Thursday, August 15, 2013

Origami at Oregon State Penitentiary 3

This blog post is continued from: Origami at Oregon State Penitentiary 2

The day of my work at the prison arrived.  OSP is in Salem, over an hour drive away from my assistant Kurumi and I drove together.  We gave ourselves plenty of time to get there on time, but the traffic was really slow most of the way.  We finally arrived there 20 minutes before the scheduled time of teaching, but we had not yet gone through the security.

As we arrived the entrance of the building, we realized that we couldn't just open the door and enter.  We were at the maximum security prison, duh.  Of course the security is tight to get in, just as it is tight to get out.  We read the sign at the door, saying to enter the driver's license number on to the push panel, and we were finally let in by a prison officer.  He once again checked our IDs and told us to put all our belongings into a locker, except for my teaching materials, our IDs and our locker key.  The officer put us through security checks that are almost exactly like ones at airports, like metal detectors and x-rays.  After that, the same officer guided us down further into the building, and there, we were told to turn in our IDs to another officer.  He gave us stamps on our hands, which we couldn't see in our naked eyes but apparently glow in the dark or something.

After many security check points and heavy metal doors, we are finally let in to the official main part of the prison, where inmates live.  The same officer who first let us in walked us through hallways and to the meeting room.  There, I saw several men in light blue shirts and jeans setting up tables and chairs.  One of them came to greet us, introduced himself as the President of the Asian/Pacific Islander Club, and kindly asked if we were scared of coming.  At that point, I realized that I wasn't scared at all, once I got there, not like how I felt before.  Of course, I didn't answer him like that, instead I just said, "No, not scared..."

Some of the other club leaders came to greet us, and also offered us water, juice, and big cookies.  They were all extremely polite and grateful of our visit.  One of them said, "Make yourself feel at home!" but nah, I just couldn't feel myself at home in a prison (of course, I didn't tell him that, but I thought was funny).  As more club members arrived in the room we started talking about their club activities.  The  Club consists of not only Asians and Pacific Islanders but also other ethnicities.  They are all eager to learn more about their respective cultures as well as their neighbors, and they often invite a guest speaker or entertainer (such as myself) to teach them a new topic.  Not all accept their invitations, but some decide to come.  Their club activities also include fundraising for various charities, and they are proud to have raised money to help build a school in Vietnam, to relief funds affected by the tsunami in Japan, to help out troubled youth in Lane County, and so on.

There is actually a documentary made about their effort to help build a school in Vietnam, called 7,500 Miles to Redemption.  None of the club members had told us about it at the time, but after our visit Kurumi found out about this documentary while doing a research about OSP.  Here is the trailer of the documentary, 7,500 Miles to Redemption.

The first man who is being interviewed in the documentary is the president of the club, who initially sent me the invitation to OSP.  I actually have not seen the entire documentary, but I would love to watch it and write a review on it.

Now, it's finally about me teaching at the prison, but this post is getting a little long, so it is to be continued to the next post... Origami at Oregon State Penitentiary 4.