Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
The world was a delicate network of dirty little alleyways. Scattered here and there were cramped dingy houses that provided a comfortable shade from the sweltering heat. Familiar accents and intonations of local Chinese dialects rang in the air as market goers chattered with each other. That network of dirty little alleyways, enveloped in all its muddy and dilapidated glory, was where I grew up; it was the entire world to my young and naïve five-year-old self. It's little wonder, then, that I was full of questions when my parents told me of their decision to immigrate to Canada. My grandmother tried to appease my curiosity. "They look different there", she gently explained to me when brushing my hair one day. "Soft blonde hair, big blue eyes...just like this doll." She presented me with a Barbie doll, and I remember staring apprehensively at the tanned and skinny toy, so different from my own plump, pale china dolls with shiny black hair and brown eyes.
I soon found out my grandmother was wrong. On my first day of school, I sat beside an Indian girl at lunch, eating a samosa. My teacher was British and spoke with an accent himself. A girl with the brightest green eyes offered me crayons during art, and promised to teach me English. During recess feeling lost, I saw an Asian girl playing in the sandbox. Filled with excitement, I ran towards her and asked if I could join, in Chinese. She stared at me and told me matter-of-factly that she didn't understand a word I just said; she was Vietnamese.
As time passed, my English became more proficient and I gained enough confidence to initiate conversation with others. Because of financial difficulties in the first few years of immigration, my family moved from place to place all over the city; as a result, I was exposed to a medley of cultures. My circle of friends in elementary school expanded to include families from Sri Lanka, France, Haiti, and Russia. When I went to their houses after school, their parents offered food ranging from roti to baguettes. Being observant by nature, I noticed the differences in the interior decorations - oil paintings, African sculptures, Persian carpets, scents of candles, incense and coconut milk, and distinctive handicrafts. Some parents greeted me with hugs and kisses, while others were more reserved and offered nothing more than a polite smile.
As I grew older, I realized the significance of diversity and started appreciating Toronto's multiculturalism. While volunteering at my local health centre, I learned how to make delicious bread and pasta from Italian seniors. My roommate at Cornell Summer College taught me (rather unsuccessfully) how to tango, and I learned how to fold origami from a Japanese exchange student. I became more aware of the cultural impacts around me, and was fascinated by how Toronto is divided into different cultural districts. I recognized the unifying power in cultural roots, yet at the same time their potential to segregate and divide when clashed or misunderstood. I discovered my passion extends to an interest in basic human interactions; in studying the foundation and creation of these different cultures, we are finding answers to ourselves, to who we are as individuals and as humankind.
Bearing this new mindset, I went back to China ten years later. To my surprise, the alleyways were still there. They were just as dirty, just as crowded, just as familiar. Retracing my steps one afternoon, I realized I was hearing the same local dialects I had heard as a child but they now represented something different. Even within these alleyways, I recognized diversity, however slight and subtle. Grateful for having learned to embrace everything with a curious mind and open heart, I closed my eyes and let the sounds wash over me, relishing in the beauty and intricacy of the world's greatest orchestra: humanity.
Awesome piece. I love the flow of your essay. Its like a river commencing its journey from an ocean, taking different routes, and finally returning back to the ocean.
Diversity is a favorite topic among intls. But your essay stands out since it does not try hard. Told simply, yet in a very effective way.
If you have time, please provide feedback on mine. :)