Monday, April 27, 2009

A Final Goodbye

For my last blog, I thought it would be only appropriate to give a reflection on my experiences during Border Beat this past semester.  It is hard to believe this semester has already flown by and it is time to graduate.  When I knew I would have to keep a blog for this class, I was nervous because I had never kept a blog before and I found it hard to believe I could write about one topic relating to the border for an entire 15 weeks.  However, I chose a topic that interested me and therefore the blogging process was simple.  Each week I enjoyed finding new and interesting people to write about and share their experiences with all of you.  These people were from various parts of the world who have all come to the United States for a new life for one reason or another.    

Each blog became more complex because at the same time I was learning valuable multimedia information and techniques in Border Beat.  I can honestly say that this class taught me more than almost any other class I have taken at the university.  Also, the information has been valuable and important to the world of journalism.  I learned tools such as Soundslides and Final Cut Pro, which are key concepts to know in the journalism industry today.  Online is the future to journalism,  and I am so happy I took this class to learn all the different aspects that go alone with online journalism.  

Not only have I learned key information, but I had an unbelievable time along the way.  I was able to visit places throughout Arizona I would  never have been to if I had not taken Border Beat.  In the beginning of the semester I was nervous about writing eight stories along with two special projects.  However, I did something a little different to make the stories more fun and interesting.  I traveled to Bisbee, Ariz. with Laura, another Border Beat reporter, to do a story on a Panama hat maker.  We spent an entire day in Bisbee and therefore we did a four part series on the store and the man behind it all.  It was fun, interesting, and turned out to be a really wonderful series.  I did the same thing with Laura towards the end of the semester when we visited Ruby, Ariz., the second most well preserved ghost town in Arizona and only five miles from the Mexico border, where we met with the caretaker of the town and spent the entire day learning about Ruby and its history.  Again, we did a four part series on the town, its history, and much more.  

As for the special projects, those were fun as well.  I was able to go to a free trade coffee corp. in Douglas, Ariz., and spend the day learning to roast coffee.  Here Laura and I produces a four part multimedia project about the coffee corp. For my second special project two other reporters and myself went on a Mexican Riviera cruise and was able to write some fun stories and put together video and slideshows of our experience on the cruise.  It has been a fun, yet a challenging semester.    

If I can give some advice to future Border Beat reporters, its to have fun and learn everything.  If there is an opportunity to come in and learn Final Cut Pro with John, then do it.  You will be so happy you did.  Learn and practice everything you learn.  When you learn soundslides, utilize the tool in your stories so you have it down.  Also, produce  stories that are interesting to you.  Write about topics that you have an interest in or else you won't have nearly as much fun or learn as much.  I  learned a lot because I was interested and engaged in the topics and stories I was covering.  Lastly, ask Jay for advice and story ideas because he always has some really interesting stories to cover and his advice and critiques are extremely valuable.   

I feel privileged to have been a part of the Border Beat team.  I learned a great deal about the United States- Mexico border and became friends with many of the other reporters.  Each person was able to contribute to this truly wonderful online publication throughout the semester.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog about those individuals who have come to the United States from various places around the world for a new life.  Thank you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Experience With Crossing The Border

The semester is coming to an end and this is one of the last time I will be writing to all of you about those individuals who have come across the border and into America. I thought for one of my last blogs I would write about my own experience of crossing over the border.

In the Spring of 2008, I ventured to Florence, Italy where I studied abroad for five unbelievable months. I studied literature and writing while overseas, and was able to follow in the footsteps of some of the most famous writers and literary scholars of all time, including Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, who studied in Florence during their time.

My roommate Katie and me sitting in the Arno River ledge during our first day.
Photo By: Elizabeth Pfordte

Before traveling to Florence I had been to Europe once before with my high school senior class, but I did not truly appreciate the history and beauty as I did when I lived there. Living in a foreign country was an entirely different experience than visiting several countries and only spending a few days in each.

I have traveled to nine different European countries, and each one is unique with so much rich history to offer, but today I will focus on Italy, since that is where I spend a majority of my time.

After living in America my entire life, it was quite a culture shock when traveling to a country where the only words I knew were ciao (pronounced chow and meaning hello), and grazie (meaning thank you). Thankfully were required to take an Italian speaking class during our study abroad, but until class started I relied on my nearly fluent Italian speaking roommate to help communicate for me.

The thing that surprised me the most was how many and how well Europeans spoke English. If they were to come to America, there would not be many people who could also speak their language. I almost never had a problem communicating with an Italian because they almost all spoke English.

Another thing that mesmerized me was all the beautiful architecture that surrounded Florence. My apartment was three blocks from the Duomo, one of the largest domes in the world. It was an incredible to be able to walk next to such a magnificent building everyday on my way to school.

