Beyond Burlingame

Truls Prather     Sweden & Japan

By Lena Banchero, Staff Reporter

Senior Truls Prather was born in Malmö, Sweden then moved to Lund and eventually Ystad. At age 13, he moved to Tokyo, Japan. Prather remarked how it was interesting to observe ancient Japanese values and traditions while simultaneously experiencing modern phenomena like J-pop and high-speed rail. At times, he felt like a tourist looking down from above on a culture substantially different than Sweden.

“As time passed I became more connected with the culture, and during the final year, Tokyo became my backyard and part of who I am today,” Prather said.

While Prather feels a strong connection with Sweden, being an adolescent in Tokyo helped shape his identity before moving to Burlingame two and a half years ago.

“Moving from Sweden to Japan and subsequently to the US has shaped my outlook on life around the concept that despite our financial or ethnic backgrounds we ultimately share more similarities than discrepancies in terms of the basic values we believe in. The perspectives that I gained from living in multiple countries were priceless and I recommend that everyone should live abroad at some point in their life,” Prather said.


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Diego & Ines Escobedo     Mexico & Brazil

By Melissa Milligan, Staff Reporter

Diego and Ines Escobedo were born in the United States, but they did not stay here for long When Diego, junior, was five and Ines, freshman, was three, they moved to Mexico, their parent’s country of origin. They stayed for six years, and Diego says that he identifies most with that culture. When asked what he loves most about the culture, he says “the family size and togetherness. Everyone lives together, and it’s a very welcoming environment where everyone loves you.” Soon, however, they moved to Brazil for their parent’s work. They had only been living there for three years when Diego was diagnosed with diabetes. To seek out the best treatment, they moved to the Bay Area. Diego says that he is very lucky to have been able to move here at the beginning of high school and receive proper diabetes care. “I’m very fortuitous and very thankful,” he says. The two now speak Spanish and Portuguese, and both strongly identify with their cultural ties.


Samaa and Serry Srouji     Israel-Palestine

By Andrew Battat, Editor-In-Chief

With family roots and relatives all over the Middle East, senior Samaa Srouji and her brother sophomore Serry Srouji’s Arabic and Palestinian background are core to their character. Growing up, they spent many of their summers in their family’s main village in northern Israel, with some trips lasting as long as six months.

“Everyone knows each other,” Serry Srouji said, quickly responding when asked to name the defining characteristic of their Palestinian village. “You walk down the street, and everyone says ‘hi’ to each other . . . Nobody's a stranger.”

The Sroujis are Christian, unlike the large majority of Palestinians. Samaa touched on the religious and geographic origin of the Palestinian people saying “Palestinians were not Middle Eastern originally. They either came from parts of Saudi, or they came from Greece.”

She said explained that descendants of Greece are Christian and descendants from areas around the Persian Gulf are Muslim.

Samaa Srouji described the Palestinian-Christian culture as having different food and traditional dances than the Palestinian-Muslim culture but said that the distinct difference is that the Christian sect is more secular than the Muslim. However, she added, “Overall, we’re all Palestinian, and that ties us together.”

“We see it as Israel-Palestine,” Samaa said when asked whether she and her brother refer to their homeland as “Israel” or “Palestine.” “The southern part of Israel is the West Bank and we consider that Palestine . . . Our distant relatives and extended family refer to it as ‘Palestine.’”

This quote, highlighting two groups of people referring to one land by two different names, “Israel” or “Palestine,” is symbolic for a much larger issue: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Though neither appeared optimistic about the future of the conflict, Samaa chose three words to describe what is necessary to create and sustain peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people: “unity, respect, and honor.”


Gizem Akildiz     Turkey-Kurdistan

By Melissa Milligan, Staff Reporter

Senior Gizem Akildiz was born in Turkey, but she considers herself Kurdish. About 18 percent of the Turkish population is considered Kurdish, a nationality seen in eastern Turkey. While she does not speak Kurdish, she speaks Turkish at home, and she visits the country every summer with her family. She lived there until she was four years old, and she has hazy memories of living in the city of Diyarbakir. She moved with her family to Georgia, and eventually transitioned to the Bay Area.

Having such strong cultural ties in these times has been both a blessing and a curse for Akildiz. Indeed, Akildiz has not escaped the prejudice against Middle Eastern Americans. While the recent ban did not affect her and her family, it is still very saddening.

“It’s an underlying message that we don’t want you here,” Akildiz said.

Nevertheless, she knows and appreciates the beautiful (and delicious) things her culture has to offer. She says that food in Turkey is fresher and tastes richer than food in the U.S. because it all comes from local farmers. She especially enjoys Adana Kebabs. Every summer, she and her family are treated graciously by her relatives in Turkey. She plans on celebrating on Kurdish New Year, which is quickly approaching, and lighting her home up with excitement.


Eli Haas     Saudi Arabia & Singapore

By Mira Guleri, Staff Reporter

Because of his parents’ jobs as teachers, junior Eli Haas has lived in countries around the world and as a result, has a multi-faceted cultural identity. Both of his parents are American-born but are teachers in international schools. As a result of their travels, Haas was born in Singapore and has also lived in Saudi Arabia and Michigan—he ran in the Michigan state cross country championships his freshman year.

Having been born in Singapore, he considers his home to be based as much there as in the U.S. and often misses aspects of the Singaporean culture, such as its unique cuisine.

“I’ll think of the dishes I used to eat there, and sometimes my dad will try to make them, but it’s not the same,” Haas said.

Haas explains how some cultural aspects of other countries shock the average American.

