I spent the first nine years of my life living in Cardiff which was a very multicultural area. My grandparents live in the Tiger Bay/Docks area of Cardiff or as they call it now Cardiff bay. Tiger Bay has an array of over 45 different nationalities living there. The sense of community is one of the strongest I have ever seen and I am in total awe of it.
The cultural diversity is amazing and I will never forget growing up within that community. Just walking around the streets you would travel the world just by taking in the smells. One house there could be samosa cooking , the next Irish fruit cake and the next Maltese macaroni (that was usually my Nan and Bamps house with my Bamp being Maltese) I learnt about all the different cultures simply by making friends with all the other children in the street.
On weekends I went to work with my Dad , he owned market stalls and would be based in Bessemer Road Cardiff most weekends. I would get up at the crack of dawn with him , help him set up and then for breakfast we would eat samosas or curry that had been cooked by one of his friends. I loved it and used to nap under the stall after my curry on a pile of duvets and pillows as it was a bedding stall.
I used to often go to Dad’s Sikh friends and we would stay for lunch and the men would eat in the kitchen and I would be in the lounge with the women being fed until my belly nearly burst. I loved learning about these traditions and why they chose to eat separately etc. I must have only been around 8 and already had such a wealth of knowledge about the world and different cultures. A lot of my Dad’s market friends were of different ethnicity so it was a great chance for me to take it all in and embrace the cultures.
My Bampy although living in Cardiff is Maltese I spent a lot of my summers visiting Malta and learning about my Maltese heritage. We would visit churches, stay on the beach until it went dark , go snorkelling , eat fresh seafood and I would play in the long narrow streets with my cousins and their friends. They would teach me common phrases and I slowly got the gist of what they were talking about. I loved my summers here and have visited ever since. We are hoping to take the anklebiters on their first visit really soon.
At primary school in Cardiff I had friends that were West Indian , Irish travellers , Jamaican. I was fascinated by the way they did things differently within their communities or family homes.
I moved to Pencoed which was out of the city when I was around 9 years old and I remember finding it so strange that there were not many different ethnic groups there. I went through secondary school thinking the same. I then moved to Cardiff for University and began mixing with different cultures and formed friendships from all over the world , I loved it. I had missed this.
After University I moved to Portsmouth to teach and then Luton. I loved how multicultural Luton was and it reminded me of Tiger Bay growing up. The teens that I taught showed me so much about their culture and traditions. We celebrated Eid and I learnt all about Ramadan. I ate curried goat and dumplings for the first time and loved them. I used to love visiting Bury Park and picking up things to cook , all the spices , going to the halal butchers and choosing cuts of meat I wanted. The smells were amazing and the people were amongst some of the kindest people I have met.
I now live in the Welsh Valleys and can go days without seeing anyone of a different ethnicity and I do miss it loads. I am sad that the littles ones have not learnt first hand about different cultures like did and how they probably wont get that experience either. I feel sad they do not live in a multicultural community.
We do try to teach them already about different cultures and traditions for example we celebrate Chinese new year and I cook a Chinese banquet and we have some decorations and make masks and I explain why we are doing this. Last year we had a little 4th of July celebration which they really enjoyed. James’s Dad is half Iranian and half Turkish so they have that as well as their Maltese heritage to learn about as they get older.
I think it is so important to teach them to be culturally aware from a young age , answer any questions they have. We have bought some fab books to also help with this and dolls of different ethnic backgrounds too. I believe all of this will make them gain a better understanding of the cultures and world around them.
They need this understanding and cultural experiences to make them well-rounded individuals. I want them to see other cultures first hand and not listen to other people’s views and opinions on these , which sadly can be all to negative. I have a dream for a multicultural community for our little ones and will try to create it as much as I can.