Buffet Lunch at Emily Carr Elementary School

I got the excited message on my machine about a week ago.

 “Hi, Grandma, please get this message soon because it’s very important.  It’s for Tuesday, June 28th at 11:45 – 12:45 in the servery.  We’ve travelled around the world and now it’s time to celebrate with a potluck lunch. You are invited to a taste of the world. Please come. My mommy will be there, too. It’s from my teacher.”

 Amara’s humble contribution was rice (and Minute Rice at that) because her project was on Taiwan. But spread on the centre tables was a veritable global feast. There were many foods I didn’t know, many that didn’t look very appetizing and many that weren’t labelled. Not to say that those that were labelled, like haggis, had any greater appeal.  🙂

Little Julie, across the table from me with big brown eyes and curly, curly black hair, told me that her dad was coming home from Brazil, TODAY, and that her mom was at the gym in a “sort of Biggest Loser contest.” She was delighted that Amara had chosen one of her cookies, a sweet potato cookie iced with vanilla frosting. She’d made them herself.

 Now, just to be up front here, I’m a bit germophobic at the best of times. I judge restaurants based on the cleanliness of their bathrooms. So, shame on me, at the Taste of the World Buffet, I looked for food I recognized and/or looked store-bought. Although, let it be said in my defense, I’ve baked with children before. I’ve had some experience with little fingers scratching their butt and then licking the batter. So potlucks tend to trigger my phobias. Amara had no such issues and tried all kinds of food, unselfishly offering me samples from her plate.  How could I say no to those big eyes and such a sharing heart?  Daughter Shannon tried to comfort me with interesting information about how we need bacteria to live and digest food and that frequently our efforts to be antibacterial  backfire on us.

 As a Christian schoolteacher with a long history of active support for Christian schools from elementary to secondary to post-secondary, I have my biases. But visiting Emily Carr was a wonderful experience for me. Last week I was invited to visit the school and view Amara’s smartboard presentation. She had obviously done a lot of research, handled the technology proficiently, and was confident and pleased to share what she had learned about Taiwan. The teacher was personable and had clear classroom management strategies in place, the children were respectful and patient with one another, and the atmosphere was positive.

 Today I was surprised by the turn-out and involvement of parents and grandparents. I thought most parents would have  been unavailable due to work schedules. But the crowd was full of moms, dads, grandparents, and daycare providers who brought all their charges. The servery was full of friendly support for the students, the staff, and the school. I saw many parents pitch in to help set up and clean up. I heard one little girl say to her teacher, “This was the best project ever, Miss Wilson. I will never forget it.”

 I was also impacted by how multicultural the event was…not just in terms of the foods from around the world, but in terms of the people from around the world all gathered in this small Canadian cafeteria. It brought home to me in a concrete way how insulated my world was growing up, and still is, in terms of my comfort level and ease with people from other races and cultures. Amara is growing up without those insecurities. She doesn’t look twice at children who have a different skin colour, or parents who are wearing burkas and saris.

 It was a fun day. Amara undoubtedly learned a lot about the world from her own and her classmates’ projects. Her grandma may have learned some things, too.



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