International dinner brings taste of Africa to Auburn

Learning language in Lesotho important experience, speaker says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An upcoming Auburn dinner will give attendees a taste of life in South Africa and Lesotho. The American Association of University Women Auburn Branch is hosting its annual international dinner at 6 p.m. March 11 at the First Congregational Church of Auburn. The dinner will feature a presentation by Oakland residents Corinne, 29, and Colin Hoag, 30, who spent three-and-a-half years in the African country of Lesotho as Peace Corps volunteers and in South Africa as students. “We have a family member who is a part of the (AAUW Auburn Branch),” Colin Hoag said. “But once we heard about it we were really excited about the opportunity because it’s really pretty rare that we get to engage people in the topic. There is a tendency that I have noticed for Americans to be pretty insular … that Americans tend to not be concerned with the world outside of the borders of the U.S., and I think that’s problematic on any number of levels.” The American Association of University Women, which began as the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, was founded in January 1882. The Auburn branch was chartered in April 1949, and was the 66th branch in California. Today it has 100 members, according to Pat Kessler, co-chairwoman of the international dinner. Three of the branch’s charter members, Gina Akers, Glyneth Cassidy and Helen Francis, are still involved with the group, Kessler said. Kessler said the dinner started as a study group for the women of the branch. “I think the feeling that Auburn was not San Francisco, or not a (big) city, they wanted to be interested in international relations,” she said. “(They wanted) to get speakers who would make Auburn perhaps a more broadly educated group.” Peggy Dunievitz, president of the Auburn branch, who has been a member for 48½ years, said she always enjoys what the dinners have to offer. “It’s just a lot of fun,” Dunievitz said. “Lots of good food, nice people, a chance to socialize and then our speakers or programs are always stimulating and interesting. I’m just thrilled one of the speakers is a grandchild of one of our members, and I’m looking forward to hearing her and her husband.” Hoag said he and his wife have a variety of sub-topics planned for their presentation. “We will be talking a little bit about our own experience as Peace Corps volunteers in Lesotho – just as kind of a way to let people know how we have come to know this place,” he said. “And then we are going to give a brief historic overview of the South African subcontinent. I think it’s really important to understand what is happening today in South Africa. It’s really important to understand some of these dynamics such as how Europeans came to settle the continent.” The couple plans to talk about the anti-Apartheid struggle from 1950-1994 and how the post-Apartheid population is still struggling with things such as nationalism and citizenship as well as discouraging labor migration. Hoag said one of his favorite things resulting from his time in Lesotho was learning the language. “I suppose as a person in a foreign land … learning to speak Sesotho was really eye opening and really important for me,” he said. “I think anyone who has learned another language has noticed the ways language can serve not only as a vehicle for ideas but can represent a broader way of seeing the world. When you learn a word … as a concept in itself that speaks to some aspect of broader Lesotho culture, that is really exciting.” Hoag said his wife speaks the language as well, and locals were always surprised. “For so long in South Africa it was not the case that whites spoke African languages generally, and indeed Africans were actually taught Afrikaans,” Hoag said. “And this was a source of contention during the anti-Apartheid struggle. Afrikaans was a way to essentially create a labor force … that could serve the white South Africans well. So, for that reason, I find it really fun to speak Sesotho in South Africa. I always find it fun to elicit that reaction.” Hoag said the couple hopes to have photographs as part of its presentation, and he is excited about the dinner. “I guess I would just say that I think it’s really great that the AAUW is putting on this kind of event and that they encourage this kind of engagement, this kind of conversation,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------- AAUW international dinner When: 6 p.m.-dinner, 7 p.m.-presentation, March 11 Where: First Congregational Church of Auburn, 710 Auburn Ravine Road Cost: Free, bring a potluck dish RSVP: E-mail Pat Kessler at ------------------------------------------------------- AAUW Auburn Branch efforts The Auburn Branch of the American Association of University Women is working to continue education for women. “Currently Auburn Branch AAUW sends five to seven seventh-grade girls from the Auburn area to one-week camps at various universities,” said Pat Kessler, past president of the branch. “This year UC Davis will host our girls on marine biology. The focus of this camp is S.T.E.M., Science Technology, Engineering and Math. We offer local graduates of Placer Union High School District scholarships to attend community two-year colleges or four-year colleges.” Peggy Dunievitz, president of the branch, said the group’s goal is to help young people get a good education. “We are interested in promoting education, especially for women,” Dunievitz said.