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Rock Street, San Francisco

America is a land of new beginnings, community through diversity, and unity through uniqueness. The communities we live in every day are made up of a thousand puzzle pieces connected with the bonds of curiosity, appreciation, and acceptance.  Each person is influenced by their diverse surroundings.  Each day, I can see numerous ways the world has influenced my world and pieces of international culture have fit into my story.    I see the most influence of other cultures within my own family.  My grandmother lived in Germany as a child and was forced to flee her home during WWII.  After twenty-two years of living in extreme poverty caused by the war, she left Germany for hope of a better life, bringing her culture and traditions with her to America.  She brought these traditions into her own children’s lives, who continued them on to their children.  When I was young, I called my grandmother “Omi”, the traditional German name for grandmother.  As a family, we would use German words that are better suited or more concise than the English words for certain objects.  Words such as “Tortenheber” or “Lausbub” commonly show up in our vocabulary.  Even my three-year-old cousin can be heard using random German phrases such as “Ach, du lieber!”  This side of my family also celebrates holidays in the traditional German ways.  We put out our shoes by the door on the evening before December sixth to receive sweets from Sankt Nikolaus on Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas Day) and have our Christmas festivities on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve), rather than Christmas Day.  All of these German traditions can be traced back generations upon generations but are still kept alive in my household and households of many other families with German roots here in America.  Other cultures than German influence my family as well.  My aunt and uncle have hosted a foreign exchange student from Brazil.  This girl had new experiences in the US, and we learned about the culture of Brazil, differentiating between the stereotypes and truths.  This family also is adopting a little boy from China.  As we welcome him to our society, we need to take on pieces of his culture to make him feel at home in our land of many cultures.  The influence of foreign cultures is also evident in the food we eat.  My family often eats sauerkraut and sausage like a traditional German meal, or pasta dishes that originated in Italy.  We even eat Greek foods like Spanakopita and enjoy the Irish meal of corned beef and potatoes.  We like to enjoy all sorts of imported chocolates and candy, as well as make baked goods from countries like Russia and Austria.    As well as in my family, I see evidences of other cultures in my community and school.  My school has many foreign exchange students, even though it is a small school.  We have learned from students from countries such as South Korea, China, and Germany about the cultures of their countries.  As well as receiving foreign exchange students, students at my school have traveled to other countries to visit as well as study.  We have learned about the cultures of other nations through the memories they bring back.  We spend time in school learning foreign languages and about foreign history and culture. My story, short as it may be so far, is filled with puzzle pieces of other cultures, just as our story as a nation is.  Other cultures impact my family, community, and school daily.  As I realize the increasing ways other cultures affect our society, I appreciate them as I notice them more and more.  

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