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Monday, May 14, 2012

Interwoven cultures

We are in the middle of a unit study on the continents.  As I was introducing this unit, it struck me the diversity that exists in our classroom.  The only continent not represented in first grade is Antarctica.  Students have enjoyed sharing their traditions and facts about the continent in which they are from.  This beauty of cultures mixed together has been something I have thoroughly enjoyed this year. 

There is one student in my class in particular who has truly welcomed me in and shared with me their culture throughout the year.  I feel very blessed by this family and have learned so much from them as they’ve shared traditions and stories with me.  Fatima is from El Salvador and her husband, Sundeep was born in Springfield, IL, but his parents are from Northern India. They have graciously invited me to their home and also to dinner on multiple occasions.  I love seeing the differences in culture that these two bring to their family.  There’s something so beautiful about seeing them live here in Africa as well.  They have truly embraced life here while weaving in their traditions.

There was one night in particular that I was invited over for dinner.  Fatima’s father was here in Malawi for a visit.  When I arrived, the amazing aroma of homemade Pupusas cooking in the kitchen was a huge reminder to me of how much I love this culture and the food.  Fatima has brought with her the ingredients needed that are not found here in Malawi.  It was incredible to watch her cook, as she had this down to an art.  She taught me as she worked and allowed me to make some alongside her (although it took me so much longer and mine didn’t look like hers!)  She had invited 4 other couples over, all of Spanish decent who have come to live in Malawi.  I stood off to the side for a few minutes, taking it all in.  Watching as the women cooked and caught up in Spanish, the children ran outside, and the men sat out in the yard catching up.  In that moment, I forgot I was in Malawi.  I saw such traditions and culture and it was a treat to take in.  This reminded me of friends from home and my Spanish-speaking students.  The food was incredible and not just because I hadn’t had Mexican food in 6 months.  The entire evening was one that will remain as a favorite from my time here in Malawi. 

Culture is so important to one’s sense of self. It is however; beautiful when shared with others and even more so when interwoven with other cultures.  I have never experienced so many cultures brought together in one place as I have in this year in Malawi.  I believe this is a new awareness and appreciation that I will take with me as I leave Malawi.  I pray I never lose an appreciation for those around me and that I would never take it for granted when others are so willing to share who they are with me.  

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