3/09/2009

Putting It All Together

To say the weekend was wonderful, inspiring, amazing, terrifying, fulfilling, and otherwise awesome would be an understatement.

The WSU Coalition for Women Students put on an awesome symposium this year and I felt so honored to be a part of it. There's a great write up in the Daily Evergreen: The journalist who came to my class was really sweet and asked good interview questions. I was caught off guard and feel like I stumbled over my words, but she made me sound really smart.

So, to backtrack a bit, I was scheduled to give four writing workshops at the symposium, two back-to-back on Friday and two back-to-back on Saturday morning. In the past I've given one workshop at an event, so the prospect of giving the same talk four times in a short period of time had me a bit concerned. I didn't want the material to go stale on me, but the participants were wonderful, laughing at all the right moments and digging into the work, even as I threw unfamiliar terms from babaylan practices at them. I was especially excited to see two students from Association of Pacific and Asian Women (APAW) whom I had met in 2006 when they were Freshmen and who asked me to come back this year. One even mentioned still having her special Slinky that I had given her (yes, Slinky. It is, after all, the Key to All Wisdom) and I was happy to add to her collection this year.

I used some of the slides from my previous presentation, but changed up the format to focus more on storytelling in the written word. Since the focus of the symposium was Art, Activism, and Advocacy, I wanted to provide ways for participants to bring awareness to their own lives and to the topics they felt were most important on an activism level.

Activism and Advocacy are such multi-dimensional topics covering a diversity of issues that it can sometimes be overwhelming to tackle in just a 45 minute talk. Thankfully the Coalition put together a strong program that brought together activists and artists from different backgrounds to share their take on the movement. Rather than try and mush the entire weekend into one post, I plan on talking about special moments from the symposium over the next few days to give myself time to digest and share the event. (I may even reveal the Secret of the Slinky...)

Getting to the symposium was a trick and a half, though. We had planned on taking off work/school on Thursday (the symposium started on Friday) so we would have the entire day to travel. By car, it takes about 8 hours on good roads to make the trip. We didn't have good roads on Thursday. We didn't have bad roads on Thursday. We had white-knuckle, chains-in-the-pass, ohmygosharewegoingtoditchit roads on Thursday. Did I mention how much I appreciate my DH for being such a good snow driver?

After weeks of no snow and relatively clear passes, we hit a late winter storm that caused the DOT to close the pass... right after we made it over (thankfully). Mid-state was pretty clear, but then right around dinnertime we hit whiteout conditions - about 80 miles of whiteout conditions. DH was exhausted by the time we arrived, but we got there after almost 11 hours on the road. My girls were troopers, watching lots of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (we loves iTunes, we do) and listening to everything from Imogen Heap to Shared Voice to Thomas Dolby.

DH's mom had chili all ready to warm our tummies and in general, it felt very much like being home again. After living in the Palouse for 14 some odd years, it was great to be back, even with the cold and the snow and the snow and the cold, all such typical weather for the region. I fussed over my workshop materials before I went to bed and made a few calls with one of the organizers to be sure I knew the schedule for the following day. Before falling asleep, I realized that I was coming full circle in a lot of different ways - returning to present after 3 years, returning to the campus where I went to school and worked for 5 years, returning to see DH's family in their town after over 2 years.

But most of all, coming full circle to a Woman of Color symposium, the same sort of event I went to in Vancouver in the Fall of 1999 when I discovered to my great surprise that I wasn't a white man after all the years of trying to pass as a member of the mainstream. That I was, quite distinctly, a Woman of Color and that perhaps the discovery might be something well worth writing about.

Next: Multicultural Communication with Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith

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