Beautiful Barcelona and its Wonderful Spanish Culture

By Dolores Valente, Mother of Amanda '27

I was born in New York and at the age of seven, my parents relocated to Barcelona, Spain.  My family’s heritage, on my father’s side, is Castilian Spanish. Barcelona is beautiful! Barcelona has Mediterranean weather, beautiful beaches, historical and modernist architecture as well as exquisite food. While many people think of Spain as the place where you eat “tapas” (small savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar), Spaniards take their cuisine very seriously and more importantly family time. Needless to say, when it came to family meal times my Spanish family was very different from my American family. Unlike when I lived in the United States, in Spain we had our biggest meal midday (around 2:00 pm). Our midday meal was not only a time to eat savory foods (olives, Serrano ham, seafood and freshly made bread) but also, it was a time to slow down, unwind, and enjoy family and friends. Everyone loved this time of the day!  After our long meal we would all retire to “siesta” (the siesta is a tradition in Spain where everyone is encouraged to nap after their meal). Relocating to Spain and immersing 100% in the Spanish culture was a wonderful learning experience! I learned at a very young age that not all cultures/places are like America, nor should they be. Each country has its own beautiful people and traditions.

I returned to New York when I was thirteen and once again experienced learning anew the country that I was born in and also love. I attended college and then Law School in New York. New York is also where I met Amanda’s dad (Tony Valente). After living in both New York and Connecticut, Tony and I yearned to experience yet another way of life and we made the decision to move to Huntersville, North Carolina. We have lived in Huntersville for over five years. Amanda’s brother, Adam, was born in Huntersville in 2013. We are also blessed to have Amanda’s grandparents (Dom & Terry Valente) living nearby. The Valente family’s heritage is Sicilian and there is also lots of good wine and discussion during meals! Our family has experienced great warmth and a sense of community in North Carolina. Each day we feel our ties to North Carolina and the Cannon community grows stronger. North Carolina is and will be our permanent home, and we are pleased at the opportunities our children have through Cannon Cultures to experience (even if remotely) the wonders of other cultures!  

Bahamian Heritage and the Simple Joys of an Island Childhood

By Genevieve Leck, MD, MA, Mother of Alexander '15, Thomas '18, Matthew '23, and Annalise '25

I am sharing my experience of growing up in the Bahamas in hopes that you will learn some interesting Bahamian heritage. I moved from French Canada to Grand Bahamas Island in the Bahamas when I was 6 years old. This is where I first learned to speak English, the main language spoken in the islands. The English spoken there is very different from the English we speak in North Carolina and has a specific accent and slang unique to it. For instance, “We done reach,” is a common expression for we have arrived, or “My nerves are on me,” means you feel nervous.
 
My childhood was very different from the more typical childhood you might see with a child going to Cannon School now. My school had no cafeteria. A lunch truck would sometimes come and sell conch fritters or Jamaican spicy meat patties, but you had to bring a lunch if your family could afford to provide one. We had no PE and no sports of any kind at school except for one day of the year when we would have sports day. We had no after school activities of any kind, very rarely any music, no science lab, and no history from any part of the world except our own country. We rarely had homework. We had no buses, and almost everyone I knew walked to school. So school was really simplified, and there was no required activity whatsoever after school. There was no college or university on our island, and most of my friends did not go. If you wanted to go to college, you needed to go to another island called New Providence (where our capital is) or go outside the country.
 
My favorite part of school was when we had art and made Junkanoo masks and costumes. Junkanoo is a street parade filled with dancing and music that takes place on December 26 and New Year’s Day. Costumes are made with bright feathers, beads, and glitter, and I made my masks with leaves, beans, beads, and shells collected throughout the year. We also would take brightly colored tissue paper, cut it into tiny strips, and glue it to our clothes in rows all the way along them to make costumes. We would get long, dried bean-like shakers from the trees, which we would shake, and whistles, which we would blow while dancing the night away. Everyone that is able to move dances at Junkanoo—it is so much fun!

Music is very important in the Bahamian culture, whether it is at church, at work, or at home. My parents had a small fabric business downtown, and music was on anytime the store was open. It was just normal to sing and dance along for anyone in there, and most Bahamians in my opinion are fantastic dancers. Church was an important part of the lives of most people I knew there, and their Sunday mornings were spent at church. Most people sewed their own clothes since there were no department stores to buy clothes at. My mom made most of my clothes until I moved to the United States. I remember thinking it was very odd that tourists would wear clothes with labels on the outside rather than on the inside (like the first time I saw a pair of designer jeans with a label on the pockets, or even more surprising, right on the front of a shirt)!
 
On our island, there was no toy store, no malls, and no department stores. Our movie theatre had one screen, and our bowling alley had two lanes total. Our TV had only two channels, so we almost never turned it on. After school and on weekends, I was lucky enough to be near the beach, and I spent all my free time there. Our beaches are absolutely beautiful, with soft white sand, beautiful reefs, and warm crystal clear water. I would snorkel, look for shells, build elaborate sand castles, climb trees, chase crabs and lizards, watch for dolphins and sting rays, and swim for hours every day. Very few people used actual fishing rods, so when I went fishing, I had some fishing line wrapped around a stick, and I carried a little pail with an extra hook, sinker, and some hot dog for bait. There were so many fish, it was really easy to catch a few in just a short period of time. My friends and I would get coconuts from the trees and smash them open to drink coconut milk or eat the coconut inside. We also ate coco plums and sea grapes which grew on the trees and bushes at the beach, so no need to go home for a snack. I did not own a watch, and I never ever felt stressed! Life was so simple. I had very few toys or clothes, and that was fine because you didn’t really need much. We had no play dates—we entertained ourselves daydreaming, playing outside, or inventing games. We had free time all weekend and every day after school if we were lucky enough not to have to work.
 