The Duomo on a sunny day in Florence

While abroad I realized how different life is in Italy compared to America. One of the things I loved most about living in Italy was being able to walk everywhere. The only time I took a taxi or another mode of transportation other than my feet, was when my roommates and I would go to the airport. I would most likely walk at least three miles a day, but I loved every moment of it.

The Arno River

The grocery store was one of my favorite weekly activities. Two of my roommates and myself would run along the Arno River a few times every week and then venture to the massive San Lorenzo Market. There we became friends with our favorite butcher who would cut us our meat for the week and our favorite deli where we would purchase our turkey and cheeses. We also found our favorite fruit stands where the woman would always give us a small bag of oranges for free, and she always had the biggest smile when we would come visit each week. Lastly, we had our favorite bread maker. Florence doesn't add salt to their bread so it is always very bland and requires much oil and vinegar when eating. However, we found a woman at the market who makes fresh focaccia bread every morning with salt.

It's the little things about living abroad that I miss the most. I miss the simplicity of their life. They take time off every day for nap time where almost every store is closed for a two hour period each day. At first it was frustrating when I would go to get something and the store would be closed right in the middle of the day, but then I learned to appreciate and love it. I miss the easy accessibility of being able to walk everywhere and having the train station a two minute walk away where we could catch the train to other parts of Italy for a small price.

At the very top of the Duomo during sunset.

I learned that many things are much easier in Italy, such as not really needing a car in Italy, but then America has a lot to offer that Italy doesn't as well. Such as how Florence only has two McDonalds, a handful of Chinese restaurants, one Mexican restaurant, and a few other ethnic restaurants I could count on two hands. America is full of different ethnic foods, where Italy is proud of their home cooking and feel pride in featuring those restaurants with only a few ethnic restaurants to offer.

I could go on for hours about the differences between America and Italy and my experience abroad, but I won't. Each place has their own uniqueness and things to offer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Changing Face of the Arizona Snowbird

This past weekend I went home to Phoenix, Arizona to spend time with my family for the Easter weekend.  During a get together my parents hosted on Easter, I met a couple by the name of Teddy and Celia, and their children Teresa, Christian, and Joe, who are relatives to Jan and Michelle, a couple I did my blog on previously during the semester.  

They reside in Stavanger, Norway for a majority of the year, and move to Phoenix, Arizona during their time off.  It is required by Norwegian law that residents receive five weeks holiday each year.  

Teddy is a terminal manager of a freight company in the oil business, while Celia is the manager of a clothing store in their hometown.

Teddy loves to spend his time golfing in the warm Arizona weather, while Celia enjoys spending her time shopping in the many malls in the Phoenix area.

Teresa is nineteen and attends school in Norway, learning to be a carpenter.  College in Norway is different in that they teach students a trade instead of graduating with a major and minor like American schools.

Christian turned thirteen on Easter and enjoys sports, especially soccer and during his birthday at our house had a soccer theme birthday cake.  

Joe is seventeen-years-old and enjoys spending his time on the computer.    

No longer is it grandma and grandpa from the midwest who come during the winter months to Arizona during the snowbird season, now people come from all over the globe to enjoy the sun, space and beauty of the Arizona desert.       

A video on Stavanger, Norway

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Helper

This past weekend I had the unique opportunity of visiting Ruby, Arizona, located in Santa Cruz County, nestled in a bowl of the Montana Peak, thirty miles west Nogales, and only four miles north of the Arizona/ Mexico border. Ruby was an old west mining town that was the leading producer of lead and zinc from 1934 to 1937. 

However, in 1970 the mine shaft collapsed and Ruby shut down as a mining town.The rich history behind Ruby includes many murder stories of Mexican bandits who would come across the border and kill visitors and residents of Ruby. Now, Ruby is considered to be one of the most well preserved ghost towns in Arizona.

While I was visiting, I was able to spend time with a man who calls himself Sundog, the one and only resident of Ruby, Arizona. He is the caretaker of the run down town who's responsibilities include collecting an entry fee, providing a map and brief history lesson of the town, cleaning the outhouses, and tending to his garden full of herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

Sundog relaxing on his chair

However, there is much more to Sundog than meets the eye, because after spending time with him I learned one of the things he enjoys most while caring for the town of Ruby. He helps those who are crossing from the border through the desert with basic needs such as food and water.

Sundog describing the old mine shaft

Since Ruby is located so close to the Mexican border, only four miles, he often receives visitors who need a place to rest along the way. He said most of the travelers come with coyotes, and they often do not stop through Ruby, but those who are traveling alone or in groups find themselves stumbling upon Ruby, and the small house perched on top of the hill belonging to Sundog. 

During my visit, Sundog received a visit from the volunteer group, Samaritans, who are a Tucson local group of people committed to helping border crossers in the Sonoran Desert when they are in need. The individuals provide the border crossers with food, water, communication equipment, medical assistance, maps, and individuals survival packs.

