By Shannon Lambert, Spring 2019 Education Trainee
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
I have never been very successful in shared housing situations. I have always been afraid of impeding on my roommates’ space or being too loud or generally not being compatible personalities or lifestyles. So when I came to Hawk Mountain, I was worried about living with four strangers with incredibly different cultures for the next few months. Little did I know I was about to meet some of the best friends I have ever had.
Living with people from all different cultures was a strange transition from being utterly confused by each other, to learning from each other, and finally blending our cultures together. When we first met, the most apparent difference was who was from independent versus group-minded cultures. The Americans mostly kept to themselves, but many of the international trainees seemed to instinctually work together for everything imaginable: learning how appliances work, cooking, even sharing laundry loads or going on a morning jog together. I had every intention of leaving them alone, afraid to overwhelm them even more with this foreign culture they are surrounded by, but they started inviting me to eat or go grocery shopping with them, insisting they had made too much to eat or needed my help navigating the aisles, and besides they wanted to hang out with me.
That’s all it took. From then on most of our meals were shared, either taking turns cooking or working together. Sometimes it was a traditional meal, other times it was a wild experiment with new foods we had discovered in the local grocery store. This was the norm for eating out too. We made a fun game of guessing what foods everyone would like best. The losing choices were swapped with a neighbor, and the winners were happily (almost aggressively!) shared so that everyone could enjoy. Our “family meals” were often accompanied with a movie night. Disney was a natural go-to since they are fun and light-hearted, and obviously we stuck with the more animal-themed choices like Jungle Book. We explored classics from other cultures as well, such as Pan’s Labyrinth. This bled its way into our car rides as well, taking turns deejaying. Music is truly a magical medium. The distance that some music has traveled is incredible: the Lanso from eastern India and I both love Creedence Clearwater Revival!
Even when we weren’t actively sharing cultures, there was still a good deal of observed experiences. Momodou is Muslim, and Ramadan happened while we were all living together. He could not eat while the sun was out, so he would wake up before dawn to have breakfast then have to wait until sunset to have dinner. Even something as simple as car horn etiquette is dramatically different in different cultures. I have always understood it to mean a driver needs to pay more attention or needs to be fussed at, whereas another trainee has always used the horn to greet friends, and yet another has always used it to say thank you if someone is nice to them on the road.
I think this living situation was so successful because everyone wanted it to be successful. We cleaned up after ourselves, helped each other out, and really tried to spend quality time together outside of work. These folks have become some of my dearest friends, and I don’t know how I got along without them before I came to Hawk Mountain. Although it is sad that we live so far from each other, if we ever find ourselves in a random corner of the world, we have a familiar face to call home.