My son's school asked me to present at their Career Day this year.
I was immediately concerned because for one, my robust trini accent perplexes even adult Americans, how would their children cope, and secondly, my job isn't even remotely interesting, not even to me, and probably much less so for a classroom of 8 year olds.
But as the non-custodial parent, I already struggle with limited visibility at his school so I'm always keen on stepping up when an opportunity like this presents itself.
First graders seem to react best to visual stimulation thus my challenge was to formulate a presentation that would keep them engaged with as minimal verbal input as possible from me (pesky accent remember). I thus showed up armed to the teeth with the tools of my trade (land acquisition agent by the way), measuring tape, hard hat, caution vest, measuring wheel for ground distance, etc.
And you know what, I think my presentation went exceedingly well, the kids certainly seemed to like it. They all got a kick out of trying on my hard hat and vest, and running the measuring wheel around the classroom. I'd even go so far as to say daddy was a hit despite not being a policeman, fireman or pilot.
The way these things work, parents come in, talk for ten minutes then take questions. What happened in the latter portion is what threw me for a loop. It began innocently enough with questions ranging from "what hours do you work, or "do you sit behind a desk all day," to "where's Nick's mother" (awkward).
Okay this is getting weird.
But then the weird questions started popping up. (and bear in mind most in the class were age 7)
What did you live in back home? A hut?
How did you move around? Are there cars back there? Y'all have roads?
How was it possible to come to America by plane when planes don't fly to Trinidad?
Are there white people there?
If this all seems familiar to you, it's because I've written about it before.
What foreign policy?
The difference is I was talking about college age adults back then, not young children. Where then are these concepts coming from, these preconceived notions that children as young as six and seven already have of life in the Caribbean?
Are we influencing these views and if so what can we ourselves do to help educate these young minds about us and our culture. Yes, we're classed as developing nations, 3rd world even but I do not think "developing" should be taken to mean "stone age."
Should we be responsible?
But then are we really responsible for how we ourselves are perceived by the American public? Think about it, as expat Trinbagonians, most of us already had a fair idea of what to expect about life in the US PRIOR to moving here. We'd already had an understanding of US culture, habits, standard of living, etc from a very early age. Though one might argue that this is because of the pervasive nature of american entertainment, it should also be considered that we educate ourselves.
Face the facts, our education system strives to give us a global perspective. High schools teach English literature and American history. We are versed on Americans by school age, why is the reverse not the same? There is the internet after all; Wikipedia, Youtube, Nikki frickin Minaj. There really shouldn't be a circumstance like this in the information age. But you know what, I didn't let it bother me. How could it? As far as I was concerned, I was present at the formation of an incorrect notion and I stopped it.
Fifteen years from now, these kids will enter college, meet someone from Trinidad or Barbados and hopefully be able to say "hey, I know about you guys, I know where you come from, come let's grab a doubles."
My work here is done.