Many people ask, well isn't that illegal? However, according to their website, "It is never illegal to provide water, food, & medical assistance to another human being in distress." In addition, border patrol is aware of the group and sets limits for the volunteer group as to where they can travel.

Samaritans came to Sundog to ensure he had plenty of water and food packs for the travelers. He described that he was awakened at 7 a.m. by a large group of travelers just that morning to wiped out half of his food and water supply, "But don't worry, if ever some of them come and I am out of food packs I'll just give them some of my own food supply. That's not a big deal," he said. Sundog said he enjoys helping the travelers and they are always very friendly to him.

In addition, Sundog told us of other Mexican travelers who come through Ruby, only these visitors are there to stay for the entire summer. They are known as the Mexican bats. Upon my visit I had heard of this unique phenomenon, but listening to Sundog's stories were much more fascinating. He said during mid April to early May the colony of bats make their way to an enormous cave located in Ruby. He said once all the bats have finally migrated for the summer, to watch them leave as the sun is setting is an unbelievable site to see. 

The cave that becomes home to the Mexican bats from mid April to late August

"It takes all of a few minutes for all the bats to leave the cave. And
 when they return in the morning the sound is so loud it wakes me up," said Sundog. He said even though he has seen the bats every summer of the six years he has resided in Ruby, "I never get tired of watching it. The site still sends chills up my spine every time I watch them."

Sundog is able to meet people from all over the world who come to Ruby to see what it's all about. He said people come from all over the world, "Especially Germany. I meet a lot of Germans." Sundog is also able to help out struggling travelers from the border and view the beauty of the Mexican bats who come for a visit each summer.

Sundog at the old post office, the site of some Ruby murders.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How To Become An American Citizen

After writing the stories of many individuals who have traveled to the United States for a new life in America, and the stories I have experienced, this week I decided to talk about the difficult process these individuals go through to become and American citizen.

First off, in order to become an American citizen in the first place, the U.S. Citizenship Information website says the process will take anywhere from six months to more than two years.

Applicants must first turn in an application, and then wait for a scheduled interview before the process can begin. After the interview, the applicant must wait anywhere from one day to 180 days before they have their swearing-in ceremony to receive their naturalization certificate. However, in a few Immigrations Service Office, this process can take up to an additional one to two years.

According to the U.S. Citizenship Information website, "The length of time for the entire process depends on the number of U.S. Citizenship applicants the USCIS offices receive in each state." The website also urges applicants to pay close attention when filling out their application papers because making a mistake could cost them an even longer period to wait. In addition, the website offers a do-it-yourself service that helps applicants through the entire process to help ensure they do not make any mistakes.

As follows, the website states that their are four major steps in becoming a United States citizen.

*Step One: Submit The Complete Application
-This includes obtaining two passport-size photographs, ensuring all documents are together and completely filled out, and sending all necessary documents to the right USCIS location.

*Step Two: Get Fingerprinted
-This is after the USCIS office has let the applicant know they have received the application, the acknowledgment letter will give a specific time and place to get your fingerprints that the applicant must show up for, and send any additional documents the USCIS office asks for.

*Step Three: Attend USCIS Interview & Take Tests
-The USCIS office will send a letter with a time and date for a scheduled interview, attend the interview at the correct time and place, proper identifications and further documents will be asked for, answer the interviewers questions, take the Civic Test and English Test, and lastly wait until the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services comes to an answer about your citizenship.

*Step Four: Take the Oath to Become a U.S. Citizen
-The USCIS will send a ceremony date to attend, go to the specified date and time and return your Permanent Resident Card, answer any questions they may have about what you have been doing since the interview process, take the Oath of Allegiance, receive the Certificate of Naturalization, and enjoy life as an American citizen.

These four steps make the process sound easy, but the amount of time it takes between each of the individual steps can and most likely will take years. For example, Jan Svedsen, who I wrote about in a previous blog, has been trying to gain citizenship in the United States for the past two years and still has not had his ceremony. However, some are more lucky, such as Nadja Riess, who only took about a year to go through the entire process.

Visit the U.S. Citizenship Information website to learn more about Green Cards, Replacement of U.S. Citizenship Certificates, Change of Address, USA Greencard Lottery, Green Card Employment Authorization, and Removal of Conditions on your Green card.

Also learn about the cost to become an American citizen, your status on becoming an American citizen, and more.

Watch this Video to see a Immigration lawyer's view on How to Become a U.S. Citizen

See the ceremony new American citizens attend

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Own Experience

Last week I had the opportunity to cross over the border for myself and experience a very different way of life. I took a cruise through the Mexican Riviera, leaving from Los Angeles, California and traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.

When first boarding the Princess Cruise Line, holding 3,000 passengers and 1,000 employees, I noticed that many of the employees were of ethnic heritage. When I asked our waiter, Romeo, about the different ethnicities on board he said more than half of the employees on board were from another country, including Russia, Mexico, and Canada, just to name a few.

