Monday, November 17, 2008

Sioux Falls, SD: Nov 3-9

I looked forward to Sioux Falls all semester because it was the closest city to home, and I hoped to have visitors! We weren't disappointed...

We were so happy to have Beth and Emmy drive down on Friday night to hang out with us on our host family day. We went to the waterfalls of Sioux Falls, checked out the sculpture walk downtown, and then saw the cast perform at a half-time show for a high school football playoff game. I was so glad that they were able to come and hang out with us--- its always so good to see the sibs. Missed you, Kato!

Thanks to M & D, along with Uncle Jonny and Aunt Linda, for making the long drive all in one day to come see the show and go to dinner with us! Scott and I had fun working on the swing dance, to perform in the show and surprise the fam.

Other fave moments of Sioux Falls:
We had our hunger and poverty banquet there, which is always a powerful experience for the cast. The volunteer team of students that helped plan it added another dimension... they wanted the various social groups to spend time working in the typical occupational environment of their economic status. The poorest group, representing the bottom half of our world population, spends the majority of their time getting food and shelter, and so they were given access to a dumpster full of cardboard, and needed to make a home for the 10 people in their family. Some of their family members represented those too young or old to work, and could only watch but couldn't help with the planning or building.

The middle class, about 35% of the group (which is those people in our world that make between $400-$1,500 annually) spend their work time doing mostly manual labor, and so in our simulation they helped the school we were at by raking leaves, and picking up sticks on the playground.

The wealthy class, the top 15% in our world, were given the task of making a business model for a non-profit organization. They worked around a conference table, and had snacks of popcorn, cookies and hot cider, as the others worked outside in a blustery fall day.

After their hour of "work", we went into the banquet, where the top percent has a three-course meal, the middle class has beans, rice and water, and the poor class shares one pot of rice, and slightly salted water.

There were two significant points of discussion in reflecting on the experience that have stuck with me: Laura Lynn from Nebraska commented on how frustrated she was that the middle class ate beans and rice only, because she thinks of herself as middle class. Its the difference between the relative poverty within a country, and looking at the percentages on a global scale. It was a new reality to confront for her, and a powerful moment.

For Caitlin from Arizona, she was most upset by watching us throw away the perfectly good food that was left over from the wealthy table. This is the hardest part of the simulation for me, because it is so tremendously wasteful, as we purposely make more than the wealthy class could eat, in order to throw away the leftovers, in full view of the poor and middle classes who are sitting there, stomachs growling, smelling the flavorful pasta and garlic bread. But, sadly, around 30% of the food in developed nations is wasted, and so to not represent that as part of the simulation is doing an injustice to the circumstances in our world. What I thought was really significant was the reaction of the middle class... they saw me throw away the wealthy class' food, and they immediately went cleaned out the dishes that held the rice and beans they were served, not leaving a bit to be thrown away. Those type of reactions, and the hope that it affects how much food we take in buffet lines for the rest of the semester, is why we do these activities.

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