Oromsis

School Food Fight: A Culture Shock?

By Oromsis Adula*

My experience with a foreign culture started, when I entered the United States on a Christmas Day, in 2002. It was a snowy cold winter. When we finally arrived after a long flight, I was deeply moved by the things I saw. Unsure of where I should be going and insecure with a limited English comprehension, I followed familiar faces off the plane. I was determined to watch everything and then do. But there was an immediate challenge. The first shock hit head on, when I was faced with an escalator.

Right before me was an older lady, enroute to New York, anxious to see her daughter after long years of separation. As I contemplated cutting ahead of her, to get the first lesson from much younger and seemingly experienced travelers, she asked for help. As much as I was duty bound to help, I feared both of us may fall off the rolling machine and feel embarrassed. Since it is impolite to refuse such a request from an elderly, I nerved myself and led her to the escalator. We both lost our footings at first but no one fell off the monstrous machine.

Since that time, I remarkably adapted myself to the vicious cold and the Minnesota snow, the sharp edged summer sun, American and Chinese foods, the American accent, the dress code, and many other things that now make me laugh my head off. Compared to most people that came to the United States before me, I did not experience a lot of culture shock. Partly because I came to Minnesota, referred to by many Oromos as “Little Oromia”, due to its large number of Oromo refugees and immigrants. Or perhaps because the young people I met and befriended since were gracious enough to easily orient me to American culture and ways of life. It could also be that most Oromo Minnesotans live and act like those in Oromia.

Yet years have passed by and now I feel more like a Minnesotan than an Oromo. I eat fast food–drive through. I drive a car. I do not hate the snow as much. I know how to dress for the winter cold. I can use the escalator with immense ease. And I am tirelessly working on the accent and like the attentions that come with it.

Minnesota is my new home. I discovered my love for the True North State, the land of 10,000 lakes, when I went to Washington, D.C last year. Judging from my interaction with people from Kansas, Arkansas, Maine, Wisconsin and other places, Minnesotans are by far a warm and welcoming people, from the Twin Cities metro to the North Shore or anywhere in between. I also like the “Minnesota Nice” thing despite its alleged phoniness. After all these years in the states, I had honestly thought my honeymoon with culture shock was over. But last week the unexpected happened.

 As usual, the lunch room was filled with hungry looking students at 11:35AM. It was the second lunch for the day. Between sports, school field trips, prom, and other activities most students seemed exhausted. I walked into the cafeteria with a handful of passes to my freshman students. I intently glanced through the crowd and sat down near the cashier with other school staff. I do not like interrupting students when they are eating.

 Suddenly there was a chaos. Apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza slices, cartons of strawberry and chocolate milks were flying around the room. The cafeteria was literally upside down. I was astounded and equally confused. It seemed everyone was running for their lives. So I followed. Some people went up to their classrooms. I wandered around the hallway trying to figure out what has gone wrong.

I am still a relatively new face at the School. As some of my colleagues jumped in to calm the situation and catch the movers of the overly messy incident, I walked over to the police men who were standing idle as though they did not notice the occurrence of such event. With a shocking disbelief I asked, “What is going on officer?”

With a composed smile on his face, Officer X started explaining, “Around the end of every school year, high school seniors do what is called a food fight. If you do not take part in food fights it is considered as though you did not experience high school. It is a damn idea and no one knows who invented it. But kids do this everywhere across America”. He continued, “We know the culprits; they are gone for the rest of the year”.

I wanted to ask more questions but I hated the feeling of being stupid. Recognizing that I was puzzled by the tide of events, he continued. “You see most people around the world or even in this country do not have enough food to eat, yet again these kids throw food around the room”. In my new American lingo I said, “WOW THAT IS CRAZY!”

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