Our first two days on board were spent at sea, and during our second day on board the activity manager asked for passengers to yell when their home country was called. When Canada was named I noticed more than half the passengers outside by the pool started chanting. When I asked a family next to us, who I noticed had been chanting, why so many Canadians were on board, they replied that travel expenses were minimal. They said to go on vacation for them right now in the state of the economy, coming from Canada to Mexico was very cheap.

After the two days at sea, our first stop was Puerto Vallarta. The staff members from the ship told us of a hotel we could go to and show our ship card, and they would allow us to use their facilities for the day. As soon as we stepped foot on the beach the little kids selling souvenirs and women selling henna tattoos and hair braiding started following our large group of college students.

When we finally made it through all the women, children, and other sales people on the beach, we entered the Krystal Hotel. Upon entering the large pool with attaching tiki style bar, I met a couple who was visiting from Canada. I asked them why they chose to come on vacation to Puerto Vallarta, and they replied that including flight and an all inclusive hotel for a week, their total price per person was $750. Can't beat that!

A video on Puerto Vallarta

The following day was spent in Mazatlan, which was the only place of the three I had not previously visited. Upon leaving the ship, there were men with machine guns and shuttles waiting to take us to the port terminal. I noticed that Mazatlan seemed like a much more industrialized city and not nearly as large as Puerto Vallarta. The large group of us piled into two large vans that took us nearly 10 minutes to the nearest beach bar. The city appeared older with a lot less college students compared to Puerto Vallarta, and the cabs were all open air taxis. When we finally reached to beach bar, the employees were ecstatic that so many of us had come, seeing that there were only around five people before we got there.

Video of Mazatlan

The following day was spend in beautiful Cabo San Lucas, where I had visited two years earlier. When we exited the ship we walked across the deck to catch a water taxi to take us to the local beach. As we approached the beach I had spent my time two years prior, I noticed the amount of people seemed far less than what I had remembered. I asked our waiter, and he said the spring break population was much less than usual. Other than that, the beach seemed the same with some additional condos being built. The beautiful beach and clear water was just as I had remembered it.

Video of Cabo San Lucas

In America, I never see little children following me around the beach trying to sell little clay turtles, nor do I see people with machine guns on a daily basis. The people in Mexico were very friendly and receptive to us spring break kids, mainly because a lot of their money comes from our yearly visits during the spring break time. The difference in the way of life and culture between Mexico and America is drastic, but I have learned to appreciate both in their own ways.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Kind Of My Own

When thinking of people to interview this week, I thought it would be interesting to do a little research about my own family history. I am 98 percent Irish, and have a long line of Irish ancenstors. My grandma, Carolyn Connolly Rogers, was happy to talk with me about her grandmother, Mary McSorley, who immigrated to America from Ireland, and the memories she still has of her grandmother from when she was young. Here is what my grandmother was able to share with me about my great, great grandmother.

Mary McSorley came to the United States with her sister, Cassie, where they left their entire family back in Ireland to start a new life in America. Alone, the two girls traveled by boat, Cassie was 12, and Mary was only 10.

Mary grew up in County Armagh, located in Northern Ireland. She was part of a large, but very poor family who could not afford much out of life. They knew their only option for a better life was to pack up and move to America, only knowing of distant relatives in Chicago, Illinois.

After many years, while visiting Canada, Mary met her husband, John Arthur Connolly, another Irish man. She became Mary McSorley Connolly. They settled in Waterloo, Iowa where he started making carriages in the late 1800's.

"My early recollections of her was that she never talked much, and when she did she talked with an Irish brogue." An Irish brogue is an Irish accent that my grandmother said was extremely hard to understand.

In addition, she was very short, heavy set, and would wear silk dresses that would hang to her ankles. "Nobody dressed up then," said Rogers laughing.

Her husband was considered one of the wealthiest men of Norteast Iowa at one time, and although they had much hired help, "Everytime I went to the house, she was always ironing," said Rogers.

Together, they had five children where she was left to take care of them during the day, while John was working at the carriage factory.

At nightime, she would always serve mashed potatoes and "lots of dessert...they love their dessert," said Rogers laughing, adding that her grandmother would read the coffee grounds like a palm reader reads a palm. "She thought she could detect your future by studying your coffee grounds," said Rogers laughing.

"She was involved with our family and loved us very much, but she just wasn't very social," said Rogers. In addition, she worked a lot with the Catholic Church and donated a lot of time with them.

"Her dream was to go back to Ireland, but she never made it back," said Rogers. Although she had the money to go, the means 0f transportation back then were not nearly what they are today. There was no air travel, and the only way was by boat, which to her was not convenient.

After a hard life of living in poverty in Ireland, and coming to America for a new and wonderful life, she passed away after a stroke in the comfort of her own home at the age of 90.

