It is going over pictures and memories in your head over and over again and crying over the good times and cursing their name yet still being hopelessly enamoured and feeling like your soul is being ripped apart and like you will never be sane again, it’s wishing for sleep to calm down but not being able to find enough peace within yourself to unwind.
Cheers to open minds!
I speed walk to my assigned seating spot and hurriedly unpack my bag for my geopolitics class. Bright and bold letters on the board spell out the day’s topic: Eastern European cultures and relations. Students shout words describing those cultures from across the room, and the class bursts in laughter after they all hear “Vodka!”. And then some students nod, others stare with their mouths opened. I am part of the latter half. How could Eastern European cultures be reduced to the stereotype of one alcoholic drink?
Growing up half-polish has been both wonderful and difficult. Although my mum never taught me polish, she actively tried to make me learn polish customs and traditions. In all the times I went to Poland, I never saw a shop which advertised itself with “Vodka available” written on its front door. However, I did see dozens of stores selling freshly baked local delicacies and choirs singing festive traditional songs. Because Poland and Eastern European countries are so much more than just Vodka.
I was surprised at how little my classmates knew about those cultures and it’s not just those of Eastern Europe. It’s also Asian, Oceanian, Latin and South American cultures that are characterised by stereotypes. We should all learn more about these global customs. José Picardo from The Guardian encourages students from a young age to interact with other cultures to make them more “well - rounded” and empathetic individuals who can see the world in fresh eyes. Individuals who can make informed decisions. Individuals who are more open and consequently better communicators. Individuals who respect others regardless of their background or origin.
According to the New York Times, diversifying teaching methods is a great way to connect cultures. In fact, art like poems, songs or stories teach more about culture than any textbook ever will. Some teachers have already implemented these methods, making their students read “American Born Chinese” for example. This book diversifies the teaching material but it also gives children a more enjoyable platform to learn from. Students are more engaged in their learning which ultimately makes these methods more effective. Of course this demands time and trial and error but the sooner we start, the sooner the younger generation can benefit from this international outlook.
In a world becoming more globalised by the second, it is crucial that we all play a part in learning about cultures from across the planet. Because if we do not learn as kids, when will we actually learn? And as the polish proverb says, what little Johnny has not learned, big John will not know.
He is as fragile as an egg
The dark clouds arose a while back,
And the rain starts pouring.
I cross the road to meet him,
His purple scarf tightly wrapped around him,
As though he would fly away
and the scarf would stay on the ground.
The red bird peeks down at him,
Such a strange boy.
My son waits. Patiently.
As we start walking, the bird tilts his head,
Following our every move.
As though we were its prey.