd 1998 as refugees from the country of Burkina Faso, which is located in West Africa. Our primary language is French; we also speak a few dialects from back home. I had to learn the English language fast in order to integrate myself in this new country, the new society I had to conform to without forgetting where I came from. The English as a Second Language program was great for me. I started my education in the 5th grade, quickly I adapted myself to the new culture, language and norms.

When I started the 5th grade I met a lot of students from different countries, I thought that every student would be from the U.S and be white. The diversity of this nation is unbelievable, the term “the melting pot” fits in the description really well. I made friends with Mexican, other Africans and even some Europeans. The culture of this country is very different; it is a mixture of other cultures from around the world.

The new language that I had to learn and incorporate into my new life is something that I will cherish and never forget When I began my American education at Mae Bartlett elementary school, I received my new school uniforms and school supplies; the new scent of the school supplies and my clothes is something I will never forget. It signified the start of my new life and the new opportunity I was given to excel in this country. Every time I buy new clothes, the smell of it reminds me of when I first tried on my new American clothes.

The taste of the food that I ate for the first time in the cafeteria is something I can’t ever forget either. The one food I will always specifically remember is sloppy Joe’s . I still make my mom make it for me because I loved it so much after I first ate it, in the 6th grade when I met my friend Slobodan who is also from another country in Europe. I remember that the cafeteria served it every Wednesday for lunch, which made me look forward to every Wednesday. When others were looking forward for recess and playing I was excited for lunch.

When I was learning to write, talk and read in English, I remember the classroom of my teacher who is also from Africa. His name is Mr. Jamal Jibril. He was the best teacher I could’ve asked for; I give all the credit to him for teaching me English. I remember his classroom and how every chair and his desk were arranged and where the American flag was hanging from. All of these memories of my first two years in an American school are so special because it was the start of my new life.

But at first I had difficulties making friends due to the language barrier. Being a black male from a different country I had all the barriers stacked against me: Language, social and educational issues kept me from advancing but I was strong enough to not let any problems stop me from leaning the language and making new set of friends. I quickly advanced through the ESl program and soon was transferred into regular classes.

At times I can honestly say I was scared, angry and confused as to why I had to struggle to make friends. I instantly knew that for me to move on I had to put all the negativities to the side and go with the flow. I had a lot of support and still do from my family members; I encountered many inequalities and some discrimination, which made me feel unwanted and an outcast. These experiences in turn built up anger inside of me about this country. Given that I have a unique personality, I never showed that anger verbally or physically towards anyone. I am a very calm person, I learned how to deal with it by isolating myself for a while and also spending time with my family took that anger away.

When I was in the 6th grade I met someone who would become one of my good friends. His name is Slobodan he is from Europe. His family came to the United States for the same purpose we did. Eric and I started playing soccer and basketball everyday and become very good at it, and in a short period of time we became very good friends for the reason that we had a lot in common already.

Eric and I were both in ESL class, which stands for English as a second language. We had to take that class to learn how to read, write and understand English. Eric was always turning in his assignments on time and always getting good grades on them. I was very slow at it even though we arrived in this country before Eric and his family did. We did everything together out of and in school. We both entered in the spelling bee for the 6th graders, Eric advanced further than I did. I was sometimes jealous of him.

Before the end of the 6th grade year, Eric got moved into regular classes because he was advancing quickly through the ESL program. I was sad and mad that the only friend I really got along with was leaving me; I think he got mad at me one day when I called him a traitor for leaving me behind. But I understood that he really wanted to learn the language and excel in this country. I could see that though we both came from a foreign country and had a lot in common Eric was ready to become like everyone else and had taken the opportunity of the wonderful educational system being offered in this country.

In 2000, I had to go to a different school, because my dad bought a house that was far from my 6th grade school (Clarendon). I left all of my friends and my best friend Slobodan, he was not too happy after the fact that I left him in the ESL class and now I changed school. I lost contact with him after the move. I attended Marc T. Atkinson middle school in the 8th grade. In our new neighborhood I made new friends that lived on my street and a few blocks over.

After the middle school years, it was time to start a new life and meet new friends. I started high school in 2002 and attended Maryvale high school. The school was less then 2 miles away from my house. My freshmen and sophomore years I walked to school with the friends I made around my neighborhood. In high school I tried out for the basketball team, I made the team and played until my junior year. I was not able to play my senior year because I had to come home after school to watch my baby sister. I was not happy about it because my senior year the basketball team won our conference and I was not able to participate.

A lot has happened since my story began on September 22nd 1998, when my family and I landed at sky harbor airport in the pursuit of a better life in the United States and for more opportunities. We came into this country as refugees and are now naturalized citizens of the United States. Now with that particular title we have that much more opportunities to work, vote, go to school. Now that we have all learned the English language we are able to go to school, communicate at the work place and partake in social activities.

In 2006 I graduated from Maryvale and started another life in college, attending ASU. I became the first in my family to attend and graduate from a four year university in the United States. This was one of those opportunities that was available to me when my family and I decided to come to the United States.


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