Below is a documentary on Irish immigration to America.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Story Waiting To Be Told

This past week I had the experience to interview a man by the name of Dr. George Nachich.  What a fascinating story that in my mind, was just waiting to be told.  I came in contact with Dr. Nachich through my sister.  This fascinating man just happens to be the grandfather, or Deda as they call him, of my sister's boyfriend.  I had heard them talk of the incredible history behind Dr. Nachich, and I thought I would interview him for myself and share his story with all  of you.

Dr. George Nachich was born in Belgrade, Serbia where his family owned a large department store in the city.  However, during World War II the store went under after Nachich's family lent too much money to people with bad credit.  

When Nachich entered his late teens, he entered a military academy.  Then, one day, he was captured by the Germans and made a prisoner of war during World War II.  He was only 18-years-old when he was captured and forced in a work camp.  

At first, he was intended to work for the Germans as a translator. However, after realizing he did not want to work on the side of the Germans, he pretended his German was not good enough for their use.

Then, one day, Nachich was hiding in a barn when he happened to look outside and thought to himself, why are there a group of soldiers outside?  He thought the soldiers had a plan to bomb the barn, and therefore, he made an escape.  

It was not until five years later that the war was finally over and Nachich was no longer a prisoner of war.

After the war, he had an opportunity to travel anywhere in the world to attend school on the government's expense.  It was at that time Nachich traveled to Bonn, Germany to become a General Surgeon.  He was able to attend school and practice medicine in German, a language far from his native one. 

Nachich during his days as a General Surgeon

Nachich speaks over ten languages, and said, "If you are interested, you can learn anything."

After his studies were finished, he made his way to Chicago, Illinois through a program related to his Serbian Orthodox Church.  

"I left my family to move to America," said Nachich.  He said he did not know much about Chicago before moving there, but loved it once he got there.

Upon moving to Chicago, he became a General Surgeon where he later opened up his own large practice where he worked up into his 80's.  

Nachich at work

Nachich met his wife while he was working one day in Chicago.  He said it was not customary in Belgrade for a doctor to marry a nurse, but he did so regardless to the women he is still married to today.  Together, they have five children and now have several grandchildren with whom they stay in close contact with.   

In response to asking him what he misses most about life in Europe, he said people enjoy culture more in Europe, and during his time of living in Belgrade, going out and living was not very expensive.  

He said when his mother was alive he would go back and visit often, but after she passed away the amount of trips decreased and instead would go and visit other family members and friends.  

Nachich visiting his older sister during a visit back to Belgrade.

Nachich and his wife reside in Chicago, Illinois, but spend the bitter cold winters in sunny Florida.  
"You have a dream and I will never forget that dream," said Nachich of his dream of moving to America, adding that, "I miss living in Europe because of my family, but I like America very much."

This is a video of another prisoner of war during World War II, and an account of his experience.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Experiencing Many Different Cultures

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago, Illinois in hopes of moving there once I graduate from the University of Arizona in May.  I had been to Chicago nearly two years ago, but this trip was entirely different, mostly because it was snowing and 20 degrees most of the  time.  However, during this trip, my goal was to pay close attention to the different ethnicities and cultures that surround the entire city of Chicago.  

During my three day visit, I visited and ate at five different ethnic restaurants, including Japanese, Irish, Greek, Spanish, and Italian.  My sister, who lives in Chicago, asked my friend and I if we wanted to try Mexican food, Turkish food, Lithuanian food, and many other different styles of food during our stay.  I thought to myself, not only is there every type of food possible in this city, but each different ethnicity has their own small section of the city.  

For example, on Saturday we took the brown line train to Greek town.  As we excited the train, the street was lined with Greek restaurants on either side as far as I could see.  Greek children and families swarmed the streets, and in the restaurant we ate at, we appeared to be the only non-Greeks, and I began to feel a little out of place.  I asked our waitress if everyone who worked in the restaurant was from Greece, and she replied "yes."  When I asked her why she left Greece, she replied that "It is a beautiful country, but I knew there was  so much more opportunity for me in America."  

Later in the evening we visited a Spanish tapas restaurant called Cafe Ba Ba Reeba.  This experience was much different from my time in Greek town because everyone who worked at the restaurant was Spanish, I asked our waiter, but the people who were enjoying the fabulous food did not appear ethnic at all.     

Nearly 75 percent of Chicago's population is Latino, and according to the Chicago U.S. census bureau other prominent ethnic groups include, Irish (201,836), German (200,392), Polish (179,868), Italian (96,599), and English (60,307).

As for a little history of why the city of Chicago has such a large ethnic population, it started in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, where 39 million people visited Chicago for the "International wonderland of innovative architecture, science and industry." 

Chicago still remains one of the largest diverse culture places in the world.  Even the cab drivers I met during the weekend were of all different cultures and ethnicities.

