I now consider myself to be tri-cultural. My parents are from the Philippines. I was born and grew up in America. And for the past seven years I have been a missionary and resident of Botswana. I am a Filipino-American-African. And I am very proud of each of my cultures.
I love being Filipino. Filipinos are hard working, creative and ingenious. We love to laugh and have the ability to find joy and humor even in the face of great adversity. Our families are usually big, and family is very important to us. My favorite Filipino foods to eat are lumpia shanghai (deep fried roll with minced beef, diced vegetables, spices), sisig (minced pork dish) and chicken adobo (chicken boiled in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic). And you’re not eating a proper Filipino meal unless it comes with a healthy serving of rice! Consequently, if you’re ever invited to a Filipino party, make sure to go because the food will be amazing, you’ll never be more full in your life and the host will even send you home with enough food to last you for the next week! Filipino generosity and hospitality is something else.
I love being American. I am a first generation American and I feel so blessed and privileged to have grown up in such a blessed nation. My parents immigrated to the US so they could give my sister and me a better life and future than they had growing up, and for that I am deeply grateful. I was born and grew up in San Diego, California. In my opinion, it is definitely one of America’s finest cities. San Diego has the BEST weather, and I loved growing up near the beach and around a culturally diverse community. America is not perfect, but it is still undoubtedly an incredibly blessed nation. America is rich in freedoms, rights, resources and opportunities. I think I appreciate it more so now that I’ve lived in a third world country. Americans also have an amazing work ethic – we are not afraid of hard work and we take pride in working hard. The American spirit also embodies generosity and selflessness. We love to give to good causes and serve and better the lives of others. I also love how Americans can come together and offer help and support when tragedy strikes, in spite of differences of opinions or beliefs. I am very proud to be an American. My favorite American foods to eat are In-N-Out Burger (best fast food burger joint in California), carne asada fries (french fries topped with guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, marinated meat – local Mexican dish in San Diego/Southern California), and Chipotle (delicious, overpriced burrito joint).
I love being a Motswana (term for people of Botswana, singular) – well, unofficially, but the culture resonates with me and Botswana has become such a big part of my life, that I now consider myself one. I have done a lot of international travel in my life, and Botswana is the only country that I have been to where so much importance is placed on greeting others. Batswana (people of Botswana, plural) are very friendly. You must greet everyone you see and ask them how they are, whether you know them or not. In Botswana, the greeting is supreme and paramount. Failure to greet someone is absolute rudeness. You must greet and ask how someone is doing before you carry on any conversation with them – be it in a taxi, on the street, in a shop, at the bank, etc. And there are so many ways to greet in Setswana (main language of Botswana). Setswana is not a language with an extensive vocabulary, but it sure does have a myriad of ways to greet people. There are formal/reverent greetings, casual/slang greetings, morning greetings, afternoon/evening greetings, ways to greet one person, ways to greet a group of people, ways to greet certain genders, age groups – I am still learning new and different ways to greet people. The importance of greetings speaks to how much the culture in Botswana values the person rather than what the person can do for you. This practice of greeting greatly contrasts what I am used to, but it has taught me to pause and be more mindful of being genuine in my care and respect for others. Though Botswana is still young and developing, the country has great potential. They are the world’s top producer of diamonds. They are the most peaceful nation in Africa, never ever having war fought on their soil. They have one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is one of the best tourist destinations in the world for seeing wildlife, possessing the largest elephant population in the world. Botswana is truly a remarkable place. My favorite foods to eat in Botswana and Southern Africa are biltong (for my American friends, it’s like beef jerky, but way better!), seswaa (pounded/shredded meat seasoned with salt), Nando’s (restaurant chain that serves Portuguese-style chicken with their famous peri-peri sauce), morogo (cooked collared greens) and pap (boiled ground maize).
I got to thinking about cultures because we recently held a ladies meeting where we got a chance to celebrate the diverse cultures within our church. It was an awesome meeting and I loved hearing about other cultures, and learning how to embrace cultures that are different from our own. It really was such a beautiful time together. Each group also prepared a dish from their country/culture, so after the meeting, we enjoyed tasting foods from around the world! I think it is a good and important thing to celebrate and appreciate who you are and where you are from, and likewise, to honor and celebrate the culture of others. (Below, some photos of some of the cultures represented in our church.)