Sometimes as a child when I was talking with tourists, I wished I could live where they did and enjoy all the things they would tell me about—mostly malls, skating rinks, and toy stores. But now whenever I think of my childhood, I give thanks for the amazing relaxed time I had in the beautiful Bahamas. 

Hindu Traditions

By Neena Duggal, Mother of Jahnavi '21 and Vinayak '24

I was born in London but when I was three, my parents decided to move up to Scotland. I attended a private school and then later received my Bachelors from Glasgow University. I grew up in a household where we celebrated all Hindu festivals. My parents spoke to me in Hindi, so I grew up being able to speak Hindi and English. My mother would make Indian food everyday except Wednesdays, when my brother and I would make ‘English’ food, usually fish and chips. This is a tradition I have carried on in my home. As well as watching Hollywood movies we would watch Bollywood movies, singing the songs, repeating dialogues. I had many cousins in London so nearly every summer they would visit us or we would go down to London. I am still very close to them and thanks to social media can easily stay in touch with them and their kids, as can my kids.

My husband, Mahesh was born and raised in North Indian state of Punjab, close to New Delhi. This is a melting pot of different cultures and has a large population of Catholics, besides Sikhs, Muslims and the majority Hindus, which is our faith. He completed his medical school and after a few years of training, decided to move America. He finished his medical training in New York. I joined him in the Big Apple and we felt right at home due to the diversity. We enjoyed the different cultures and that helped us to blend in and adopt the culture of our new country. Fast forward 20 years and we have lived in Georgia for about 7 years and have been living in this area for about 8 years, we hope this will be our permanent home.

We enjoy the National Parks and have visited the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone/ Grand Teton, Yosemite, Glacier, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake and of course our very own Smoky mountain national park besides others. Now that our children are old enough, we hope to go back to Grand Canyon next year and this time, hike down the south rim to the Colorado river and back. We also like international travel and our favorite memories are of Paris, France.

We try to go to UK and India as often as we can so that Jahnavi and Vinayak can know their grandparents and cousins abroad, and get to know the countries where their parents grew up.

Speaking English has never been a problem for us but even then our children are forever correcting our pronunciation of certain words.

Our Colombian Heritage

By Claudia Velandia, Upper School World Language Teacher

My husband’s parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia many years ago. They came here to look for opportunities to start a new and different life for their families. My husband and his siblings were born in the United States, and they grew up speaking Spanish at home and English at school. My mother-in-law instilled in them the love for Colombian traditions, music and food. She kept their connections with Colombia alive by making yearly trips so her kids could get to know their relatives and experience life in Colombia. My husband is proud of his Colombian heritage and it is a great part of who he is.

Jason and I got married in Colombia, and I traveled to the United States with him and with our oldest child, Sofia, in September of 2006. I remember clearly how I felt on the flight to Miami. All these emotions were rushing through me. I was leaving behind everything I knew: my family, my friends, my job, my country, to embark in an adventure with my new little family. Sofia was four months old, and I was full of questions on how I was going to take care of this infant without the help and advice of my mother and sisters in law. It is very common in my culture to have the help of family members to look after the children, and I was terrified with the idea of being a mom “on my own”. As for the language, I felt comfortable with it after working as an English teacher for 8 years in Bogotá. All that changed when the customs agents starting talking to me at the airport, and I realized that understanding “real” English was going to take me some time. My responses were slow and unsure. I felt like a little girl all over again.

It has been nine years since the night we arrived in the United States and many things have changed. I think I understand a little bit better when people speak to me in English, and I am able to reply faster too. Here in the United States I gained an independence that I never thought I wanted or needed. I have successfully kept Sofia alive, with a lot of help from my husband, and now we also have a little one who was born right here in America, Samuel. My husband taught me how to drive, and that is something that I never did and have never done in Colombia. I saw, tasted and played with snow for the first time here in Concord. I got a job at a wonderful place that has been my home since August of 2008. I learned that America is a land of opportunities, and I want my kids to live here and experience that.

Jason and I want our kids to be proud of being American and to be proud of their Colombian heritage. We work hard to keep Spanish as the main language to interact with them. We celebrate Christmas the way it is celebrated in Colombia. We teach them songs and stories from our culture, and we both cook Colombian dishes almost every night. We also dance with them all the time. Sofia has visited Bogotá many times, and she likes to spend time with our Colombian family. She is proud of speaking Spanish and knows that it is important to learn other languages as well. We want Samuel to feel this way too, and we know that it takes effort and dedication to bring those elements into our lives and to make them meaningful for our children.

Coming to the United States was a blessing for me and my family. Our life is different because of the doors that have opened in this country. I am proud of what we have achieved, and look forward to what my kids will get to do.

Cannon School

Phone: 704-786-8171 | Fax: 704-788-7779