Upon coming home, I sat down on the plane next to a man from South Africa.  He was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Upon graduating from high school, he had the opportunity to come to the United States and study nuclear physics.  He told me there were several cultural differences between his life in South Africa and in America.  He said although he misses his home town, he loves America and plans to reside here.  

I learned during my visit that I am not the only person who has dreamed of moving to Chicago in hopes for a different life, but people from all over the world have thought the same thing.  I was able to experience many different cultures during my visit, and I look forward to experiencing many more when I move. Please read next week when I talked about an interesting individual by  the name of George Nachich who lives in Chicago but was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia and was captured by  the Germans during World War I.   

This video gives a better understanding of the Mexican culture in Chicago.    

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Coffee Man

Adrian Gonzalez, employee of Just Coffee in Aqua Prieta, Mexico.

This past week I had the unique opportunity of visiting this one of a kind coffee companies called Just Coffee in Aqua Prieta, Mexico. According to the Just Coffee website, "The idea behind Just Coffee is to address one of the root causes of labor migration from Mexico to the USA." Instead of the several middle men in most coffee companies, the growers are from Chiapas, Mexico where it is then brought to Agua Prieta to be roasted and airtight sealed in a bag. This provides fair profit for the growers. The coffee is then brought legally across the border to Douglas, Arizona where it is send out by UPS trucks and distributed to several churches and stores throughout Tucson, Arizona. 

While I was visiting, I met a man by the name of Adrian Gonzalez, who was the only member of the company who was able to communicate in English to me, and I felt it was important to tell his story and how he got started with Just Coffee.

Gonzalez has been working with Just Coffee, a free trade coffee company, for the past six years, and said his favorite part about his job is the fact that, "I get free coffee every morning."

From 2000-2001, Gonzalez moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he worked at a golf course, but moved back to his home town in Aqua Prieta when his father asked him to help with his new screen printing business he had recently started. 

Gonzalez holding a bag of his favorite blend.

"It wasn't for me though," said Gonzalez. Therefore, Gonzalez caught word of a coffee company that was to be started by the local church he attended, and heard they had an opening.

"I knew nothing about coffee but I knew it sounded like a great experience and a lot of fun," said Gonzalez, adding that, "There is no way you can say anything bad about this concept because it is a perfect solution." He said especially with the way the economy is in America today, more people are inclined to purchase free trade products because it makes the most sense.  

Now, after more than six years of working with Just Coffee, Gonzalez still loves his job and does not plan to leave anytime soon. 

Gonzalez said his new dream is to go to school so he can receive a degree in International Business. He said he learned to speak English when he started working for Just Coffee by talking with customers in America on the phone, through email, and from the tour groups that come at least once a week to visit Just Coffee. He said it took him two years to be completely fluent and comfortable with using the language on a day to day basis. He said it was hard in the beginning because he was afraid to use the wrong word, for instance, "This one time we were trying to find someone to ship the coffee, but instead of saying ship I kept using the word shit...that was embarassing," said Gonzalez laughing.

Gonzalez recently married a woman he met seven years ago at his local church, the same church that started Just Coffee.  

The employees of Just Coffee in Aqua Prieta at their roasting location.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A New Life

Sherry Mohammady grew up in a Qazvin, a small town located in Iran. While she was growing up she had eight brothers and sisters, and she was right in the middle. Her father was a businessman working as an icemaker for the city of Qazvin, but died in 1986 when she was only 29-years-old.

“I used to love to be outside and take care of my brothers and sisters,” said Mohammady. At sixteen-years-old, Mohammady picked up her whole life and moved to Santa Monica, California, an entirely different world from what she was used to. She left her whole family, except for one older sister who lived in Long Beach, California. Shortly after, several of her other siblings followed in her footsteps, but only two remained permanent citizens of the United States.

After asking why she came to the United States, she said in order to get into the Iranian university, you have to pass a very difficult exam where thousands apply and only around 100 are accepted. She said Iran did not have as many universities to continue education as America, so in order to further her education she had to come to America.

“I still loved Iran, but I knew there was so much more opportunity for me in America,” said Mohammady. She went to Santa Monica College where graduated and continued at San Diego State, where she received her Bachelors in health education.

"I like America but I think of Iran everyday." -Sherry Mohammady speaking in Farsi

She met a man by the name of Siamak Jalali during her college days and married him at the age of 21. They stayed in San Diego to pursue their lives and four-years-later they had a daughter, Leila, and five years after had another daughter, Neda. Mohammady now works for a children’s hospital where she is in charge of billing.

When I asked her the major differences between living in Iran compared to America, she said “I just knew America had a lot more opportunity, especially for women and I knew I had to come to America to get a good education and a new life.” She said she still calls Iran her home and misses it all the time, but knew she wanted to raise her family in America instead of Iran. She said in Iran, the women are the ones who stay home and take care of the children. Some of the women work, but a majority do not, and knew that was not the life she wanted.

