Monday, September 24, 2007

Just reflecting on some of the cultural differences I experienced while interacting with the youth from Mesa. I've lived in the northwest--Washington and Oregon--all of my life, so I had an outsider's perspective as I visited. Here's some observations I made:
  1. Consuming vs. Conservation From what I could gather, the Arizona community doesn't really have the same value of conservation as the uber-green Portlanders do. In Portland, we're all about recycling, fighting global warming, saving trees from getting chopped down, using environmentally-friendly forms of electricity, etc. I could be mistaken, but I don't think recycling is as big a deal in Mesa. While consumerism is still a big issue in Portland youth culture, they also value conserving. This even has to do with roads: you could fit two Portland lanes into one Mesa lane.
  2. Main-stream vs. Indie Portland is all about independent: strange independent music, micro-breweries, independent films, independent grocery stores, etc. Mesa seems to be more of a main-stream type of community, with more Walmarts and more main-stream music. This isn't to say that both communities share these aspects--Portland has Walmart too--but the indie community is a lot bigger in Portland than in Mesa. This even has to do with clothing styles: Portland youth have some quirky fashion, while Mesa youth are bit more high-end trendy.
  3. Schools Demographics While serving at churches in Portland, the youth would come from all over the greater Portland area. Almost every student at the church came from a different school, and rarely were students from schools near the church's building. In Mesa, there are two junior high schools that easily represent over half of the students. These schools are about 5 and 10 minutes from the church's building. When visiting a student's school in Portland, I usually had to drive about 30 minutes for one student. In Mesa, I could drive less than 10 minutes to meet with 10 students. The students' friends are the ones they go to school with and live nearby; in Portland, students have friends all over the place.
These are just differences that I noticed. They aren't necessarily good or bad; one isn't better than the other. It's just interesting to me that while all youth share so much in common, we need to be understanding the subtle differences in culture that can affect our interactions with students. We need to understand the culture around us so that we can better relate to the community.

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