Finalist – Write it! Victoria Gibbs
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 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.
"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."
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