However, Mohammady said living in Iran now would be much different from when she lived there. She said, “Now people have a lot more freedom so it is a lot different to live there now than when I did. Religion is more of a public thing now than a private thing like when I was young. Religious people did not have any part of the government or other everyday living.”

As far as the difference in culture between America and Iran, she said there are many differences. “When I came to America I had to start an entirely new life because I knew nothing about American culture before I came here.” She said in Iran, people spend a lot more time with their family. The days are more relaxed and when it comes to family the have their daily teatime. “It doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that we are all together as a family,” said Mohammady. She also said it is really stressed upon to focus on their education and schoolwork.

When I asked her about her views on becoming a citizen in the United States, she said, “If we are so proud of being a nation of a lot of opportunities then they should make it easier for those who want to become citizens to do so.” She said the brothers and sisters she has back home in Iran have wanted to come to America for a long time, but cannot do so because of the rigorous process.

However, she said the process is just as hard as other countries. “You can never become an Iranian citizen unless you marry an Iranian, and then you will be able to become a citizen, but other than that you cannot,” said Mohammady.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Norwegian American

Last week I focused on Michelle Connolly and her story of being an American growing up in Norway.  But this week I will talk about her husband, Jan (pronounced yawn) Svendsen, who was born and raised with his parents and two brothers in Stavanger, Norway, a small town located along the coast.  Svendsen had never been to America until 1990 when he came to visit Connolly's father in California, and has now come back to live and has resided in Arizona for nearly three years.
Svendsen and Connolly on their wedding day, 1997, in Norway.
Pictured from left to right: Ted Connolly (Michelle's father), Michelle Connolly, 
Jan Svendsen, Marit Svendsen (Jan's mother), Charlotte, and Charlene.

Svendsen met Connolly in their small town of Stavanger, Norway when they were both in the second grade, and have been together ever since.  The two married in 1997, after the birth of both their children Charlene, 19, and Charlotte, 14.  Therefore, since Connolly was born in America, both girls were born in Norway as American citizens.  After they were born, Connolly and Svendsen applied for both girls to also gain their Norwegian citizenship.  Now, Charlene and Charlotte have dual citizenship and Connolly has an American citizenship only, while Jan remains still in the process to finally become an American citizen.  Svendsen said once he gains his American citizenship, he will also be able to keep his Norwegian citizenship. 

When I asked Svendsen what he thought of American border issues, he responded "I think the issue is out of control."  He added that in order to help control immigration, there needs to be more sophisticated technology that can be used to control the matter and more working legal citizens.  He said when he first came over to live in America, the process to live here legally was a huge ordeal and a very expensive process, and should be a difficult process for anyone who wants to gain American citizenship.    

In response to the major differences between living in Norway and America, "You mean besides the sun," he responded laughing.  Besides the drastic weather differences, Norway has fewer people and is much more quiet than America, adding that the people of Norway have more of a routine than Americans.  "Americans are also more polite than Norwegians," he said laughing.  Svendsen also said it is much easier to afford healthcare in Norway than in America. This is mainly because a majority of the health care system is publicly funded after workers pay a monthly tax from their pay.  

As far as jobs in Norway compared to America, "There is no such thing as a salary in Norway," said Svendsen.  He said when someone is hired as an employee in Norway, they are hired to work a certain amount of hours, and if they work close to those hours they also get paid overtime.  The working class in Norway has many more rights and much larger pay, however, they are taxed higher than in America. 

As for the difference in raising children in Norway, he said there really is not much of a difference besides that it is much safer in Norway than America.  "They can come home after dark in Norway, but I don't think it would be safe here," said Svendsen.  In addition, children do not rely on their parents to drive them because they are able to walk or take the bus just about everywhere.

Svendsen and his cousin, Terje, at their cabin on an island just outside Stavanger, Norway.

When I asked him what the major differences are from the way people live their life in Norway compared to America, he said the biggest difference is that "Norwegians do a lot more for themselves than Americans," adding that instead of hiring gardeners and cleaning ladies, Norwegians do those duties themselves.  In addition, "We spend less money than Americans.  Even if we have more money, we are more careful and don't spend it," said Svendsen.

Svendsen said out of all the adjustments he had to make when moving to America, the most difficult one was, "Not being able to do anything without my car and not living near the coastline."  In addition, he said he believes it is easier for Norwegians to adjust to life in America than for Americans to adjust to a Norwegian lifestyle, mainly because Norwegians are able to speak the language and a majority of Americans cannot. 

However, Svendsen said he enjoys living in America much more than in Norway for several reasons.  He said he especially likes America because he is able to live in Phoenix, which he enjoys because "It is a large city with a lot of opportunities," adding that the weather is beautiful MOST of the time.  He said ideally, in the future, he would like to live in Phoenix but visit Norway for a few months during the summer when the Phoenix weather is its hottest.           


