Borderless Cultures, Worldwide Connections

As the international climate community gears up for the UN climate talks in Poland this month, emails from my YOUNGO friends and listservs continue to flood my inbox and fill me with both nostalgia and FOMO, as I’m not attending COP 19.

One person in particular I’ll miss is my friend Sara, whom I met last year in Doha after writing about each other as an introductory assignment for The Verb‘s COP 18 delegation.

I don’t think it was ever posted online, but because I really enjoy this piece (and am planning to write a follow-up sometime next week) I wanted to share it here:

If every person with a Facebook account joined for the reason Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard friends invented it, then approximately one billion people are currently seeking to make their worlds more open – to expand their worldviews beyond the culture in which they’re currently embedded.

Sara Suwan is one of those people, and her Facebook profile reflects that expanded worldview: her cover photo bears a pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness month; her posts include links to music videos and photos with inspirational quotes; and her wall is covered in birthday greetings and well wishes for Eid al-Adha – all in Arabic, of course.

“Beyond cultures, religions and languages, we are human beings that share the same hopes, fears, sun, air and Earth,” Suwan said. “On a DNA level we are 99% identical to each other.”

Suwan, a 21-year-old Palestinian currently residing in the West Bank, is finishing up her studies as a biology and biotechnology student at An-Najah National University; she also considers herself an environmental activist and serves as national coordinator of the newly-formed Arab Youth Climate Movement chapter in Palestine.

Like many women Suwan has a strong interest in fashion, counting cross-stitching and handbag-designing among her favorite hobbies. Her icon is Coco Chanel, and someday Suwan hopes to design her own line of eco-friendly handbags and accessories.

Suwan’s Arab heritage is reflected in her passions and activities: she listens to Fairouz and classical Arab music and her handbags bear traditional Palestinian cross-stitching patterns. When asked why she joined The Verb, Suwan said she “wanted to tell the world stories about Palestine and the [Arab] region from a Palestinian girl’s view.”

“I think culture is what makes people [who] live in the same place more connected to each other,” Suwan began, then noted that “blending between cultures will remove a lot of misunderstanding.” When people visit Palestine, she says, “they love the hospitality of families here and how people connect to each other.”

“On the opposite side, the Arabs who come back from the West love the communities there – they always [tell] us how societies there are organized, well-educated and democratic.”

When she was in high school, Suwan dreamed of becoming a genetic engineer; now she is focusing on finishing her degree and learning “as much as possible of people on the planet.”

“I really love being surrounded by people from everywhere – it’s one of the reasons why I joined The Verb,” Suwan said. “It is an international team that cares about making this world open and people more aware about what’s happening on an international level.”

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