09 June, 2013

Cross cultural lives

CAJ's Graduation is one of the times of year when I'm most reminded of how cross-cultural our lives are. Sometimes, because we work mostly in English it is easy to forget. Believe it or not!
All dressed up!

But I was reminded again on Friday that we cross cultures everyday. Just going to CAJ is a cross cultural experience. 

On Friday night we attended another CAJ graduation. The ceremony is very formal. And afterwards is a fun "reception" party with finger food, attended by something like 500-600 people.

My boys love going because of the food.

I like going because
  • it's fun to have an occasion to really dress up (and, in my case, not have to worry about riding a bike),
  • often I'm seeing the children of friends and colleagues graduate and that is satisfying. It is good to be there for the families, when we're almost all so far away from our own families, it is good to support one another at times like these,
  • because somehow it helps the rest of what makes up CAJ, make sense.
CAJ, as I've said before, is an American curriculum school. Therefore it is quite a foreign place for an Australian parent (or any other non-American) to step onto its campus, not to mention trying to understand and fully participate. But it also is an international school, and that is fully on display at graduation, despite the American overtones (like graduating gowns and all the terminology like valedictorian).

One of our German colleagues joined us on Friday to help our Singaporean colleagues celebrate their sons graduation. She was surprised at many things (as I mentioned in this post, many terms are new to non-Americans). But one thing she especially mentioned was the range of names in the graduating class. 

Given Names like:

And family names like:

And several students with names that reflected the mixture of cultures within their families or upbringing, eg. Sarah Miho Thompson or Anthony Taro Nakayama.*

At the end of the ceremony the benediction from Numbers 6:24-26 is said over the students in languages spoken by the graduating student's families. We had nine benedictions on Friday: Malayalam, Cantonese, Spanish, Japanese, English, Korean, Mandarin, Indonesian, and Tagalog.

A car registration/number plate we saw in Queensland last year.
I've gotten used to the formality, now that I've been to a few I find I can relax more with the strangeness of it all. But there is a little bit of the Queenslander in me that says, "Let's just relax a little bit here."

*Not the actual names of students


-J said...

We attended our niece's high school graduation near Chicago a few weeks ago. Of the 600 or so graduates, I noticed that most had names I could not pronounce. Only one Smith and one Jones, and very few other "typical" American last names.

Ken Rolph said...

Some parts of the world are extremely mixed. In Blacktown I have been asked twice whether I was an actual Australian, as if such a creature were rare and precious. I keep track of the names of the checkout chicks and chaps. They have names from all over the world, but all speak with an Australian accent.

There has been on effect. Our newspaper has a missing letter puzzle. It is like a crossword but with some letters filled in. You have to work out the rest based on some theme. Places, birds, animals, fish are relatively easy. But if the theme is boys or girls names it is very hard. What pool of names is the compiler drawing from? What spellings are being used? In very supermarkets I have been served by Tori, Torey and Toree. Would they put in Fendi or Ibrahim? It was so much simpler when it was just Jack and Jill.

As to the pronunciation, Australians are brought up with words such as Woolloomooloo and Coonabarabran. So a few extra syllables are not going to daunt.