Monday, February 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Michelle Connolly on Norway's National Day.

Michelle Connolly does not remember much about her life in America as a little girl, but now, after more than 35 years, she has come back to live, and this time it's for good.

Connolly and her mother, Astrid, moved to Norway from Torrance, California when Connolly was just four-years-old to start a new life.  

Connolly and her mother fishing on the lake outside 
their house in Norway.

Connolly grew up in a small town in Norway, where she said the biggest difference from living in Arizona was the severe weather differences.  Norway is bitter cold during the winter, and for most of the time families and friends spend time indoors to escape.  She also said America has a lot more to offer in the sense of activities and things to do compared to Norway, such as the vast selection of movies, malls,  and skating rinks.  

The biggest surprise was when Connolly told me that, "Going out to eat is almost not an option in Norway," explaining that the reason is because it is too expensive.  She added that there are no fast food restaurants or drive-throughs unless you visit a large city or shopping center. 

Connolly married Jan Svendsen and together they raised Charlene, 19, and Charlotte, 14.  As a family, they would often visit Connolly's father in Anaheim, California, and decided to move out there nearly ten years ago after Jan was offered a job.  However, they moved back to Norway after three years.  A few years after moving back to Norway, they realized as a family how much they loved America and moved to Arizona three years ago for a new life.

She said in Norway, the typical Norwegian family consists of two or three children.  Their normal day would consist of the children going to school and the parents going to work at 8 a.m.  The parents are normally finished with work by 4 p.m., come home, and have dinner ready by 5 p.m.  She said this is the most difficult transition to cope with while living in America.  Connolly's husband, Jan, often does not come home from work until late at night, and has to be at work early the next morning, often making it difficult for them to spend time together as a family.

Family in Norway on the day of Charlene's, then 14, 
Confirmation in Norway.  

When I asked Connolly about her views on border issues between Arizona and Mexico, she replied that, "It's sad that it's so easy and it makes it unfair for people who want to do it the right way."  She said when it comes to border issues in Norway, it is one of the most difficult countries to gain legal citizenship.  

While living in Norway Connolly had to apply to stay in Norway every other year, "But while we lived there it wasn't a problem."  However, when Connolly and her family moved back from California she hardly even got her green card back.  

Connolly is the only one in the family who has American citizenship only.  Charlene and Charlotte have dual citizenship in Norway and America, but Jan is still waiting to gain legal citizenship, and could have to wait another three to five years.      

Once they made their way back to America, Connolly decided to take a job at a local flower shop to make some extra money.  However, after realizing she would not be able to make more than 7 dollars an hour, she decided to open her own flower shop called The Connolly Store.  "I always knew I wanted to work with flowers," said Connolly.    

She said when she moved to Arizona it did not cross her mind that she would not be making as much money as she was used to in Norway.  "When we came back from California I was the only one who worked and we were fine," she said, adding that, "I love it here and I wouldn't move back, but if you have a regular job it's much easier to live a comfortable life in Norway." 

Although Connolly and her family live happily in America, they still go back to visit family and friends every summer to escape the hot Arizona heat.  She said many family members and friends have come to visit them in Arizona, and said, "Everybody who has come here has loved it and we love it too."
A fjord where Connolly's grandfather lived in Norway.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Little Bit of History.

For my first blog entry I thought since I will be talking about people who have immigrated to America from different parts of the world, it would be important to know a little bit about our own border between Arizona and Nogales, Mexico, and a some of the history behind it. 

In 1882, the city of Nogales, 60 miles south of Tucson, was officially founded to promote trade between Mexico and the United States. Nogales, which takes the name of the Spanish word for "walnut," now has a population of more than 20,000 residents.  It is Arizona's largest and most popular international border town.  

Of all the U.S.-Mexico border points, the Arizona-Sonora border is the most heavily crossed for those who come over into the United States without authorization.  The Arizona-Sonora border runs from the western Chihuahuan Desert near New Mexico all the way to the Sonoran Desert west of Nogales.  Among this far stretch of land, there are six entry locations, and between each entry point exists a border fence that tries to keep people from crossing the border.  

This is only a small amount of history about Arizona and Nogales border.  Every week, the blogs I write are going to focus on different people from various parts of the world who have immigrated to America.  Read each week to know what their feelings are about living in America, and what they have to say about our border issues between Arizona and Mexico.  


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Hello, my name is Ashley Griffin and I am a journalism senior at the University of Arizona. Join me each week as I share the stories of different indiviuals who have crossed over the American border for a new life here. I will share their struggles, accomplishments, and their cultural feelings with living in America. I will also talk about how their life has changed now that they have left their previous country to live in America. More to follow!