When I was a kid, there was a haunted house in my grandma’s village. One of those houses where we, as adventurous kids, would challenge each other to go in and take a peek. No one ever made it past the front door, which was always open. At least, that’s how I remember it.

My cousin told me a witch had been living there for the past 300 hundred years. Of course I believed him! He was three years older. I figured he knew about the world.

I was born the year the Soviet Union collapsed. My grandma’s village was located in what we now know as Ukraine, not far from the Romanian and Moldovan border.

In her village, there were only straight, christian, white people. At least back then, nobody including me, would have believed otherwise. As far as I knew and anyone else who mattered, if you didn’t fit within this description, you must have been a character from a fairy tale or someone who only existed in far away lands, across mountains and oceans. Definitely not someone living in my grandma’s christian village.

my first encounter with the witch.

The summer I was 12, this belief was put to a test. 

Over the years, in summer, I would see an old woman around the haunted house, growing tomatoes and picking cherries. She always wore a black “dress” and her head was covered. I believed she was a witch! 

I was 12, and convinced myself I was old enough to make it past the front door.

The clock struck eleven in the evening. I looked up and saw Cassiopeia shining bright in the sky. I prayed to the god I was told I had to believe in, and asked the supernatural being to spare me from the witch’s wrath when I entered her house uninvited.

I passed through the green, squeaking gate and stopped under the cherry tree. I picked one and ate it. ‘For good luck,’ I said to myself. It wasn’t really that, I just loved cherries. My heart was beating out of my chest, my hands were shaking, and all that scary stuff that you see in all the horror movies. So I decided to be brave. I took a deep breath and ran into the house.

I closed my eyes, flew through the door, and fell on top of the witch. Good start.

my real encounter with a person.

I opened my eyes and she was smiling at me. A beautiful 50 something old woman. I didn’t know witches could smile. I smiled back. And I made a friend for life.

In my grandma’s village, in a conservative, post-Soviet society, with strict rules and one religion governing over everyone’s view of life – a widowed, Muslim woman, couldn’t be seen as anything other than a witch.

That summer, every Thursday at 8pm, after having dinner with my grandfolks, I would sneak out to go see my new friend. She read me stories from other lands, she taught me about the world’s complex religions, she shared pictures of her life, and she made me a better human being. I listened to her, I opened my eyes and ears to her voice and her person, and I will be forever grateful for the gift she gave me at the perfect time in my life, when I was ready to learn – the gift of intentional listening and understanding.

cultural diversity is not about me.

I love talking about myself in my Liane’s Morning Talks in the Mirror. I have so many stories to share, so much to talk about. And one of the reasons I can do that, one of the reasons I am a better person every single day is because of the people around me. People from all over, from different walks of life, different continents and cultures – so many amazing people.

Did you know that here at Amara, our core team has people from 12 different countries? And we have freelance translators from over 50 countries? I wanna share some of their takes on what Cultural Diversity means. Let’s listen together!

Mirjam Sonnleithner went with a quote from Stev Fair:

Birthplace: Earth

Race: Human

Politics: Freedom

Religion: Love

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we all embraced that?

Edna Odongo is feeling through food:

Food is the window to cultural diversity. My favorite example is the stuffed dough. Same dish interpreted, prepared and eaten differently by several different cultures.

In Italy – ravioli;

In Jamaica – a Johnny cake;

In Turkey – a Manti;

In Indonesia – a Siomay;

In Hong Kong – a wonton;

In Poland – a Pierogi;

In Nepal – a Momo;

In Greece – a Tyropita;

In Denmark – an Ebelskiver;

In England – a Pasty;

In India – a Samosa.

We have more Cultural Diversity seen through food quotes coming your way from Thais Barros:

Cultural Diversity makes the world richer and more flavorful. Getting to know different cultures expands our world, it enlarges and multiplies the lens with which we see and experience life. Being in contact with different cultures makes us notice not only our differences, but what we all share in common, and that’s beautiful. For me, getting to know and getting hands-on (or taste buds-on) contact with the food from different cultures is part of this process, of experiencing cultural diversity and feeling a connection with different cultures.

If you’d like to learn more about food and recipes from all over the world, keep an eye on our blog – Thais will be taking you on a trip around the globe through your tastebuds regularly!

To me, Cultural Diversity means everyone is seen, heard, and matters,

said Aleli Alcala.

And I feel that deep in my soul.

each one of us matters.

We have to share stories. We have to listen to each other. We have to be better. We can choose to believe in haunted houses and dark witches, or we can learn to open our hearts and minds to the beautiful people making this world worth living in. I choose the latter.

How about you?

epilogue (because I like epic endings!)

The all lowercase is not a spelling error. I have written each section title with all lowercase for a reason. Let me tell you one last story. This one is about my grandma.

I have always been very bad at taking notes. I just couldn’t do it. And at school, I could never do both – listen to my teachers and take notes at the same time. I always felt that when someone is talking, my whole attention has to be on them (this is something I struggle with to this day!).

So one day, when I came home from school, sad and crying that everyone was able to write down everything, and I barely put down two sentences during the whole class, my grandma gave me the most peculiar advice. “Write all lowercase,” she said. “Trust me, I’m a teacher.”

I don’t know if she actually thought that would work and give me enough time to listen and write. I know that it gave me the confidence, motivation and push I needed to think that I can do it. As my teammate and friend, Allison B said, “throwing rules – like capitalization, or how people should dress, act, or worship – out of the window can free you up to make actual change in the world.” That’s how I felt, that’s how I feel. And today, I write for a living. That’s my take on Cultural Diversity.

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