“In Saudi Arabia, movie theaters are illegal, so there’s no going to a movie with friends, and you can’t eat pork, so whenever we’d come back to the US the first thing we’d do is eat bacon, and alcohol is illegal, so my dad would actually brew his own wine,” Haas said.

Overall, Haas’ travels have globalized his worldview. Living in different corners of the world has forced him to adapt and led him to appreciate a variety of cultures.


Baagi Battur     Mongolia

By Mira Guleri, Staff Reporter

Senior Baagi Battur moved to the U.S. from Mongolia with his mother in June 2016 in the hope of attending an American university next fall. One may expect a Mongolian student to have studied English as a second language, but Battur’s schooling was largely carried out in Russian.

“My high school was in Russian, so everything like math, science was in Russian,” Battur said. “We started to learn English in third grade.”

Battur is faring well in Burlingame, but the transition was sudden, and he misses Mongolian norms such as the Lunar New Year celebration.

“During Lunar New Year we go to meet our relatives continuously for three to four days and have two days off of school and work,” Battur said.

Battur described this celebration as the biggest of the year.

Another norm that differs greatly in the U.S. is the arrangement of classes and scheduling in school.

Battur explained, “In Mongolia, you take around 15 courses at the same time and have the same class from 1st grade to 12th grade, so we know each other very well.”

Battur expressed that he is very close to his friends back home and misses them, but has enjoyed the U.S. so far and is excited to continue his time here during college.


Thiri Myat Su     Myanmar

By Juliet Adelman, Staff Reporter

This past summer, Thiri Myat Su made the life-changing decision to move to Burlingame from her home country of Myanmar.

“I moved here because I want to improve my education, and I have the goal of going to UC Berkeley,” Su said.

While her parents were skeptical of the decision at first, they decided it would be best for her future. Su currently lives with her grandmother, but her parents visit often.

“There are so many more opportunities in American schools,” Su said. “They don’t have culinary arts, health, or as many sports teams in Myanmar, where only basic classes are taught.”

Su is fluent in English and Burmese and has quickly adapted to the Burlingame community by making friends and working hard in her classes. After school, she enjoys swimming and watching her favorite show, “The Flash.”


Jess and Hannah Orford     Australia & Malaysia

By Sasha Benke, Staff Reporter

Living in multiple countries can enlarge one's world view. Sophomore and senior Hannah and Jess Orford know this to be true.

“In Australia, we interact in a very different way than how people do in America,” Jess said. “When we first came here, no one understood the slang we used or even some of the jokes we made.”

Jess said that “Americans have the Fourth of July, while Australians have ANZAC Day. It’s basically the anniversary of the first military action taken by Australia in WWI. We use that day to celebrate all the soldiers who died for our country.”

After living in Australia for ten years, the Orford’s moved to Malaysia where they attended an International School.

“Malaysia taught the both of us to be very open to other cultures,” Hannah said. “Students from all over the world would come to live in Malaysia and attend AISM. Every six weeks a new student would come, and we would learn about another culture that is unique to them.”

“I feel a sense of pride when I tell people I am from Australia,” Jess said. “We have a very happy and carefree culture in Australia, and we are known for being approachable and friendly. I am proud to be Australian. The way we were raised taught us to never live in one place. I am naturally drawn to new cultures and new people now because of living in Malaysia and Australia.”


Cheryl and Justin Lee     Hong Kong

By James Lowdon, Staff Reporter

In June of 2015, Cheryl and Justin Lee moved to Burlingame from their home country of Hong Kong.

“We lived there our entire lives,” Justin Lee said, who made the move from Hong Kong to Burlingame the summer before his freshman year.

“It was a lot more exciting,” Cheryl Lee said. “There were a lot more people, so it was easier to find people with similar interests.”

A more specific difference that Cheryl noticed was our reliance on cars here in Burlingame and how rarely public transportation is used.

“Back in Hong Kong, you didn’t need cars to get around, you can use the subway,” Cheryl Lee said. The city of Hong Kong is famous for being densely populated. In fact, the entire country is ranked 4th on the list of most densely populated countries. As a result of the population density, the transportation network is highly developed, and over 90 percent of daily travel is on public transport. However, the siblings noticed that Burlingame offered some benefits from its major differences with Hong Kong.

“I’m a lot closer with my friends now, I can talk to them about anything,” Cheryl Lee said, also adding, “There was nothing like Robotics back in Hong Kong.”

In a final note, Cheryl Lee said, “Generally the Burlingame community is pretty welcoming, and I think it's good that people from other cultures are coming because Burlingame isn’t exactly diverse.”


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 Cheryl, center.

Cheryl, center.

Murat Dincer     Turkey

By Amanda Teoman, Staff Reporter

Murat Dincer is a senior who lived in Istanbul, Turkey. Originally from California, Dincer moved back to the Bay Area this year, after three years in Turkey. He moved to Istanbul to be with his Turkish relatives, who have passed down the Muslim religion and many Turkish traditions to him. Although he is now back in America, he has brought back these traditions from his life in Turkey.

“I’m proud of my Turkish roots because it has shaped who I am,” Dincer said. “It has introduced me to the Muslim religion, my favorite dish called rice pudding, Turkish tea, and allowed me to speak two languages.”

He has felt very welcome at BHS since he first moved here; however, especially during the time of the recent election, Dincer has noted a rise in public Muslim persecution in America.

“It feels weird to live in a country where a significant group of people are vocally opposed to Muslims, but I feel safe and accepted at BHS and in the greater Bay Area,” Dincer said.

Regardless of religious controversy in the U.S., Dincer remains proud of the things that make him unique and hopes to educate students about the Turkish culture.

Posted on April 2, 2017 .