Those of you who travel outside of the country know what cross culture experiences are like. Being in a foreign land means struggling to communicate, starring down strange food on your plate, and learning new social customs. It’s one of the most thrilling parts about being overseas. It’s what I miss when I’m stuck in a country where everyone dresses, acts, eats like me. Fortunately, I’m not trapped in a monotone culture.
One7 Academy creates a culture all its own. It’s not American, even though it is run by Americans. It’s not Vietnamese, even though we have many Montagnard students. It’s not African or Latino either. Stepping into the building means leaving America as I know it and entering a new world created at the meeting ground of many cultures.
In any given day I might get laughed at because the word “sleet” sounds like the Jari word for “underpants;” or get dared to eat Takis chips (a spicy Latino treat) with Srirachas sauce (Asian hot sauce); or be reminded that praying together means hugging each other (holding hands is “weak sauce”).
While I teach the students math and American English, they teach me pieces of their own languages and culture. I’ve learned a Somali idiom about growing a tail (standing around when you could be sitting). I’ve learned the common Montagnard way for helping a cold. I’ve tried learning words in more than one tribal language, but my tongue can’t bend that way.
It’s a great and humbling thing to be surrounded by so many different cultures. America calls itself a melting pot, but I’ve never seen so much melting as I do at One7. Melting is more than just standing beside each other and acknowledging the other’s existence. It’s more than living in the same city or shopping in the same grocery store. The kind of melting that goes on at One7 is hot enough to melt down emotional barriers. It breaks down the language barriers and the fear of the unknown. It molds us into something new.