Finalist – Write it! Victoria Gibbs

Original text

This is Victoria’s written piece. The original version was submitted in English.

Country of Cultures

When I was nine years old, I learnt that bonjour means hello in French.
I was in the fourth grade, waiting alone outside the door of my first French class when I heard a group of kids discussing what they already knew in French. I wanted to join in, but I was hesitant to ask the question I had, I decided to ask it anyways.

"How do you say hello in French?"
" Bonjour," it was a Québécoise girl from my class, Alexandria. She taught me my first word in French, and I would later realize that I had also made a new friend.

Four years later, I found myself exiting the school alone during a fire alarm drill. As I made my way towards the safe zone, I noticed a girl with fiery red hair walking alone ahead of me. I approached her to introduce myself.
"Hello," I said, "it’s cold outside today isn't it? This fire drill is odd, I wasn’t expecting it."

"Sorry?" replied the girl, "My English is not good, could you repeat?"
"I'm sorry. Hello,” I started again, “I’m Ashley!"
"Salam, Ashley, I’m Nakato." It was on this day, when I was 13 years old, that I learnt Salam means hello in Persian.

I continued my friendship with both Alexandria and Nakato into high school, and at the age of 16, I was the first of us to get a part time job. A few weeks into my employment, I overheard my co-worker, Mensah, speaking to a customer in a language I’d never heard before, and when I asked him about it, I would learn it was his native language, he was born in Kenya.
That is how when I was 16, I learnt that hujambo means hello in Swahili.

I’ve experienced many different cultures in my life, but never outside of Canada, so it was out of curiosity and adventure that I found myself in France one summer after high school. I was checking into my hotel when I felt someone bump into me.
“Oh pardon” the person apologized, it was another guest, a woman.

“Non, c’est ok,” I said to her, “je m’appelle Ashley.”

“Bonjour, je m’appelle Marie. Vous êtes un Américain? Il y a beaucoup des touristes ici qui viennent des États-Unis.”

“C’est intéressant, mais je suis Canadienne.”

“Vraiment? D’où? J’ai des cousins au Québec,” she explained.

“C’est un petite l’île, c’est un peu proche à Québec.”

“L’île s’appelle…?”

“L’île du Prince Édouard, en fait ils disent que c’est où l’idée du Canada est né.”

It was on this day, in a language that was once foreign to me, in a country that is not my own, that I, for the first time, explained my own culture to someone. I was able to speak about Iran, Kenya, Canada, and how all these different cultures interacted with one another, how they interacted with me.

It was on this day, when I was 18 years old, that I taught someone to say hello in English.

Finalist, Victoria Gibbs

Victoria Gibbs
Little York, Prince Edward Island
16 years old

To know what inspired Victoria, view the artist statement.

Artist statement

"Everywhere I go, I come in contact with people from different backgrounds, who all make up part of our country. Some of these people have had a significant effect on my life, like they do on Ashley in the story. Every time I meet someone new, I love to learn about where they come from because youth make up our future, and so do their cultures."
- Victoria
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