Students in Lawrence Academy’s ESL (English as a Second Language) Bridge Skills class recently visited the replicated Plimoth Plantation to see firsthand where a small ship called the Mayflower landed in 1620, bringing 102 daring and determined souls to a new world to start a new life.
Actors at Plimoth Plantation take on the characters of the actual English settlers and go about their daily chores in homes and gardens similar to those of the original community. They use the language of that period as well and do not understand references to anything that has transpired or been invented in the past 400 years. Their antiquated language and lack of ability to relate to the modern world added to the communications challenge for international student visitors for whom modern English is a second language.
Through these characters, the LA group learned of the challenges that the Pilgrims faced, as well as their determination to persevere. Several of the ten ESL students, coming from six different countries to a school on a hillside in an unfamiliar world, related to the experience with their own impressions.
Inspired by the spirit of the settlers, Gordon Choi, a freshman from Hong Kong, said: “I’m willing to go on a dangerous trip, but it has to be different and a trip that no one has been on — because I don’t want to sit back and watch people making a difference, I want to make a difference with my own hands.”
Angel Xie, a freshman from China, drew similarities between the struggles of the Pilgrims and historic struggles in her own country. She noted that “revolution and exploration need sacrifice” and added, “I think today in American culture, there are still exploration spirits. The USA encourages everyone to do some research for their curiosity and to pursue his/her dream. And during the way to success, there might be thousands of failures. But every attempt is not in vain. People here appreciate everyone to try their best and take the first step to overcome challenge. And I find that both Pilgrims and the American people live in a big community and people all learn to have teamwork spirits since they were young.”
A sophomore from Vietnam, Anh Duong, thought he saw the spirit of modern America in the Plimoth residents. “I have learned that there haven’t been many changes between values held by the Pilgrim and American culture today. At first, before the war was triggered, the Pilgrims were very friendly with the Native Americans by trading things with them and inviting them to their Thanksgiving. That value is still remaining in many cultures of America, and being friendly with others is one of the best values that Americans have nowadays.” Visiting Plimoth, he said was “an opportunity for me to see why the Americans behave the way they behave and where they originally came from.”
The Native Americans that the Pilgrims befriended were from the Wampanoag tribe, and Plimoth Plantation provides a glimpse into their daily lives. Knowledgeable Native American guides explain the activities that might have taken place in their own replicated buildings and answer questions about the group’s relationship with the English settlers.
After learning how the Pilgrims attempted to build relationships with the Native Americans, senior Moss Rittiron was reminded of a tradition in her home country of Thailand. “Initially, Pilgrims are friendly to the native people, giving something from their land to them. Likewise, Thai people think everyone is our family. When we go to a new place to meet new people, we will bring some souvenir from our hometown to them. This is the way to show that you are one of our families who live in the same city.”
While the holiday now called Thanksgiving may be a commemoration of early attempts at friendship between two small groups of people with vastly different cultural backgrounds here on this continent, the same spirit is alive in gestures large and small worldwide.
Happy Thanksgiving to all—may you have many reasons to be thankful during your holiday break!