Writing Prompt: Storycatching

The point of this prompt is to make you reflect on the culture(s) that you belong to and be able to articulate your connections and your experiences within your culture(s). Since the culture that you’re part of ultimately helps shape the person you become, it is important to acknowledge its influences on your person.

The prompt is this:

Write a short essay detailing a culture you belong to. It can be the culture within a group of friends, the culture within a club or other organisation you belong to or it can be the wider culture within a nationality or ethnicity. Please include a picture representation of your culture. The picture could be of a place, an item or the people that represents your cultures.

This was my take on the prompt:

My culture is in the mini-Chinese cities all across the world. When I started school in the United States in the state of Arizona, the culture inside and outside my house was starkly contrasted. Outside was hostile, spoke English and somewhere that I obviously wasn’t wanted. Inside was calming, spoke Mandarin and the Fuzhou dialect, and full of soft, warm places to curl up and later on, to read books in.

However, I learned that this didn’t always have to be the case. While I slowly adjusted to the US and learned their language, I sought refuge in places that reminded me of the years spent with my grandparents in the verdant, rolling mountains of the Fujian province. In a place locked with concrete and pavement, I took refuge in the cultural empire that we had worldwide; the Chinatowns, the Chinese supermarkets and the food. In these places, I wasn’t the one lost and out of my element. Rather, those with khaki shorts and pastel T-shirts were the ones uncomfortable among the stacks of vegetables and fruits.

Here, there was dried cuttlefish, whole ginger root(gross), LaoGanMa’s special chili sauce, stinky tofu, a wall of seafood that aren’t filleted or boned and a much smaller section of meat products, no bacon, scarcely any sign of cheese or milk and aisles just for sauces ranging from the basic soy sauce to a myriad of cooking alcohol. However, it isn’t just about the ingredients you can buy; it’s also in the places you can go. Tea houses, especially those that have kept faithful to the taste back home, are highly sought after and often impossible to get into on the weekends. Other more adaptive businesses, often centered around boba tea, have sprung up wherever there are Asians, becoming somewhat like cultural Starbucks and attracting quite a lot of Westerners too.  Through these places and through the food that we share, I can find a little bit of home everywhere.

In all of the places I’ve lived, through five states and moving cross-country, there were strings to tie me back to those first years of my life, to the warm embrace and the familiar taste of meals surrounded by family.

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